Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Hair Day Adventures

Got an earlier start today, around 10:30 - quarter of 11. There was quite a bit that I wanted to get done, starting with getting my hair cut. I needed it badly. It was a mass of split ends that were frizzing like crazy. It always gets crazy when it gets too long. A young woman, likely college-age, washed and styled my hair. I told her it shoulder-length and in a style that would control the frizz. Drying my hair took about three times longer than actually cutting it! She said she would smooth it down, which seemed to involve a lot of brushing and drying very close to the head with a furnace-hot hair drier.

It turned out that she straightened it, which I wasn't sure I liked. It was much smoother, and the actual cut was cute. It even had a little flip on the ends, like Marlo Thomas in That Girl!. At any rate, it felt a lot better and the frizz was gone, which was a major improvement. Besides, I've never gone straight before. I figured it wouldn't hurt to try it for a day.

Next stop was a quick lunch at Cafe Antonio on the other side of Haddon Avenue. Like most of the other local pizza parlors, they seem to have remodeled in the last few months. The main counter was done in a different style, and they were down to only one seat in the room with the counter. I had a slice of cheese and a slice of spinach, ricotta, and tomatoes, along with a self-service 15-oz cup of Pepsi. Sat by the window and enjoyed my meal while watching the antics of a dad and his adorable toddler daughter, who quite enjoyed tearing into her own cheese slice.

Since I had a little extra time, I thought I'd check out Phidelity Records in Westmont. I hadn't been there since the day of the Collingswood Christmas Parade in late November. They still had that 5 items from the dollar bins for three dollars deal. I ended up with another WFIL classic rock collection, a two-disc Lena Horne set, the original Broadway cast of Bye Bye Birdie with Chita Rivera and Dick Van Dyke (which I came very close to buying the last time I was there), and the original soundtrack album for the Judy Garland Wizard of Oz. Picked up High School Musical to review eventually - the Haddon Township Library has the second and third movie, but not the first one.

I dodged the traffic on Haddon Avenue quick enough to make to to counseling just in time. I had a lot to relate to Mrs. Stahl. On one hand, my holidays were a lot of fun, and while New Year's wasn't perfect, it did largely go better than it did last year. Work is also going better. My current head managers are generally easier to get along with, and I don't see enough of the night managers anymore for them to be a huge problem. The weather being a lot better than it was this time last year - cold but not overwhelmingly so, with only a little snow - has also helped. (Oh, and she seemed to like my new, straighter haircut. She said it made me look younger.)

I'm still pretty broke, however. I also have no idea what I'm going to do about the apartment. I can't stay where I am, but I can't afford to go anywhere else. Truth be told, I don't really want to stay where I am, and Mrs. Stahl agreed with me that, no matter what Rose thinks, returning to Cape May County wouldn't be practical. I don't care if Rose is convinced that it's safer. The public transportation is impossible, there's even less low-cost housing, the internet hook-ups are archaic, it would take me forever to get anywhere on my bike, I'd need two buses to get to a mall, and Lauren would need an extra train and bus ride just to get down there. Not to mention, transferring my job from there to here was a pain in 2006 because the Shore Acmes have a different union. Yes, I can live anywhere...provided it's near decent transportation, internet, and services. I lived in Wildwood for four years and hated it. Rose hasn't actually lived down there since 2002.

Mrs. Stahl is probably right that I am going to have to look further afield, but not to the Shore. There are other parts of Camden County, as well as the eastern and western portions of Gloucester and Burlington Counties, that might be worth exploring. I know Jessa and Joe live in Deptford in Gloucester County. I could talk to them, to my customers and co-workers at the Acme and the libraries, and to Dana and Jesse, whom Jodie has mentioned are also in the hunt for a new apartment. I'll let Rose deal with Willa and see if she can fight that increased rent long enough for me to move.

Although it was in the lower 40's by 3 PM (according to the digital sign outside the Westmont Fire Department), that was still too cold for a water ice. I opted for a hot chocolate at Starbucks about a block from Mrs. Stahl's office instead. I literally just missed the crowd. Less than a minute after I ordered my drink, there was a long line of high school and middle school students getting warm drinks of their own after classes.

Went straight home after that, taking the back roads in Haddonfield, Westmont, and Oaklyn to avoid the rush hour traffic. Watched the first episode of Fancy Nancy while getting organized after got in. As someone who also loved being "fancy" as a child, I've always enjoyed the book series and decided I'd give the show a try, too. In the first episode, "Chez Nancy," Nancy's (Mia Sinclair Jenness) new playhouse, is too plain for her taste, especially since she just bragged to obnoxious Grace that it had niceties like a chandelier and butterfly doors. She and her equally fancy best friend Bree (Dana Heath) fix it up to suit their rarified taste. When Grace arrives and insists Nancy's little sister JoJo (Spencer Moss) is too little to play with them, Nancy has to decide if it's worth pleasing Grace...or spending time with her sister. She opens the "School de Fancy" to teach her friends how to be fancy like her. She's frustrated when they goof off, but they eventually show her that everyone has their own way of being fancy.

Worked on writing for a while after the episode ended. Han ends up having to out-run Sheriff Vader's men. He manages to lose them in Sherwood Forest, which he knows quite well. He's the only one who's impressed. Luke is more concerned about learning about Friar Kenobi's order and how it was destroyed by the Sheriff and Prince Palpatine.

Did more Fancy Nancy during dinner and before and right after I took a shower. Nancy has "Tea Party Trouble" when she borrows a tea pot that's a family heirloom from her mom Claire (Allyson Hannigan) and breaks it, then tries to hide what she did. She's thrilled to say "Bonjour Butterfly" when she and Bree nurse a butterfly with a hurt wing back to health, but not so much when it tries to fly away.

"Nancy's Ooh La La Spa" is her big Mother's Day present for Claire, but nothing seems to go right. First she knocks the beauty products she was originally going to use into the toilet, then her father Doug (Rob Riggle) and JoJo eat their naturally-made replacements. Claire reassures her that she appreciates the gesture anyway, inspiring her daughter to find another way to give her mother a relaxing spa day. "Nancy Goes to Work" with her father when he's at home. She even offers him her playhouse to work out of. He's not as happy with her when she uses her fancy play stickers for stamps instead of real ones to mail his tax forms...but she manages to find a stealthy (that's fancy for "sneaky") way to get them back. (And I love her little fuchsia suit here! She makes an adorable secretary.)

Nancy needs JoJo's help to keep her Eiffel Tower upright, but JoJo seems more interested in her new imaginary friend Dudley. It's "Nancy Versus Dudley" to see who can get her attention. "Nancy Makes Her Mark" when Doug fixes a crack in the sidewalk and she insists on everyone putting hand and footprints in the wet concrete...and she just has to fix hers when they aren't "parfait" (perfect)...

Oh, and the curls returned in my hair after I washed it again. On one hand, it was nice to have smooth hair, and I always wanted to try one of those 60's flips. I was so tempted to find a headband with a bow in the middle, just like women in the mid-60's wore in their flip dos. On the other hand, it took forever to dry it enough to straighten it...and I like my curls.

Nancy's not the only one who learned something about being fancy today. It's kind of fun to experiment with your look once in a while. I may not want to straighten it all the time, but I now know it works and looks good if I do ever want to try it again. The actual cut itself still looks pretty good, too, whether it's straight or curly. I may try experimenting with cuts and styles more often. (As long as it's something I can grow out or easily change.)

Finished the night with The Toast of New Orleans. I go into further detail on this 1950 operetta vehicle for Mario Lanza and Kathryn Grayson at my Musical Dreams Movie Reviews blog.

The Toast of New Orleans

Monday, January 14, 2019

Try New Food 'Cause It Might Taste Good

I was glad to see that the sun was out when I awoke this morning. It was still on the chilly side, but the sun did melt at least a little of the snow. After breakfast, I decided to try a few kitchen experiments. Making homemade applesauce in the winter is a long-time family tradition. Mom did it for us when we were kids. Anny had a huge mason jar filled with her own applesauce yesterday. I made mine by slicing four apples and whirling them in the food processor with sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. It's a little sweet. Next time, I'll use less sugar.

Moved on to making my own donuts next. I was dying to try the pans Mom gave me yesterday. She gave me a recipe along with the pans, including her own notes. I forgot the oil, but it didn't seem to do much harm to the end product. The donuts were still delicious, though a little dry. I dipped them into a simple powdered sugar glaze. Texted Mom after they came out to thank her for the pans and tell her that they'd come out well.

Ran Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves for most of the morning while I worked. Kevin Costner is Robin in this 1991 version. He returns from the Crusades with the mysterious moor Azeem (Morgan Freeman) who helped him escape to discover his family home burned and his father (Brian Blessed) dead. He first goes to Marion (Mary Elizabeth Mastratonio), a childhood friend, but is chased out by the Sheriff's men. The duo finally flee to Sherwood Forest, where they join the outlaws who already live there, including Little John (Nick Brimble), his feisty wife Fanny, his son Much (Jack Wild), and young Will Scarlet (Christian Slater). They rob Norman nobles and give the money to the poor. The Sheriff of Nottingham (Alan Rickman) is getting quite fed up with their antics. He captures Marion and forces her to marry him, then has his Celtic forces attack Sherwood. He thinks Robin's dead...but a good outlaw never gives up, and Robin has a plan to stop the corrupt lawmaker and his sorceress mother Mortianna (Geraldine McEwann) from killing his men.

I'm still trying to figure out how this ended up being the second-biggest hit of 1991 after Terminator 2: Judgement Day. Rickman and Morgan are among the few people with any idea of how to handle the material. The movie wants to be both a dashing romp and a dark retelling of the Robin Hood legends, but it works better with comic moments like the actual robberies than with the gloomy melodrama. The version I have with several extended scenes only makes things more ridiculous.

Along with some lovely scenery (actually filmed on location in England and France), the biggest thing this movie has going for it is the majestic score by Michael Kamen. The music goes a long way towards making the movie feel a lot more epic than it actually is. It's so stirring, production company Morgan Creek uses it as part of its onscreen logo, and Disney used it in their intros on DVD and Blu-Ray for years. The Bryan Adams ballad "Everything I Do, I Do It For You" was an even bigger hit.

I remember how huge this movie was that summer. It was on everyone's lips and seemed to be all a lot of people ever talked about. "Everything I Do" was on the radio so much, most of my family got sick of hearing it. The score, scenery, and a few good performances can't hide the inconsistent tone or the dated feel. Recommended only if you're a fan of Rickman, Costner, or 90's action.

Headed out as soon as the movie ended and I'd had lunch. I loaded a few donuts into a bag to give away to the librarians, starting at the Oaklyn Library. The librarian on duty not only enjoyed the donut, but she was very encouraging when I mentioned how frustrated I am that my apartment search has been going so badly. Most of the apartment buildings in this area aren't known for being safe or are too expensive for me or both. She pointed out a place across the street. I did take down their phone number. We'll see if I can call them tomorrow or later this week.

I also took out some movies here. They get new releases faster and for longer than the Haddon Township Library. I found Deadpool 2, The Spy Who Dumped Me. Mission Impossible - Fallout, and Christopher Robin.

Next stop was the Haddon Township Library. They were even quieter than the Oaklyn Library had been. There was one little boy in the kids' area pretending that his Duplo creation was a tank. Otherwise, not much going on. I focused entirely on organizing the kids' DVDs. They were really a mess today, with whole sections on the wrong shelves. Since I already took out movies, I settled for more Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood, the new My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic release, and an animated version of a picture book series I'm fond of, Fancy Nancy.

Went straight into Daniel Tiger when I got home. Daniel Tiger's Happy Holidays, as you can guess, revolves around episodes that either take place during a holiday, or at least involve celebrating. Daniel wants to make "Something Special for Dad!" after he sees how happy a letter from his Grandpere makes his father. His mother helps him write a letter and shows him how to send it in the mail.

Worked on writing for a while after that. Luke Scarlet is dismayed to see that Han's horse Falcon is, despite his boasting, a thin steed. Han gets a chance to prove Falcon's mettle - and his own - when they have to leave the Mos Eisley stables in a hurry!

Broke for dinner at 6. Before I went to the libraries, I made a Crock-Pot Lentil-Sausage Stew of lentils, sausage, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, and home-made vegetable stock. Oh, yum! It tasted great, smoky and earthy, and smelled amazing cooking. I enjoyed my dinner with the last bit of baked acorn squash.

Finished Daniel Tiger as I ate. Skipped "I Love You, Mom!" which I'm pretty sure I've already watched, and went right into "Thank You, Grandpere Tiger!" Thank-You Day is a big deal in the Land of Make-Believe. Daniel would feel more thankful for his grandpa if he'd take some time out from his work to join them at the big Thank-You Day feast, but he does enjoy playing and pretending with his grandfather.

The whole town makes it to "Neighborhood Thank-You Day." The centerpiece of the feast is a tree on which everyone attaches a note that depicts what they're thankful for. A strong wind nearly blows the notes away, but Mr. Feely the Postal Worker retrieves them...making Daniel realize what he's thankful for.

Dan, Miss Elania, and Katerina each choose an outfit for Dress-Up Day in "Katerina's Costume." Daniel easily finds the pieces for his explorer costume, while Elania makes her robot outfit. Katerina can't decide what she wants to be...until she comes up with a very creative solution!

The kids show off their costumes in "Dress-Up Day Parade." O the Owl is excited to be a traffic light, so he can help everyone know when to stop and go. When he rips  his costume, he has to figure out what else he wants to be.

"Snowflake Day" is the Land of Make Believe's big winter holiday. Daniel is excited to be playing a snowflake in his school's winter play, and is even happier to see how each family works together to make the play a success. His classmates help him too when he gets a brief bout of stage fright just as the show starts. He turns the favor when the lights go out and he figures out how to let the play get to its conclusion.

Finished the night with The Spy Who Dumped Me. Audrey (Mila Kunis) is a cashier in a rut. She's still fed up with her ex-boyfriend Drew (Justin Theroux), who was never around. She and her best friend Morgan (Kate MacKinnon) get quite a shock when a man forces her into his car and tells him that his name is Sebastian (Sam Heughan) and he and Drew are spies. When Drew does show up, he hands Audrey a trophy and tells her to turn it over to his contact before he's promptly killed. Morgan tosses his killer off a balcony before he huts Audrey. The two women flee to Vienna, only to be attacked first by Sebastian, then by motorcyclists. Turns out the trophy holds a flash drive with important information that the CIA doesn't want certain enemies to get their hands on, and that Drew may have been more than a lousy boyfriend - he was a turncoat agent. Audrey and Morgan have to avoid torture and try to figure out whom they can trust and how they're going to survive this.

I was even less impressed with this one than with I Feel Pretty. At least that one had some decent performances and a meaningful message. This one was just curse words, noisy car and motorcycle chases, and the ladies screaming at each other. Like Robin Hood, it has a major tone problem, veering wildly from raunchy buddy comedy to serious action movie at a nanosecond's notice. Some of the gags get really gross at times too, especially where the all-important flash drive ends up. MacKinnon and Kunis aren't bad as the ordinary women caught up in action that's way beyond them; Morgan's close relationship with her parents (she tells them everything, including that she's doing dangerous spy work) is especially funny.

Like I Feel Pretty, this is ok if you're a fan of the cast or comic action films; otherwise, worth a rental for girl's night in.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Family In the Snow

I awoke to a world of whiteness out my door. It started snowing even as I was shutting down my computer last night. By the time I was rolling out of bed, it was up to...the expected one or two inches. It was still snowing around 7, but not heavily.

Rose called while I was writing in my journal. She and Craig were taking some furniture that Mom didn't want home with them, plus their second car doesn't drive well in snow. She had to borrow Dad and Jodie's car and would be a little late.

I made banana pancakes for my Sunday breakfast this morning. Yum! They came out beautifully, fluffy and just sweet enough. I didn't even burn them. I ate them while listening to the soundtrack from Frozen. I figured that was appropriate for a wintry morning. I heard so much about the music and how good it was when the movie came out, I had to buy the soundtrack. You may be sick of hearing about it (especially since there's supposed to be a sequel coming out in November), but the music really is that good. Along with the hit "Let It Go" for Elsa, I like the heartbreaking "Do You Want to Build a Snowman" that details how Elsa and Anna's relationship deteriorated after Anna's accident and Hans and Anna's "Love Is an Open Door."

Switched to one of my Disney music CD collections while doing the dishes. Rose called again and said she'd be there by 10:30. I got tired of waiting at 10:30 and went downstairs. She still wasn't there when I arrived. She didn't come until nearly quarter of 11. She had Khai and Finley with her; Craig took his car.

Khai spent most of the ride down playing with his Nintendo Switch and asking questions from his long, thin questions-and-answers booklet. Finley slept most of the way. I kept an eye on her while Rose took Khai to the bathroom and to get a drink at a rest stop. (I wasn't that thirsty and didn't need to go at that point.) We took the Atlantic City Expressway and Garden State Parkway to avoid the messier back roads. There was a little more snow further down south, maybe two inches to our one. Indeed, it started snowing and sleeting again as we were on the Atlantic City Expressway, though it was gone by the time we rolled into North Cape May.

Anny and her tribe moved into a much larger house on Bayshore Road, North Cape May's main artery, a few weeks before Thanksgiving. I remember riding by it on the way to the Villas Library or to visit my former friend Brigid in the Villas when we lived in North Cape May in the 90's and early 2000's. It was a doctor's office for years.

It's a somewhat larger version of the split-level house we lived in when we were in North Cape May. Four-year-old Lilah and her fourteen-year-old brother Skylar have rooms downstairs; ten-year-old Collyn is upstairs next to his parents. A guest bedroom shares space with a workshop for Jay's building and Anny's art projects. The boys huddled in Skylar's room for the next hour or so after we arrived, playing Fortnite with Collyn's dad Mike. (Skylar played the online version.)

Lilah spent that hour showing me her very pink and white room. Her big thing right now is unicorns and mythological creatures. If it's sparkly, has four legs, and a horn on its head, she loves it. Her mother even painted a cute purple unicorn on her wall, and she got a beautiful white bed made to look like a fence for Christmas. I was introduced to her Barbie, Frozen, and Disney Princess dolls, her My Little Pony collection, and almost every stuffed unicorn and pegasus in her room. (Including a unicorn on the bed that was bigger than she was!) She was so enthusiastic and just too adorable.

Everyone else was upstairs, playing Nintendo in the big living room or talking to Mom, including my brother Keefe, who came up here from Virginia with his girlfriend Julia. Anny and Mom laid out rolls and fixings to make hoagies in the kitchen. I had a provolone and roast beef hoagie with lettuce and pickles. (The rolls weren't that big - there was no room for tomatoes.) There were bags of Utz's multi-grain tortilla chips (yum, Mom likes those, too), Doritos, and pretzels to snack on, along with sugar cookies and Mom's famous chocolate chip bars and snickerdoodles.

After lunch, Lilah and I played in the living room while the boys went back to video games and the moms set up the cake. She had not one, but two play cake sets that she wanted to show me. We naturally had to pretend that the cakes were Lilah's real cakes and deliver them to everyone in the kitchen to try!

We had the real cake, ice cream, and ice cream cake around 2. We're actually celebrating three birthdays in the family this month. Apparently, Craig and Jay have birthdays soon, too, along with Lilah's on Thursday. Lilah requested a Carvel ice cream cake. Craig and Jay shared a Superman cake that said "For a Super-Dad on his birthday" that Anny picked up from the North Cape May Acme. It was yummy, too! A marble cake with lots of red, white, blue, and yellow icing. The North Cape May Acme always did make the best cakes, even when I was in high school and Lower Cape May Regional would order them for class parties.

Lilah opened her presents after we ate. Her largest gift was a big tent that you can not only set up in your bedroom, but comes with fabric pens that lets you make your own design on it. Along with her fondness for unicorns, Lilah also apparently shares her mother's love of art. Her dad gave her a big case of Crayola art supplies that she wanted to open and try right away. Other gifts included an I Spy Christmas book, a stuffed unicorn, and gift cards and small sticker books from her nana.

Collyn, whose birthday was last month, got a snowboard from Rose and Craig that had been too big to send in the mail. He was dying to use it, and the kids were getting antsy anyway, so Craig, Jay, and I took Collyn, Khai, Lilah, and Finley outside to the front yard to play in the snow. Rose joined us a bit later with two sledding tubes they'd brought along. Lilah pulled out a penguin-shaped sled, and Collyn convinced Jay to pump up their sledding tube, which was shaped like two Starlight candies.

The snow was down to sleet and a gray sky by 3 PM, which made it slippery, but also excellent packing snow. I'm not sure how the snowball fight started. Lilah and I were just throwing a bit of snow at each other. Some of it hit Craig, then Collyn and Khai. They threw snow back...and before we knew it, everyone was slipping and sliding all over their front yard, throwing tightly-packed, half-sleet snowballs. Keefe came out and joined in, too, and Jay did when he finished with the tube. It was so funny. Rose and the little boys were on one side, while Lilah and I joined the big guys on the other. We all slipped and slid and threw snowballs everywhere. I hadn't laughed so hard in ages.

It was past 4 when we all trooped inside to dry off. Khai had so much fun playing Mario Kart 8 Deluxe with his cousins, he didn't want to leave. We agreed to let him play a few more rounds while the rest of us went over to Mom's to watch the first bit of the Eagles-Saints game and help her clear out a few items. She's also in the midst of getting rid of a bunch of stuff she no longer needs. I claimed an upright teddy bear cake pan, vintage candy molds, heart cupcake molds, a baked donut pan set (I'm willing to try something different with my baked goods), a basket, and a few winter and Christmas knick-knacks. Rose and Craig claimed these wonderful stoneware soup bowls we used to eat soup out of when we were kids and Dad's old chair for their living room.

(Incidentally, the Eagles were winning 14-0 when we were at Mom's. They were still up 14-7 when we were on the road. By the time I'd gotten home, the Saints had come back, and would go on to win 20-14, ending the Eagles' Super Bowl hopes for this year. Considering their up-and-down season, I'm just glad they made it this far.)

It was five and already dark when we finally picked up Khai and started home. Rose missed her exit at one point and we almost ended up in Wildwood, but she got us turned around quick enough. After that, there were no problems. Finley slept, Khai played Nintendo Switch, and I listened to my iPod. Since it was on our way home anyway, Rose stopped at the Audubon Acme to get a quick dinner for her kids. I have no desire to go in that Acme until I have to do my grocery shopping on Friday and agreed to watch the kids while she ran in. Poor little Finley woke up minutes later in a dark car with just her aunt and brother and got very upset! Her mom came back with a fragrant rotisserie chicken and got her calmed down.

I was so tired when I got home, I didn't really do much more than put most of my things away and go online. Finished the night with the original Broadway cast of Jersey Boys and the soundtrack to Radioland Murders while chatting with Lauren online.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Everybody Gets a Movie

It was still sunny and dry when I got up this morning. Had a quick breakfast before continuing with my organizing and clearing out in the apartment. I got rid of another stack of books and pulled a very few CDs. I've actually kept the music and DVDs pretty well cleared-out over the years, and I've tried to be better about buying movies and music I won't really listen to.

I called Rose right after breakfast. Yes, we're still going down to Cape May County tomorrow. The weather isn't going to be bad enough to make the roads impassable. She says she wants to pick me up early, around 9.

Ran Teen Titans Go to the Movies while I puttered around. After the Justice League accuses the Titans of not being legitimate because they don't have their own movie, Robin (Scott Menville) becomes obsessed with getting into films. Even villainous Slade (Will Arnett) tells them that they don't take things seriously enough. The kids try to break into the Warner Bros lot, but Jade Wilson (Kristen Bell), the director in charge of superhero movies, tells them she'd only hire them if they were the only superheroes on the lot. After an attempt to keep all superheroes from being born fails, they do manage to get the crystal that Slade was after.

Wilson, seeing their fight with Slade, changes her tune and says she'll make a movie about them. When the other kids find a huge "Doomsday device," they decide that something "smells of the fish," as naive alien princess Starfire (Hynden Walch) puts it. Despite insisting that it's only a streaming service, Jade still drops the other Titans from the movie and retools it to be about Robin only. He's thrilled at first...until he realizes not only how much his friends mean to him, but who Jade is and what she really has in mind for her "streaming service."

I've only seen bits and pieces of the show on Cartoon Network. It can occasionally be funny, but it's usually just weird. Thankfully, this movie's a big improvement. Yeah, it still has the same strange random humor, but the gags tie surprisingly well into a thoughtful (if cliched) story about how Robin's desire for legitimacy nearly pulls the Titans apart. It actually has a lot of fun playing with the show's reputation for being too goofy, the DC live-action universe's reputation for being too serious, and with the flood of superhero films that have been coming out lately. (Interesting note: This was Stan Lee's last animated cameo before his death and his only cameo in a DC movie.)

Yes, the story is thin and cliched, and to be honest, a lot of the gags - especially about recent superhero movies - will probably be dated in a few years. I still recommend this for fans of the show, or anyone who enjoys a good comedy and wants to see the recent tital wave of superhero extravaganzas taken down a few pegs.

After a quick lunch, I decided to try making fudge again. This one follows the original cake batter fudge recipe from Pinterest more closely. I don't think I put in enough milk; the resulting fudge was tasty, but very crumbly.

Ran two episodes of Tiny Toon Adventures while I worked. Babs and Buster relate two "Brave Tales of Real Rabbits," with "And All that Rot" spoofing Sherlock Holmes stories and "Day for Knight" making fun of "St. George and the Dragon."

"New Class Day" throws out even more parodies. Batduck (Plucky) and Decoy (Hamton) try to join "The Just-Us League of Super Toons," but are rejected for not having powers. When Wex Wuthor (Montana Max) strips them of their superpowers, it's Batduck to the rescue! "Sound Off!" pays homage to black-and-white silent shorts as Babs and Buster find a dialogue-free way of getting Dizzy to leave their picnic alone. "A Night In Kokomo" has fun with the Marx Brothers movies, with Buster as Chico, GoGo as Harpo, and Babs making a perfect Groucho.

Ran one last classic Looney Tunes short as I got ready for work. "Robin Hood Daffy" does everything he can to convince Friar Porky to join his Merry Men. The good friar, however, is not amused by his swinging into trees and his "buck and a quarter quarterstaff."

Work was a mess all afternoon. Not only do the Eagles play the Saints in the playoffs tomorrow, but we're supposed to get snow. It's only supposed to be between a dusting and maybe two inches, but a lot of people were treating it like a blizzard. I'm wondering if it's because we haven't had any snow since that one storm in November. I tried to help the head bagger with the carts, but I kept getting called inside to either go in for a cashier's break, or take lines. Not to mention, by the time I was doing carts, clouds had moved in, and it had begun to feel colder and a bit more damp.

I was so glad when I finally got out of there. Went straight home and on the computer. Han confronts Baron Jasper Du Hutt at the stables. Hutt now owns Han's family's lands and holdings after they were confiscated for taxes. Han's trying to buy them back, but he lost the shipment of illegitimate drugs from the Orient he was supposed to be selling. He swears to Jasper that he will get him the money, with interest.

Broke for leftovers for dinner at quarter of 6. After I ate, I cut the fudge and layered it on parchment paper in a tin. Yes, some of it did crumble, but most of it seemed to hold its shape well enough. I hope everyone enjoys it tomorrow.

Finished the night before a shower with the Disney Robin Hood, which I cover at my Musical Dreams Movie Reviews blog.

Robin Hood (Disney 1973)

Friday, January 11, 2019

Feeling Pretty In Technicolor

Started off another sunny day with breakfast, then doing more organizing. I figured I might as well put up the rest of the winter decorations, at least until I decide what I'm doing about moving. Put out two of the three stuffed snowmen - kept the folksy angel snowman and the one with the red-and-white scarf and wooden spool legs, but got rid of the dancing Frosty that no longer worked. Taped up the cardboard hangings depicting snowmen participating in winter sports like skating and skiing.

After I finished that, I went through the American Girl books. I finally decided to split the difference and keep a little over half of the original picture stories, the ones for either the characters I actually have (Molly, Samantha, Felicity, Josefina) or time periods I'm interested in (Rebecca, Kit, Julie). Cleared out a few History Mysteries I wasn't interested in as well.

Ran The Adventures of Robin Hood while I worked. Errol Flynn solidified his stardom as the definitive rogue who robs from the rich to give to the poor in this much-loved 1938 adaptation. Once again, the role of the Sheriff of Nottingham (Melville Cooper) is downplayed in favor of stuffy Prince John (Claude Rains) and nasty Sir Guy of Gisbourne (Basil Rathbone). Sir Robin of Locksley (Flynn) is the only man who defends the commoners against the corrupt taxes of the Normans after King Richard (Ian Hunter) is taken prisoner in Austria.

John eventually outlaws him and his friend Will Scarlet (Patrick Knowles) after they invade his banquet. They recruit others, including Much the Miller's Son (Herbert Mundin), Little John (Alan Hale Sr.) and Friar Tuck (Eugene Pallette) to help them rob Prince John's tax money and from Norman nobles who abuse others. Lovely Maid Marion (Olivia De Haviliand) is contemptuous of him at first, but gradually comes to understand why he's an outlaw when they take her party prisoner. She even helps them at a tournament, where Robin wins a golden arrow. Robin convinces her to spy for them...but when she's caught, it'll take all of the ingenuity and cunning of Robin Hood and his Merry Men to rescue her from being burned at the stake.

Almost everyone loves this colorful Technicolor version of one of England's most famous folk tales, and I'm no exception. It was one of the bigger hits of 1938. James Cagney, of all people, was originally supposed to be Robin Hood, but he walked out of his contract, and Flynn took over. I doubt anyone else at the time could have done it better. For many people, Flynn just is the dashing rogue who romances reluctant ladies and firmly believes in his own brand of justice. Rathbone and Rains make smashing villains, and Pallatte's Friar Tuck is hilarious. Check out the famous duel between Rathbone and Flynn in the finale. There's also Erich Wolfgang Korngold's sweeping score. It's symphonic sound would inspire many similar later epic soundtracks, including John Williams' work for the Indiana Jones and Star Wars movies.

If you love swashbucklers like I do or are a big fan of Flynn or classic action, you absolutely must see this one.

Switched to a more comic rendition of the folk tale while having a quick yogurt and Cranberry Flummery lunch. One of the stranger shorts from Seasons 5 and 6 of the original Danger Mouse was "Once Upon a Time Slip." A slip of the tongue from the narrator somehow transports Danger Mouse and Penfold to medieval times and turns DM into Robin Hood, Penfold into Little John, Baron Greenback in the Sheriff of Nottingham, and Colonel K into King Richard.

"Hear Hear" has Greenback devising a machine that will hypnotize anyone with the sound of his voice. Good thing Penfold's having a hard time hearing. "It's All White, White Wonder" when an experimental enzyme that turns things white gets into the sewer system and turns everything it touches white. DM and Penfold try to figure out where they can ditch him. DM's not saying "What a 3-Point Turn Up for the Book" when his car somehow develops a mind of his own and won't let him in. This time, it's Greenback who's messing around with time in "Tampering With Time Tickles." He devises bombs that turns DM into a cute little boy mouse and Penfold into a very old rodent. They have to try to get around their current ages and stop Greenback from doing further damage.

Headed off to the Acme to do my grocery shopping and get my schedule as soon as the last cartoon ended. While I didn't need a lot of stuff, I did have to pick up some expensive things, including butter, beef sausages for dinner tonight, and more of those crusted fish fillets. There were good sales on rice vinegar and peanut butter. Restocked skim milk, yogurt, apples, bananas, cereal, mushrooms, the bag of winter vegetables (in this case broccoli and cauliflower florets), canola oil, and a sweet potato. (Oh, and the bagged cranberries seem to be done for the season. Darn it. Hopefully, the Flummery will last for a little while.)

My schedule for next week is...vacation! Mid-January may seem like an odd time to take a week off, especially given that I'm not much for skiing and won't be going further than Cape May County. First of all, it's the mid-point between my previous vacation (September), and what will likely be my next one (May). Second, I'd like a little time away from the cold after the weather was terrible last January. Third, considering how bad my hours have been over the last few weeks, I'd probably get more money from my vacation paycheck than from actually working.

My only really major plans are going down to Cape May County with Rose and her family on Sunday (I hope - the snow is supposed to be worse there than here, though still not horrible) and counseling on Tuesday. Otherwise, things are pretty open. Along with the usual chores and volunteering, there's two fun things I'd like to do. I want to go to the movies at Somerdale to see Aquaman, probably either Wednesday or Thursday morning to avoid weekend crowds. Since the bus leaves from the Acme and I'll need to do my grocery shopping on Friday anyway, I'd like to check out the Gloucester Outlets in Blackwood. I had so much fun with Lauren at the outlets near her in Lee and found such good deals, I thought I'd finally check out our local version.

Started putting things away as soon as I got home. Ran another winter-themed first season episode of Sailor Moon while I got organized. "Paired With a Monster: Mako the Ice Skating Queen" puts the girls on ice as they receive skating lessons from Russian gold-medalists. The male half seems interested in Makoto, who is an athletic and graceful skater. Not only does that make his partner jealous, but it turns out they're both working for the Negaverse, and the free lessons are a plot to trap the Sailors.

Went right back out to the laundromat next. I picked the right time to get it done. It was dead when I arrived. By the time it started getting busier, my very big load was in the dryer. I had towels and a pair of jeans I hadn't washed in a while in there. Said "hi" to a co-worker who was also doing the laundry (she said she worked earlier in the day) and worked on notes, ignoring talk shows on NBC.

Put my clothes away while listening to the Dreamgirls soundtrack to drown out Charlie and his buddies gabbing noisily downstairs, then went into writing. Han has a close encounter with "Greedy" Green, the ugly bounty hunter who works for Baron Jasper Du Hutt. The baron has taken control of Han's family's lands via taxes. Han's hoping to buy them back, but he had to jettison his cargo. Greedy insists that Jasper may take his beloved horse Falcon as payment instead if he doesn't pay. Han shows him what he thinks about that on the sharp end of an arrow.

Broke at 6:30 to make dinner. Pan-fried the rest of the stir fry vegetables and some of the cauliflower and broccoli, then added beef sausage, rice vinegar, soy sauce, lemon juice, basil, oregano, pasta, and some of the water from the pasta to make Italian Sausage with Vegetables. Topped it with the last of the mozzarella cheese from the pizza. Oh yum. Savory and cheesy with just enough bite from the vinegar.

Finished the night with I Feel Pretty. Renee Bennett (Amy Schumer) does not feel pretty. She's cute and plump, but she lacks self-esteem and feels that she could never look like the models in the magazines and websites she devours. She works on the website for Lily LeClaire, a high-end cosmetic company, but what she really wants to do is be a receptionist at their headquarters. Desperate, she wishes on a fountain to be pretty, but doesn't get her wish until she falls off her bike at the gym. When she comes to, though she looks the same, she believes herself to be gorgeous. Her new confidence shines like a beacon, allowing her to not only land the LeClaire job, but attract the nice guy she meets at the dry cleaners, Ethan (Rory Scovel). She's able to help Lily (Lauren Hutton) and soft-voiced Avery (Michelle Williams) understand their new department-store clientele better, too.

Not everyone is impressed with her sudden changes. Her two best friends are annoyed with her ditching them for a fancier party and resent her attempts to make them seem sexier. Avery's hot brother Grant (Tom Hopper) goes after her, but she realizes that he's not really that interested in her. It's here that she hits her head again and thinks she's gone back to her old, plain self. It finally takes a chat with a friend at the gym whom she thinks of as prettier (Emily Ratajowski) to understand that it doesn't matter if you're what the media perceives as "pretty." What really counts is a beautiful attitude to life and how you treat others.

It's too bad the movie gets really annoying about half-way through, because as someone who also suffers from low self-esteem, I think the message of this film is really important. Listening to Renee go on and on about how pretty she is now and how great it is gets very wearying after a while, to the point where you wonder why no one pointed it out well before her illusion ended. I liked Williams and Scovel better as the squeaky-voiced beauty and the kind-hearted guy with self-esteem issues of his own. The girl-power ending means well, but kind of comes out of nowhere and gets a little too heavy on the messages.

This was a minor flop last spring, and while I appreciate the message, I think they tried too hard in the end. Ok if you're a fan of Schumer or any of the cast or are looking for a cute rental for girl's night in.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Windy Winter

Started off a chilly, very windy morning with a nice, warm bowl of oatmeal and Cranberry Flummery breakfast. Finished the dusting in the bedroom after I ate. The bedroom normally takes a while to clean. That's where I keep most of my books and collections. I just went around most things this time, though. I've got a lot of other things I want to do, too.

Ran more Hello Kitty Furry Tale Theater episodes as I cleaned. Tuxedo Sam is "Robin Penguin," who robs gum from rich Princess Catnip to give to the poor people of Knottypine. Kitty plays detective when "Hello Mother Goose" has to figure out who stole a series of famous items from several nursery rhyme characters. "The Ugly Quackling" (Chip) may look different than his sisters and mother Fangora, but he can still save them from the hungry fox (Grinder). "Pinocchio Penguin" learns a lesson in honesty when the wooden penguin and his friend Chip have to evade the wicked gypsy Catnip and her partner Grinder to get back to Grandpapetto. My Melody's in the spotlight in an Old West version of "Little Red Bunny Hood." She, Deputy Chip, and the wolf Grinder rescue her grandma from notorious outlaw Belle Catnip.

The cartoons ended just in time for me to head to work. Today generally went better than yesterday did. I did end up in the register once, but I was there for less than five minutes before they pulled me to clean up a spill. (Which was actually an especially large dirt clod that someone mistook for a spill.) Though I spent most of the day shelving candy and gathering baskets, I did go outside to do carts during the first half-hour and the last 40 minutes. While it was still sunny, it was also still insanely windy and much colder, probably in the mid-upper 30's.

Went straight home and on the computer. I ended up re-writing the opening sequence to get to the plot at hand a bit more quickly. Luke Scarlet and Friar Kenobi address Han of Locksley and his moor friend Chewbacca at a run-down tavern near Nottingham. They want to hire him as a guide to Aldran Manor, on the edge of Nottingham Forest. Han agrees to it, for an outrageous sum. The old monk tells him that they will pay. Han sends Chewbacca to tend to the horses after they leave, but there's someone else watching him...

Broke for dinner at quarter of 7. Had scrambled eggs and vegetables, then made Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies while watching Robin and the 7 Hoods. I go into more detail about this 30's gangster-themed vehicle for Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack at my Musical Dreams Movie Reviews blog.

Robin and the 7 Hoods

(Oh, and I would have gotten this up faster, but my internet went down for a couple of hours this evening...right as I was trying to get on, of course.)

Wednesday, January 09, 2019

Winds of Adventure

Began the day with breakfast and a little Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood. Dan, Katerina, and Elania take "A Trip to the Crayon Factory" with Daniel's dad to see how crayons are made. Poor O the Owl has a bad cold and can't join them. Daniel suggests that his father take pictures, so O can still see the factory.

Work was a bit of a pain in the rear today. We didn't have enough help to handle even what little business there was. The woman behind the customer service counter went home sick, and a manager took her place...and that computer just plain didn't schedule enough help. I was stuck in a register for over an hour before they finally sent me back out to do carts.

Took the long way home down Nicholson Road. While it was gale-force windy, it was also sunny and not nearly as cold as it's supposed to get later in the week. It was only around 2 at that point. There wasn't much traffic, not even near the mall entrance. The wind whipped across the stark black trees and the dried golden reeds along the road on the hill into Oaklyn. Oaklyn too was quiet. Most people were probably still at work or school at that point.

Spent the next few hours dusting the living area and making popcorn for a snack while watching the rest of Daniel Tiger. Dan is disappointed when he's assigned to be the one who gathers lunches, rather than the line leader, in "Line Leader Daniel." He realizes just how important everyone's jobs are when he forgets to bring the kids their lunch boxes and they complain about being hungry.

The kids also learn how to deal with disappointment in "The Class Votes." Teacher Harriet lets them choose whether they want a rabbit or a turtle as their class pet. Daniel and Elania are upset when they're voted down, but Teacher Harriet encourages them to find something good in the other choice.

"O Builds a Tower" using all the blocks at school. He's frustrated when it doesn't stay up, but Teacher Harriet and Daniel tells him to keep trying. He gets the inspiration he needs from a book to try again...and make his tower much sturdier.

Teacher Harriet brings the kids something special for playtime...a cardboard box. She lets them "Play Pretend" and imagine it as anything they want it to be. O only sees it as a box...until he's finally encouraged to use his own imagination.

Prince Tuesday takes the class on a "Safety Patrol" to learn about the traffic signs in the neighborhood. The kids find out what the "Stop" sign and traffic signals mean, and why it's important to obey traffic laws to keep us safe. ("Be a Vegetable Taster!" was also included in this set, but I've done that one before.)

Worked on writing for a while after the cartoons ended. Started Robin Hood today. Han is the famous outlaw, who here meets up with a moor named Chewbacca in Jerusalem when he's thrown into his cell. They trick the guards into thinking Chewbacca is hurting Han, then escape when they open the cell door.

Broke for dinner at quarter of 7. Had leftovers while watching Ready Player One. This is technically another teen dark future story, this time with a twist. In 2045, most people spend their lives escaping into an Internet role-playing game called The Oasis. It was developed by the owners of Gregarious Games, James Halliday (Mark Rylance) and Ogden Morrow (Simon Pegg). When Halliday dies, he sets up a contest to find an "Easter egg" in the Oasis in the form of three keys. The people who find the keys will get his fortune and control of the Oasis. Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) is hoping that the money will get him out of "the Stacks," the stacked pile of metal that most people live in, and away from his aunt (Susan Lynch) and her abusive boyfriend (Ralph Ineson).

Wade's not the only one after the egg, both in and out of the Oasis. Innovative Online Industries is the number two Internet company in the world. Its CEO, Nolan Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn), wants control of the entire gaming industry, and will do anything to get that Easter egg, including using slave labor to attack Wade's avatar Parzival and his friends Aech (Lena Waithe) and Art3ms (Olivia Cooke). The latter is the head of a rebellion that wants to stop Sorrento from taking over the Oasis. It'll take finally emerging into the real world, and Wade's discovery of the importance of real-life connection, to give him the strength to push past Sorrento and find what Halladay was hiding.

I've been running into some incredibly strange movies lately. I'm going to add that I've never read the book this is based on; supposedly, there were a lot of changes from the source material. Most of the performances are all right. I especially like Waithe as the player who looks the least like her avatar, and Pegg as Morrow, who signed away his friendship, then stuck around after his friend's death to oversee his legacy. There were some amazing special effects, especially in "The Oasis." You will never see the Iron Giant fighting Mechagodzilla ever again (except in fanfiction).

I do wish the movie's Aesop about living in the real world and how we can only rely on escapism for so long before we have to make actual connections hadn't been so heavy-handed. It's forced across with all the subtlety of the aforementioned Mechagodzilla. This is also another in the long line of teen "dark futures" novels, and while it has a better pedigree than most (Steven Spielburg directed this), it's still dark and filled with some rather bland characters (both on and offline). Plus, if you don't recognize a lot of the pop culture the movie refers to, you may be even more lost than I was at times.

Recommended for young teens who love dark young adult sci-fi and major pop culture or Spielburg nuts.

Finished the night on YouTube with the first of several Robin Hood movies I'm hoping to watch for inspiration this week. Douglas Fairbanks Sr. made his version of Robin Hood in 1922...and it's huge. Everything about it is huge. The castles and forests are huge (and reportedly cost 1 million to build). The literal cast of thousands is huge. It ended up being a huge hit, too, one of the biggest hits of 1922. Honestly, I think it's a little too huge. It spends over an hour on Robin in the Crusades with King Richard (Wallace Beery) and his courting Maid Marion (Enid Bennett) before they even get to Sherwood Forest. In fact, there isn't a lot of the traditional robbing antics at all. As awesome as those massive sets are, they overwhelm a story that really feels a little too big at times. Not one of my favorite Fairbanks swashbucklers - he did better when he got more involved in the action later in the 20's.

Robin Hood (1922 silent)