Saturday, November 17, 2018

Last Harvest of the Season

Started off a glorious, sunny late fall morning with breakfast and The Care Bears' Nutcracker. Funshine and Grumpy are recruited to help Anna, a little girl who is lonely after her best friend moves away. Anna gets a far different friend than she expects when a Nutcracker walks into her room via a giant mouse hole, followed by three huge rats. She and the Care Bears have to help the Nutcracker save the Land of Sweets from the evil Vizier. Meanwhile, Baby Hugs and Tugs want to find their own ornament, while Anna's little brother Peter just wants adventure.

Headed out around 10, shortly after the cartoon ended. My first stop was Collingswood for the final Farm Market of the season. Needless to say, especially given the cold weather we've been having, there were far more craft booths than produce booths left. The place was still packed with people buying their fruit and vegetables for Thanksgiving when I arrived. I finally just ended up with cranberries, apples (larger ones than usual from another booth - the orchard booth didn't have the small ones), small tomatoes from the organic booth, and bananas from the tropical fruit wholesaler.

Rode across Oaklyn to Haddon Township after leaving the Farm Market for another church fair. This one was pretty much the same deal as the last one I went to across town, only upstairs and with a more extensive food menu that included hot dogs and coffee. They also sold sports jerseys and collectibles and yard sale items along with the crafts. I saw some wooden tops that I thought were neat, but I only had enough money for a pretzel.

Went in the opposite direction to Dollar General next. I needed eggs, and theirs are cheap at $1.35. (And they're a lot cheaper than the Acme's, which are $2.99!) Also picked up sponges, scrubbers, and treat bags for the cookies I'll give out next month.

Since it's in the area, I stopped at Dad and Jodie's to tell them I can watch the Eagles-Saints game with them tomorrow. Turns out the game had been bumped to 4:25. Oh well. I'll still go over there, but for dinner instead of lunch, and I probably won't stay as long.

Dad helped me tighten the bike seat, but we made it too high. I didn't realize how high it was until I tried to ride it. I just ended up walking it home. I thought I lost the bike tool set, but it was in my junk drawer. I did manage to get the seat to a more manageable level, but it's still a bit loose. I'll fiddle with it more tomorrow.

Had a really quick Orange Pumpkin Smoothie lunch while watching the first of two holiday Backyardigans episodes. Uniqua wants to learn "The Secret of Snow" from ice lady Tasha. Busy Tasha has no time for her questions and keeps sending her to warm places. Uniqua not only comes back, but she has Cowboy Pablo and Tyrone of the Jungle in tow. Tasha's assistant Austin does his best to help out the others.

I desperately needed to get the laundry done. I put it off for way too long. I shouldn't have put it off. The laundromat was insanely busy. I was glad I was able to get a washer and dryer for my huge load. Worked on story notes, read the September Family Circle, and half-listened to Notre Damn play William & Mary while waiting for the clothes to come out. (Notre Dame won, by the way, 73 to 64.)

Put everything away when I got home, then worked on writing. A glowing woman in a white cloak appears before Anakin. She is the Ghost of Christmas Past, come to take him to see his memories. They first arrive at his former school, which he remembers quite well. He sees his younger version, the only child who isn't going home for the holidays...until his dear friends Padme and Obi-Wan come to him and tell him that his mother has sent for him, and that he'll be home for good. Quenton Jenson, Obi-Wan's guardian and their school teacher, treats them to snacks and wine and helps Anakin into Padme's cart.

Finished the night with leftovers for dinner while watching Pocahontas and Pocahontas II: Journey to the New World, both of which I cover at my Musical Dreams Reviews blog.

Pocahontas & Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World

Friday, November 16, 2018

The Day After the Storm

Began the morning with early work. The snow was already melting when I left at 8. The sky was blue, the sun was blinding, the roads were clear, and while it was windy and chilly, it was still nice to be outside. I rounded up trash inside and out early-on, but I mostly alternated between doing returns and gathering carts and baskets again. We were steady, but not overwhelmingly busy - most people may be waiting for early next week to finish up their Thanksgiving shopping. While the snow was almost totally gone by noon, clouds had moved in, leaving it windy and chilly for the rest of the day.

Speaking of Thanksgiving, I have the best Thanksgiving week schedule I've had in a long time. While I work early on Wednesday, it's not long or late. I did get Thanksgiving off, along with Sunday and next Saturday. Working Black Friday means I'll get extra money for Thanksgiving...and having Saturday off means I'll get to see the big Christmas parade in Collingswood for the first time in three years. (And I'll get to check out the winter festival in Westmont, too.)

Headed to the shopping center behind the Acme for lunch. My first thought was Chick Fil'A...but the line for the take-out window stretched almost all the way around the building! The one inside was almost as long. I ended up at Tu Se Bella Pizza instead. They were busy too, but not quite as much. I had a slice of mushroom pizza, a slice of tasty broccoli chicken Alfredo, and a bottle of Coke.

Did my grocery shopping when I got back to the Acme. With Thanksgiving coming, there's tons of good sales this week. I've been wanting to try the Belvita Gingerbread Cookies. I just ran out of dried basil. Not only was the Acme's organic brand on a good sale, but I had a coupon from a sample a while back. Had online coupons for peanut butter, Life Cereal (got Vanilla this time), and pancake mix. (Went with Aunt Jemima Whole Wheat Blend.) Found a pack of Crayola dry erase markers on clearance. Restocked brown sugar, ground turkey, honey, canned pineapple, yogurt, skim milk, muffin papers, and peppermint extract.

Ran a Christmas-themed Scooby Doo episode while putting everything away. Fred joins Daphne, Shaggy, Scooby, and Scrappy or "A Nutcracker Scoob." The gang is putting on a Christmas pageant for a local orphanage. Not only does a mean old miser want to tear down the orphans' home, but the Ghost of Christmas is sabotaging the production. There's something very special hidden in the house, and the kids want to be the ones who find it first...before the ghost gets their hands on it!

Worked on writing for a while.  Anakin wonders what in the heck his dead partner is doing sitting in his parlor room. Marley has a warning for him. He's going to be visited by three spirits that night. He has to listen to him...or he could end up like Marley, or the dozens of chained ghosts who suddenly appear outside his window.

Marley disappears when Scrooge slams the window.  He's visited by his landlady, Jyn Erso Andor. Jyn basically tells him to yell softly and not bang windows, no matter how many ghosts he sees.

Broke for dinner at quarter of 7. Had leftover tuna salad while watching more Scooby Doo. "A Scary Night With a Snow Beast Fright" comes from the mid-70's series. The gang has been called to the Arctic by a professor who was doing research there. When they arrive, the professor is gone and the Inuit village where he was working has been scared off by a huge dinosaur-like snow beast. After the village chief also vanishes, the gang finds a black substance around some totem poles and begin to wonder if the beast isn't after something more than scaring off villagers.

Finished out the set after a shower. "Alaskan King Coward" is one of the goofy late-70's shorts featuring Shaggy, Scooby, and Scrappy. Once again, a dinosaur is involved, this time a real one that breaks out of his icy prison and goes after the guys. Scooby and Shaggy would love to outrun him, but Scrappy would rather attack this scaly claim jumper!

"That's Snow Ghost" comes from the original Scooby Doo, Where are You? This time, the wintry creep is a Yeti-style monster who has been seen outside of a run-down ski resort. An elderly Tibetian man insists that the creature is after him. Velma thinks there's a far more logical explanation for it being there.

Ended my night with An American Christmas Carol as I went online. This late 70's TV movie stars Henry Winkler as Benedict Slade, a miserly old man who runs a loan company. With the Great Depression at its zenith, he's had to repossess the heirlooms of half the town. When Thatcher, his assistant, suggests he re-open the quarry to create jobs, he fires him, fearing that more jobs would mean fewer repossessions - and less money for him. Slade learns his lesson when ghosts who resemble the people he took possessions from show him  his past, his present, his chilling future, and why Thatcher and the town dearly need the jobs.

Ok, not bad, not great. I do think the setting's creative, and Winkler does fairly well under a tone of aging makeup. Always nice to see Geraud Parkes of Fraggle Rock fame as well (he's the Ghost of Christmas Present and the head of the town orphanage). Worth checking out if you're a fan of Winkler or are looking for an unusual version of A Christmas Carol.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Snow Day Surprise

Began the morning with my first Rankin-Bass special of the season as I ate breakfast and got ready for work. The Leprechaun's Christmas Gold from 1981 is their second-to-last Christmas stop-motion cartoon. A young Irish sailor is sent to a mysterious island to dig up a pine tree for Christmas. It turns out to be guarding the Banshee Mag, who had once terrorized the little people who live on the island. She needs the gold mined by an old leprechaun (Art Carney) to remain alive, or she'll vanish at the dawn of Christmas morning. He refuses to give it to her, turning it over to the sailor instead. When she plays a trick on the lad that leaves him under a spell, it takes the love of the leprechaun and his estranged wife (Peggy Cass) and their family to restore him.

It was just sleeting a bit when I headed off to work. I figured I'd be fine riding my bike. It was cold, in the upper 30's, and very windy, but I figured it wasn't cold enough for snow. I was wrong. By noon, the sleet had become much softer...and it was piling up on the sidewalks and the roadways.

Not only did the messy streets not stop customers from coming - we were steady-to-busy all afternoon - but I was the only bagger there the entire morning. The head bagger took the day off for a funeral, and the afternoon bagger never appeared or even called. I did have help from a cashier who  doubles as a bagger, but I was mostly outside all day, trying to push carts through the snow and shovel the slush. (At least the shoveling was a lot easier than it had been during those storms we had in March.)

It was sleeting hard again when I was done. There was no way anyone would pick up me and my bike in that mess. Not to mention, the streets were still pretty bad, especially in Oaklyn, and the Acme's parking lot was impossible. I half-rode, half walked home.

Hung everything up to dry when I got in. Made lemon bars while watching more Rankin-Bass. The Stingiest Man In Town was their last regular animated holiday special until 2001. This musical adaptation of a 50's TV musical of the same name has Walter Matthau as Scrooge, Dennis Day as Nephew Fred, and Robert Morse as the younger Scrooge. What I like about this one is how many songs they retained from the original musical. I'm especially fond of "An Old Fashioned Christmas" for Fred and "Yes There Is a Santa Claus" for Martha Cratchit.

Did two quick snow-related shorts from my public domain set while I cleaned up from the baking. "Snow Foolin'" is one of the Paramount Famous Studios Screen Song sing-along shorts. Animals have fun in the snow, to the tune of "Jingle Bells." "The Snow Man" is an oddity from I'm guessing the 1930's from the rubber hose designs. An Inuit and his arctic animal buddies have to get rid of a snowman when the one the build comes to life as a Yeti.

My computer finished updates in time to let me squeeze a little writing in. Anakin Scrooge is horrified when Sheev Palpatine Marley glides in, fettered by enormous chains and lock boxes. Scrooge denies him at first, until he wails enough for him to give in. While Scrooge tries to defend them, saying he was always a good man of business, Marley regrets not having done more to help others.

Did The Nutcracker while making leftovers for dinner. I have the 1977 version that stars Mikhail Baryshnikov as the Nutcracker Prince and Gelsey Kirkland as Clara. Stockton University's media center had the video of this in the early 2000's. I used to traditionally watch it every year the day before we left for Christmas break. While it's missing a few dances, likely for time (notably the Arabian coffee dancers and the Sugar Plum Fairy), it's still a favorite of mine.

Finished the night with the 1961 Disney Babes In Toyland, which I cover in more detail at my Musical Dreams Reviews blog.

Babes In Toyland (1961)

Oh, and someone at Dinosaur Dracula mentioned this really cool site. It has a collection of vintage Christmas catalogs, ranging from the late 30s to the late 90's. It's fascinating to flip through these and see how what we bought and how they were advertised changed over the years!


Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Seasons of Dolls

Began a beautiful day with early work. Surprisingly, for a week before Thanksgiving, it wasn't bad. Everyone must be waiting for the weekend. I spent the entire morning alternating between gathering baskets and carts and shelving two carts filled with returns. It was also a lovely day, cold, but sunny and breezy. Even with the biting chill, it was still too nice of a day to be shopping.

It was so nice, I took the long way home down Nicholson Road. Other than a little traffic around the entrance to the Audubon Crossings Shopping Center, it wasn't bad. The arrival of colder weather is heralded by the last straggling roses, dried milkweed stalks with floating seeds, and trees awash in sun-dappled golds and reds.

Dressed the dolls for the chilly weather we've been having when I got home. It took me longer than I planned. I couldn't find some of the pieces I wanted to use. Turns out I'd accidentally dropped them behind the shelf with my photo albums and keepsake videos. Oops. I'm glad I found the green wrap top for Ariel - it goes nicely with the red hair and turquoise eyes. The skirt I wanted to dress her in didn't fit around the knob on her back, so I borrowed the khakis from Molly's Aviator Outfit. Jessa is in drawstring khaki cargo pants, the long-sleeved white t-shirt with the flower on it and the white and aqua sneakers from the 2002 Ready for Fun outfit, and a navy-blue hoodie from another early 2000's modern outfit. Whitney gets Rebecca's School Outfit with the socks and white t-straps from Molly's Polka-Dot Outfit.

Samantha, Molly, Josefina, and Felicity all wear their original "meet" outfits. Sam wears hers with the black stockings and black boots from Rebecca's School Outfit. Molly's is paired with Springfield Collection socks and the black strap shoes from Samantha's current "meet" outfit. The short-sleeved camisa (shift) that comes with Josefina's meet outfit is inappropriate for November weather in New Jersey. She wears the skirt with her long-sleeved night shift instead.

Finally got some writing time in after I put everything away. Scrooge walks up to his door...and when he inspects the door knocker, he sees the face of his late partner, Sheev Marley (Palpatine)! He's startled, to say the least, but tries not to think much of it...until a bell starts ringing for no reason...

Broke at 6:30 to make a big pre-Thanksgiving dinner. Had Merlin's (Baked) Chicken legs with baked pumpkin casserole and green beans. The casserole was mashed fresh pumpkin topped with molasses, sugar (I was out of brown sugar), butter, and home-made bread crumbs. Oh, yum! The chicken and the pumpkin came out beautifully. I'm glad I had that old piece of bread for bread crumbs. It brought just the right crunch.

Watched Winnie the Pooh: Seasons of Giving as I worked. This is a compilation of two episodes of The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, plus a holiday special. The first story has Rabbit thinking it's Groundhog's Day and insisting that Piglet act as the groundhog and tell them when spring is.

The second story is the Thanksgiving special. The crew from the Hundred Acres Woods is gearing up for a fun meal of honey, haycorns, and chocolate ice cream, at least until Rabbit tells them that tradition must be maintained. When they make a hash of his "traditional" dinner, he thinks the holiday is over. Pooh is the one who finally reminds the others why we really celebrate Thanksgiving.

In the third story, Rabbit adopts a little bird named Kessie whom he rescues from a blizzard. They come to love each other, to the point where Rabbit has a hard time letting go when she learns to fly and is ready to go south for the winter.

See this one for the Thanksgiving special and the Rabbit/Kessie story. "Groundpiglet's Day" is cute enough, but it's really filler. The Thanksgiving story is charming and a nice commentary on how we think a holiday ought to be, rather than let it be what it is. Kessie and Rabbit's story is one of the most heartbreaking things I've ever seen connected to the Winnie the Pooh franchise, and it's so touching that  I'll forgive it not really having anything to do with Christmas.

Moved on to Mickey's Christmas Carol as I cleaned up from dinner. My first classic holiday cartoon of the season is really a showcase for Uncle Scrooge as the world's most famous miser. Mickey is Bob Cratchit, Donald is Nephew Fred, and Goofy has one of his best roles as a very funny Jacob Marley.

Finished the night with the live-action version of A Christmas Carol from 1938 after a shower. Reginald Owen is Scrooge in this one, with Gene Lockhart as Cratchit. Ann Rutherford makes for a particularly pointed Ghost of Christmas Past, even if she doesn't look the part of an ethereal spirit. There's also a bit of a romance here for Fred, as his wife (here called Elizabeth) is his fiancee, and their courtship is part of the plot. (This may be why this is the only version of this story that I know of to drop Scrooge's own lost fiancee.) A few segments from the book were lightened and left out to make this more appropriate for family audiences. And yes, that is a very young June Lockheart as Belinda Cratchit, the younger Cratchit daughter.

Not the best version of this story, but you can do far worse, especially if you have younger children who may be put off by the darker aspects of some other retellings that stick closer to the book.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Getting Ready for the Holidays

Yow! I can't believe I slept until 10:30 this morning. It might have been just as well. It was still pouring when I went to bed last night. By the time I was finally eating breakfast, the rain was long gone, replaced by clouds, wind, and a cool but not too cold day.

I had enough time after I ate to do a few quick chores. First thing on the agenda was making my Christmas list. This isn't what I want. It's what I'm giving. The first list has everyone who will be getting cards and packages from me. The second is the list of the food I make - five types of cookies to give to various families and bring to the Acme's Christmas luncheon, two loaves of bread for the McHughs and Jodie's Christmas brunch, cupcakes for Dad and Charlie and his men, and candy for Jodie and Dad's Christmas Eve party.

The third list is all my shopping. I only buy gifts for my five nieces and nephews, plus my friends Amanda and Lauren. Amanda and Lauren come from small families and don't have many people giving them presents. The kids will not only be getting food with their family gifts from me, but they probably don't need the extra sugar (especially during the holidays).

Next up was vacuuming the apartment. I just did this one really fast. I intend to do more major cleaning towards the end of the month-beginning of next month, before I put up the Christmas decorations and Amanda visits. After that, I pushed a wooden crate under my bed, where a rod under the springs broke last night. (The other rod broke ages ago.) Not only do I not have the money to replace that bed right now, but after the incident with the air conditioner last month, I'm afraid to carry anything remotely heavy across the porch.

Ran the Peanuts Thanksgiving specials as I worked. A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving has Chuck entertaining Marcie, Peppermint Patty, and Franklin for Turkey Day. There's a slight problem. Peppermint Patty invited them without giving Charlie Brown a chance to explain that he and Sally are suppose to be going to their grandmother's for the holiday. He, Linus, Snoopy, and Woodstock make a meal of toast, popcorn, and jelly beans to appease them. Peppermint Patty is disappointed, until Linus and Marcie remind their friends of the real reason behind the holiday.

The history of Thanksgiving is further investigated in "The Mayflower Voyagers," an episode of the miniseries This Is America, Charlie Brown. The Peanuts are pilgrim kids heading to the New World with their parents. They must endure a rough crossing over the Atlantic, a hostile environment, and a frigid New England winter that wipes out more than half the Pilgrim population. Hope finally comes to the group in the form of Squanto, Chief Massasoit, and their friendly Indian tribe, who teach them farming techniques suitable for their new country. They're so thankful for their friends and their good harvest, they invite them to share their good crop.

Headed out to run errands around quarter after 1. First stop was Target. I wanted to buy underwear, but I decided to wait for later in the week and just opted for Starbucks. It's a good thing I did. As it turned out, all I could afford was a chai latte.

Rode to the Haddon Township Library next. They must have been a lot busier earlier in the morning. The DVD return cart was overflowing. I compromised and left the adult titles to be returned by those kid volunteers who come in on Wednesdays. I shelved and organized the children's titles, the TV sets, and the three audio books.

I mostly have other things I want to watch this week, but I did take out a few DVDs. I enjoyed Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood so much, I took out a slightly longer set, this one themed around Daniel taking over King Friday's job for a day. I've rented Saving Mr. Banks before, but never got around to watching it. With Mary Poppins Returns debuting in theaters next month, I figured now was the perfect time to finally check it out. Also grabbed the 1938 version of A Christmas Carol (which I have seen, but not in ages) and the Disney Pocahontas and Pocahontas II: Journey to the New World to review for my Musical Dreams Reviews blog's Animation Celebration Saturday.

Went straight home after I left the library. For one thing, it was past 3:30 by then, and the traffic on Cuthbert was getting worse. The clouds, which had tried to break up earlier in the day, had gotten darker. By the time I made it home, it was just starting to rain again. (Although thankfully not enough to make me anywhere near as wet as I was when I got in on Friday!)

I finally tried to finish the application to the company Rev, which assigns people to write captions for online videos. I just could not keep up with the video, no matter how fast I went. It was nerve-wracking. My stomach was in knots. And then I accidentally signed out when I meant to send the darn thing. I don't think I'm cut out for captioning work. I need to find something where I can go at my own speed.

Managed to sneak some writing in before dinner. Anakin encounters Edgar Snoke and his grandson and Snoke's newest employee Benjamin Solo coming out of the First Order Savings and Loan as he walks home. Anakin privately thinks Snoke is a good businessman but is too extravagant in his tastes. He thinks more highly of his sober, dedicated grandson. Ben is devoted to finance and business, and both Snoke and Anakin think he'll go far in the world.

Moved to Daniel Tiger as I finished out most of the leftovers I had in my fridge. When Dan shows interest in what King Friday does, Friday makes him "King Daniel for the Day." He insists that, above all, a king must be kind. Daniel and his mom agree to run several errands for the King to show that kindness. As they walk through the neighborhood, they find several of their friends in need of help. Prince Tuesday hurt his ankle playing baseball and needs a doctor. O the Owl is upset that he dropped his ice cream cone and won't have a treat. Miss Elania is even more upset that her favorite toy got dirty and she can't play with it while it's getting washed. Daniel helps all of them, while proving how importance kindness is to being a leader.

The reason I took this specific set out was for "The Neighborhood Fall Festival," another seasonal episode. Dan, Katerina, and Elania help Music Man Stan set up a scarecrow, a pile of pumpkins, and other fall decorations for the big town fair. They're disappointed when a wind blows the decorations askew, but decide to help Stan by putting them back up while he gives Prince Wednesday his piano lesson. The kids can't set it up exactly like he had them, but Mrs. Tiger reminds them that it's equally important to do what they're able to do and do it their way.

"Daniel Takes Care of Snowball," the class pet, after school one day. Wednesday wants him to come over and play, but he shows more sense than most kids in cartoons and opts to stay with Snowball. Wednesday stays with him, and they learn how to care for a bunny.

This time, it's a grown-up who's upset in "Looking for Snowball." Teacher Harriet is very scared when she tells the kids and their parents that she accidentally opened the latch on Snowball's cage while taking him home and he got loose. They mobilize the rest of the neighborhood to find their favorite bunny.

Daniel learns how important "Sharing at the Library" is when his dad brings him there to take out a book. O wants to take out the same book he does. Instead of squabbling, Dan Sr. reads the book to them. Katerina doesn't want to share her puppets, but Daniel shows her how much more fun it is to play together.

The sharing theme is carried over to "Daniel Shares With Margaret." Daniel has a new sticker book he wants to play with, but baby Margaret wants to play, too. He tries to keep it away from her at first, then gives her a few stickers to place in the book. He thinks the weird places she puts the stickers are so funny, he makes up a silly story about them.

What I like about this series is how much I can relate to it, even as an adult. "Daniel Shares With Margaret" was by far my favorite of this round. I remember having similar fights with my siblings about sharing toys when they were really little...and how funny they could be as toddlers, too.

I never got to take care of a class pet, but my family has had many different types of pets over the years, including bunnies. I could relate all too well to poor Prince Tuesday in the "King for a Day" episode. I hurt my ankle about five years ago and had to have help going to the doctor and getting well, too. I also understood why Elaina was sad about her toy. I missed my stuffed animals when they'd have to be washed when I was a kid. And the incident with Teacher Harriet losing Snowball reminded me of how helpful my co-workers at the Acme and the Audubon and Mt. Ephram cops were when my bike was stolen two weeks ago.

Finished the night with Snow White and the Three Stooges, which I discuss further at my Musical Dreams Reviews blog.

Snow White and the Three Stooges

Monday, November 12, 2018

Little Tigers and Strong Young Ladies

Began a sunny morning with Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood as I ate breakfast. Think Mister Rogers' Neighborhood crossed with the current version of Muppet Babies and you're not far off. The Daniel here is the son of the original Daniel, who lives with his mother, dad, and baby sister Margaret in a little grass hut just outside of The Land of Make Believe. He's friends with the children and relatives of the original members of the Land of Make Believe, and the show is about their adventures as they grow and learn.

The first two episodes revolved around snow days. Daniel and Miss Elania (daughter of Lady Elaine) want to make a snow astronaut on "A Snowy Day." Daniel refuses to put on his hat and coat in favor of his astronaut helmet. He gets so cold, he finally decides that astronauts need to be warm, too.

"Daniel's Winter Adventure" takes him, his father, and his friend Prince Wednesday (younger son of King Friday) to a snowy hill, and then ice skating. Dan and Wednesday are scared of the big hill and of skating at first. Daniel Sr. suggests they take it a little at a time. They both gradually get used to both the sledding and the falling down when they learn to skate.

The reason I rented this one was for "Neighborhood Nutcracker" to kick off my holiday season. The "try new things" theme is repeated here. I can certainly relate to poor O the Owl (nephew of X the Owl) when he's nervous about the big crowd in the Enchanted Garden. Big crowds sometimes make me nervous as well. Even after O gets used to the noise, Daniel is asked to step in for Wednesday as the Nutcracker in the ballet because his friend got a cold. He's understandably scared at first, but Katerina Kittycat and her mother Henrietta Pussycat (who are Clara and the Sugar Plum Fairy) help him with the steps.

I can also relate to "Baking Mistakes." I've made quite a few of my own over the years! Baker Aker, Dan, and Wednesday make trolley-shaped sugar cookies. They each make mistakes, but figure out ways to fix them.

This was too cute for words. The Flash designs of the characters are adorable, and the stories are simple but fun. There's also the "Neighborhood" segment, where Daniel shows real-life kids taking part in the activities depicted in the episode. (Loved the older brother teaching his younger brother to ice skate. That was so sweet.)

While I did enjoy it, it's probably too cutesy for anyone who isn't a fan of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, are in the toddler-pre-school age range, or are the parents of toddlers. If you're like me and have fond memories of the original show, it's worth checking out. I'm guessing it's pretty popular. It's currently in the midst of it's fourth season on PBS, and the Haddon Township Library has at least 15 episode collections. I liked the show enough to want to take out a few more of those the next time I have the chance.

Headed out to work shortly after the cartoons ended. I was tossed in the register almost as soon as I arrived. There had been another call-out. One of my first customers was an older woman who kept fussing about double-bagging in plastic because she was walking...but she threw a cloth bag at me, too. She was such a grouch! I didn't double-bag one bag because it was light and could be carried easily, and she just growled at me. I ended up in tears, though I composed myself quick enough after she left. The other customers after her were super-sweet. One very old lady gave me a hug. I had no trouble after that.

Thankfully, I was only in the register an hour this time. I spent the majority of the rest of the day outside, gathering carts, doing outside trash and recycling, and sweeping up debris on the patio. I also cleaned up two broken jar messes. One was in the soda and chips aisle. Someone must have knocked over a jar of onion dip. Yuck, that was messy! Good thing onion dip is too gloppy to go far. The other was outside. An old man's bag broke, and a jar of artichokes broke. There was so little liquid in that small jar, I just had to clean up the glass and the artichokes.

There was a package waiting for me when I got home. I finally broke down and ordered those record needles from Amazon. I got two this time, so I wouldn't suddenly have to go around searching for them the next time one breaks. It took me a few minutes to finally slide in, but it's up and running again.

I listened to Merry Christmas Songs as my first holiday album of the year while I got organized. This is a somewhat older collection of Disney holiday tunes. It's mostly instrumentals and chorus numbers this time, but we do have an unusual version of "From All Of Us to All Of You" where Willie the Giant gets a solo on a third chorus. (We also have more of that squeaky mouse choir. I know Disney likes mice, but they sound more like Chip and Dale on helium than Mickey.)

Did a little bit of writing next. Anakin grudgingly allows Luke to have all of Christmas Day off. As he points out, the only other financial business open will be the First Order Savings and Loan, and even they won't be open all day. He also doesn't want to incur the wrath of Mara, Luke's very opinionated wife. Unlike Leia, he did approve of Luke's marriage to Mara, the ward of his late partner Sheev Marley...until they refused Marley's money and Mara revealed that she's not a fan of her father-in-law.

Put on my first Thanksgiving special of the season while making Wonderful Tuna Salad (tuna salad with crushed pineapple and celery) for dinner. Garfield's Thanksgiving doesn't start out well. First Liz the Veterinarian puts him on a diet, then Jon invites her for dinner! Jon wouldn't know how to cook a turkey if one bit him in the rear. Good thing Grandma from the Christmas special knows what to do.

Finished the night after a shower with A Wrinkle In Time. Meg Murray (Storm Reid) feels like a misfit. She doesn't fit in at school. Popular girls bully her, and her principal (Andre Holland) wonders why she's lashing out and isn't trying harder. Meg's reacting badly to the disappearance of her father, renowned astrophysicist Dr. Alex Murray (Chris Pine) four years before. She is close with her mother, Kate (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), and her gifted little brother Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe). Her family is visited one night by chatty, white-clad Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon), whom Charles Wallace seems to be friendly with. They meet up with a boy in Meg's class, Calvin O'Keefe (Levi Miller), before encountering Mrs. Whatsit again. She introduces them to two more witches, ever-quoting Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling) and the magnificent, towering Mrs. Which (Oprah Winfrey). The witches claim they can find Meg and Charles Wallace's father, who is being held prisoner on a planet under the sway of an evil black force known only as "It." When Charles Wallace falls under the spell of this terrible being, Meg is the only one who can release him...and prove that love of all kinds is really the most powerful force in the universe.

On one hand, I can see what director Ava DuVerney was aiming for. This is a lovely girl-power tale, with Reid particularly strong as Meg. The cast is wonderfully diverse, something you don't often see in a family film of this stripe, and the special effects are just incredible. Check out the scene where Mrs. Whatsit reveals her true form. No wonder the kids are amazed.

She may have tried too hard. The movie feels preachy and a bit pushy. The "be yourself" and "love conquers all" morals are hammered home with all the force of the negative light of Camazotz. They also cut a few points from the book, likely for time, including the other two Murray boys and the sequence with Aunt Beast after Meg left Camazotz with her dad. Maybe this story really is better suited to the page, where you can use your own imagination to create what the witches, "It," and the Tesseract look like.

If you have older elementary school or middle school girls who have read the book, they may find more in this one than I did. For everyone else, I'd recommend a rental for the special effects and cast alone.

Clouds began rolling in as early as my rounding up carts at work. It did wait to start raining until I was eating dinner and watching Garfield. I hope it doesn't last all day again. I want to hit the libraries tomorrow afternoon.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Saluting Our Troops

Began the morning with the Colliers Harvest of Holidays anthology. Veteran's Day began as Armstice Day after World War I. It goes without saying that all the material revolves around that devastating conflict. Read the sad short story The Singing Tree by Kate Seredy, about soldiers who discover a live apple tree on an otherwise ruined battlefield filled with birds who lost their homes. There were also two poems, one of which was the famous "In Flanders Fields."

Tossed in the material from Book Week since I had a little extra time. My favorite piece here was a segment from All-Of-a-Kind-Family on what happens when one of the girls loses a library book and her kindly young librarian helps her figure out how to pay for it. There was also a cute story about a little boy who is determined to learn to write his name, so he can get his library card and take out a book.

Cleaned the kitchen after breakfast. The kitchen really needed to be scrubbed. I've been eating at home a lot more than usual, mostly because I can't afford to eat out. The sink in particular was bad. Not to mention, I'm still clearing out the last remains of that mouse I caught last month.

Ran the Donald Duck In the Army shorts while I ate and cleaned. World War II propelled Donald ahead of Mickey Mouse and Goofy to make him Disney's number one short subjects star. He made more wartime shorts than any other Disney character, starting with "Donald Gets Drafted." Swayed by recruiting poster who makes being in the Army look like a great way to meet women, Donald signs up for the Service. He wants to be a glamorous pilot, but ends up as a foot soldier standing on anthills while Sargent Pete barks orders. He's still trying to get in the air in "Sky Trooper." After he fails his test, Pete does send Donald a paratrooper! Donald not only refuses to jump, but when he does go, he ends up taking Pete with him.

My favorite of the war shorts is "The Vanishing Private." Donald is a camouflage painter charged by Pete with making a cannon "hard to see." He takes his orders literally when he finds an invisibility paint and uses it on the cannon, then himself. Pete ends up chasing "the little man you can's see" all over the base.

"Der Fuhrer's Face" isn't technically a war short, but since it's on the same disc, I usually watch it with the others. Donald has a surreal nightmare that lands him behind an assembly line at a Nazi munitions factory. The strain from their tough regime is enough to make him go crazy, and for Disney to indulge in some of the wildest images this side of The Three Cabelleros.

The remaining shorts are a tad more benign. "Fall Out-Fall In" has a weary Donald struggling with his tent after a long march, then unable to sleep, thanks to the snoring around camp. Huey, Dewey, and Louie make their only appearance in a war short in "Home Defense," as they and Donald keep an eye out for enemy aircraft. Donald scolds the boys for playing a prank, but he's the one who's embarrassed when he mistakes a bee for a bomber. "The Old Army Game" is more disturbing today. Pete chasing Donald around camp after he's gone AWOL may have more violent consequences than either planned. Donald's last Army short was "Commando Duck." He's sent to Japan, where he proceeds to, wash...out the enemy.

Did one more Disney short as I got ready for work. Mickey Mouse didn't figure heavily into World War II cartoons, but he did do one war-related short in 1929. "The Barnyard Battle" pits Mickey and the other animals of the farm against a group of Hun cats. Mick goes on to prove that he may be a rubber-hose rodent, but he has what it takes to kick those cats out of the yard for good.

Headed out to work shortly after Mickey ended. It wasn't too bad when I arrived. As it turned out, the head manager initially wanted me there to organize and straighten shelves. A district manager may or may not have been stopping at our store before or after the Eagles game, and she wanted everything to look perfect.

I'd finished Aisle 1 and got half-way down Aisle 2 when the manager came up to me and said they needed me in the registers after break. I wasn't happy about it, but it was only for a hour and a half...and she was right. Not only were we insanely busy by that point, but three cashiers called out and another never showed up for work. At least most people were in a good mood. A few customers gave me a hard time about our online coupon system and the turkey coupons, but everyone else was fine. It moved fast, at any rate.

Took the long way home down Nicholson Road. No wonder all those kids called out. While still chilly, likely in the upper 40's, the raging wind from yesterday had gentled to a breeze and it was bright blue and sunny. The trees have finally turned colors here, gorgeous shades of scarlet, sun yellow, lime green, and sienna brown. It's like riding through a rainbow. The traffic was pretty bad on Nicholson, but it thinned out considerably by the time I made it into Oaklyn.

Swept the porch as soon as I got home. I started doing it yesterday, but it was still too wet from the heavy showers on Friday. The railings Charlie put in are a bit taller. They have a space at the bottom wide enough to allow me to push leaves through.

Did some writing after I put the broom away and changed. Even as Leia leaves, two of the workers in her charity arrive. Turns out they're both old friends of Anakin's. Ahsoka had been his apprentice as a child, but she lost touch with him after leaving Yoda Fezziwig's shop. Captain Rex Fett was an Army officer who had known Anakin in his younger years. Anakin, however, has no desire to renew old acquaintances. He refuses to donate money, siting that he pays for the poor to go to work houses and prisons. Rex and Ahsoka are shocked and disappointed; Luke makes up for it somewhat by giving them some money of his own.

Broke around 6:30 to have leftovers for dinner. Watched one last war cartoon while I ate. While Donald was convinced to join the Army by recruiting posters offering him glamour and a way to meet ladies, The Pink Panther is swayed by the power. He lands in Vietnam without a paddle in "G.I Pink." His fed-up sergeant keeps trying to devise elaborate traps to get him out of his hair, but they always backfire on him.

Called Mom after dinner. Mom's doing all right. She's hoping to return to her much-loved job at as a receptionist and ticket-taker at the Cape May-Lewes Ferry by Monday. She has to. Dad's finances are such a mess, it may be ages before she can figure them out. She may just put the house on the market after the holidays, then see if she can get a place in Wildwood. Oh, and Anny and her family moved into their new house in North Cape May last week. Evidently, it isn't as perfect as she wants, but at least it's much bigger than their old house, which is probably all that matters at this point.

Moved on to Rampage while making Cranberry Flummery. Davis Okoye (Dwayne Johnson) is a former US Army officer who now works tracking down poachers and tending to gorillas in a sanctuary. He has a special relationship with one albino gorilla named George, whom he rescued from poachers. He and his crew are shocked when George begins changing after he's exposed to rays from a meteor that touched down in his habitat. The meteor was actually debris from a spaceship that was carrying a mutagen. It makes George grow in size and aggressiveness, until he begins harming the other animals in the preserve.

He's not the only one, either. The mutagen has also had adverse effects on a gray wolf and an alligator, both of which have quadrupled in size and are running amok, eating and smashing everything in their paths. The company that developed the mutagen is run by a spoiled and greedy young yuppie named Claire (Malin Akerman) and her idiot brother Brett (Jake Lacy). Claire wants to sell the mutagen and the three animals as biological weapons. Kate, a geneticist (Naomi Harris) had tried to call her out on this and was fired and arrested. The FBI, including Special Agent Harvey Russell (Jeffery Dean Morgan), capture George and get him on an airplane. But neither George nor the other mutated critters can be contained, especially after Claire puts out a radio signal in a Chicago skyscraper that will call them to create even more havoc.

I have to admit, I enjoyed this. It's not a masterpiece or trying to reinvent the wheel or anything, but it doesn't need to. It's just big, dumb fun, and that's all it needs to be. The special effects, especially on the animals, is absolutely incredible. I love George, before and after his transformation. Johnson and Harris are also decent as the two scientists in way over their heads...literally...dealing with the massive mutants.

This was a fairly big hit last spring as people waited for Infinity War to come out. If you're in the mood for a big, silly, macho blockbuster, you can do far worse than this one.

Wish the Eagles had a couple of mutant gorillas to get them moving. They played terrible in the first half, and while they did do much better later, it wasn't enough. The Dallas Cowboys finally out-ran them 27-20.

Oh, and I hope all of you had a wonderful Veteran's Day! I'd like to give a special shout-out to the veteran in my life - my dad Bruce was in Vietnam.