Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Christmas With Friends

It was just gray and cloudy when I got up this morning. I still had quite a bit to do to get ready for my old college friend Amanda's arrival. I ate breakfast. I made the bed. I tidied up the apartment. I did the dishes. To save time (since she'd probably leave at 3:30 and we'd be eating lunch out first), I pulled out the Christmas tree and put the lights on. Vacuumed under it before I left. Artificial trees shed almost as much as the real ones do!

Amanda texted me earlier in the morning and said she'd be in by 11. I walked over ten minutes early. As it turned out, I could have waited a little longer. She was at least 15 minutes late. Evidently, she'd had to stop at her local bank for money, then ran into traffic.

We had lunch at The Pop Shop in Collingswood. We've done the gourmet Mexican restaurant Tortilla Press for the last few years, but Amanda really wanted to try their award-winning ice cream concoctions. We timed it right. They were only a little busy, mostly with college students on break or families with small children who were either too young for school, or attending half-day kindergarten.

Since we were there relatively early, we ate off their breakfast menu. I had an Egg, Cheese, and Vegetable Quesadilla with crispy hash browns and no jalapenos. Amanda was braver than me. She had a Buffalo chicken omelet with the same hash browns. My quesadilla was yummy, filled with egg and veggie pieces, and just enough to eat most of in one sitting. Amanda's Buffalo chicken omelet was huge, and way too much to eat in one sitting, especially if one was planning to have ice cream later. She took it home with her. We had enough room left for a scoop of coffee ice cream with hot fudge and chocolate sprinkles for me and a scoop of chocolate marshmallow with marshmallow sauce for her.

We stopped at The Candy Jar, a few stores down from The Pop Shop, on the way back to her car. I have plenty of junk food at home, so despite creative chocolate molded snowflakes and lumps called "Frosty's Baby Picture" and "Reindeer Poop," I didn't buy anything. Amanda got licorice for her dad and Mallow Cups for her. The owner did let me sample an orange jelly chocolate, though.

It was starting to shower lightly just as we were leaving The Pop Shop. This was no day to be lingering anywhere. We went back to her car and headed back to Oaklyn. Lauren wanted coffee. I recommended Common Grounds around the corner from me. They're cheaper than Groove Ground in Collingswood, with drinks that are just as good and a cozier atmosphere. We sat and chat while she sipped her brew and I slurped my favorite spicy-sweet iced tea.

As soon as we got home, we exchanged gifts. We give each other little things, usually stuff we find at Target or where we work. Amanda has two jobs, one of which is at the Cumberland Mall's Bath and Body Works. She gave me a small fragrance spray and bottles of shower gel and hand lotion in a new holiday-themed scent called Magic In the Air, one of those cane-shaped plastic tubes filled with Hershey's candies, a pair of gingerbread-themed sleep socks, and three packs of Swiss Miss cocoa. I gave her a stuffed Hello Kitty in an elf outfit (she loves Hello Kitty), candy, a hand-crocheted ornament, and mechanical pencils and a notebook for college. (She's studying to become a veterinary technician - essentially, a nurse, from what she says.)

We decorated the tree for the next hour and a half. I don't have a big tree. It's tall, but rather thin. Which isn't a bad thing, since I have a ton of ornaments! I've picked them up here, there, and everywhere. Mom's given me a ton from the Winterwood Christmas stores and fancy gift shops in Cape May County. I've found them at yard sales, thrift shops, church bazaars, and half-price after-Christmas sales. Friends have given me big Hallmark character ornaments. Mom made felt folk art-style ornaments and a Christmas Holly Hobbie when I was in high school. My cousin Samantha made a pile of beaded ornaments one year.

We finished it all just in time for Amanda to head out. I walked her to her car, which was left at the VFW's huge parking lot across the street. The rain was really coming down by then. I was out long enough to make sure she made it into her car and down the street before hurrying back inside.

Considering the weather, it's a good thing I'd planned on spending the rest of the night working on my story. Rey battles Prince Ben, but neither will give an inch. Rey wants him to realize what his lust for power has done to the Land of Sweets, but he's too consumed with the need for power and the desire to be like his grandfather. She finally knocks him on the ground, then runs to her shattered Nutcracker. Snoke is about to convince Ben to turn all of them, including his parents, into wood when Rey hears sleigh bells. Could it be Father Christmas himself?

Moved to Lego Star Wars while having lemon chicken rosemary soup for dinner. I was able to complete two challenges I looked up on YouTube last night, "Negotiations" and "Secret Plans." Almost got "Darth Vader," "Darth Maul," and "Escape From Naboo." Didn't get quite as far "Chancellor In Peril" or the lengthy "Defense of Kashyyak."

Finished the night on the couch with my laptop and the rain pattering overhead. Watched All the President's Men while I was online. An all-star cast headlines this real-life journalism tale, based after a best-selling book. Carl Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman) and Bob Woodward (Robert Redford) couldn't be more different in their approaches to journalism or their personal habits, but they set these aside to work together on the biggest scandal in the US in the 70's - the burglary of Democratic papers from the Watergate Hotel by several political higher-ups. It turns out there's a lot more to this than a burglary gone wrong, as the duo follow the money...and discover just how far corruption can run when power remains unchecked.

Quietly powerful tale of political corruption, abuse of power, and the strength of the press. The enormous cast does impressive work. Jason Robards won a supporting actor Oscar as Woodward and Bernstein's hard-nosed editor Ben Bradlee. The film also won Best Art Direction for it's spot-on recreation of the Washington Post offices and Best Adapted Screenplay for William Goldman's tough script.

If you are interested in the cast, the era, or US political history, or you just want to see a good thriller, this is a low-key but well-done tale.

Monday, December 05, 2016

Preparing for the Holidays

It was raining when I got up this morning. By the time I got to breakfast, the rain was gone and the sun was starting to emerge. Ran Santa Claus Is Coming to Town while I ate. Another Rankin-Bass stop-motion classic, this one is their version of the origins of everyone's favorite holiday gift-giver. Kris Kringle (Mickey Rooney) is an orphan raised by a group of toy-making elves in the mountains. He tries to bring their wares to Sombertown in the valley below them, but the cranky Burgomeister Meister Burger has outlawed toys. When Kris insists on ignoring the town's rules, he's declared an outlaw...but time has a way of making outlaws into legends. Kris' legacy will outlast the burgomeister and become one of the most beloved of all time.

Made my bed, then dusted the entertainment area for the next hour and a half. This is where the TV, DVD player, Wii, DVDs, video games, and non-fiction books on media are. (The CD player is also in here, mainly so I can listen to the radio on it.) I'm doing a thorough dusting, which means moving everything and dusting under it. I also cleared out a bunch of items I hadn't read or listened to or looked at in ages, mainly books, CDs, and cassettes. (I just cleared out the DVDs not long ago.)

Put on a couple of dubbed specials as I worked. Yes, Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus tell the tale of the little girl who wrote to the New York Sun asking about the existence of Santa, and the editor's touching answer.

Papa Bear and the cubs are determined to find The Bernstein Bears' Christmas Tree, come heck or high snow. Unfortunately, every tree they decide on is already the home to woodland critters. The animals whose homes they spared have a surprise waiting for them at their tree house!

Bugs Bunny's Christmas Tales is a Chuck Jones anthology of three original Looney Tunes holiday shorts. The first is a condensed Christmas Carol, with Yosemite Sam as Scrooge and Bugs as Nephew Fred. The second has Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner chasing each other through the snow. Taz and Bugs headline the third, which has Bugs mistaking Taz for Santa when he accidentally ends up in the big guy's red suit.

Headed out around 1 to run a quick errand. I wanted to get to the Oaklyn Library to do some volunteering and drop off my donation. They were busy for them, with a couple of older women on the computers and CNN on the TV. I organized DVDs and took a look at the board books. My donation was appreciated. The librarian said one of those ladies grabbed a book before she could even organize it.

When I got home, I had a quick lunch while watching Charlie Brown's Christmas Tales. The fourth and final (to date) Peanuts holiday show was really just created to fill out airspace with Charlie Brown Christmas. That said, there is some cute material here, including Sally writing to "Samantha Claus" and how she gets a tree and Snoopy dressed as a corner Santa.

Spent the next hour and a half cleaning the bedroom. The bedroom takes forever to dust. This is where I keep most of my collections - my toys, stuffed animals, dolls, action figures, and fiction and children's books. All of those things have to be moved in order to clean under them. It can take a while, and that's when I don't stop to read the books! Listened to instrumental holiday albums while I worked, including three Manheim Steamroller cassettes, my two Glenn Miller Orchestra "In the Christmas Mood" cassettes, and the last Happy Holidays CD I didn't do yesterday, which has a mostly classical selection.

After I finally finished, it was time to put up the first Christmas decorations of the season. I keep anything that needs to go out first - the garlands, nativity, wreath, mistletoe, placemats, linens, box of New Year's party items, and poinsettia magnet. Most of these are pretty easy to figure out, except the garlands. They get draped over all the windows in the house. Trouble is, it's hard to tack them into the wooden panels on the walls in most of the apartment. The majority of them are twist-tied to unused curtain rods.

Once the decorations were up, I did some writing. Chewbacca and Rey free Han. She sends the duo to rescue Leia. To her horror, Ben has gotten the Nutcracker on the ground. He's already sliced his arm and back and is close to hacking him into splinters.

To her surprise, she manages to call the blue rock candy sword to her hand. When it does, it changes her into a beautiful fairy princess, the Dewdrop Fairy. She's now ready to take on Ben head - and wings - on.

Broke for dinner around 6:30. Made a fried egg and cheese wrap and Cranberry Flummery while watching Frosty the Snowman. We return to Rankin-Bass for the tale of a snowman who comes to life, thanks to a magician's hat. When it starts to get warmer, a little girl and a rabbit vow to return him to the North Pole...but the lousy magician who once owned that hat wants it back and is on their trail.

Finished the night with Lego Star Wars. I like Indiana Jones. His blaster has stronger bullets than the lasers used by most of the characters, and the whip makes him useful as a long-range fighter. He's also got this nifty metalic sheen on him. I tried "Secret Plans," "Falcon Flight," "Betrayal Over Bespin," and "Jedi Battle" and managed to complete the latter two.

Sunday, December 04, 2016

Dusting and Disappointments

It was still quite sunny when I awoke this morning. I celebrated my vacation with Banana Pancakes. Yum. They came out perfectly - not overcooked, not undercooked, just sweet enough. Best pancakes I've had in ages.

Worked on a collage for the next few hours. I know I just made one not long ago, but I've been flooded with catalogs in the past few weeks. There were too many to fit in the basket in the bathroom. Plus I had to get a 5 dollars off coupon from an older Bed Bath & Beyond flyer. Not to mention, I've never done one with a specific holiday theme before. I think it came out very well. The Vermont Country Store catalog in particular was a treasure trove of holiday memorabilia.

It took me far longer than I'd originally planned to cut out all those photos! It was past noon when I got started on dusting the dining and music areas. My living room is so big, I break it into three "areas." The dining area is where the table is. CDs, records, and the record player (along with my big chair) are in the music area. Everything else - books, DVDs, the TV, the DVD player, the CD player (which also has the radio) - are in the entertainment area. (That's where I'm typing this now.)

Before I start decorating for Christmas, I always do as much dusting as I can. I dust under everything I can move. That's why it takes me so long...and why I put it off. It was past 1:30 when I finally finished doing the dining and music areas. I decided I'd do the rest tomorrow. I pulled on a jacket and boots and headed to Dad and Jodie's house to watch the Eagles-Bengals game.

Or that was the plan. When I arrived, no one was home. I thought I'd make a trip to CVS and see if they were back later. Nope. I returned after about an hour with conditioner and Peanuts and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer-themed hot chocolate packets for a friend, and they still weren't home. I was really disappointed. I was looking forward to spending time with them today.

(Maybe it's just as well. The Eagles played terribly today, losing to the not-much-better Bangles 32-14.)

Cheered myself up with writing when I got home. Snoke has taken Leia prisoner. The guards hold Rey back. The Nutcracker has vanished. Rey's hoping he went to get help. Poe's also gone; Kylo Ren turns the rest of the Candy Army into wooden statues. The real Han is dragged onto the platform and forced onto his knees. He begs for his son to come home, but Kylo refuses.

The fairy-turned-mouse warrior about to chop off his father's wings when a blue rock candy blade stops him. The Nutcracker has appeared with the sword that once belonged to Anakin of the Skywalking Fairies. He holds him back while Rey frees herself from the guards and Poe and Chewbacca get Han off the platform.

But the Nutcracker seems to be tiring...

Broke at 6 for leftovers for dinner and to make Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies. I used my favorite Oatmeal Chocolate Chunk Cookies recipe. Replaced the vanilla extract with mint extract (far less than called for - peppermint extract is powerful stuff) and the chocolate chunks with the Nestle "winter" mint and dark chocolate chips. Yum. Very minty and just sweet enough.

My True Value Happy Holidays CDs and cassettes were probably the first Christmas music - and some of the first music, period - I bought for myself after I finally got my own stereo in the mid-late 90's. There was a True Value just off downtown Cape May where I bought every edition from Volume 28 through Volume 35, even after I went away to college. The Cape May True Value converted to an Ace Hardware after about 2001 (and remains so to this day), which ended my collecting. I was able to find Vol 39 at a yard sale in Audubon. (There's a tiny True Value hidden on one of the residential side streets, just over the railroad tracks from Simply Soups and Willie the Woodsman and Wife.)

Too bad I heard they ended the series in 2005. I love my True Value collections. I discovered so many wonderful songs I'd either never heard of (The Roches' lovely "Christmas Passing Through," two fun country numbers from Clint Black, "Milk and Cookies" and "Christmas For Every Boy and Girl," Perry Como's "Christmas Dream"), or had never heard in that particular version (Eartha Kitt's "Santa Baby," the Boston Pops' spirited instrumental "Sleigh Ride," Dion's rollicking "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus") from my collections.

Finished out the night with Lego Star Wars. I wasn't able to get past any of the challenges I tried tonight, but the hour wasn't entirely wasted. I'd looked up how to unlock the last character I didn't have - Indiana Jones! Turns out all you need to do is watch the trailer for the first Lego Indiana Jones game in the bonus area, then buy him like the regular characters. I can't wait to see what you can do with him in the Star Wars universe, especially his whip.

Saturday, December 03, 2016

Very Merry Vacation

Today was my only early work shift this week. We were busy pretty much the whole time. All the beginning of the month people must have put off shopping until today. I shelved frozen food that had been stuffed in the ice freezer and did some bagging this morning, but the carts just got too bad to ignore. I was outside the rest of the day. At least the weather was decent. It was windy and chilly, but not really anything that out of the ordinary for South Jersey in early December.

As soon as I got off, I strolled down to Chick Fil'A. It was them or Tu Se Bella's. I just did Arby's, I wasn't up to Applebee's, and it was too windy for Sonic. At least the line wasn't too long, even if their dining room was full. I had a grilled chicken sandwich, Diet Dr. Pepper, and waffle fries while watching the kids goof off in the playground.

(Their decorations were really cute. Stockings with all the employees' names were hung up on the wall above the counter. There was a tall, narrow revolving tree in one corner decorated with red and mottled black-and-white ribbons.)

Headed back to the Acme to do this week's grocery shopping. I have no desire to go anywhere near the Acme until I need to get my schedule next weekend. I wanted to get as much food as I could. Found fillets of haddock and blue fish and a package of organic ground chicken that had manager's coupons. There was a lone package of taco-sized tortillas sitting on the clearance shelves in the back. I thought I'd have fish tacos for dinner. Bags of green beans were 99 cents. Restocked oranges, bananas, cranberries, sugar, lime juice, canned chicken, yogurt, soup, skim milk, canned pumpkin, and chocolate chips (Nestle's were part of a big 4-day sale - got the dark chocolate/mint chips).

My neighbor Richard was working on putting up the lights on his house when I got in. I didn't even hesitate. I put the groceries upstairs, wrote out my rent check, and handed it to him. That's a big reason I took my vacation now - so I wouldn't have to wait a week or more to pay the rent.

Ran Very Merry Christmas Songs as I put away my groceries and changed into regular clothes. We used to run the original version of this Disney Sing-Along collection as soon as we'd get home from school on the last day before winter break. It made for nice background music as we'd come in, and dancing and singing gave us a chance to let off some pent-up energy.

Worked on my story after I'd finished. Leia sees a cloaked figure being lead to the main square by guards. The figure has two lumps on his back that look like wings. She tries to send magic to him, but the cloak absorbs it.

Rey says they need a distraction. Poe, who has arrived with the other toys and candy, provides one. The Candy Army dances for King Snoke, a dried up, nasty old mouse. While he's watching them, Leia creeps to Han. She reaches up to free him from the cape...only to find Kylo Ren under it. Snoke grabs Leia, trying to force her to become his queen. The guards block Rey...but the Nutcracker escapes...

Broke for dinner around 6. Had a tasty meal of fish tacos, steamed green beans, and leftover mashed sweet potatoes while finishing out Very Merry Christmas Songs. Other than skinning the haddock, my meal came out quite nicely.

Finished out the night with Lego Star Wars. I worked on the blue pieces challenges for "Negotiations," "Darth Vader," "Chancellor In Peril," "Ruin of the Jedi," "Secret Plans," "Death Star Attack," and "Battle Over Coruscant." The only one I managed to complete was the last-named. I got so close in "Darth Vader" and "Negotiations," but I still can't find the final piece in the latter, and I kept falling into the lava in the former.

Friday, December 02, 2016

Scary Pony Tales

Spent most of the morning online and working on my story. The group has now arrived in Gingerbread Town. Leia turns them back into a human, a fairy, and a nutcracker...but now they have to figure out what to do with Phasma. Leia and the Nutcracker finally just dump her in the sewers.

Started the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic disc during breakfast; continued it at lunch, before I left for work. The second horror-themed Pony set first introduces a zebra sorceress in "Bridle Gossip." The ponies have never seen a zebra before. They automatically assume she must be evil, especially when strange things start happening to the Mane Five. But neither the zebra nor the "curse" are what they appear to be...

"Owl's Well That Ends Well" for an exhausted Spike, who has been staying up late at night to help Twilight Sparkle. He's upset when Twilight brings an owl home to aid both of them. He thinks the owl's going to replace him and tries everything he can to discredit it in front of Twilight.

The citizens of Ponyville are wondering "Do Princesses Dream of Magic Sheep?" when a strange, misty monster from Princess Luna's dreams are keeping her awake. Unfortunately, it manages to escape into the dreams of the Mane Five, too. They finally put everyone's dreams together to battle it...but it turns out that the only one who really can is Luna herself.

Headed to work around quarter of 2. This is the day I was asked to work. I can kind of understand why my hours were so lousy. We were pretty quiet early on. It did pick up a lot during rush hour, to the point where I got stuck in a register while one of the cashiers was on break. Otherwise, I mostly bagged and gathered baskets and carts. (And I think we're getting new carts eventually. I saw a whole line of brand-new, never-used carts tied up on the side of the building.)

And my schedule next week is...vacation! I'm off Sunday and Monday along with the rest of the week. My main plans are my friend Amanda's visit on Tuesday, getting the Christmas decorations up, and hopefully a shopping trip next Friday. This will be my in-area vacation. I took it now because, first of all, I need the money now. Second, I was originally going to go in February or March, but we tend to be short-handed then, thanks to a lot of other childless employees taking their last vacation weeks at the same time. I'll have my tax return money by then, too. Not to mention, having plenty of time to get ready for Christmas wouldn't hurt!

When I got home, I finished out the My Little Pony collection while eating leftovers and a salad for dinner. Poor Fluttershy is so frightened by Nightmare Moon, the Ponies' version of Halloween, she refuses to go out that night at all in "Scare Master." When she does go out, she sees how much fun her friends are having and wishes she could join in. Trouble is, she's so sensitive, she scares very easily. When she sets up a scary section in Applejack's family's corn maze just for her friends, she realizes that she doesn't really like making her friends feel like they're in danger. Some people and ponies just aren't horror fans...and that's ok, too.

Spike finds himself involved in a "Gauntlet of Fire" in Dragon Land when the Dragon Lord steps down and announces his successor must get his crystal scepter and bring it to him. The larger dragons tease Spike because he's small and friendly with the Ponies. Spike becomes determined to prove that he can be as tough as any dragon. He's not the only one. The Dragon Lord's small daughter Amber also wants to show that might doesn't always make right...and that bigger isn't always better.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Christmastime Is Here

Thank heavens December began with bright sunshine! The rain had vanished by the time I awoke, leaving wind and cooler temperatures in its wake. I celebrated the better weather and the start of the last month of the year with A Charlie Brown Christmas. As the other Peanuts gear up for the holidays, Chuck's feeling a little blue. He takes over the directorial duties at the local pageant, but none of the kids listen to him. He's hoping bringing back a tiny green tree with revive his spirits...but this is the mid-60's. Tiny live trees aren't in fashion. It's Linus who finally reminds the group of what Christmas is really all about.

Ran The Little Drummer Boy to continue the "real meaning of Christmas" theme as I cleaned up from breakfast. The title character is an orphan boy who wanders the desert with his animals. A bandit raid on his family has left him with a hatred of the human race. When his beloved lamb is injured, there's only one child who can restore it...and one precious gift he can give.

Finally headed out to get the laundry done around 10-10:30. I've put it off for two days because of the rain. I couldn't put it off any longer. Thankfully, it wasn't really that busy. By the time my large load was in the drier, it was me and a very mouthy and obnoxious old woman who kept cursing at the local newscasts because people were allowed to do dumb things. I was so happy to get out of there.

When I got home, I put everything away, then did a few chores. Washed all of the windows, electronics screens, and photo frames. Took a duster around the low ceilings and door frames to get rid of cobwebs. Listened to the soundtrack from A Charlie Brown Christmas and a CD of holiday smooth jazz as I worked.

As soon as I finished, I headed out again. Started at Phillies Phatties for lunch. It was such a nice day, I took my slice of cheese pizza, slice of mushroom pizza, and Wild Cherry Pepsi outside to the picnic benches. They weren't too busy at noon, other than the occasional person getting pizza.

Next stop was the Oaklyn Library. They were even less busy than Phillies Phatties had been. It was just me, the librarian, one guy reading the newspaper, and one other man who stopped by to ask about one of the baskets the library auctioned off last weekend. I organized DVDs and a few children's books, but otherwise, there wasn't a whole lot to do there.

I saw a sign on the Library's front door that said their evening hours would be ending early today due to Oaklyn's Christmas Parade. I thought that was tomorrow! Cool. I'd get to see the parade and the tree-lighting for the first time since I moved here.

A trip to Collingswood was next on the to-do list. I desperately needed a haircut. I put it off because I'd had it cut so short last October and because I've been broke. I shouldn't have put it off. My hair was a horribly frizzy mess. It was still a bit dry and frizzy, even after having it layered and three inches taken off. Next time, I may do four inches again. At the very least, it does look better than it did.

Headed across Collingswood and Westmont for this week's volunteering session at the Haddon Township Library. I shelved kids' DVDs, CDs, and audio books. Left anything else for the teen volunteers.

Took out DVDs for the first time in weeks. I've been wanting to see the movie studio spoof Hail Caesar!, and I've never seen the classic All the Presidents' Men. They had another new My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic set in, this one with a horror theme. Found the disc with one of the two holiday episodes of Sofia the First, Holiday In Enchantria. Also took out a very interesting book on how musicals are put together, The Secret Life of the American Musical.

Made a very quick stop at Dollar Tree on the way home. I needed sponges. It's a good thing that was all I needed. They were mobbed, with long lines. Thankfully, they realized this for once and had two registers open.

After I finally got in, I sat down at the computer for an hour. I was originally going to write, but I realized I didn't really have the time. I did tell Lauren I might be in a bit late, due to the parade.

Did "Holiday In Enchantria" while getting organized for dinner. Sofia's family celebrates Wassalia, their winter holiday. Sofia's looking forward to lighting the Wassalia candles with her new family. Her sister Amber just wants to open presents. When their dad disappears in the snow on his way home from shopping, Sofia and her mom insist they look for him. It looks like they might be spending their holiday without their father...until Princess Aurora arrives to tell Sofia that her animal friends may know where he is.

Made Turkey Meatloaf with leftover broccoli and acorn squash for dinner while watching The Year Without a Santa Claus. Returned to Rankin-Bass for this unusual tale of Santa deciding to go on vacation when he gets sick and thinks no one likes him or Christmas anymore. Mrs. Claus sends two elves and a reindeer to find some Christmas spirit. She didn't realize she was sending them right into the territory of the Heat Miser and the Snow Miser, the constantly feuding spirit siblings who are perpetually at war with one another.

Strolled down to Oaklyn's City Hall at quarter after 6. It was a good night for it. It was windy, but not so cold you'd freeze while waiting for the parade to start. There were lots of kids running around the parking lot between the fire house and the municipal building, while their parents got hot drinks and awaited the show.

The parade was late, of course. It was supposed to start at 6:30. It was closer to 7 when it finally appeared. Unlike the larger and more elaborate Collingswood Christmas Parade, this one was all decorated fire trucks. Some of them got really creative, though. One smaller truck was decorated to look like a toy car, complete with wind-up "key." Another pulled a giant "Radio Flyer" wagon. The one with the pop-up Santa Claus was really popular with the kids.

As soon as Santa arrived, everyone moved to the side of the City Hall that faces the corner of West Clinton and the White Horse Pike. This year, Girl Scouts (who lead the parade) decorated the tree with long bookmark-like ornaments that were trimmed with wood and foam. (It's cute, but kind of fruitless. Wind and nasty December weather usually ends up scattering the home-made ornaments around the City Hall side lawn by the time the tree comes down.) Santa Claus officiated the tree lighting. As the families around me took their kids to greet Santa and his elves, I headed back down West Clinton.

Since the parade was so short, I decided to finish out the night with a treat. I hit Common Grounds Coffee House for a Cinnamon Coffee Cake Muffin and a hot chocolate. Oh yuuum. I love their Cinnamon Coffee Cake Muffins. They're nicely sweet and moist, with a tasty brown sugar topping. The hot chocolate was smooth and rich. I think it may have been made from chocolate syrup. I watched two kids run around while moms chatted and a college student did research.

Took the long way home down Woodlawn Terrace. There's already quite a few homes that already have lights out. I like the multi-colored strands myself. The projected star lights from last year returned as well. It made for a very pleasant walk home.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Rain Continues

It was still raining when I finally finished out Shadows of the Empire this morning. Ran The Backyardigans during breakfast. They did two spy spoofs. The longer, more elaborate "International Super Spy" was an hour-long "special" episode from the second season. Pablo is the mini-Roger Moore, who likes his apple juice shaken. He seeking three thermoses at locations around the world in order to keep them from the evil Lady In Pink Uniqua and her hench-moose Tyrone.

I was going to get the laundry done today...but the weather still wasn't cooperating by 10:30. The rain continued to come down, sometimes heavily. I ended up working on my story instead. The group manages to capture Phasma, who gets them aboard King Snoke's sleigh. The Nutcracker's worked for her before and is delighted to rub it in her face that she's in their power. Leia tries to get him to calm down.

At least I got the vacuuming in today. It took a little bit longer than usual, since I was doing the baseboards and under as many pieces of furniture as I could move on my own. I really want to finish the Christmas cleaning  and start the decorating before I go on vacation next week. Amanda is visiting my first day off.

Ran episodes of Garfield and Friends while I cleaned and ate lunch. In the first show, Garfield tells "The Legend of the Lake," about how nothing could stop a determined cave-cat from crossing a lake to the lasagna-filled island of his dreams. "Double-Oh Orson" is a US Acres spy spoof. Orson's on another reading jag. This time, he's imagining himself and the others in a spy thriller. His overactive imagination actually turns out to be useful when Booker and Sheldon's worms from their worm hunt go missing and Roy claims he doesn't know where they are. Garfield gets into a "Health Feud" with a bulked-up exercise instructor when his show starts to have too much influence on Jon.

Did another as I got ready for work.  "Pros and Cons" gives us a con-artist cat who cheats Odie out of their grocery money. Garfield ends up helping him out. Orson gets his "Rooster Revenge" on prankster Roy in the most evil way possible...by not playing a prank and letting Roy think he is. It's "Lights! Cameras! Garfield!" when the fat cat accepts a job in a new movie. He thinks he's going to be a star...but he's really just a stunt-cat stand-in.

The rain was already slowing down as I headed to work. It ended all together shortly after I arrived. It was a good thing. Once again, other than gathering baskets, I spent most of the day outside. They just don't have enough people scheduled right now to have baggers inside and outside. I'm surprised we were even as steady as we were. Even when it wasn't raining, it was cloudy, humid, a bit too warm for this time of year, and just flat-out miserable. And of course, it started to rain again on my way home. (Thankfully, the really heavy rain waited until well after I'd gotten in and taken out the trash. It's rained on and off, sometimes heavily, for the rest of the night.)

Hit the shower as soon as I got in, then had leftovers for dinner while playing Lego Star Wars. I'm still working on the blue-piece challenges. I did finally get through "Invasion of Naboo" and "Mos Espa Pod Race" today. Tried the rest of the levels in The Phantom Menace. Got the furthest on "Negotiations." There's one piece that I just cannot find on that level. Oh well, next time.