Thursday, December 05, 2019

Sharing the Holidays With Friends

Began a cloudy, blah morning with breakfast, then made my bed and sorted through the junk and mail on top of my printer. As soon as I finished that, I pulled out the Christmas tree. I wanted to get the actual tree up before Amanda arrived. Got the lights and gold tinsel garland on, too, though the lights took me a while. They tend to get tangled in the tree branches when I put them on.

Incidentally, my tree is fake. I had a very large, ancient heater in my living room when I lived in Wildwood in the early 2000's and didn't trust a real tree within a hundred miles of it. My current tree was an early Christmas present from Mom in 2002. Besides, not only could I not afford a new tree every year, but I could never get even a small real tree home on my bike.

Ran documentaries on Christmas history as I worked. Christmas Past discusses the holidays in England, via the stories of people who lived through it, including a genuine Downton Abbey-esque aristocrat, a woman who was evacuated to the country during World War II and her first nice Christmas there, and two Scots who celebrated their first holidays period in the 1950's. Christmas Unwrapped is more-or-less the same deal, with more emphasis on how the holiday began and holiday traditions in the US. TV Guide Looks at Christmas has Lea Thompson going into the history of how Christmas on TV has been represented over the years, from a Howdy Doody special to A Charlie Brown Christmas to Pee Wee Herman's 80's variety show.

Went out to wait for Amanda promptly at 11. She didn't arrive until 11:30. She claimed she ran into traffic and road work on the White Horse Pike. At the very least, that gave me the time to round up my trash can and bring the mail inside.

We had lunch in Collingswood at The Pop Shop. Unlike Jessa last month, Amanda was able to find a parking spot, right down an alley and across the street from their building. Despite it being noon, they were dead when we arrived, with only one other family with two adorable toddlers dining there. Amanda and I both had grilled cheese. She had the Everett with cheddar, portobello mushrooms, spinach, and onions. I had the Bettlewood, dripping with Swiss cheese, grilled chicken, scallions, and garlic mayo. We shared a big basket of tasty dark fries.

Amanda decided that it would be easier for her to pay for lunch, rather than figuring out how to split it. I offered to buy our tea and coffee at Common Grounds Coffee House around the corner from my place. She had a peppermint mocha coffee with a chocolate peanut butter cake pop. I had a chai latte with a red velvet cake pop. We enjoyed our treats in the back corner of the room, chatting in a quiet shop with only the barista and one other woman there.

Went back my apartment after we finished. As soon as we got in, we exchanged gifts. She gave me containers of pump soap, body lotion, bubble bath, as well as sleep socks from Bath and Body Works (where she works on occasional weekends), along with a plastic cane of Hershey's candies and a box of Swiss Miss peppermint hot chocolate. She loved the little Christmas-themed Hello Kitty clip I gave her.

After we put away the gifts, I showed Lauren episodes of Match Game. We kept them on in the background while we decorated the tree. I have so many ornaments, I really can't decorate it alone anymore. I have plain glass balls I bought at Family Dollar and fancy glass ornaments Mom bought from gift shops in Cape May. We hung a Lucy Ricardo ornament Mom gave me, an Older Force Awakens Han Solo I got from a half-price sale at a closing Hallmark, a Disney Cinderella and Yogi I picked up at after-Christmas sales, several resin bears, and all kinds of gingerbread and snow-themed pieces. There were clothespin soldiers Mom made, glittery and translucent icicles I bought from Family Dollar years ago, and dangling beaded ornaments my cousin Samantha put together one year.

We worked so well together, we had the tree fully decorated by 3. Since we had time, we dressed the bears and put them under the tree. Mom started this tradition when Dad gave her a big white teddy bear from K-Mart in 1987. She put him on her hope chest, then added several more stuffed animals and put them in old Christmas baby outfits and scarves and hats. She got tired of doing it by the 21st century and turned the remaining bears and their accessories over to me, and I have my own bears to go with them.

Finished the remaining decorating after Amanda headed out. I have a lot of holiday stuff for such a small place. Loaded Beanie Baby bears onto the DVD shelves, including my green bear angel Gift and white angel Herald. Mom's hand-made stuffed "gingerbread people" were organized around a garland on the TV stand. Holly the porcelain doll and the mini-Nutcracker guard the CDs and records next to the tree. Two cheerful porcelain bears in Santa suits stand watch over the CD player. The collectible Winter Cinderella doll in her gold and white gown went on top of the wardrobes with the other collector's toys. The big resin Santa statue, small porcelain bears, and roly-poly Clement and Rudy musical toys all went on those newly empty shelves in my bedroom. A small tree decorated with tiny (non-working) lights and garland went on the other bookshelf.

Watched Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer as I was doing this. Rudy is an adorable baby reindeer with a big problem. His nose glows bright-red, something that's looked down as shameful at the extremely conformist North Pole. Good thing he makes friends with fellow misfit Hermie, an elf who wants to be a dentist, and miner Yukon Cornelius. They finally learn from their encounters with the Island of Misfit Toys and the Bumble Snow Monster that being a little different isn't such a terrible thing...and you never know when a disability might save someone's holiday season.

Did How the Grinch Stole Christmas as I ate a quick leftovers dinner. This is the original version of the tale of the Grinch, a nasty green fellow who lives over the Whos on Mount Crumpet, and the year he decides he's tired of their noise and steals their holiday goodies. Boris Karloff is the Grinch himself  here, as well as the narrator. Thurl Ravenscroft of Tony the Tiger fame introduces "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch."

Headed out after dinner. I saw an advertisement for a holiday bazaar on West Clinton on the marquee at City Hall. The "bazaar" was on West Clinton, but it wasn't really much to look at. The block where Common Grounds and a few other restaurants and offices are hosted several tables of hand-made goodies and a cart with edible cookie dough. I saw nothing I absolutely needed and moved on.

I thought Oaklyn's Parade was supposed to be at 6:30. There was no one at City Hall when I arrived. I strolled down to WaWa and bought a Peppermint Mocha Hot Chocolate, then returned to City Hall...to discover when I looked it up online and checked out the digital sign at the Fire Department that our parade had been moved to 8 PM. Seems Gloucester Township's parade was at 6:30, and the Oaklyn Fire Department was due to be in that, too. I decided that was too late to be out on a cold, windy night and walked home instead.

Made Double Chocolate Chip Cookies from a fudge cookie mix while finishing Rick Steves' European Christmas, which I started during dinner, when I got home. It's a merry little Christmas all all across the continent that gave us some of our most cherished winter traditions. The British make mini-mince pies with their little ones, decorate trees with cookies, and watch the kids at their local school sing carols. The gorgeous Christkind angel welcomes visitors to the marketplace in Munich. Parisians skate on top of the Eiffel Tower and buy gifts at fancy department stores, while rural families in Burgundy enjoy a huge feast. Rural Italians enjoy a living nativity, while Austrians decorate their tree away from children's eyes. Bringing home and decorating the tree is a family affair in snowy Switzerland.

Finished the night after a shower with The Girl of the Golden West. I go further into this western vehicle for Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy at my Musical Dreams Movie Reviews blog.

The Girl of the Golden West (1938)

Wednesday, December 04, 2019

A Christmas Decorating Story

Kicked off the morning with breakfast and Charlie Brown's Christmas Tales. This series of skits from the early 2000's may have been created to fill an hour with Charlie Brown Christmas, but it has some entertaining material in its own right. Favorite shorts include Sally writing "Samantha Claus" and her unusual way of getting a tree and Snoopy playing "Lady of Spain" on an accordion during his sidewalk Santa stint.

Work was even quieter than it was yesterday. Though it was cloudy and chilly, that's as far as it got. I spent the morning gathering carts and rounding up the outside recycling, and the afternoon sweeping the store and organizing gift cards. Other than getting called to do a few things when I was trying to do something else, there were no problems whatsoever.

Went straight home when I finished. Spent the rest of the afternoon and early evening dusting the apartment. Twice a year, right before Christmas and in the late spring, I move everything I can and dust under it. Considering how much stuff I have, it takes a while! It helped that I dusted the book shelf I got from Rose when Craig and Keefe brought it and under the self-help books on top of the desk before I put them back.

Ran The Bells of St. Mary's while I worked. Father O'Malley (Bing Crosby) has been reassigned to St. Mary's Parochial School, a run-down parish in the middle of a city that's on the verge of being condemned. He's supposed to decide whether the school should be closed, but the sisters who live there believe that grouchy old Mr. Bogardus (Henry Travers), who owns the fancy new office building next door, will give them their building. O'Malley and head nun Sister Mary Benedict (Ingrid Bergman) clash over everything from whether two boys should fight to allowing an eighth-grade girl who boards with them to graduate, but they do see eye to eye on the importance of St. Mary's to the community. When Sister Mary gets very sick, it's Father O'Malley who sees that she's transferred for her health. She thinks it's because of all their arguments, but O'Malley respects and appreciates her more than she'll ever know.

I like this a lot more than the too-sweet Going My Way. Ingrid Bergman's tough performance helps cut the sugar levels, the story is a tad less melodramatic, and the secondary romance isn't focused on as heavily. There's also the utterly adorable sequence with the parish 1st-graders rehearsing their Christmas play. It has nothing to do with the rest of the story, but it's still too cute for words. Way may have won the Oscar, but this is the one you really need to check out.

Did a little bit of writing when I finally finished the dusting. The trolls are ugly creatures who do their best to reduce the marketplace to splinters when they arrive. Patti runs off, and Bill's ready to, but the others stop him. They're going to try to fight the creatures off. Charles, however, is terrified of trolls...and may be too scared to help...

Moved on to A Christmas Story while eating dinner, and then while pulling out the first holiday decorations of the year. Yeah, I know it runs for 24 hours on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, but I love it so much, I try to watch it at least once before then. All 9-year-old Ralphie Parker (Peter Billingsly) wants for Christmas 1939 is a "Red Ryder BB Gun with a compass and a stock and this thing that tells time." His mother (Melinda Dillon) thinks it's a bad idea, and his father (Darren McGavin) is too busy yelling at the furnace and the neighbors' dogs to notice much else. Ralphie himself may not survive childhood pitfalls like bullies and essays long enough to make it to Christmas Day...and even then, the present of his dreams doesn't turn out quite as he expected.

I may have grown up in the 1980's rather than the late 30's, but there's still a lot here that I relate to. My stepfather was a Ford man and also treated breakdowns like races, my sisters hid under the sink when they were upset and were picky eaters, Dad used to negotiate for our Christmas tree too, and I had my own problems with bullies and cartoons that were barely-disguised commercials for toys. (One thing I can't relate to is that Major Award. Mom would have taken one look at that leg lamp and said "no." Or at least banished it to a back room or something.) This is one of the best holiday comedies of the last 40 years. If you can relate too, check it out - whether you opt to wait for the marathon or not.

Finished up with the rest of the Christmas decorations. I always pull out the miscellaneous stuff first - the poinsettia place mats, crocheted coasters, mistletoe, nativity, mini-feather tree and its decorations, and garlands. I wasn't able to put up the big garland on the dining area windows this year. I don't want to tack it on the new walls. I was able to put up the garland over the park-side window normally and drape the other garlands over furniture. Everything else is in its regular place. Tomorrow, my college friend Amanda will visit; we'll have lunch together and and put up the tree.

(Oh, and it did finally rain - while I was working on writing, well after I got home.)

Tuesday, December 03, 2019

Once Upon a Christmastime

After the rain we've had the last two days, I was so happy to awaken to sunny skies! I celebrated the lovely day with breakfast, then took advantage of the nice weather to get more cleaning done. Put out my rag rug and the rug at the front door on the porch to be aired, then did the vacuuming. . I do heavy cleaning two times of the year, in late April and May before Lauren visits, and in late November-early December before Amanda visits and I start decorating for Christmas. Went under all the furniture I could move, around all the baseboards and behind everything against a wall.

Ran the 1986 TV version of Babes In Toyland while I worked. I went further into this campy version of the famous fantasy musical at my Musical Dreams Movie Reviews blog last December.

Babes In Toyland (1986)

Switched to another lesser-known TV special as I washed the windows. Yes, Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus is the 1975 retelling of the real-life story of Virginia O'Hanlon, who wrote a letter to the New York Sun in the late 1800's asking them about the existence of Santa Claus. The touching answer by the Sun's editorial editor Francis Church was reprinted in the Sun until it closed in the 1950's and has turned up online and in holiday anthology books ever since. This special was done by a lot of the same folks who did the Peanuts cartoons, and it shows, from the sketchy animation to the familiar voice actors.

Headed out to work shortly after the cartoon ended. Work was dead the entire afternoon. It got mildly steady later in the day, but that was it. I spent the day alternating between rounding up carts and sweeping the store; also rounded up recycling and went through the huge boxes of cards in the gift card kiosk. It was too nice of a day for anyone to be in a store. Winds continued to rage, but they did so under a bright sun and sharp blue sky.

Had leftovers for dinner when I got home while watching a few Disney holiday shorts from my A Walt Disney Christmas collection I dubbed off video. "Once Upon a Wintertime" is a Currier and Ives lithograph come to life as a group of forest creatures help two lovers who run into trouble while skating. "Santa's Workshop" and "The Night Before Christmas" are Silly Symphonies about Santa's Christmas Eve at the North Pole, and what happens after he delivers the gifts. The Disney gang is "On Ice" as Mickey shows off for Minnie, Goofy attempts ice fishing, and Donald teases Pluto. Don doesn't have much more luck with his nephews in their snow war in "Donald's Snow Fight."

Worked on writing for a while after I ate. Patti's the first one to see a massive cloud of dragons and leathery demons flying over Hans-By-the-Sea. Bill's sure they want him, but Brett suspects they're after her and Patti. Now they really have to get out, before they all become dragon food!

Broke for a shower around 7:30. Finished the night with Slightly French. I go further into this 1949 musical with Dorothy Lamour and Don Ameche at Musical Dreams Movie Reviews.

Slightly French

Monday, December 02, 2019

Welcome to the Holidays, Charlie Brown

It was still raining when I got up this morning, but there was no snow mixed in. It was just wet. I had breakfast while kicking off my holiday season with A Charlie Brown Christmas. The Peanuts gang is gearing up for the holidays, but Chuck isn't feeling in the spirit of the season. Lucy invites him to direct their Christmas pageant. Chuck buys a little tree to set the mood and keep the other kids from turning it into a jazz concert, to the annoyance of the girls who wanted one of the pink aluminum monstrosities that were in style in the 60's. It takes a famous religious speech from Linus to remind all of the kids of what Christmas is really about.

Moved on to It's Christmastime Again, Charlie Brown and cleaning the bathroom after I finished eating. This later special from the early 90's is a series of skits about the Peanuts' holiday activities. Charlie Brown sells wreaths door-to-door to make money for a gift for the Little Red Haired Girl, Snoopy dresses as a sidewalk Santa, Peppermint Patty avoids homework, and Sally struggles to memorize her one line for the school play.

Ran Garfield's Christmas Special as I cleaned up from my pumpkin pancakes breakfast. Garfield's not happy about going to visit Jon's parents on their farm at first, until he meets Jon's sarcastic and rock-loving grandma. Grandma's feeling alone and missing her late husband, but Garfield runs into a special gift in the barn that makes her Christmas a little merrier.

Finished the kitchen while watching Santa Claus Is Coming to Town. This Rankin-Bass special gives us their version of the origins of Kris Kringle (Mickey Rooney), a young man raised by toy-making elves. He says he'll deliver their wares in Sombertown, but the Burgomeister Meister Burger (Paul Frees) just banned toys and playing, and the Winter Warlock (Keenan Wynn) may not let him over the mountain to bring them. Even when Kris manages to befriend the Warlock, he still has to figure out how to get around the Burgomeister's strict rules.

Headed out to work shortly after the cartoon ended. Thankfully, by the time I left, the rain was gone. We never got snow, or even sleet. It wasn't that busy, but I kept getting run ragged anyway. The head bagger went home sick earlier in the day. I didn't have any help until 3 and had to run between gathering carts, sweeping the store, and trying to put away all the cold returns. After the other bagger arrived, I focused on shelving items.

I needed money for the week, so I bought Amanda a Christmas gift on the way out. It was showering when I left, but not heavily. My coat was a little wet when I got in.

Spent the rest of the evening writing. Patti's remaining vision shows them how her legs separated and she managed to paddle her way to the surface. Donald doesn't care if she used to be part-antelope. He still likes her, and she's still crazy about him. Gene reminds them that they now have two Legendary Princesses and a third has been taken to safety...but they still need to find the remaining three...

Broke for dinner at 6:30. Had leftovers, then made Pineapple-Pumpkin Muffins while watching the first episode of Downton Abbey. I heard so much about this show, but haven't gotten around to watching it until Mom loaned me her complete series. We begin at a huge British manor in 1912. The Titanic just sank, taking Robert Crawley's (Hugh Bonneville) cousin and heir and his son with it. The only male left in the family who can inherit the earldom is Matthew Crawley (Dan Steves), a distant cousin who, to the horror of the rest of the aristocratic Crowley family, a normal middle-class lawyer. Mary (Michelle Dockery), the eldest daughter, thinks she's going to wed a handsome Duke (Charlie Cox), but it's not her she's interested in.

Finished the night with the second episode. Matthew Crawley arrives at Crawley House with his mother Isobel (Penelope Wilton) in tow. Isobel, a former nurse in the Second Boer War, volunteers at a local hospital, where she encourages the local doctor to try a controversial treatment on a local farmer with fluid in his heart. Mary and Robert's mother the Dowager Duchess Violet (Maggie Smith) object to these newcomers, especially after Violet finds out what's going on at the hospital. Downstairs, Carson (Jim Carter) is worried when he's blackmailed by his former music hall partner, but Lord Crawley knows how to deal with it.

Sunday, December 01, 2019

Rainy Afternoon With My Parents

Began a cloudy morning with early work. While it did get steady, it never became overwhelmingly crazy, nor was it as bad as it usually is on a football Sunday. People were likely restocking things like milk or butter after the holidays. I rounded up carts and the outside recycling, then returned loose items after another bagger came in around 11.

It started raining as early as 9:30, but it didn't really pick up until I was going home at 12. I arrived at my apartment very wet. Changed to dry pants and shoes, did a few things around my place, and headed back out, this time under an umbrella on foot. It was too rainy for the bike. I just walked to Dad and Jodie's house for the Eagles-Dolphins game.

As it turned out, I was the only one who came. Mark and Joya went to visit relatives in Wisconsin for Thanksgiving, and everyone else in the family is sick or busy. I was so tired, I ended up nodding off through most of the first half anyway. Dad and Jodie were mostly focusing on decorating the dining room and kitchen for Christmas. They were finishing up the living room when I arrived.

Jodie decided she was tired of turkey after this weekend (and I certainly had plenty at home), so we just ordered Chinese. That's probably a far bigger treat for me than a hot turkey sandwich would be. I rarely eat Chinese on outings. They give you so much, and it's a lot to eat and carry home when I'm out running around. She got spare ribs; I had a delicious shrimp and vegetables with cashews and an egg roll. We shared hot egg drop soup.

The food was far better than the game. The Eagles started well; they were up 28-14 at halftime. Unfortunately, they started making mistakes in the third quarter, allowing the Dolphins to catch up in a hurry. The Dolphins finally pushed past them 37-31.

I walked home in the continuing rain even before the game ended. Went straight into writing when I got in. Patti's suspicious of Malade's intentions, to the point where the evil mer-witch gets fed up and shoves the potion into her hand. Wanting to meet Donald, she finally agrees to drink it, despite losing her soul to Malade if she can't get him to love her. She genuinely likes him and figures it's worth the risk.

Finished the night with Dickens' Christmas Carol while eating a very small yogurt-and-cranberry sauce dinner. This 1974 album is the original version of Mickey's Christmas Carol, right down to Alan Young playing Scrooge for the first time. There's quite a few things that would eventually be changed for the big screen. Merlin the Magician from The Sword In the Stone is the Ghost of Christmas Past; the Evil Queen in hag mode from Snow White is Christmas Future. The story was originally a full-blown musical, with eight songs, including reprises. To tell the truth, most of them aren't terribly memorable anyway, although I do like the delicious tribute to "Money" for Scrooge and Mickey Cratchit. (I'm not the only one who liked that song. I had a later cassette version of Mickey's Christmas Carol that used "Oh What a Merry Christmas Day" and eliminated all the songs but that one, which turned up at the very end as filler.)

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Parties and Parades

A lovely, sunny morning began with breakfast and The Bernstein Bears' Christmas Tree. Much like Clark Grizwauld, Papa Bear is determined to bring home a real, special tree direct from the woods. Unlike Clark, he keeps choosing trees that are the homes of forest creatures. They chase Papa and the cubs away...until Papa spares a bird family and finally realizes what's really important about the holidays. The cubs think they'll never get their tree, but there's a wonderful surprise at their own treehouse when they get back.

Rushed out at ten of 10. Thankfully, I was only about 15 minutes late for the Collingswood Christmas Parade. This is the largest holiday parade in the Camden County area. Mummers, string bands, and local groups from miles around participate in this community event. I hurried along Haddon Avenue until I found an empty spot just to the right of the city offices at the old school.

I missed the first few minutes of the parade, but I did manage to catch most of it. For some reason, there were a lot of luaus this year. Two of the schools and Parkview Apartments had Hawaiian themes, with kids and residents sporting leis and grass skirts over warm pants and ski jackets. Another school did a sweet Toy Story float. As cute as Ovations Dance Studio's routine to "Jingle Bell Rock" was, the Irish step dancers in their traditional costumes were just having so much fun doing jigs to "Christmas In Kilarney." An Irish bagpipe group showed off their traditional kilts and spats. A group of mini-flag bearers, waving flags that were bigger than they were, danced to "Let It Go" from Frozen. One mummers group was dressed as golfers in glittering black and white argyle. Another were the Pirates of the Caribbean, with a genuinely spooky Davy Jones (complete with octopus makeup) leading. Stilt walkers dressed as an elf and a toy soldier did juggling tricks. Costumed characters, ranging from Frosty and Crystal to gingerbread people to the Grinch, high-fived the kids in the crowd. At least the wind had died down since Thursday, allowing the high school flag groups to do their routines with little trouble.

Someone on the parade route handed me a paper that advertised a train show at a church a block from the Collingswood Library. Since I wasn't far from the library and they mentioned cookies and hot drinks, I thought it might be fun to check out. Something different, anyway. I followed the crowds across the street.

The church was already fairly crowded by the time I made it there. I got into line and grabbed chocolate chip and white chocolate cookies and a cup of hot chocolate, then joined the crowds around the train display. It was huge, taking up most of the back half of the small auditorium. Kids and adults alike oohed and ahhed over the meticulously detailed landscape, with trains riding over hills, a small town with barns and farmhouses, a city with skyscrapers and a big fancy train station, a green countryside, and even a wide train bridge over a "gully."

After I left, I picked up my bike and headed back towards Oaklyn. It was a beautiful day by quarter after noon, bright, sunny, and chilly. Despite the nice weather and the light sparkling on the bottle-green waters, I was the only one I saw out riding in Newton River Park. Everyone else must have still been back in Collingswood.

I needed to stop and pick up a birthday present for my stepbrother Jesse on the way home. Grabbed a 15 dollar gift card for Dunkin' Donuts at CVS, but couldn't find a card I liked. I finally decided choosing was taking too long. He would live without the card.

Hurried straight home in time to make a quick lunch. Watched "A Scooby Doo Christmas" while I ate. In this episode of What's New, Scooby Doo, Mystery Inc find themselves stranded in the town of Winter Hollow on Christmas Eve after the nearby bridge washes out. Every year around Christmas, a Headless Snowman attacks residents, destroying their chimneys and their warmth and forcing them into a local inn for the holidays. The kids do everything they can to solve the mystery and bring a real Christmas back to the townspeople.

It was way past 2 when I finally made it to the laundromat. I couldn't put off my laundry anymore. I had a huge load, including the three towels I used to mop up the water from the freezer defrosting. Next week, I'll try to go much earlier. They were mobbed when I got in. I got one of the last two washers; had a far easier time with the dryers. Worked on story notes and half-listened to college football and the chatter around me.

Even hurrying back as fast as I could didn't make me on time. Jodie said to meet her at Dad's. I went past her on the road as I was riding over to Dad's, ten minutes late. I quickly dropped my bike at Dad's, then jumped in her car and headed off.

Even with all the trouble, we were only five minutes late for Jesse's big 30th birthday party at the Uno's Grill in Maple Shade. As it turned out, we,  Jodie's older son TJ, and his lover Eric were the only ones from Jodie's side of the family who went. Everyone else was from Jesse's biological father's side of the family or his wife Dana's. It was kind of boring. I mostly hid in the back of a table and messed with my cell phone, though I did chat with TJ, Eric, and Jodie. Watched Auburn play Alabama on the big-screen TV over the roaring fire - the former barely won, 48-45. Blue and white balloons, including a shower of white balloons with a metallic "30," hung in front of and to the side of the fireplace. Photos from Jesse's childhood were hung in a banner over the table with the cake, cupcakes, and candy.

At least the food was good. We enjoyed Caeser salad, celery and carrot sticks, baked ziti with breaded chicken strips, and pepperoni and cheese thin-crust pizza. Those who were brave enough had saucy hot wings...but one whiff of those were too much for me! They were really, really pungent. Just standing over them made my eyes water.

The cake and cupcakes had a flower theme; Jesse loves working in the small garden between his and Dana's apartment and the main house. The chocolate cupcakes were a little bland, but the buttercream frosting and vanilla cupcakes and cakes were amazing, creamy and moist and sweet.

After I got home and finally put the laundry away, I finished out the night with the 1997 animated Babes In Toyland. I go further into this holiday tale at my Musical Dreams Movie Reviews blog.

Babes In Toyland (1997)

Friday, November 29, 2019

Black Friday Frenzy at Home

Began a sunny, windy morning at home. I had breakfast while watching while watching Yogi's All-Star Christmas Caper. Yogi and Boo Boo head to the city to meet the rest of the Hanna Barbara funny animals for Christmas, unaware that they've gone to Jellystone to meet them. While Ranger Smith and half the cops in New York search for them, they and the others help a little lonely rich girl find her busy millionaire father.

Switched to Christmas music while taking down the Thanksgiving and fall decorations. I'll start cleaning tomorrow or Sunday evening before putting up the Christmas items by the end of next week. I always do major cleaning before I put up the holiday decorations. Not to mention, Amanda's visiting next week as well.

After the fall container was put away, I brought the crate of comics books and box of young adult paperbacks out of the back room. I had them out there because Charlie was working on the windows in the bedroom. He hasn't been up here or mentioned working up here in ages. The moment I saw that shelf at Rose's house, I knew it would hold everything in the crate and narrower shelf. Had to move around the shelf-holding pegs to get them to fit, but yes, I got all the books in, with two shelves leftover. I even had room for the My Little Demon Jem print Linda and James Young sent me a while back. The Princess Leia print went over it.

I've picked up quite a lot of holiday records and CDs in the past few months, including Perfect Christmas: Holiday Music 2006 and The Time-Life Treasury of Christmas. The former is a two-disc collection of mostly newer music and remakes like "Someday at Christmas" by Mary J. Blige. My favorite here - and one of the reasons I bought it - was for Big Bad Voodoo Daddy's classic rendition of "The Heat Miser/Snow Miser Song" from The Year Without a Santa Claus. Treasury mostly skewers older, with songs like "White Christmas" by Bing Crosby and "Here Comes Santa Claus" by Elvis Prestley, along with a unique rendition of "The Night Before Christmas" by Fred Warring and His Pennsylvanians.

(I've been trying to find The Time-Life Treasury of Christmas for years. I used to borrow the cassette version from Mom's sister Aunt Terri when she came up to visit us for Thanksgiving in the mid-late 90's and would listen to it after Thanksgiving dinner as a way to kick off the holiday season. I've seen other collections, but never the exact one Aunt Terri had until I found it while on vacation in September.)

Ran a few Match Game episodes while eating a quick lunch. Prototypical ditzy blonde Elaine Joyce and bubbly Joyce Bullifant joined in the fun during a 1979 syndicated episode. Elaine insists on showing off her perfect body, while Joyce wears a wig, so she won't be mistaken for the other goofy blonde on the show. Rita Moreno had a tougher time figuring out the game play in another from a month before, to the point where one question had to be thrown out because she showed her answer before she was supposed to.

I did at least need to go to the Acme today. While I didn't need a huge order, I did want to pick up a few pricey things I kept forgetting, like vanilla. Grapefruit and red pears were on good sales. as were Stayfree pads. Restocked brown and white sugar, mushrooms, cranberries, deodorant, milk, and honey. Grabbed cream of celery soup when I realized they no longer sold the Healthy Choice Cream of Mushroom.

(And no wonder I have today and tomorrow off. They were totally, utterly dead. I was the only person in the express line when I got up front.)

The real reason I went to the Acme was for my schedule, which was far better than this week's. Perfectly normal morning and mid-afternoon hours. Thursday and next Saturday off, Thursday for Amanda's visit. I do have that extra-early Sunday, but I'll be off with plenty of time to get to Dad and Jodie's for the Eagles-Dolphins game.

Went home and did one last Match Game episode and the interview with Brett Somers while putting everything away. Spent the next hour and a half rearranging the living room. I now had an open crate, but I just couldn't find room to put it another empty crate anywhere. They didn't fit between the table and the cookbook shelves - the narrow folding shelf went there, with the Marvel and DC superhero movies added to the Star Wars and James Bond films and straight dramas. I still have one that I can't figure out what to do with for the life of me.

Moved on to fanfic for an hour or so after I finally finished messing with the furniture. Patti shows them what happened via an image in Donald's coffee cup. Malade, posing as a sea witch, got her to admit that she liked the human she'd rescued and wanted to get to know him. She gives her a potion that will turn her tail into legs...but at the price of her unique voice and contact with her family.

Broke for dinner at quarter after 7. Had leftover tuna casserole while watching the Rankin-Bass Frosty the Snowman. Frosty comes to life after a group of kids place a magician's discarded hat on his head. They're delighted with their new friend...but the greedy magician wants his hat back, now that he knows what it can really do. He pursues Frosty, his former rabbit who lived in the hat, and the little girl who befriended Frosty all the way up to the North Pole. When he does harm Frosty, Santa may be the only one who knows how to set things right.

Finished the night after a shower with Buzzr. They've advertised their "Black Friday Frenzy" event for weeks now. This basically means "championship episodes of all their shopping shows," namely Supermarket Sweep, Sale of the Century, and its much-reviled 2008 remake Temptation. Sweep ran two new-to-me episodes from the end of "Double Your Money Week." The three couples with the highest sweeps at the end of the week came back for a shot at winning 5,000 more dollars. I'm guessing these were from the early 2000's run. Everyone's hair is much flatter, the clothes are less colorful, and David Ruprecht traded weird-patterned sweaters for weird-patterned ties.

Sale of the Century was pretty much the same as what little I saw in the few weeks it was on during prime time in October and early November, a classy cross between Jeopardy and an upscale The Prices Is Right. The Jeopardy aspect was mostly ditched for Temptation, which came to the US via a successful Australian version. Here, you earn money for prizes by playing mini games rather than direct questions, a lot of the prizes are packages like baking lessons with dancing lessons, and you only choose one prize in the bonus round, rather than gradually working up to winning all of them.

The show was apparently a major flop on this side of the Pacific; no one's touched the format in the US since besides the Buzzr reruns. Granted, it does look a little cheap, but it was fun to play along. I do wish the host hadn't been so annoying, though, even jumpier than Ruprecht and trying way too hard to be upbeat.