Sunday, November 29, 2015

Garlands of Holiday Memories

It was nice to be able to sleep in for the first time on a Sunday in weeks. When I did get going, I made Chocolate-Peanut Butter Pancakes. Yummy. The last of the peanut butter and baking cocoa with a little brown sugar in my regular mix. I burned a bit of the second one; they were so dark from the cocoa, it was hard to tell when they were cooked.

As soon as I finished breakfast, I headed for the back room. I had to sort through the piles of donations I have before I could even get to the Christmas boxes. I have a bag to go to Studio LuLoo for their kids and to help them with their organization, a bag of books and videos to go to the Oaklyn Library, a bag of records to go to the Haddon Township Library, and a bag of donations that'll go to the Logan Presbyterian Church Thrift Shop eventually when I remember and have the time to get there. I tidied up around the dolls' things and put Carrie and Dulcie the Cabbage Patch dolls in their Christmas dresses. (Dulcie, the more girlish red-head, wears a fancy Build-a-Bear gold and white outfit. Tomboyish Carrie with the short blond "curls" gets a soft vintage flannel Christmas nightgown.)

After all that was organized, I could finally put up the things in the Santa Bag. The big red felt Santa Bag with the white yarn tie was originally the wrapping for my heavy winter coat. It was so big, I decided it could be put to other uses as well. It now holds all the Christmas items that I either put out first (the placemats, coasters, table runner, garlands, mistletoe, wreath) or just don't fit anywhere else (the nativity, the needlepoint poinsettia magnet, the box with the New Year's party supplies, the big bow that goes on the door of my bedroom).

It took me a while to figure out where to put some things. I wanted to find another place for the nativity besides the coffee table in the music area...but it's so big, there really isn't any other place it fits. After struggling to find room for the big gold tinsel garland that used to be on the CD rack, I came to the conclusion I really didn't have a place for it anymore. Twisting it around the CD rack was too much of a pain. I ditched the gold garland and the twist-tie poinsettias (I've had them since college), but kept the smaller white and gold garland. It's draped over one of the DVD shelves right now - I'll find a better place for it later. The mistletoe went above the front door; the linens went on the table and scattered around the room for hot drinks.

Did the garlands next. They take a while to get right. There are five fake greenery garlands. The largest, which goes around the two windows across from the living room table, used to be the garland Mom used for the upstairs banister in the house at North Cape May. The smaller one with the velvet book hanging off the center that goes over the two windows in my bedroom was used in my bedroom (later Mom's office) in the North Cape May house. The remaining three for the kitchen window and the windows that overlook the park and the pathway to my side of the house are all the same and were originally used for doorways. I mostly twist-tie them to unused curtain rods nowadays. I tack them where I have to, but the wood used for the walls in this apartment is so hard, it kills my fingers.

Finished the decorating just in time to have leftover soup for lunch, prepare my rent, and get ready for work. My True Value Hardware Christmas Collection cassettes and CDs accompanied me while I decorated and ate. There was a True Value Hardware just off Cape May's downtown for many years. Mom bought one of the collections there in 1988. It probably wasn't a surprise that I eventually would as well.

Volume 28 was one of the first cassettes I ever bought for myself with my own money, and my first Christmas album. I loved it so much, I bought every Christmas collection they sold after that. Even after we moved off Cape Island and I went to college, I continued to buy my annual True Value Hardware Christmas collection when I was home for the holidays. It was a tradition. To my disappointment, in 2001, the Cape May True Value became an Ace Hardware (which they remain to this day), which brought an abrupt end to my collecting. I still have all of the collections from 28 through 35, along with 39, which I found at a yard sale in Audubon a few years ago. (Not terribly surprising, since there is a small True Value Hardware store there.)

Work was, once again, on-and-off steady. It got a little busy later in the day, which was a problem. We really didn't have enough people to handle even mild crowds. Thankfully, by the time I was done, it was quieting down. I didn't have a relief. I was able to leave quickly with no problems.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

The Collingswood Christmas Parade

It was cloudy and humid when I awoke this morning. Stayed in a festive mood with the rarely-seen Yes Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus. This 1975 animated special was made by the same team that did the Peanuts specials, and it shows, from the Peanuts-like animation to the familiar voice actors. This is the first of two animated versions of the story of Virginia O'Hanlon, a little girl in 1880's New York who wrote to the then-popular newspaper the New York Sun to ask about the existence of Santa...and the touching answer by its editorial page editor, Francis Church.

Headed to Collingswood for their annual Christmas parade around 9:30. I left a little earlier than last year so I could hit Rite Aid for a Sparkling Ice Peach Iced Tea and a present for Amanda. I figured it would be a lot quieter there than at WaWa, and it was. There was only one other person in line.

They were all out waiting for the parade. The Collingswood Christmas Parade is the largest in the western Camden County area. People come from miles around to see it. I bought my usual pretzel from Collingswood High School's wrestling team and went down to the corner of Haddon and Collings Avenues to watch the show.

There were sights typical of the Philadelphia area - mummers in spangled and feathered costumes, Miss Camden and Miss New Jersey, the high-stepping Camden High School in purple, gold, and cream and Willingboro in red, white, and blue. There were two stilt walkers. One was an elf; one was a toy soldier who did an impressive juggling routine to the tune of "Dominic, the Italian Christmas Donkey," which was blasting from the Coffee House group behind him. Ovations, the dance school two doors down from Studio LuLoo on West Clinton, did a routine to "Run Run Rudolph," with the girls in reindeer tails and felt antlers. One elementary school had a winter theme, with a paper mache mug of hot chocolate that actually looked like it was steaming. Another school traded the usual float for kids and teachers riding decorated bikes and scooters. The Philly Phanatic pretended to conduct the lounge performers playing "White Christmas" on the float in front of him. A third elementary school had a Star Wars theme. Kids and teachers were dressed as various characters from the six films, including a teacher Chewbacca, several kid Vaders, one little boy Boba Fett, and at least three cute mini-Princess Leias. There was a motorcycle group that rode around in circles and at least four antique car groups.

I left as another antique car group followed the Star Wars school. As much as I wanted to stay for the whole parade, I had to work at 12:30. I dodged traffic on the back roads that were now being used by regular Collings Avenue drivers and headed back to my place.

Had a quick soup lunch while getting ready for work. Ran How the Grinch Stole Christmas as I ate. The most famous of all Dr. Seuss specials tells the story of the nasty, grouchy green critter of the title, who lives up on Mount Crumpet and hates all the noise his neighbors the Whos make on Christmas Day. He tries to steal their holiday goodies to quiet them down, but learns a lesson in the real spirit of the season when the Whos continue their festivities anyway.

Work was on-and-off steady, with a lot of down time between customers. It's two days after the biggest food day of the year, not to mention close to the beginning of the month. The last place most people want to be at the moment is a grocery store! There were no major problems, and it was quiet enough by 5:30 for me to shut down with no relief.

I went to Muscle Maker Grill for dinner. They're a fast-food place a few doors down from Tu Se Bella's Pizza that specializes in healthy versions of typical restauraunt food. I went with the Mona Lisa Wrap - grilled chicken, green lettuce, tomatoes, their special sauce. Not bad. Warm and flavorful. Little pricy, though. With a Diet Dr. Pepper, it cost me nearly 10 bucks. No wonder they were quiet at dinnertime.

Finished the night at home. finally dusting my bedroom. My bedroom always takes forever to really dust thoroughly. I have all my collectible dolls and toys and stuffed animals in the bedroom, not to mention my fiction books and comic books. Didn't help my nose, either. I've been sneezing and sniffling ever since I started. It took me over two hours, but I did finally get it all done. Tomorrow, I'll put up the first Christmas decorations

Friday, November 27, 2015

Welcome to the Holiday Season

Though the chatter downstairs awoke me around 7 AM, I finished the Maisie Dobbs book Leaving Everything Most Loved and wrote in my journal rather than deal with Dad and Rose continuing their fussing about politics from last night. People were in better moods when I finally made it to the dining room/kitchen. Mom had put out slices of my pumpkin and cranberry bread. Dad in particular was effusive about my cranberry bread; he said he must have eaten seven half-slices!

Anny's crew arrived around 8:30-9 AM. Khai got bored with watching Paw Patrol and joined Collyn and Skylar back outside on the scooters. I can't say I blame them. It was even nicer today than it was yesterday, in the lower-mid 60's and as sunny as can be. No wonder we could barely drag Khai off the scooter when it was time to head home. I went inside to hug everyone goodbye (including little Lilah, who was enamored by Mickey Mouse Clubhouse) before we hit the road.

We finally left at 9:50. This time, we went straight through, no stops at WaWa or anywhere else. Khai wasn't much fun to travel with. He kept drinking sticky Arizona iced tea and spilling it on himself, then complained about it being wet and ended up stripping off his shirt. His dad starting in on Bigfoot again got him and Rose fussing at each other about Internet hoax videos and what's real versus what isn't. (Despite agreeing with Rose yesterday, with most things, I keep an open mind. We don't really know what's out there. There are some pretty strange critters in this world, including ones we haven't discovered yet.) Thankfully, by the time we were driving down the ramp off the highway, Khai had settled down and was trying to nap.

The traffic was so sparse, even around the malls, that it was only quarter after 11 when I got in. As soon as I unloaded my backpack, I went right into taking down the fall and Thanksgiving decorations. I'm hoping to start putting up the Christmas decorations by the end of the weekend. Ran Very Merry Christmas Songs as background while I worked, and later while eating tuna-tomato salad for lunch.

But that beautiful day beckoned. It was too nice to be inside all day. I opted to run a few chores, starting with returning Cranberry Thanksgiving to the Oaklyn Library. They were surprisingly busy for a nice day the day after a major holiday, with several people on the computer or volunteering. I organized the DVDs (the kids' titles were really bad) and looked at the kids' books.

Headed to the Acme next for this week's grocery shopping and schedule. I didn't really need that much. Mainly restocked things I used up this week and last week - white cooking wine (which was on sale and came with a coupon), cooking spray, pumpkin, grapefruit, skim milk, cranberries, powdered sugar, canned chicken. Bought more lights (red and green) after the string I bought last year proved to not be enough for the tree.

My schedule for this week isn't too bad. Monday and Wednesday off, Monday for Amanda's visit. On one hand, there are a few mildly early days, but nothing later than 7, and a much-needed late Sunday. On the other hand...the hours still aren't increasing. While we are between holidays (and the Eagles played Thursday), we're also coming up on the beginning of the month. We're going to need the help, especially if the rain we may be getting tomorrow afternoon really does bring those cooler temperatures.

Finished out a couple of episodes of The Backyardigans while putting everything away and getting organized. "The Action Elves Save Christmas Eve" give us Pablo, Tasha, and Uniqua as superheroic elves with special tiny hammers that can make anything. Their mission - get Santa's sack back from the Abominable Brothers (Tyrone and Austin) before Santa goes on his big ride. "Pablor and the Acorns" has Pablo as an evil galactic overlord who learns a lesson in friendship and helping others from a trio of Boy/Girl Scout-type "Acorns" (Austin, Tyrone, and Tasha) when he arrives on Earth to search for the Crystal of Power! The kids head further into space for "The Big Dipper Diner." Confusion is on the menu and Pablo and Uniqua's intergalactic greasy spoon when cops Tasha and Tyrone mistake their sweetest customer for the galaxy's nastiest criminal.

Switched to Christmas records by Andy Williams, Bing Crosby, and Perry Como as I dusted the living area. I only really dust under everything two times a year, in June before Lauren visits and in December before Christmas. I have so many records and books and whatnot, they take forever to move around. (And that's when I'm not reading them.) It took so long, I decided to do my bedroom tomorrow night or Sunday.

Moved to working on Babes In WENNLand next. Pruitt and Scott show up, arguing over Pruitt's declaration that there will be no Christmas at the station. The kids cry foul, and Scott, Betty, and Gertie aren't much happier. Pruitt is condescending to the kids and obnoxious to Scott, asking him just how he got his job with his lack of credentials. Gertie takes the kids to the Green Room before Scott can use language they probably don't need to be hearing at their ages.

(And actually, one of the questions I've always had about this show is just how Pruitt found out so much about Scott and the "memorial" when he was in Boston for the rest of the second season. Maybe he hired outside help to ferret out just what Scott was up to? He couldn't have been happy about Scott's part in humiliating him during the Christmas episode.)

Threw together most of the leftovers in my fridge to make Chicken-Tomato-Broccoli Soup for dinner while watching Sailor Moon: Hearts In Ice. Usagi's cat Luna is rescued by a handsome, though frail, scientist with whom she falls deeply in love. As she tries to find the cure for his affliction, the Sailor Guardians battle a group of snow creatures who have come to Earth to freeze the planet.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Plenty to Be Thankful For

It was another beautiful, sunny day when I got up this morning. Started off the day with some Thanksgiving and Christmas short stories and poems. In addition to the material from the Collier's Book of Holidays, I found two more stories and book excerpts. Pilgrim's Party is a short story from the early 60's Disney anthology Storybookland. Mickey takes the Disney characters on a road trip to New England, and then to Massachusetts, where they decide to celebrate the holiday at the recreated pilgrim's settlement at Plymouth. It's all fun and food, until Pluto steals the turkey! In the last two chapters of Kit Learns a Lesson, Kit Kitteredge isn't feeling very grateful for the boarders her parents have taken in to make ends meet during the Great Depression. She feels like a maid and is sure her dad will find work soon. It takes a surprising encounter at a soup kitchen to show her how important it is to be thankful for those around us.

Rose called while I was getting dressed. Mind if we switched to being picked up between 10 and 10:30? They had to drop Toby, their larger dog, off at Dad and Jodie's. That was fine. It would give me a chance to have breakfast and get organized.

I ate the last of the Carrot-Pineapple Muffins and a half a grapefruit, then finished packing while watching Thanksgiving specials. It's A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving when Peppermint Patty invites herself, Marcie, and Franklin over to Chuck's house for dinner. Trouble is, he's eating at his grandma's house. She doesn't appreciate the meal of toast, jelly beans, ice cream, and popcorn, until Marcie and Linus remind their friends that Thanksgiving is about a lot more than food.

The Mayflower Voyagers reminds us just what this holiday is about. In this episode of the miniseries This Is America, Charlie Brown, the Peanuts play pilgrim kids who come over to the New World with their parents to start over. The voyage to what we now know as New England is fraught with peril, including storms and crowded and miserable conditions. Things aren't much better at Plymouth, where starvation and disease plague the settlement. It isn't until the natives Squanto and Massasoit teach the settlers how to plant corn and hunt and fish that their lives begin to improve. They're so thankful for their bountiful harvest, they invite the Natives for a feast of Thanksgiving.

Garfield isn't feeling all that thankful in Garfield's Thanksgiving. Jon just invited Liz the Veterinarian over for Thanksgiving dinner...right after she's put him on a diet! It doesn't help that Jon can't cook a turkey to save his life. Good thing Grandma from the Christmas special knows how to make things right.

After Garfield ended, I listened to my lovely LP of mountain folk songs and old American songs while fixing one of my pairs of work pants. I just got them not long ago - I don't have the money to replace them. The very bottom of the seat split at the seam. I'd just finished sewing it as best I could (I'm terrible at sewing, but I can figure out enough to fix a seam) when Rose called, saying she'd be there in two minutes. I took my things and went downstairs...then came back upstairs briefly. Mom said to bring a pillow, and I forgot.

I went up with my 5-year-old nephew Khai, my sister Rose, her boyfriend Craig, and their mini-pincher Kelsey. Rose and Khai got up at 5 AM today to make her apple pie, and Khai was a very tired boy. He rested for most of the trip. We did make a stop at WaWa for drinks. I got Cherry Limeaide Sparkling Ice and a soft pretzel. Khai got Cheetos. Rose bought Monster Energy drinks for her and Craig. We admired the view of the lovely South Jersey countryside, including a horse farm. (Craig kept telling Khai to watch out for Bigfoot, despite Rose and I admonishing them that there's no such creature.)

We got in around quarter after 12. Everyone else was already there, including Mom and Dad, my sister Anny, her boyfriend Jay, her sons Collyn (7 next month) and Skylar (11) and their baby girl Lilah (10 months) and my brother Keefe and his new girlfriend Carmen. I spent most of the next few hours that I wasn't scarfing the vegetable and ranch dip tray and home-made cheese ball and crackers watching over the boys. They rode a bike and a scooter for a while, speeding up and down the dead-end street Mom and Dad live on, riding around houses where no one lived. When they got bored with that, I took them in the back to toss around a Nerf football, then a Frisbee. (And kept trying to get Skylar off the porch. I was afraid someone would break a window or Mom's beloved wind chimes.)

We went inside for a while to rest, eat appetizers, and watch TV. The Eagles-Lions game wasn't going very well. They did play a little better later, but they were mostly terrible. (The Eagles ultimately lost 45-14.) We had more fun with strange cartoons like Gravity Falls (Dipper is put on trial for arguing that reality is better than fantasy), Teen Titans Go! (video game spoof), and Phineas and Ferb (first Doofensmirtz helps Perry the Playpus' secret agent organization take down a tiny little scientist bent on destroying them, then Candace puts herself on a Groundhog Day loop when her last day of summer vacation keeps going badly and she can't bust her brothers).

We ran into some problems when we went back outside. Khai and Collyn both wanted to ride the scooter, but Khai's an only child who isn't really used to sharing his toys. They both got into a rather noisy argument on a neighbor's driveway across the street. Dad finally settled it by borrowing two older scooters from his next-door neighbor John. I also got a chance to chat with John and with another neighbor of my parents' a few doors down.

The boys and I were watching cartoons again when dinner was finally ready. Mom spent the afternoon fussing that the turkey was too small and greasy and bent out of shape. I usually eat the dark meat anyway and I don't like gravy, so yeah, it was a little dry, but not that bad. In addition to the poor turkey, there was mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole with marshmallows on top, potato rolls with butter, cranberry sauce, green bean casserole, glazed carrots, pearl onions in white sauce, and home-made stuffing. I had a little of everything but the mashed potatoes. I'm not a big fan of white potatoes.

We all sort of broke up after dinner. Craig took Khai on a brief trip to the Canyon Club condos on the Wildwood Crest side of the Cape May Bridge to see his parents and brother. Rose and Anny were crazy enough to elbow their way through early Black Friday shoppers and pick up two things for their kids at Walmart. Carmen talked to relatives on her phone on the porch. Dad and Keefe stayed attached to the Cowboys-Panthers game. (The Panthers not only won 33-14, they knocked out Tony Romo again, too.)

I had an intimate conversation with Skylar. We walked up and down Willow Drive. When we got back to Mom and Dad's house, Skylar sat on the bed of Dad's white truck, and we watched the stars come out. He's such a smart kid. We talked about our siblings, our parents, our families, cartoons, and the things we both like.

Mom was starting to pull out the desserts when we came in. Skylar immediately swarmed towards Mom's chocolate cake. I went for the pumpkin pie and Reddi-Whip topping. I love pumpkin pie. It isn't Thanksgiving without pumpkin pie. I had a couple of chocolate chip bars and a small slice of chocolate cake, but I just couldn't fit in Rose's apple pie. I'll have that tomorrow.

Played with little miss Lilah after dinner. She's absolutely adorable. I brought my stuffed turkey Plymouth downstairs to show her. She was absolutely fascinated by him. She sat in Jay's lap and kept patting and pulling at Plymouth, probably wondering what this strange, colorful thing was. She has big, round blue eyes like her mom's when she was tiny and fluffy, wavy brown hair. She's still learning to walk on her own, though her mom says she doesn't have a lot of confidence. She'll walk a few steps, then fall down. Jay and Anny's mostly been holding her hands.

Skylar, Khai, and I finished the night with our desserts and more cartoons. Even as we watched the very odd Wander Over Yonder (a strange little creature wants to make friends with everyone it meets - even an evil galactic overlord), Khai was falling asleep over his vanilla ice cream. Rose got him into his new Batman pajamas. He finally passed out on the couch in the living room, shortly before Anny took her crew home.

I'm taking a respite of my own while the remaining family members continue to eat and chat downstairs. I hope all of you had a beautiful Thanksgiving with your own families (including the Canadians, who had their turkey last month). Everyone else, I hope you enjoyed the last days of fall.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Cleaning Day at the Riverside Rest

Awoke to the phone ringing. It was Mom, who wanted to know if I was bringing bread. Sounds like we're going to have another head for dinner - my brother Keefe is bringing his new girlfriend from Norfolk. You bet I am. I'd be making the pumpkin bread as soon as I ate. Called Rose right after that to confirm when we're leaving tomorrow. Sounds like it'll be between 10 and 10:30 at press time.

Moved into breakfast and a Three Stooges short after I got dressed. The Stooges are sent "Back to the Woods" when they're sent to England to protect the pilgrims from the Indians. They're immediately enamored by three pilgrim lasses, but their father the Governor would rather they get out and do their jobs. The Indians prove to be a lot harder to track than they thought! Larry almost loses his curly scalp, but Moe and Curly come to his rescue.

Ran Planes, Trains, and Automobiles while making Pumpkin Bread, then while vacuuming. Ad executive Neal Page (Steve Martin) is not having the best Thanksgiving. Thanks to bad weather in the Midwest, his own increasingly mounting temper, and just plain bad luck, he keeps getting bounced from vehicle to vehicle as he tries to get home for the holidays. Worse yet, he keeps ending up with Del Griffith (John Candy), a shower curtain ring salesman who's the nicest guy you'll ever meet, but is also a chatty mass of bad habits. The two men finally call something like a truce as they journey across the frozen landscape. When he realizes why Del is really on the road, Neal learns a lesson in being thankful for having a home and family to travel to.

Though the premise is now a little dated (a lot of Neal's travel troubles would be solved with an app or a cell phone call today) and the sentimentality at the end feels slightly forced, this does remain a must for fans of Candy, Martin, or director John Hughes - it's some of their finest work.

Switched to Perfect Strangers while finishing the vacuuming and pulling the bread out of the oven. The seventh season episode "Wild Turkey" has Balki, Larry, Jennifer, and Mary Anne celebrating their first Thanksgiving in their new, larger home. Larry gets the idea to bring home a flock of live turkeys to sell for last-minute shoppers. Larry's idea becomes (pardon the pun) a real turkey when Jennifer thinks one may have swallowed her ring. The guys go to the house of a family who bought a bird to get it back.

The vacuuming was a little more thorough than usual and took a bit more time. I vacuumed under and behind all the nooks and crannies and around all the furniture that I normally ignore. It had to be done. Not only do I have my friend Amanda visiting next week, but I'll be putting up the Christmas decorations. I washed the windows, too.

Did an episode of Good Eats while sticking broccoli and a leftover chicken breast in the oven for lunch. Oranges are another fruit frequently consumed during the Thanksgiving and especially the Christmas season. "Orange Aid" shows what to do with those oranges kids get in their stockings. While the orange sherbet and the Orange Julius variation both sound delicious, the one I may try someday is my own orange marmalade. I love marmalade, but it's often expensive in the store.

Work was pretty much the same as yesterday - steady when I came in, crazy for the rest of the night. This is hardly surprisingly the day before the biggest food holiday of the year. Thankfully, there were only a handful of cranky customers. Most people seemed to be in pretty decent moods. Other than my break was almost and hour late, there were no major problems, and my relief was right on time.

Had a quick dinner of leftover chicken-vegetable soup while watching one more episode of Good Eats. Alton Brown's feeling a little nutty as he explores the culinary properties of pistachios, cashews, and macadamia nuts in "Sometimes You Feel Like a Nut." While I love macadamias, they're crazy-expensive in the store. I'll stick to white chocolate-macadamia nut cookies. I'm not a big fan of pistachios...but I do like cashews. The cashew butter and cashew sauce recipes might be worth trying when nuts are on sale.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Holiday Preparations

The weather remained beautiful when I got up this morning. It was sunny and breezy, with a sky so blue it hurt your eyes. It remains cold, in the upper 40's, but that's really what it's supposed to be at this time of year in southern New Jersey.

I had a quick breakfast, then made Cranberry Bread. Since my Cranberry-Orange Bread got a bit charred, I bought a mix last night at work and added real cranberries with the dried ones. It still didn't cook as well as I would have liked, but it looked better than the other one. I'll keep the other one for me.

Ran Winnie the Pooh: Seasons of Giving while I baked. This direct-to-home-media "feature" is an anthology of two episodes of The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh and the Thanksgiving special. The Thanksgiving special is the reason I have it. Pooh and the others are ready to celebrate Thanksgiving with a spread of haycorns, honey, and chocolate ice cream. No way, says Rabbit. That's not how Thanksgiving tradition works. He sends Pooh and Piglet after the turkey (neglecting to tell them what a turkey looks like) and Eeyore and Tigger after cranberries. With Pooh and Piglet conjuring up images of a monster bird and Gopher making pumpkin pie with attitude, this is one dinner that isn't going to go as Rabbit planned. When his party is ruined, it's Pooh who reminds everyone that it's not what we eat for Thanksgiving that counts. It's whom we eat it with.

Went right into cleaning as soon as the Cranberry Bread was in the oven. I always do a thorough house cleaning before I start putting up Christmas decorations. Not to mention, I do have my friend Amanda visiting next week. Got the bathroom and the kitchen done today. The bathroom was especially grungy. I washed down more than I usually do in both rooms. The kitchen cabinets needed to be dusted badly. I'll be using the kitchen in particular a lot in the coming weeks. One of my favorite things about the holiday season is the baking.

Watched Muppet Family Christmas as I cleaned (and tried to drown out the cursing and 80's music blasting downstairs). Fozzie, Kermit, and the other Muppet Show crew surprise Fozzie's mom on her farm on Christmas Eve. She's really surprised - she was planning on going away and rented her home to Doc and Sprocket of Fraggle Rock! The arrival of the Sesame Street characters and a turkey whom the Swedish Chef intends to roast for dinner brings even more chaos. Meanwhile, Miss Piggy has last-minute work and shopping to do and is stranded in a snowstorm. Kermit and Robin visit the Fraggles to cheer up while they wait for her. This is a fun special that, thanks to the three groups of Muppets being owned by different companies, is hard to find intact today. Try YouTube or other online video sharing sites.

Squeezed in a little bit of writing after the Muppets. Gertie gets a call from the kids' mother. She's going to be late picking them up; she's stuck at the store. Gertie and Betty aren't enthusiastic about babysitting. We're not babies, Lisa insists. We can take care of ourselves. Alan wants to meet Amazon Andy. Betty tries to explain he's on the air as Scott and Rollie "The Satanic Santa" Pruitt, the station's nasty Scrooge of a financier, come in the door.

Made those crab cakes from Friday for lunch with leftover broccoli, Cranberry Flummery, and Cranberry-Orange Bread. Ran episodes of Max & Ruby as I ate. Ruby's decorating the table for "Max's Thanksgiving." Her brother is more interested in Grandma's nut stuffing. "Ruby's Roller Skates" has Ruby trying to learn to skate to Grandma's. Max just wants to find his tow truck. "Ruby's Leaf Collection" will be the best in her class...if her brother stops covering it with his leaf pile. "Fireman Max" wants to come to the rescue, but he keeps getting in his sister's way while she's trying to jump rope.

Finished out the afternoon with an episode of Remember WENN while I got ready to go to work. While "And How" from the late third season isn't a Thanksgiving episode per se, it does involve food and Native American relations. The WENN staff are going to be appearing on an episode of a popular network western, "The Strange Loner." When the star who is to be unmasked on the air turns up drunk, the male staff compete for his role. The Native man who plays the Loner's sidekick turns out to be far less sterotypical than his "he say ugh" part would indicate. Meanwhile, Eugenia the organist has discovered a new and "adventurous" food - pizza!

Though it was relatively quiet when I came in, it picked up during rush hour...and this time, stayed busy for the rest of the night. I got pretty stressed early on, especially when a WIC check family took forever. Moving to a register on the other side of the front end helped. Like the college girl who came in for me said later, it gave me room to breathe and think. A lot of people weren't in the best of moods, either. A customer said traffic on the Black Horse Pike was really bad, which may have been part of the problem. Thankfully, it was perfectly normal by the time I finished at 7. I had no trouble getting home.

Monday, November 23, 2015

It's a Wonderful Bath

In honor of the first really cold day of the season here, I started the morning with Frosty the Snowman during breakfast. The original 1969 Rankin-Bass tale takes us to a schoolyard on the day before Christmas. A group of kids find a magician's hat he's gotten rid of that suddenly brings their just-built snowman to life. While one of the kids and the magician's rabbit take Frosty to the North Pole to keep him from melting, the magician sees that the hat has real magic and decides he wants it back.

Headed right to the laundromat after I finished breakfast. They weren't really busy; I only saw a few people the whole time. Some folks may be waiting for closer to Thanksgiving to get their linens done. It's just as well. I had a big load this week, including sheets. I listened to The Price Is Right and worked on story notes while my laundry was in the drier.

When I got home, I put everything away, then did a really quick writing session. I'm putting Once Upon a Time In the Land of WENN on hold for the duration of the holiday season in favor of Christmas stories. Had just enough time to start my next "fairy tale," Babes In WENNLand. Lisa and Alan Herbert are the last two kids remaining after the "Tell It to Santa" broadcast on the second season episode "Christmas In the Airwaves." Alan is a typical rambunctious kid who can't sit still and loves WENN's action shows "The Masked Man" and "Amazon Andy." Lisa thinks he's being a baby. She's frequently in charge of her brother and many household chores while their single mother works in the toy section of a local department store. As they wait for their mother to pick them up, they observe the WENN cast and crew's comings and goings at the reception area.

Put on Mickey's Christmas Carol while having leftovers for lunch. Though Mickey is the title character here, he's actually in the more fitting role of Bob Cratchit. Uncle Scrooge gets the main role as his namesake Ebeneezer Scrooge, who learns a lesson in holiday charity and kindness from the ghosts of Christmas past (Jiminy Cricket), present (Willie the Giant), and future (Big Pete). Donald is his Nephew Fred; Goofy makes a surprisingly good Jacob Marley.

Went straight to work after Mickey ended. Work was pretty much the same as it was last week - steady when I came in, dead when I left, busy only during rush hour. The gorgeous weather probably helped. It was sunny, cold, and windy today, but really not anything that out of the ordinary for late November in southern New Jersey. I think we only got crazy last year right before Thanksgiving because there was a threat of snow mixed with rain that Wednesday. It died so fast by 7, I was able to shut down with no relief and no need for one.

Went right in the bath as soon as I got home. Ahhh. I needed that. I haven't taken one in a couple of weeks, I think. I read It's a Wonderful Christmas (a book Linda Young sent me a few years ago on how the years from 1940 to 1965 shaped our current Christmas traditions) and listened to my CD copy of the full Nutcracker score.