Friday, August 29, 2014

All Summer Long

Started an gorgeous, sunny day with the other two Garfield travel specials. Garfield In Paradise takes the fat cat, his owner, and best dog buddy to a strange tropical island, where the hotel owners make Jack Benny jokes and the natives worship 50s cars. The trio hit the great outdoors in Garfield In the Rough, much to the annoyance of the fat cat who would rather be pampered at home. The trip doesn't start well, thanks to a tiny tent and Garfield eating their food in the middle of the night....but things get really hairy when they discover that a black panther is loose in the area!

I had a lot of errands to run today, starting with volunteering at the Oaklyn Library. They weren't busy at all; only one person was on the computer when I came in. There wasn't really much to do. I organized the DVD shelves and the board books and left.

Went straight to the Acme next for this week's grocery run. Surprisingly, given this is the Friday before a holiday weekend, it wasn't any busier than it has been the past few days. I didn't really have a huge order, anyway. I mostly needed to stock up on meat; I ended up with breaded chicken cutlets, spiced chicken cutlets, ground chicken, and three of those single fish packs. I was almost out of white and brown sugar. (The 4 pound Acme generic bag of sugar is $1.89 at regular price!) Was out of cocoa, butter, and chocolate chips. Bought a bag of dried fruit to make more granola bars.

My schedule for next week is a huge improvement over the last month or so...which is also a bit of a surprise. Last year, I worked for most of the week of Labor Day. This time, I have two days off (one of them Wednesday - no waiting over a week) and only work 11 to 4 on Labor Day. I do work late Saturday, but that will allow me to get to the Farm Market with no rushing. Maybe I'll do both farm markets - we'll see how things go.

I originally wanted to try a new Mexican restaurant on the White Horse Pike a block from WaWa (it's in the same location that's housed at least six or seven different pizza parlors since I've moved here), but it doesn't seem to be open yet. I ended up having lunch at the Westmont Bagel Shop instead. I ate half of a Turkey Swiss Melt with bacon and tomatoes and attempted a cup of Chicken Tortilla Soup. I should have known that the guy who said the soup wasn't spicy didn't know what he was talking about. The soup was burning hot! Even if it wasn't spicy to him, I don't handle any kind of spicy well. I stopped at Dollar Tree just to get a small ice cream sandwich to cure the burning sensation in my mouth.

 My next stop was the Haddon Township Library. I had DVDs that needed to go back and overdue books to return. Though they were busy, there wasn't really much to shelve or organize. I did the kids' and adults' DVDs and shelved some CDs and audio books. I ended up with a new My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic set focusing on Rainbow Dash, the Jerry Lewis version of The Nutty Professor (which I have seen, but not in years), and two animated movies, The Nut Job from earlier this year and the original animated The Hobbit. I also took out the last of this year's American Girl historical character mysteries I hadn't read, the Caroline story The Traveler's Tricks.

Cut through Newton Lake Park going home. It was one of the nicest summer days I ever saw. The sun was bright overhead, but there was a cool wind that kept the heat at bay. The sky was blue and the clouds were pretty and fluffy. I saw a woman reading at a picnic table and a dad with his daughter and their dog on a blanket...and decided it was too nice of a day to run home right away. I first sat at a bench to read the Caroline book, but ultimately decided it wasn't comfortable enough and ended up on a bench near the causeway between Collingswood and Oaklyn.

(And I finished the book while I was at the park. Not bad. I liked it more than Becky's mystery, but not as much as Kit's. I do agree with Linda Young that Caroline really wouldn't have been sent on such a dangerous errand in real-life, and I picked up on who the real villain was from the beginning. Other than that, it was an interesting look at travel during the War of 1812/Regency Era.)

When I did make it home, I baked those granola bars, then made chicken cutlets with mushrooms and Chinese beans and leftover tomatoes and potatoes for dinner. Ran American Graffiti as I worked. The last day of summer proves to be a memorable one for four guys living in a small Southern California town in 1962. One (Richard Dreyfuss) doesn't know if he wants to go to college or not. He ends up spending most of the night chasing a beautiful blond in a Thunderbird (Susanne Summers). The local hot rodder (Paul LeMat) gets stuck babysitting a feisty 13-year-old (MacKenzie Phillips). The school president (Ron Howard) isn't sure he wants to leave his girl (Cindy Williams). Their geek buddy (Charles Martin Smith) picks up a statuesque blond (Candy Clark), but loses his friend's car. Their adventures cruising around town are punctuated by the rock of the era and by Wolfman Jack (himself), the local DJ, whom everyone considers to be something of a mysterious figure.

Classic coming of age tale doesn't really have a plot and doesn't need one - it's all characters and their stories. If you love plotless coming of age tales like Dazed and Confused or ensemble comedies like Pirate Radio (or are a huge fan of the rock of the late 50s and early 60s), you'll probably get a kick out of this one.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Beginning of BeForever

I stayed up late last night waiting for the new items to debut on American Girl's site. A lot of people are fussing because the new items aren't like the old ones, or aren't historically accurate, or are too girlie or frilly or bright. I say...who cares? I adored the vast majority of the new clothing. Even 70s Julie, whose original outfits were mostly not to my taste, now comes in an adorable pair of bell-bottoms and a crocheted vest and finally has her own coat. Addy's new blue school dress is gorgeous. Rebecca the 1914 New Yorker looks beautiful in her new purple suit and blue Hanukkah dress. I love Kit's red-and-white Reporter Outfit (and her typewriter's back, too!).

But my biggest interest in BeForever was the return of Samantha. They retired her in 2008, much to my frustration. I was delighted when American Girl announced on their Facebook page in February that they would be bringing her back, with a whole new collection. A lot of collectors have complained that it's too modern-looking or pink or frilly. I think it's fine. I don't love pink, but I do love frilly, and Sam looks good in pink. I think they're mostly complaining about the appropriately-named Frilly Frock. I like it; love her coat and Christmas dress, too. Her "hairstyling set" comes with lovely hat that might be worth getting later. Her bike is pretty, but at 115 dollars, it's a tad too expensive to get now.

I ultimately ended up buying the new "meet" outfits (the outfits the dolls come in) for Josefina and Samantha and Samantha's Bicycling Outfit. American Girl originally put out a three-wheeled bike and bike bloomers outfit for Sam in the mid-2000s. Both were long gone by the time I got into collecting again and hard to find on eBay (and could cost over $100 on the rare times they did show up). While Samantha's new bike bloomers look more like they should belong to Julie, they're still really cute and cost a lot less than her old ones.

(And her "meet" outfit was the only new thing besides revised books Josefina got out of this release. Evidently, AG says they're going to spotlight her in the spring.)

The rest of the day was pretty quiet. Work was the same as it has been all week - quiet off and on. Most people are probably waiting for their weekend off to shop. I spent the majority of the afternoon shelving candy. By the time it got busy, my relief was coming in for me, and I was on my way out.

As soon as I got home and had a snack, I went in the bath. That felt really nice after a long work week. I haven't had a day off since last Wednesday! Thankfully, I have tomorrow and Saturday off. I'll just be running errands tomorrow, but Saturday I'd like to go to the Berlin Flea Market, which is supposed to be huge.

I just ran a Garfield special while making tilapia with leftover tomatoes and potatoes for dinner. Garfield In Hollywood takes the fat feline and his human and dog buddy to the title city when they win a pet talent contest. Garfield is determined to become a star at any cost...even if that includes leaving Jon out of the act.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Ride Astronaut Ride

I spent a hot, sunny, dry morning watching Gravity and doing things around the apartment. This intense survival tale takes us into space, where Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) and her chatty colleague Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) are doing routine repairs on a space station. Suddenly, the space station is destroyed by a debris shower, their third colleague is killed, and Stone finds herself hurling miles out into space alone. Though she makes it to a Russian space station, it, too, is ultimately damaged. Soon, Ryan finds herself having to figure out how to navigate a damaged Chinese shuttle back to Earth when she doesn't read Chinese and can't figure out what the person on the other end of the radio is saying.

Definitely not your typical science fiction. Though some of the science has been discredited, it's still a fairly realistic depiction of what can happen up there in the real "final frontier." Bullock and Clooney do wonders with little dialogue; Bullock was Oscar-nominated. Director Alfonso Cuaron deservedly won. The backdrops are amazing; space never felt so stunning, so vast, so cold. If you enjoy Bullock or Clooney, thrillers, survival stories, or prefer your science fiction with more fact than fiction, this movie was one of 2013's biggest critical and financial hits and gets a hearty recommendation from me as well.

Work wasn't anywhere near as interesting. It was pretty much the same deal as yesterday - on and off steady, but mainly dead. There wasn't even much candy to shelve. I spent a lot of time standing around. By the end of rush hour, it slowed down enough for me to head out with no relief and no problems.

When I got home, I switched to the campier action musical The Pirate Movie. Mabel (Kristy MacNichol) is a nerdy tomboy who falls for a boy (Christopher Atkins) at a pirate festival. She tries to go after him after her friends take off with him, but she falls off the skiff she rented. Washed onshore, she dreams that she's Mabel in The Pirates of Penzance, her sweetheart is the reluctant pirate Fredrick, and other people she saw at the festival are pirates, the Pirate King (Ted Hamilton), the Major General, and her sisters. Mabel learns a lesson in standing up for herself when the pirates fight the girls into a corner, and only Mabel can orchestrate the happy ending of her dreams.

I've always liked this one, but I grew up on it. It's like a cross between Pirates of the Caribbean and Hairspray by way of half of Mel Brooks' movies. It does, however, have a rare action heroine in feisty Mabel and some rousing action, especially towards the middle and end. Fun for fans of campy musicals, action movies with strong female characters, or pirate tales.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

American Girls and Bowery Boys Out of the Archives

This is a good week for big debuts - or re-debuts. First of all, the Warner Archives finally put out the fourth and final collection of Bowery Boys movies. My favorites in this set include two good ones from the Slip/Sach-focused mid-50s, Bowery To Bagdad and Spy Chasers, and the last one with Duke Coveletske (and the last in the series), In the Money. There's extras included this time as well - 24 trailers in their original aspect ratios. At any rate, here's the last of the Boys, for everyone who's as big of a fan of this series as Lauren and me!

The Bowery Boys: Volume Four

The American Girl historical line is being revamped starting Thursday. It's now called "BeForever." All current dolls but Caroline and Kaya will come in new outfits. All dolls will get at least one or two new outfits, and some, like Julie, Kit, or the re-released Samantha, will have almost entirely new collections. I'm very, very excited about this! I'm especially looking forward to what Samantha will have. My Samantha hasn't gotten any outfits brand-new from AG since I got her back in 1993. Josefina could stand for some wardrobe additions, too. I may also buy some of Julie's 70s collection for my very bohemian modern doll Jessa.

I spent most of the morning doing research on BeForever and what's changing or selling out. (Thankfully, most of the things AG is changing or getting rid of seems to be furniture or accessories. I bought all the outfits I wanted that were rumored to be retiring back in the spring, when I took advantage of free shipping and big sales.) Some of the items Samantha's getting look adorable, including her own bike and a new pair of biking bloomers! Now I'm glad I could never find her original three-wheeled bike and biking outfit that came out in the mid-2000s. I've also seen photos of an ice cream parlor and a beautiful canopy bed. (Alas, both of those items are probably too big for my budget and my apartment.)

Samantha and the other historical dolls aren't the only girl-oriented characters who are reemerging for a new generation. A new Sailor Moon series was apparently relaunched this summer. I haven't watched it yet, but in honor of the revival of Sailor Moon, I ran some episodes of the original show from the first and early second season. Serena and the other Soldiers learn about their lives in the Silver Millennium in "The Past Returns." Skipping ahead to the second season, the other Soldiers are brought back to help Serena when a monster attacks the movie set they're auditioning at in "So You Want to Be In Pictures."

Work was off-and-on steady for the entire four hours I was there. It was a sunny, windy, hot, dry day. Who wanted to be running around a grocery store? By the time it was picking up for rush hour, I was rushing out. My relief was on time; there were no major problems.

When I got home, I changed, had a snack, and went back out to get my laundry done. It was busy for it being nearly dinner time, but I didn't really have much laundry to do to begin with. I was able to get a washer and a drier with no problems.

I spent the rest of the evening making scrambled eggs with yellow peppers and mushrooms for dinner while watching more Bowery Boys in honor of their release. They're back to school in "Hold That Line" when a bet between snooty professors lands them at prestigious Ivy University. They stick out like sore thumbs, and the students don't know what to make of them...until Sach creates a potion in chemistry class that gives him super strength. Suddenly, he's the star of the football team and the talk of the school. Unfortunately, this makes the team's star player very jealous, jealous enough to tip off a group of gangsters who want Sach out of the way so they can win a big game.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Into the Fire

I slept in a little bit more this morning than I have been able to recently. I just made it to a late morning work shift. Work was pretty quiet for most of the day. It was sunny, windy, and hot, with no humidity. By the time the rush hour crowds were arriving, my relief was coming in for me.

When I got in, I changed, then debated what to do next. I ultimately decided to try making granola bars. I had a bag and a half of Craisins Trail Mix that have been sitting around since Lauren and I bought them in June. Dried fruit and nuts don't really go bad (especially when one bag wasn't opened), so I thought I'd finally use them for something. I used a variation on a recipe a co-worker gave me last winter. The recipe called for Bisquick, but I don't use Bisquick. I replaced the Bisquick with a cup of whole-wheat flour, a half-cup of unbleached white flour, and a tablespoon of baking powder and the cup of brown sugar with a half-cup of brown sugar and a few tablespoons of honey. Yum yum. Other than I really should have chopped the dried fruit and nuts before I dumped them in, it came out delicious, moist and sweet. It's a bit crumbly, but if it falls apart, I can just eat it in chunks.

I made Marinated Potatoes and Tomatoes using the last of the farm market produce and leftover chicken for dinner while watching the 1982 version of The Scarlet Pimpernel. This British version of my favorite novel has aristocratic and seemingly ditzy Sir Percy Blakeney (Anthony Andrews) posing as the heroic title character to rescue innocent nobles from the guillotine during the early French Revolution. All of England and France wants to know who this mysterious and clever person is, especially the manipulative Chauvelain (Ian McKellen) and Blakeney's wife, Marguerite (Jane Seymour). When Blakeney discovers that the little Dauphin, the heir to the throne of France, is still alive, he becomes determined for him and his men to rescue the child. Chauvelain is just as determined that the child should remain in prison. He'll stop at nothing to capture the Scarlet Pimpernel, including using Marguerite and her brother Armand to his own ends.

Rousing good story with Andrews in particularly fine form as the Pimpernel himself. Great fun for fans of the books or swashbucklers in general.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Classic Rockin' Dolls

I had a quick breakfast of Blueberry-Chocolate Chip Pancakes before heading off to work for a short and early shift. Work was busy all day, not uncommon on a Sunday. Everything went quickly. A manager came in so I could leave; she sent my relief elsewhere to take the long lines.

When I got home, I changed into regular clothes, then went in the back room to get the dolls' clothes and change them. Their bathing suits and light summer frocks are no longer appropriate for the cooler weather we've been having lately. Molly wears Kit's original blue School Outfit, which I picked up from AG in March the day before it sold out. Josefina's in her red and orange Summer Dress and vest. Samantha's in a hand-made teal tea dress with a lace-and-rosette trimmed collar. Felicity wears her friend Elizabeth's celery green Summer Gown. Whitney's finally getting to try out the floral Queen's Treasures dress I bought off eBay in the spring. Jessa wears an outfit I bought from a doll clothes seller at last year's May Fair - a blue and pink denim skirt, a white hoodie with a flamingo patch, and flamingo-print sneakers.

I went for a walk after I finished with the dolls. I was really kind of bored. It was sunny this morning, but by 4:30, the day had clouded over. (Despite the dark clouds, it wasn't humid and it never rained.) I stopped at Dad's. The garage was open, and though I did run into two of their neighbors, I saw neither Dad nor Jodie. They probably took Dad's 50s car out for a spin.

I ended up strolling to CVS instead. I didn't really need anything. It was just for the walk. I did buy one of those tasty sparkling waters - the Strawberry Kiwi this time.

I made chicken cutlets and leftover Chinese beans for dinner while listening to a couple of records. Classic rock just seems to go hand in hand with the summer. I did two of the K-Tel 70s collections while I changed the dolls. The soundtrack to American Graffiti accompanied dinner.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Cool, Cool Summer

I didn't work until 10:30 this morning, which gave me a chance to check out the American Top 40 re-run. We jumped all the way back to late August 1974, as country, hard rock, folk, soul, and novelty songs took Americans into the last weeks of the summer season. Hits that late summer included "Side Show" by Blue Magic, "Rock Me Gently" by Andy Kim, "Then Came You" by Dionne Warwick and the Spinners, "The Night Chicago Died" by Paper Lace, "Waterloo" by ABBA, "You and Me Against the World" by Helen Reddy, "Please Come to Boston" by Dave Loggins, "I Shot the Sheriff" by Eric Clapton, "Call On Me" by Chicago, "Nothin' From Nothin'" by Billy Preston, "Can't Get Enough of Your Love" by Barry White, and the remake of "Wild Thing" by Fancy.

That week's biggest hit set a record for longest time between #1 songs. Paul Anka was a teen idol in the early 60s with smashes like "Put Your Head On My Shoulder," but his smooth vocal style fell out of fashion after tougher rock groups like the Beatles came in. He made a comeback a decade later, both as a songwriter and as a singer. "You're Having My Baby" was his first major hit in almost fifteen years.

Ran the last Schoolhouse Rock shorts as I got ready for work. Money Rock and Scooter Computer & Mr. Chips debuted in the 80s, after the original series ended. Neither were terribly well-received at the time. Some of the Money Rock shorts have worn better than others. In addition to "Tyrannosaurus Debt" (on the ever-increasing US Government debt), my favorites are the country-rock-themed "Dollars and Sense" (on banks, loans, and interest) and "$7.50 Once a Week" (on budgets and spending your money wisely).

Scooter Computer & Mr. Chips are Schoolhouse Rock's only characters to appear in more than two segments. The kid on the skateboard and his wheeled data-crunching buddy were intended to teach kids about those new home computers that were becoming more common in the early 80s. Rapidly-changing computer technology assured that they were dated almost as soon as they came out, to the point where their discussion of the BASIC programming language and floppy discs seems adorably antiquated today. Evidently, they were obscure even in the 80s. They disappeared as soon as they were shown, and were never seen anywhere again until three of them turned up on the 2-disc set. (The introductory short was considered lost until someone uploaded it to YouTube last year.)

It was showering when I went to work. Work was very busy all day. The weather didn't help; people who would have been going to the shore probably opted to avoid the rain and get things done at home. We're getting close to Labor Day, the beginning of the month, and back to school in New Jersey, too. Thankfully, there were no major problems, and my relief was a college girl who was right on time.

By the time I headed home, it was cloudy and cold for this time of year (in the mid-70s) but not raining. When I got in, I decided to warm up the apartment by baking Cinnamon Blackberry Muffins and having leftover chicken-rice-vegetable soup for dinner.

I combat the gloom with Snow White and the Three Stooges as I baked. What do the Three Stooges in their 60s incarnation with Curly Joe have to do with "Snow White and the Seven Dwarves"? In this 1961 musical, they're traveling musicians who are staying in the Dwarves' house for the summer. Snow White, who is fleeing her wicked stepmother, is found there as well. She quickly falls for the Stooges' handsome adopted son. When he's captured, the Stooges go to the rescue...and then hide Snow White from her stepmother and her adviser.

Notorious among Stooge fans for concentrating more on ice ballets and less on the Stooges, I'm quite fond of this colorful and unusual comic fantasy. It's a girlie movie in a largely male-dominated fandom. Casual viewers, musical fans, and princess-crazy grade-school girls may actually get more out of it than Stooges lovers