Thursday, December 31, 2015

May the New Year's Be With You

I got up a bit earlier today, since I worked earlier. Started the last day of 2015 with a couple of New Year's short stories from the Christmas With Anne Lucy Maud Montgomery anthology and a couple of American Girl stories. Really Truly Ruthie takes place during the week between Christmas and New Year's. Ruthie Smithens is Kit Kittredge's girlie best friend. She loves fairy tales and happy endings. She inadvertently discovers that Kit's family may lose their home if they can't pay the mortgage fast. She decides she'll go to Kit's Aunt Millie in Ohio with the help of Kit's brother Charlie and get the money herself.

Addy's having an even more difficult holiday season in Changes for Addy. She's searching the hospitals every day for her aunt, uncle, and baby sister, who are supposed to be in Philadelphia. Her best friend announces that she's dropping out of school to help her family. Even when she's reunited with her loved ones, it's not quite the happy reunion Addy hoped for. When she's given the honor of reading the Emancipation Proclamation in front of her church on New Year's Day, she realizes that, even if some of them can only be in spirit, she and her family are still finally free.

Ran a couple of cartoons while eating breakfast and getting ready for work. "Ruby's Gingerbread House" will be beautiful, if Ruby and Louise can get it to stay together. Max just wants them to consider the merits of his gummy worms. "Max's Christmas Passed" has Ruby taking down their Christmas decorations. Max comes up with a novel way to relieve her post-holiday blues. In "Max's New Year," Grandma and Ruby are enjoying a mini party with dancing, fizzy drinks, and funny hats. Max just wants it to be midnight, so he can eat Grandma's clock-shaped cookies.

Moved into shorts as I got ready for work. Popeye says "Let's Celebrake" when he invites Olive's grandma along with him, Olive, and Bluto to a New Year's Eve party. Spinach turns Grandma into the most energetic dancer there! Bluto disrupts Olive and Popeye's act in "Morning, Noon, and Nightclub." They find a way to turn the tables. Switched to black-and-white Disney for "The Whoopee Party." Mickey Mouse's big shindig is so wild, even the furniture starts dancing!

Work wasn't too bad when I got in...but by noon, it was insane and stayed that way all day. If people weren't buying food for their parties tonight and this weekend, they were beginning-of-the-moth folks who wouldn't bag. Other than that, there were no really major problems, and my relief was right on time. I grabbed sparkling apple-cranberry juice, pie crusts, and heavy cream for tonight.

Went right into making my Ham, Spinach and Mushroom Quiche for dinner when I got home. Since most quiches only require one crust, I used the second to make an apple turnover. Neither came out as well as I would have liked. The apples were too bunched up in the turnover, and it split. The quiche was much too watery. They tasted pretty good, though.

Watched Holiday Inn while I ate. Bing Crosby plays an entertainer who wants to give up the grind of show business for the simple life on a New England farm. When the simple life turns out to be more difficult than he thought, he turns the farm into an inn that's only open on holidays. He falls for the pretty girl he auditioned on Christmas Eve (Marjorie Reynolds), but when his old partner (Fred Astaire) comes to the Inn after his girl (Virginia Dale) left him, he finds himself competing for her affections.

I have to admit, I like this one more than White Christmas. Maybe because it's smaller and a little quieter, or the romantic complications ring a little bit truer. The blackface Lincoln's Birthday number "Abraham" may be a little offensive to some people today. Otherwise, this is a charming tale with some nice numbers and two leading men at the top of their game.

Did a few more specials and TV shows after Holiday Inn. Happy New Year, Charlie Brown! has poor Chuck stuck doing a book report on War & Peace for holiday break. What he really wants to do is ask the Little Red Haired Girl to Peppermint Patty's party. Rudolph's Shiny New Year goes far better. Rudolph has to go after the runaway Baby New Year in the Archipelago of Last Years. If he can't find him by midnight on New Year's Eve, the old year will continue forever!

Laverne and Shirley are having another kind of interesting New Year's Eve in "New Year's Eve - 1960" from the third season. Laverne is excited when an old boyfriend asks her out to Shirley's big New Year's party. Shirley's just happy to go with Carmine. Their excitement dims when the guy ditches Laverne, and Shirley gets a cold. Meanwhile, Lenny and Squiggy are planning on dropping Squiggy in place of a ball at midnight.

Given all the Star Wars talk out there right now, I couldn't resist running the first two movies in the original trilogy to finish out 2015. Started the way any good Star Wars marathon should, with A New Hope. Desert farmer Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) dreams of adventure in other worlds. He gets a lot more than he bargained for when he intercepts a message from smart and lovely Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), who has been captured by nasty Govenor Tarkin (Peter Cushing) and the frightening Darth Vader (voice of James Earl Jones). He's helped by former Jedi knight Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guiness) and Han Solo, a tough smuggler (Harrison Ford) who claims he's only in it for the money. Even after they rescue Leia, they still have to stop the Death Star, the Empire's ultimate weapon, from destroying them all.

Went right into The Empire Strikes Back after New Hope. And boy, do they ever! Darth Vader is determined to find Luke, no matter what it takes. While he chases Han, Leia, Chewie, and Threepio across the galaxy, Luke and Artoo head to swampy Dagobah to learn more about Jedis and the Force from wise little Yoda. Meanwhile, Han and Leia are developing quite a romantic relationship. Luke's training and their blossoming love are threatened when Han and Leia fall into a trap set by Vader. Luke has to confront Vader while trying to rescue them, but he's not really ready for it yet...and he sure as heck isn't ready for the little tidbit of information Vader gives him during that duel...

Ok, so yeah, I love these movies. I've loved these movies since I was a little kid. Mom says the first movies she took Rose and me to see at the theater that weren't animated were Annie and Return of the Jedi. I still have not only most of our 80's action figures, but the majority of Keefe's action figure collection from when the original trilogy was revived in the late 90's and the release of the prequels in the late 90's and early 2000's as well. I saw all three "Special Edition" revivals in the theater, and one of my fonder memories of the early 2000's is taking Keefe to see Attack of the Clones at a full daytime showing with my then-boyfriend.

Empire has been one of my favorite movies since it started turning up on cable in the mid-80's. It highlights my favorite characters (Han, Leia, Chewie, and Han's pal Lando Calarissian), goes further into the Force, and turns Vader into just about the best worst boss in the history of the universe. (Considering how many officers he kills off here, I'm surprised there's anyone left in the Empire by Jedi.)

Yeah, if you love fantasy, sci-fi, or just a good fairy tale, you'll love these as much as I and many others do. George Lucas has tinkered with these so much, there's about 800 different versions out there. Pick your favorite and have fun.

And...I hope everyone has a wonderful New Year's and a safe and happy 2016!

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Before the Rain Came

I started a cool, gloomy morning with music. I couldn't really decide on anything to watch, so I settled on CDs. I love the Varasae Sarabande Cinderella album I bought a few years ago. It includes songs from many different versions of the Cinderella fairy tale - animated ("A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes" from Disney), darker ("On the Steps Of the Palace" from Into the Woods, two ballads, "What Has Love Got to Do With Getting Married" and "Suddenly It Happens" from the British film The Slipper and the Rose), even gender-flipped (the adorable "Spread A Little Happiness" from another British musical, Mr. Cinders.) It's so much fun to hear how one story can be told many different ways, and how different versions advance the story. (Incidentally, for Remember WENN fans, Johnathan "Mr. Pruitt" Freeman sings "What Has Love Got to Do With Getting Married.")

Spent the next hour and a half writing. The kids have gotten Scott out, and Mr. Eldridge has reappeared to help with the trolls. Now, they have to get back to the Christmas Festival and stop Barnaby from harming Santa...but how? He has the trolls. Lisa remembers that they have an army, too - the toy soldiers! They wind them up and follow them out of the factory.

Headed out around quarter of noon to run a few errands. The Oaklyn Library was actually a bit busy for them. There was one guy working on his laptop, with quite a few others at the computer. I organized DVDs and gave a look over the kids' section while CNN droned on in the background about Bill Cosby and why the Eagles fired Chip Kelly.

(My own take on Kelly's firing...I'm not surprised. The guy was a decent coach, but not so great at choosing personnel. He didn't bother me - it's ONE bad season, folks, they happen - but everyone else, from sportswriters to my customers, have pretty much been crying for the guy's' head since it became obvious the Eagles weren't going to get anywhere this year.)

Ran to WaWa really quick after I left the library. Needless to say, since it was past 12:30, they were busy. I needed eggs and milk (both are cheaper at WaWa). Since I was there, I bought a Tuscan Turkey hoagie and Pumpkin Cheesecake Smoothie for lunch.

When I got home, I ate while listening to one of my 80's CDs. A Year In Your Life 1983 features quite a few hits I loved as a child, notiably "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" by Cyndi Lauper. I was grateful it was still just cloudy when I finally packed up and headed for work.

Work was steady all evening. It wasn't really that crazy, but it wasn't dead, either. People are starting to buy party food for tomorrow or use their beginning of the month money. It moved very fast. My relief was on time, and I had no problems getting in or out.

There was one last present waiting for me when I got in. The Bearclaw boots I got from Mom for Christmas arrived! They're honey-colored, with heavier fur lining than the old ones. Oh boy, are they soft! The lining is amazing. I've never felt anything this soft. They're also a tad tight, despite being a size 8, which is what I wear in every other shoe. I'm hoping they'll stretch as I wear them.

Oh, and it did finally rain...about an hour ago. According to the National Weather Service and Channel 6, today is the last day of precipitation for a while. It'll be back in the 40's and sunny for the rest of the week and into next week, including tomorrow and New Year's Day.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Animated Adventure Tales

It was pouring rain when I got up this morning. It was a good morning to read holiday short stories in bed for a while. Today, I did some real-life Christmas tales from A Treasury of Christmas Stories. There were some interesting ones, too, including how a gift of orange blossoms to millionaire Henry Flager contributed to the creation Miami, Florida and the inspirations for the first teddy bears.

After I got out of bed, I had breakfast, then made Banana-Coconut-Mini Chocolate Chip Muffins with the Alton Brown "Old School Muffins" recipe. Started with Hello Kitty Furry Tale Theater episodes spoofing movies, including then-recent action and sci-fi parodies. Kitty is "K.T: The Kitty Terrestrial" when she's accidentally stranded on Earth. She and the others try to phone home while being pursued by scientists Catnip and Grinder. "Cat Wars" takes Princess Hello Kitty and Sam Skypenguin to a galaxy really far away. Darth Catnip has taken over the Princess' planet! It may take all of the powers of the fur for Sam to defeat her. "Jaws: The Great White Dog Shark" (Grinder) is wrecking havoc at Catalina Island. Sam, Kitty, and Professor Chip want to find out why he's suddenly gone bad.

Switched to The Backyardigans while I cleaned up and got ready to work. Uniqua, Pablo, and Austin go on a "Mission to Mars" to find out what that "boinga boinga" sound is. Tyrone and Tasha work Mission Control. The trio and their robot vehicle Rover drive deep into the heart of Mars...and make some surprising (and very cute) discoveries.

Work was a pain. I was tired, and not up to dealing with people. At least two people had items with the wrong prices on them. I figured they just had expired tags, but they got them for free, anyway. And I messed up the money I gave another woman. We weren't even that busy, off-and-on steady, really. The rain was long gone by the time I was at work, but it was still gloomy and gray and no day to be running around. Thankfully, my relief was on time, and I was able to get out fast.

There was a package waiting for me when I got home. I ordered two "Special Edition" Ever After High dolls on Christmas Day from Amazon as gifts to myself. I really wanted these two. Ever After High's had so many villains who didn't want to be bad, it was refreshing to have dolls representing characters who were genuine old-fashioned baddies. Courtley Jester was the jealous daughter of the Joker card who wanted to rule Wonderland. Mira Shards is listed as "Teenage Evil Queen." I can't say who she is without spoiling a lot for the next big special, Dragon Games...other than she wants Raven to play up her evil side.

I'm a little disappointed that Courtley's jester tights are painted on, and Mira has no tights at all. Other than that, they're both beautiful. I love how Courtley's colorful makeup makes her smile look a lot more nasty than Kitty Cheshire's. Mira has gorgeous hair in the most amazing shade of dark coral and a very, very detailed outfit, including the earrings and necklaces that have been eliminated from many dolls of late. Mira is currently hanging out with C.A Cupid; Courtley is with the other Wonderland girls.

I did a little bit of writing after I set up the dolls. While Alan uses a slingshot to hit a lever and stop the conveyor belt, Lisa unties Scott and gets him free. Barnaby, however, has already taken off with Betty. There's only one way to get to the Christmas Festival quickly...and that's the toy soldiers.

Did more Backyardigans as I ate chicken-vegetable soup with the last of the Christmas Day leftovers for dinner. "Samurai Pie," a spoof of Japanese samurai movies and Spaghetti westerns, is one of the most unique episodes they did. Tyrone is a master samurai pie maker. Austin is his eager apprentice. Picky Empress Tasha orders them to make the Great Pie. Tyrone sets Austin to the task...if they can get it past pie-snitching ninjas Uniqua and Pablo first!

Monday, December 28, 2015

Christmas In Philadelphia

It was sunny, windy, and cold for the first time in ages when I headed out this morning. I wanted to make my annual post-Christmas shopping trip. Stopped at the PNC Bank in Collingswood first to deposit the 300 dollars from Dad and Jodie. It was about 10:30. I must have gotten there between crowds. They were quiet, and there was no line, although there did seem to be a small one in the drive-through. I was in and out in minutes.

The clouds were returning when I picked up a fairly full train to Philadelphia. I thought of hitting the malls, but I really wanted to take a look at the big FYE on Broad Street, and I was already in Collingswood. There were a lot of families and college kids on the train. I guess they wanted to take in all the holiday displays downtown.

After getting a little turned around on 13th Street, I finally made my way to the Avenue of the Arts and FYE. Unlike the train, they were pretty quiet. I wandered around for an hour, browsing. I went strictly with DVDs this time. I didn't get any movies for Christmas, and I'll be checking out a local record store with Jessa and Joe on Saturday. FYE is still doing the buy one used, get one for a dollar deal. All the talk about Star Wars has put me in a fantasy/sci fi/action adventure mood. I ended up with two childhood favorites, the 1987 fantasy Willow and the delightfully goofy 1993 version of The Three Musketeers, the 1960 musical Can Can, and one of the few 50's and 60's sci-fi movies I really have any interest in, Forbidden Planet.

Doubled back to a pizza parlor on 13th Street for a simple lunch. It was past 1 when I finally made it down there, and Mama Angelina's was very busy. I was finally able to sit down with my slice of plain cheese, slice of white broccoli, and small Diet Pepsi. Yum. I love their pizza. They have the softest crust you ever tasted. So moist and chewy.

My next stop was Macy's. That...was not a good idea. They were mobbed to all get out. I could barely move around. Actually, I was mainly there to use the bathroom. There were people using the ones in Starbucks. I ended up hiking all the way to the third floor, and then I had to use the hard-to-find one in the back because the one for families had a line.

Most people were probably there to show their kids the Dickens Village or the famous Light Show in the main room. I walked around until the show was ready to begin. I couldn't find a place to watch it. The lines were three and four deep! I ended up jammed against a rack of baby pajamas. I still had a good enough view of the show...and the amazed looks on the faces of the tiny children on their parents' shoulders. They oohed and ahhed as clocks tick-tocked, ballerinas pirouetted, snowmen danced, snowflakes fell, cute bear trumpeters tooted their horns, and Santa rode across the display on his train.

Here's a video of the show from last year:

The Macy's Light Show

After the show, I decided that whatever clothes I had in mind could wait. It was just too busy in Macy's to attempt shopping. I went downstairs to Starbucks...but the line was long there, too. I went out to 13th Street and Chestnut, trying to find a less-busy coffee shop. Not only did I not have much luck, but it was starting to rain lightly. I returned to Starbucks. Thankfully, the walk wasn't entirely worthless. The line was much shorter. I had a very spicy Chai Latte and a very tasty Cranberry Bliss Bar, and even managed to get a seat.

I walked down 13th Street to the PATCO station on Locust and, after a brief look at a toy store and kids' activity center, took a half-full train home. My legs were tired from all the standing at Macy's, and the weather wasn't conductive to more wandering around. By that time, the rain had stopped. It was just cloudy and windy when I got back in.

Spent the rest of the evening writing. The kids, Mackie, and Maple find the toys on a conveyor belt, about to be sent into the garbage incinerator. Scott is bound on the conveyor belt as well. Barnaby is using him as a bargaining chip to get Betty to marry him. Maple, Mackie, and the kids won't let that happen!

Around 6 PM, I broke to make a simple but tasty dinner of chicken breasts rubbed with lemon juice and spices, spinach, mushroom, and onions sauteed in olive oil and lemon juice, and leftover sausage stuffing and Cranberry Flummery. It came out very well, especially the chicken breasts. They were so juicy!

Ran Forbidden Planet while I ate. It's the far future, and a group of officers (lead by a young Leslie Nielson) have landed on the moon Altair IV to seek out a colony that had once existed there. When they land, all they find of the colony are scholar Dr. Morbius (Walter Pidgeon), his lovely daughter Altara (Anne Francis), and their loyal servant, Robby the Robot. Dr. Morbius has been studying the technology left behind by the previous inhabitants of the moon. It seems they found a way to use their minds to control the planet and enlarge their brain capacity. Trouble is, when ordinary men use it, it can overwhelm or even kill them...or control them. As Altara becomes more and more involved with the crew, they discover that there's a huge beast out there that wants to do them all in, and it comes from the least-likely place...

Straight-up sci-fi isn't normally my thing, but I really loved this. For one thing, it's based after my favorite Shakespearean play, The Tempest. Morbius is Prospero, Altara is Miranda, the Commander is Ferdinand, Robby is Ariel, and the monster is Caliban. While some of the backdrops look a bit fakey, most of the other special effects, especially the alien races' technology that covers the entire planet beneath the surface. The monster effects were neat. I like how they slowly played up the monster...and the animation used during his brief appearance.

I did find a lot of the talk about the alien technology itself confusing, and the treatment of Altara, who tends to distract the men quite a bit in her short outfits, is a bit dated. Otherwise, this is one of the most beloved sci-fi films of all time, and worth seeing even if you're not a big fan of the genre.

Finished the night with a nice, quiet bath while listening to Vaughn Monroe. I desperately needed it. My legs were so sore after spending a lot of the day walking and standing. It started to rain sometime after dinner, giving me my bath a nice, soothing backdrop.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Quiet Sunday

I way overslept this morning. I barely had enough time for a short story from the anthology Tales of Christmas Near and Far set in French Canada and eating breakfast. I had leftovers from Christmas night for breakfast. I was in too much of a hurry for pancakes! Even changing and packing lunch as fast as I could, I was still late getting out.

Work...actually could have been a lot worse. It was off and on busy. There would be long lines for a minute or two, then they'd just disappear. The weather and it being between holidays probably helped. It was misting and foggy when I rode to work this morning. The fact that the Eagles played (badly) Saturday night may have contributed as well. There were no major problems, and my relief was early. It was cloudy, windy, and a bit cooler when I headed home.

(I did get to watch some football this afternoon. Someone had the Steelers-Ravens game on in the back during my break. I saw it early in the game, so early, there was no score. When I came back later after work, the Ravens were still slightly ahead. They kept that lead and went on to win 20-17.)

When I got home, I changed, got organized, packed up my laundry, and headed to the laundromat. I'm hoping to go on my post-Christmas shopping trip into Philly tomorrow. I figured I might as well get the last load of the year done now. Thankfully, it wasn't a big load. It was really busy when I arrived...but only the driers were used. I had no problems getting a washer. By the time I was done, it was down to one family and one more person, and the driers were mostly open. I worked on story ideas and half-listened to an end-of-the-year news wrap-up on ABC.

After I put everything away, I went right into making dinner. Since I had dinner for breakfast, I opted to make the pancakes I didn't have the time for this morning. The Banana-Mini-Chocolate-Chip Pancakes weren't bad, but I think I did make them a bit thick. They took forever to cook. 

Listened to two 80's soundtracks while I ate. I'm not a big fan of the movie Dirty Dancing. It's overheated melodrama. The soundtrack, however, is an interesting mix of a couple of authentic numbers from the early 60's (including "Stay" and "Love Is Strange"), one remake of an authentic number from the early 60's ("You Don't Own Me"), and new songs written directly for the film that sound amazingly 80's. Some of those songs are damn good. There's a reason both soundtracks for this film were best-sellers and the ballad "I Had the Time of My Life" won an Oscar. My favorite numbers written for the film are the jubilant "Yes" and the touching ballad "She's Like the Wind."

Xanadu didn't do nearly as well as Dirty Dancing when it came out in 1980. In fact, the movie was a rather big flop, and with good reason - it's a campy, if cute, mess. The soundtrack's a lot of fun, though. My favorites of Olivia Newton-John's solo numbers are the lovely ballad "Suspended In Time" and her charming duet with Gene Kelly, "Whenever You're Away From Me." The ballad "Don't Walk Away" and rollicking dance number "All Over the World" are the Electric Light Orchestra's best songs. 

Saturday, December 26, 2015

A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes

Actually, I pretty much started off today with work. Despite it being cloudy and cold, we were surprisingly busy for the day after Christmas. As one manager pointed out, it's usually a lot quieter. We were getting early beginning of the month people, too - maybe because the beginning of the month is on a weekend? Anyway, there were no major problems, and it did slow down enough for me to shut down without a relief.

Very mixed feelings on my schedule. On one hand, not only do I have New Year's Day off, but Monday and the day after New Year's as well. I'll be able to make a quick shopping trip on Monday and hit the record store and see The Force Awakens with Joe and Jessa next Saturday, not to mention see the Mummers' Parade. On the other hand, that only leaves me with 20 hours this week. I have the feeling that's going to be a mistake. If the weather's going to stay bad (and get colder), we'll be having a lot of people coming out just because they can't do anything else.

Having spent a lot of the week eating at work and at other people's houses, I didn't have a huge grocery trip this week. I took advantage of a 50% off on Purdue sale to pick up drumsticks, chicken breasts, and ground chicken. Grabbed a ham steak for New Year's Eve, too. Restocked peanut butter, apples, grapefruit, cereal (the Acme's generic brand is still on sale - went with Shredded Wheat), and tape. Bought another Star Wars bag to carry it all home in. This one has the original hero group from A New Hope - Leia (in an unusually lower-cut version of her dress), Luke, Han, Chewie, and the droids.

When I got home, I worked on writing for a little bit, then put on the animated Disney Cinderella. It's a fairly straightforward retelling of one of my very favorite fairy tales. A young lady receives help both animal and magical to get to a ball and win the hand of the prince. Other than the prince himself is a bore, I've always loved this one. I like that Cinderella isn't above being a little snarky when her stepfamily isn't around. The mice are hilarious, especially trying to get breakfast and pick up the beads and sash. The stepmother is wonderfully wicked, one of Disney's best female villains along with Maleficent and Cruella DiVil.

And...darn it! The Eagles are done for the season. They couldn't get anything going against the Washington Redskins and lost 38-24.

Friday, December 25, 2015

A Very Merry Christmas

I began my Christmas with a phone call. It was from Mom, wishing me the best of the day. We had a nice long chat. I told her about the party the night before and the pair of boots I'd picked on Amazon (another pair of Bearclaw winter boots like the old ones - I miss them). She told me about spending the night before with Anny and Dad and J.J and the kids. We talked about Christmases past, and I told her how much better I've felt this year than last year.

After I read some stories and sung some carols from Collier's Book of Holidays, I went into the living area to unwrap presents from Linda and James Young. The "stocking stuffer" was a metal Three Stooges sign. The big one was a book on Thanksgiving and Roller Skates, about a little girl in 1890's New York who spends a year exploring the city on her skates.

But by far my favorite title Linda and James gave me was Strippers, Showgirls, and Sharks, on musicals that lost the Best Musical Tony, despite being as beloved as Gypsy or as popular as Wicked. I've almost bought that one from Barnes & Noble a hundred times, but I either didn't have the money, or I would see something else I wanted even more. They couldn't have made a better choice.

Headed out to Dad's house for their brunch around quarter of 11. It was still pretty decent out at that point, despite it still being incredibly humid and warm for late December. Jodie made her famous French Toast Casserole and toasted English muffins. A friend had made Egg and Bacon Muffins, scrambled eggs wrapped with bacon and cooked in a muffin tin at a party the week before, and Jodie had decided to try them herself. They were delicious, just salty-cheesy enough. There was a fruit tray and a tree-shaped fruit tart Rose brought, along with leftover cupcakes and cake pops and cookies and pumpkin mousse pie from the day before. Dad had the A Christmas Story marathon on PBS running all morning.

After Rose and her boys, Jessa and Joe, and Dana and Jesse arrived, we all opened gifts. Dad and Jodie gave me 300 dollars. Rose and her gentlemen gave me a CVS gift card. I got an adorable mini stuffed Fozzie Bear and a green bear angel Beanie Baby named Gift (to go with my white sparkly one named Herald) from Jess and Joe. Dana and Jesse gave me a small but elegant box of gourmet Belgian truffles.

But Rose and Craig and Dana and Jesse got the best - and certainly the largest - gifts of all. After all the other presents were opened, Dad and Jodie lead us to the garage, where we found two huge white boxes topped with red and white tinsel garland and bows. They were new mobile dishwashers for Dana and Jesse's recently-remodeled apartment and the house Rose and Craig are still trying to furnish.

Jessa and Joe invited me to go to a record store with them and see The Force Awakens sometime next week. We'll see when I work next week. I do want to get to one of the malls. I might be able to tie that in.

The neighbors arrived later with more gifts. Chloe, so cute in her new Queen Elsa outfit, played Scrabble Junior with Khai while the rest of us helped Rose and Craig get their dishwasher into the car and Dana and Jesse get theirs into their place. (I also got to see a little of their tiny apartment.)

I finally headed out a little after 1, shortly before Rose and her crew did. I thought I'd see if CVS was open and use that gift card. They were open, but I never saw anything I really wanted or needed, and I was too full for a treat. I just headed home.

Spent the rest of the afternoon messing around online and working on my story. The kids have escaped Barnaby and his men. Mr. Eldridge simply disappeared. They trick the trolls chasing them into the garbage chute, then go to the basement to free the others.

It started pouring somewhere around 4 PM. It was still raining hard when my cousin Mark picked me up to go to dinner at 6:30. It was just me, Mark, Vanessa, and Vanessa's 20-something daughter Brittany. That was fine. There was plenty of sausage stuffing, macaroni and cheese, turkey breast, collard greens, mashed potatoes, and sweet pop-can biscuits to go around. We had a Marie Callendar pumpkin pie afterwards that wasn't bad. I had everything but the mashed potatoes (I'm not a fan of white potatoes). I especially loved Brittany's extra-cheesy macaroni and cheese. There were so many leftovers, I took a big container-full home.

When I got home, I finished out the night with The House Without a Christmas Tree. This one has a lot in common with A Christmas Story - a kid in the Midwest in the 40's just wants one special gift for the holidays. Here, the kid is a girl, Addie Mills (Lisa Lucas), who lives with her sweet but eccentric grandmother (Mildred Natwick) and her taciturn father (Jason Robards). Addie's father has never had a Christmas tree. It reminds him too much of his late does Addie, which is why the two often don't see eye to eye. When Addie wins a tree at school, it causes an explosion between her and her father. It's Grandma who finally reminds the two that charity begins at home...and it's never too late for a heart to start to heal.

And...yeah, I had a far more enjoyable Christmas this year than I did last year. It's not presents or weather that make a holiday. It's doing things you love with the people you love...and being able to do what you enjoy again. I hope all of you had holidays that were just as much fun!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Ho-Ho-Ho Holiday Fun

It was gloomy, raining, and way too warm when I got up this morning. I started my Christmas Eve by finishing this year's reading of A Christmas Carol. Since the last chapter of Christmas Carol is pretty short, I tossed in two American Girl stories that showed how difficult the holidays were in the mid-20th century.

Kit's Surprise takes us to Cincinatti in 1932. Kit Kittredge is not having the most fun Christmas. Her father is out of work, she just had an argument with her best friend Ruthie about her picking up the tab for their annual post-Christmas outing, and she's stuck working for nickels for her grouchy Uncle Hendrick. But when she lets her imagination roam and creates a special gift for Ruthie, she discovers just how powerful fantasy can be.

Molly McEntyre's holidays aren't going much better in Molly's Surprise, set in 1944 during the tail end of World War II. Her dad is overseas, and she's missing him more than ever. Her older sister Jill keeps telling her this Christmas is going to be "realistic," owing to the war. Molly wants the same kind of wonderful surprises her dad used to bring to the holidays. She and Jill learn that everyone in the McEntyre family is good at making surprises...and that Christmas miracles can come in the most unusual ways.

I got up early enough to enjoy some movies and cartoons during breakfast and before I went to work. Mickey's Once Upon a Christmas is an anthology of three festive tales featuring the Disney gang. My favorite is "Donald Duck: Stuck on Christmas." Huey, Dewey, and Louie wish it was Christmas everyday...and then regret it when they get stuck constantly repeating Christmas Day. After one day goes especially bad for their uncle, they finally discover the importance of family. Goofy's son Max has questions about the existence of Santa in "A Max and Goofy Christmas." Goofy becomes determined to show Max that Santa - and Christmas spirit - is real. Mickey and Minnie do their version of one of the most famous Christmas short stories in "Minnie and Mickey's Gift of the Magi." The two mice give up the things that mean the most of them to buy gifts for each other.

As the showers continued off and on, I decided to combat the gloom with some wonderful memories. I went in the back room and pulled out my Christmas photo books. I have pictures going back as far as my middle high school years, when Keefe was about 3. (One photo shows him as a toddler with a pacifier.) There were photos of Christmas Day parties with Rose's pals, of Anny getting that Lite Brite she wanted when she was sixteen (I never saw her happier), of Mom and Dad usually looking very groggy at 6 AM on a morning when everyone was otherwise off from everything.

Switched to Happy Days' first holiday episode as I got ready for work. "Guess Who's Coming to Christmas?" Fonzie, who keeps claiming he has a party to go to on Christmas Eve. Richie thinks otherwise. He convinces Fonzie to join his family's Christmas Eve celebration, despite Mr. Cunningham's continued insistence that the night be fore family only.

It was raining a little bit when I went to work, but not heavily. I was only slightly damp when I arrived. I'm glad I wasn't late this time. Needless to say, we were crazy for most of the morning and early afternoon, especially in the self-checkout lane. Jodie came through my line not long before my break. Yes, she and Dad were having their annual Christmas Eve party, and yes, I was invited. I'd rest at home, then go there. Work did slow down a bit after about 2:30 as more people started to head to their Christmas Eve events and get-togethers. I was fueled by sugar. They had lots of snacks in the back room - madelines, mini-brownies, mini-cupcakes, pastries, pumpkin and apple pie, those yummy soft sandwich cookies I love, and someone brought in a cookie tray.

When I got home, I ran Winnie the Pooh and Christmas Too while changing and getting my gifts to give tonight together. When Pooh forgets to put what he wants on the Hundred Acre Woods' crew's letter to Santa, they retrieve it...but find they can't send it again. Pooh first tries to play Santa for his friends, then becomes determined to deliver the letter himself.

I found a little gift on one of the plastic chairs on my porch when I got in. My landlords Miss Willa and Richard gave me a very nice ceramic cup with a beautiful hand-painted Christmas tree, a mini container of Red Velvet Cake anti-bacterial hand gel, and a bag of home-made peppermint bark.

Headed to Dad's around 5. Although it was just Dad, Rose, Craig, Jodie, and Khai when I arrived, other people gradually turned up throughout the night. There was plenty of food along with my cupcakes and pumpkin mousse pie. Rose contributed a cookie tray, including tasty Cream Cheese Sugar Cookies and her heavenly Cherry-White Chocolate Cookies. There were baked ziti (I ate so much of that), Caesar salad, hot sausage, meatballs, very moist and flavorful turkey, a ham, macaroni salad, and rolls. Appetizers included shrimp, brie with blueberry sauce, and a pepperoni and cheese tray.

Khai and the neighborhood kids had a ball with the old-fashioned train set Dad had set up around the tree in the living room. They loved watching it go around and around, sometimes dropping plastic "cargo" pieces into the beds. The parents and I enjoyed Nickelodeon's Ho-Ho Holiday Special, which apparently Khai adores to the point where he's watched it five times. Goofy, punny random skits and musical numbers are whittled between a funny story that has some of Nickelodeon's current stars attending a big Christmas party at a huge house...and then being trapped there by a mystery person who doesn't want them to leave this party.

Considering I know nothing about Nick's current live-action offerings, I got a big kick out of it. No wonder Khai likes it. The kids are funny, the story is hilarious, and some of the skits are really cute. Check out the game show spoof and the number with the rapping "grandmothers."

The adults switched to Snoopy Come Home on Demand after they couldn't find any holiday specials on the networks. (It was 6:30. Most of the networks were still running news shows; most cable channels were in re-runs or showing holiday movies for adults.) I haven't seen the second Peanuts movie in a long time, and evidently a lot of the adults hadn't, either, from the delighted exclamation of fond memories of watching this on VHS. Charlie Brown is shocked when Snoopy up and leaves to visit his former owner in the hospital. This leads to a problem when Snoopy is torn between his two owners...but the strict no dogs rules that drive Snoopy crazy throughout the movie ends up working to his advantage...

Headed out around 7:30. It was a little foggy, but still very warm, probably in the lower-70's, upper 60's. I rode around Oaklyn, near Dad's house and the Oaklyn Library, looking at lights. I love all the colorful displays. The rainbow ones are my favorites, but those new sparkling floodlights are really pretty, too.

I went online in the living room as soon as I got in. I finished out The Monkees' holiday episode as I got organized. The groovy 60's rockers did their only Christmas show in the second season, just as the show was starting to get a little stranger. The boys think they're going to be play for a rich woman's party, but they end up babysitting her stuck-up nephew (played by The Munsters' Butch Patrick). They do everything they can to show the kid some Christmas spirit, but he's not impressed...until Mike Nesmith figures out what he really wants.

Did The Bishop's Wife next. David Niven plays the bishop, who desperately wants funds to build an elaborate new cathedral. He's neglecting his old parish and selling out to the rich, crotchety old woman (Gladys Cooper) who wants the cathedral to be a monument to her late husband. He's also neglecting his beautiful wife Julia (Loretta Young), their daughter Debbie, and their friends, including the eccentric Professor (Monty Wooley). His call for divine intervention brings in Dudley (Cary Grant), an impossibly handsome and suave guardian angel. He's supposed to be helping the bishop figure out what he wants...but what he's really doing is falling for Julia.

One of the three big Christmas movies released in 1946-1947, it wasn't successful at the time despite the wonderful cast. Too bad - this is a very sweet movie, with fine performances from the lead and a lovely final speech involving an empty stocking.

Remember WENN's Christmas episode also came out during its second season. In the show's only hour-long episode "Christmas In the Airwaves", the staff of radio station WENN is looking forward to a fun and festive Christmas 1940. Their plans are sent off the rails when the station's grieving owner and her nasty, miserly financier arrive. Their owner lost her husband the Christmas before, and she doesn't want to be reminded of anything about the holiday...including programming at WENN. The financier just wants the station to shut down. The cast tries to figure out how to get their holiday shows around the miserly accountant and prove to their owner that life and holidays go on.

I'm finishing the night with A Charlie Brown Christmas and It's Christmastime Again, Charlie Brown. I'll do a few more animated shorts after this, then end my Christmas Eve with music and chatting with Lauren.

From all of us to all of you, I hope you have the merriest of Christmases and the very happiest of holiday seasons!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Is There a Santa Claus?

It was just showering and gloomy when I got up and had breakfast. Ran A Pink Christmas while I ate. In this tale based after the O. Henry story The Cop and the Anthem, a homeless Pink can't catch a break in Victorian New York. He tries to be a department store Santa, but a child isn't happy when he gets hungry and eats her donut and he's chased out. He tries to shovel snow, but he gets into trouble with a boy and his snowman's carrot. He even tries to get in jail, but he inadvertently helps a cop catch a robber instead. When he finally finds food, a dog wants half. Not only does he learn that giving is its own reward, but he and his new puppy friend get a nice surprise.

After breakfast, I made the Pumpkin Mousse Pie. I didn't realize I was almost out of milk. I added the Cool Whip to the pumpkin and mousse mix, instead of right on top. I doubt it tastes any worse. I didn't try it. I won't until tomorrow, when I bring it to Dad and Jodie's Christmas Eve party.

I pretty much spent the rest of the morning writing. The gypsies take the entire group back to Toyland. Floretta and Lisa have a talk about make-believe and Lisa not feeling like a child. They drop them off at the toy factory, but that probably wasn't a smart move. Turns out Barnaby has captured C.J and Mr. Eldridge and taken over the factory, with help from the hairy, nasty trolls from the Forest of No Return. Though they do get the other adults, Mr. Eldridge and the children are able to escape, Mr. Eldridge by simply disappearing.

Put on Miracle on 34th Street while I ate chicken-vegetable soup and cranberry flummery for lunch. A kindly old man recruited by Doris Walker, a harried single mom (Maureen O'Hara), to be in the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade and play Macy's Santa insists that he's the real Santa Claus. This frightens and upsets Doris. She has raised her daughter Susie (Natalie Wood) to not believe in fairy tales of any kind after her own divorce. Santa gets help from the good-natured lawyer across the hall (John Payne) to change their minds. When Santa is put on trial for lunacy, the lawyer has to prove to jaded New Yorkers - and Susie and Doris - that there's a little magic in everyone's hearts at Christmas.

One of three beloved holiday movies that came out in 1946-1947, and the most successful at the time. Edmund Gwen won an Oscar as Santa, and I believe it received an adapted screenplay nod as well. There were three remakes, two for TV in the 50's and 70's, one released theatrically in 1994, that I haven't seen. Really, most people should be fine with the original.

It wasn't raining hard when I left for work, but it picked up on my way...and of course, stopped as soon as I arrived. It didn't help that I left later than planned, too. I was almost late. Not a good thing. We were very busy for most of the afternoon, with long lines. People were starting to come out of the malls and start making Christmas dinner and baking cookies.

There was a very scary incident around 5 PM when an older woman just suddenly collapsed. She hadn't slipped on anything. I looked - there was nothing on the floor. Her daughter had said she'd collapsed in a similar manner at a party a few weeks before. Thankfully, we're next-door to a police station, and there's a special care hospital office right in the Acme. We were able to get her in an ambulance in less than 15 minutes, though she kept protesting she was fine. She didn't look fine to me. She looked haggard and pale. I don't know why she was even in the store. Her daughter should have found someone at home to look after her.

Thankfully, it slowed down enough by 7 that I was able to shut down quickly without a relief. I grabbed a quart of skim milk really fast and hurried out. By that point, it was showering again, but not heavily. I managed to get home only slightly damp.

When I got in, I went right into Ernest Saves Christmas as I got the remaining gifts organized for tomorrow. We move from chilly New York to sunny Orlando, Florida for another story of believing in Santa. Ernest P. Worrell (Jim Varney) loves Christmas and everything about it. He's eager to help when the real Santa turns up in his cab, hoping to convince a former local children's show host to be his replacement. Not everyone's as ready to believe in holiday magic as Ernest. A sleazy movie producer wants the children's show host to star in his bad Christmas horror movie. A pre-teen runaway cares only about herself. And Santa's reindeer are stuck in storage at the airport, under the care of a couple of none-too-bright airline workers who have no idea what they really are. It'll take a little lesson in the magic of Christmas - and a lot of slapstick - for Ernest to help Santa make his Christmas Eve deadline.

Ok, I'll admit, this is a long-time guilty pleasure of mine. My family watched it a lot when it turned up on cable in the late 80's and early 90's. I know not everyone goes for Ernest's brand of humor, but if you like slapstick or the other Ernest movies, you'll probably get a kick out of this one as well.

Oh, and...I'm now totally ready for Christmas. Everything is bagged, boxed, and tagged. Anything that doesn't need to be chilled until tomorrow is in either the Disney Christmas bag or Han and Chewie bag, waiting to be delivered. I had to do it tonight. I work early tomorrow and aren't planning on lingering for too long at home before I go to Dad's party.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Rain For Christmas

It was pouring when I got up this morning. I thought it was a good day for the quiet story and subdued colors of Emmett Otter's Jug Band Christmas. This Jim Henson special from the late 70's was one of the first they did with realistic animals. Emmett and his ma are poor residents in a small riverside town. They face a bare Christmas, until friends tell them about a talent show on Christmas Eve. They both sacrifice the items that give them their livelihoods to acquire what they need to enter the contest. Ma sings a folk ballad; Emmett joins the title jug band. The winner of the show turns out to be a surprise...and what happens when Ma and the boys bring their music together is even more so.

Made Cream Cheese Icing after breakfast. This was pretty much just cream cheese, I Can't Believe It's Not Butter, powdered sugar, and vanilla. I got the recipe out of that mini edition of Holiday Cake Decorating and Cookie Baking for Dummies Linda and James sent me a few years ago. I don't think I mixed it well enough. It was a bit lumpy. Otherwise, it seemed to spread well enough on the cupcakes.

That finishes out my holiday baking. The cupcakes will be split between Dad-Bruce and Charlie and his men. I'll deliver them tomorrow or Christmas Eve. I do need to make a Pumpkin Mousse Pie for Dad and Jodie's Christmas Eve party, but that requires no baking and can be made in ten minutes tomorrow or Tuesday morning.

Switched to I Want a Dog For Christmas, Charlie Brown as I got ready for work. One of the few hour-long Peanuts specials has less to do with Christmas and more with Lucy and Linus' little brother Re-Run badly wanting a pooch of his own. He keeps trying to invite Snoopy to play, but he doesn't always have the time. The kids finally invite Spike up from the desert...and Re-Run discovers just how hard it can be to take care of a pet.

The rain had been off and on all morning. It was just starting to pick up again when I left. And, of course, it stopped just in time for me to arrive at work wet.

Work wasn't bad when I got in, but it was busy the rest of the afternoon. People were finally starting to come out of the malls and think of their Christmas dinners and parties. There were a few annoying people who wouldn't help bag, otherwise, there were no major problems. My relief was right on time. Thankfully, the rain had ended by the time I headed home.

Did some writing when I got in. Scott, Floretta (Eugenia), and the kids arrive at the camp to find that the others - Maple, Gil, Betty, Jack (Jeff), Jill (Hilary), and Wee Mackie Winkie - have been captured by the other gypsies, who think they're spies for Barnaby. Scott, himself part-gypsy, explains otherwise. He and Betty also scold the kids for going off into the woods on their own.

I finished the night with turkey burgers and sauteed spinach and mushrooms while watching Christmas Eve On Sesame Street. The first Sesame Street holiday special has Big Bird upset because Oscar the Grouch told him if Santa couldn't find a way to come down those skinny New York chimneys, no one would get any presents! Big Bird, Kermit, Snuffy, and the kids try to figure out how he does it. Meanwhile, Bert and Ernie sell the things that mean the most to them, only to get a big surprise from Mr. Hooper. And Cookie Monster would love to write or call Santa and ask for cookies, but he keeps eating the writing utensils.

Monday, December 21, 2015

The First Day of Winter

It was still kind of sunny out when I got up this morning. I began the day with The Year Without a Santa Claus as I ate breakfast. Santa gets a cold and doesn't want to leave his bed. He doesn't think there's any Christmas spirit or goodwill left in the world. Mrs. Claus sends two elves and a reindeer down to the green American south to show him otherwise. What she didn't count on was the interference of the Heat Miser and the Snow Miser, who control the temperatures and are perpetually attacking one another!

Headed out to the laundromat after The Year Without a Santa Claus ended. It was busy, but not annoyingly so. I read The House Without a Christmas Tree and The Best Christmas Pageant Ever and half-listened to Rachel Ray and The View. Even with towels used to cool the cookies and put under the Molasses roll-outs to keep them from making a mess, I still didn't have a big load. I was in and out in less than an hour.

As soon as I got in, I put the clothes away, then went right back out. I wanted to volunteer at both libraries and run a few errands. Started with dropping the Cranberry Bread and the rent at the McHughs' house next-door. I always give them bread for helping me out throughout the year.

Next stop was the Oaklyn Library. They were having a visit from what looked like one of the special ed schools. While the kids enjoyed their books, I organized DVDs and took a look at the kids' section. Other than the class, there wasn't a lot going on there. I was in and out in a half-hour.

The other reason I left fast was I was hungry as heck. Time for lunch at Jalapeno's Grill, a few blocks down from the Oaklyn Library on the White Horse Pike. It was past 12:30, and they were very busy for them, with a family, several groups of college students and their parents, and a noisy group of kids from one of the local Catholic high schools. (I saw a bunch of kids in black watch plaid uniforms.) I treated myself to some tasty shrimp quesadillas. The Spanish rice and refried beans that came with it weren't nearly as good. They really should have had more help. They only had one waitress dealing with the lunch rush customers and the school kids. (Although, ironically, service was actually a bit faster than usual.)

Made a few very quick stops at Dollar Tree and Tuesday Morning after lunch. I was hoping to find more cookie and cake boxes. Nope. No luck with either. Dollar Tree just had bags; Tuesday Morning just had boxes. I moved on.

The Haddon Township Library wasn't much busier than the Oaklyn Library. I did the usual things. I shelved DVDs. Couldn't fit a couple of kids' S and D titles and adult S and N titles. Put away new releases and audio discs. They had Christmas treats in the back. I got to try chocolate-covered sandwich cookies. I really liked the white-chocolate-covered spice cookies...but the mint wasn't bad, either. I didn't take out any DVDs for the same reason as last week - I don't know if I'll be able to volunteer next week, and I have plenty of movies to watch at home.

Went home across Newton Lake Park. It was cloudy, windy, and a little chilly but not cold by this point. Despite the weather, I saw quite a few people out for a stroll, along with several flocks of ducks and Canadian geese poking around for a snack.

Got right into writing when I arrived home. The kids are looking for Scott in the forest when they're attacked by Living Trees. Scott appears and tries to rescue them, but they capture him, too. They pick them up and are about to feed them to the trolls when a plump gypsy woman named Floretta (Eugenia) arrives. She produces a match and sets it on fire...which frightens the Trees enough to release their prisoners. She leads the trio to her gypsy camp.

After I got off, I made the Red Velvet Cupcakes and threw together a Chicken Vegetable Soup from canned chicken and veggies I had in the fridge. Watched It's a Wonderful Life while I baked and cooked. George Bailey (James Stewart) has spent his whole life helping the small town he lives in via his family's loan business. When his uncle (Thomas Mitchell) loses a huge sum of money on Christmas Eve, he's in despair and is about to commit suicide when a sweet old man (Henry Travers) jumps first. He rescues him and discovers he's Clarence, his guardian angel who has watched him all his life. When he complains and wishes he'd never been born, Clarence grants him his wish...and he discovers just how big of an impact he's had on the town.

I love this movie and find it sweet and uplifting...except for the last 20 minutes, which scared me so much, I was 12 before I would watch it straight through. I know it's not everyone's cup of Christmas tea, especially if they don't agree with Frank Capra's pro-small town, pro-small business sentiments. If you can handle the sentiment and those dark 20 minutes, this is one of my favorite classic Christmas films.

Finished out the night with a short but much-needed bath. I listened to my New Age CD A Winter's Night in honor of the Winter Solstice and the first day of winter while reading Christmas books. Ahh. So warm and relaxing. I have no idea when I'll get another chance for a bath, but I'm glad I took one today.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Battle of the Birds

I was up so late last night, it was nearly 10 before I got moving, and quarter of 11 before I made breakfast! Thankfully, I didn't work until 1, so I did have the time for tasty meal of Coconut and Mini Chocolate Chip Pancakes and a couple of fun holiday-related records.

Though most people are familiar with Mickey's Christmas Carol through its animated version, it was actually a children's LP first. While the basic story is the same (and Alan Young is still Scrooge), there's some cast changes and a lot of different voices. Merlin from The Sword and the Stone is the Ghost of Christmas Past; the hag version of the evil queen from Snow White is the Ghost of Christmas Future. There's also several songs, making this a mini-musical. Most of them are forgettable filler, but "Money," for Scrooge and Mickey/Cratchit in the opening sequence, is quite catchy. I also sort of like Scrooge's "That's the Way That Christmas Ought To Be."

Did the soundtrack to A Charlie Brown Christmas next. I can't believe I put that one off for so long. It's a classic, especially if you're either a fan of jazz or the Peanuts. I'm especially fond of the lilting "Skating." Moved onto A Winter Solstice, a collection of New Age and soft jazz pieces, as I prepared to head to work.

While work was busier than yesterday, it still could have been much worse. I think people are just starting to come out of the malls. There was still plenty of food in the back room, too. I had a tuna salad hoagie and chunks of watermelon while watching the Giants-Carolina game. The Giants were down 28-7 when I was back there. They caught up in a hurry. They still lost, but just barely, 38-35. No one's beaten the Panthers yet.

I had a few quick things to pick up after work. I'm hoping this will be my last shopping expedition before Christmas. I'll be on my offline journal's last page tomorrow. I grabbed a composition book on sale to replace it. Picked up red velvet cake mix for the cupcakes for several people and orange juice for the cranberry bread for my neighbors. I'm almost out of deodorant, too. Lady Speed Stick was the only brand on a decent sale.

Went right into baking when I got home. I found a different recipe for Cranberry-Nut Bread in one of my bread cookbooks. It requires shortening, but since I seldom use shortening and this is going to someone else, anyway, I was willing to try it. At the very least, it came out pretty well. It cooked fine and smells amazing.

Ran one of my Great Sounds of Christmas LPs as I worked. My favorite of the entire series is from the early 60's, I believe. Dianh Carroll sings two lovely old hymns, "Lo, How A Rose Er Blooming" and "Some Children See Him." Maurice Chevalier does "Jolly Old St. Nicholas" and "Silent Night," the latter partially sung in his native French. Anna Maria Alberghetti performs a sprightly "Caroling, Caroling." Sammy Davis Jr. finishes the album with "It's Christmastime All Over the World."

Went into writing while the bread was in the oven. Mother Gloria Goose is too upset and frustrated to listen to the kids or Scott. Scott is finally taken away by Barnaby, his men, and the police and banished to the Forest of No Return. Meanwhile, a hungry Alan has snitched the lamb sausages that were supposed to be the evidence. Lisa scolds him...but he reveals that the sausages don't taste like lamb. Turns out that they're not. They're pork. Scott is innocent.

While the adults argue over what to do next, the kids get restless and decide to go after Scott themselves. Lisa's afraid of all the stories she's heard about the trolls and other monsters in the Forest of No Return, but Alan convinces her to do it for their new friends.

And I did listen to most of the Eagles-Cardinals game. The Eagles started well, but the started to make some pretty ugly mistakes in the second half. They finally lost 40-17.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

As Long As There's Christmas

I was delighted to awaken to a sunny, chilly day, probably in the 40's. It's supposed to get crazy-warm again by Christmas Eve, but for now, I decided to just enjoy the weather. Put on The Snowman during breakfast. This lovely British special from the early 80's tells the simple but touching story of a boy who creates a frosty friend on Christmas Eve and the fun they have, including visiting Father Christmas. This was originally a wordless picture book; the animation not only perfectly captures the book's art, but adds a gorgeous soundtrack, including "Walking In the Air."

Moved onto a couple of holiday animated shorts as I cleaned up from breakfast and made my grocery list. Sylvester thinks Tweety is "Gift Wrapped" just for him. Actually, he's Granny's Christmas gift. She spends her holidays trying to keep Sylvester away from Tweety and the new dog away from both.

Popeye takes Olive skating for the first time in his only Christmas short, "Seasons Greetinks." Olive ends up on thin ice when Bluto tries to show off for her, and she almost ends up going over a waterfall. "I-Ski-Love-Ski-You-Ski" is somewhat similar, only this time, Olive and Popeye are off on a skiing trip that Bluto disrupts.

Did a little bit of writing next. Mother Gloria Goose is brought in when lamb chops are found in Scott's office. Scott protests loudly that he had nothing to do with it. Betty's  not so sure. Neither is Mother Goose, who is too tired and too overwhelmed to listen to him or the kids. Not to mention, there's Barnaby making sure no one can see the evidence up close...

Did a few more shorts before heading out to work, this time concentrating on Disney. "Mickey's Orphans" was their first Oscar winner. Mickey and Minnie take in a group of rambunctious kittens abandoned on their doorstep on Christmas Eve. They may be cute, but they prove to be wilder than their house can handle! "Toy Tinkers" was also an Oscar-nominee. Chip and Dale invade Donald's house on Christmas Eve, looking for nuts. When Donald catches them in his holiday goodies, it turns into a literal war. "Chip & Dale" was the short that named the mischievous chipmunks. Donald chops down their home to put in his fire. They do whatever they can to get it back.

I went to work about a half-hour early to enjoy this year's Employee Christmas Luncheon. It's basically the same thing as the Thanksgiving Luncheon, only with red and green tablecloths. Just as much food, though. When I came in, there was already two platters of small hoagies, meatballs, barbecue shredded pork, Italian sausage. Buffalo chicken dip, turkey and stuffing, taco spaghetti (pasta with ground meat and taco seasoning), two cakes (chocolate and red velvet), a cheesecake, and snickerdoodles. I just had a turkey hoagie, the taco spaghetti (not bad - a little spicy but not horrible), and a little of the Buffalo chicken dip. (Whooa, that stuff was spicy! Steam-out-of-the-ears spicy.) When I got on break, they'd added cheesy hash browns, pasta salad, deviled eggs, macaroni and cheese, and a huge ham. I tried the eggs, pasta salad, hash browns (very cheesy and yummy!) and a little of the ham.

Work itself was surprisingly not bad. It was on-and-off busy all afternoon. I guess people were taking advantage of the chilly but nice day to finish out their baking or Christmas shopping. (Several people did mention they'd come from the malls, and they were mobbed.) There were once again a few problems with gift cards; otherwise, no really major trouble, and my relief was not only on time, she was early.

Which was a very good thing. I had a LOT of grocery shopping to do. First of all, I picked up salmon, sweet potatoes, and frozen green beans and almonds for my Christmas dinner. If I don't end up getting invited to someone's house or the other, I think I'll make green beans and almonds, poached salmon in lemon wine sauce, ambrosia, and sweet potato casserole. I also needed to stock up for this week's baking - vanilla mousse, Cool Whip, and a shortbread crust for Jodie's pumpkin mousse pie, cream cheese for the frosting for the red velvet cupcakes, and cranberries for bread for my neighbors. Needed to restock yogurt, I Can't Believe It's Not Butter, soup (Progresso's vegetable soups were on sale - went with vegetable and barley), grapefruit, apples, vegetables (went with spinach), bananas, and chocolate chips. (They had a mint-dark chocolate bag I wanted to try.) The Acme is currently selling bags based around characters from the original Star Wars trilogy; I couldn't resist one with my favorite characters (Han and Chewie) and another with my favorite movie (The Empire Strikes Back).

When I finally got home, I put my groceries away, then separated my cookie boxes and remaining gifts into two bags. The Disney crew holiday bag is for gifts to be given on or before Christmas Eve, mainly cookies and baked goods for neighbors. Han and Chewie guard the gifts to be given on Christmas Day and afterwards, the presents for my family and anyone who will be at Dad's house for breakfast on Christmas Day morning.

Had leftover soup for dinner while watching Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas. Set during the original movie, Belle discovers that the enchanted objects aren't allowed to celebrate Christmas, due to the Beast having lost his humanity then. She becomes determined to show him that Christmas is a time of love and giving to be shared by all. But a nasty organ (Tim Curry) would prefer everyone stay enchanted, so the Beast can continue to need his gloomy melodies. He sends a piccolo whom he's promised a solo to (Paul Reubens) to snitch on Belle's attempts to bring holiday cheer to the castle.

I know most people are down on the Disney sequels from the late 90's and early 2000's, but if you have a fan of the Disney princesses or Beauty and the Beast, this one isn't bad. There's some decent songs (including the oft-reprised "As Long As There's Christmas") and most of the animation (except for the awful CGI done on the organ) is lovely.

Friday, December 18, 2015

In a Christmas Galaxy Far, Far Away

Started a cloudy and cold morning with more Max & Ruby. "Ruby's Gingerbread House" will be spectacular, if she and Louise can apply enough icing to keep it together. Max just wants them to consider his gummy worms. Ruby's feeling a little blue after the holidays are over in "Max's Christmas Passed." Max finds a way to make her feel better. "Max's New Year" is spent playing games and sipping fizzy drinks with Grandma and Ruby. Max would rather just eat Grandma's clock-shaped cookies.

Did the first Laverne and Shirley Christmas episode while cleaning up from breakfast and making Carrot-Coconut Muffins. "Oh Hear the Angel Voices" from the second season has the girls joining Carmine and most of the main cast in a holiday variety show put on for the patients of a mental hospital. Shirley's scared to death. She's heard too many family stories about relatives who were put in mental facilities. Laverne's too busy flirting with patients to notice her worries.

Went right into Perfect Strangers as I put the muffins in the oven. They did two Christmas shows; I opted for the second season episode "A Christmas Story." Larry is devastated when a blizzard leaves him and Balki stranded in Chicago on Christmas Eve. Balki does everything he can to make his cousin forget his troubles. It takes a truly meaningful gift to remind Larry of what Christmas really means.

Worked on writing for an hour. Not only is Scott being accused of stealing Maple's sheep, but toys seem to have gone missing, too. Lisa knows she overheard Mr. Barnaby talking to someone the night before, but she can't get the adults' attention.

When I got off, I went through the boxes in the back room, looking for some to use to send out Mom and Anny's packages. As I got them together and had leftovers for lunch, I ran one of the two Moonlighting Christmas stories. "Twas the Episode Before Christmas" in the second season, and all through the Blue Moon Agency, we hear Maddie yelling at David over his newest brainstorm - the Santa hotline. Then their secretary Agnes DiPesto turns up with a baby she found in a laundry basket. While David and Maddie search for the mother, they argue over the idea of parenthood and babies and children.

I left for work early so I could get Mom and Anny's packages in the mail. I figured the line at the Audubon Post Office would be half-way around the corner. It wasn't at all. It was surprisingly quiet in there at 1:30. I got right in line with no waiting and sent my boxes off in about five minutes.

Work was very busy when I came in, off-and-on steady thereafter. Like the post office, it really could have been a lot worse. I guess everyone's either still at the malls or are spending the weekend baking cookies. I did have problems with my last customer, whose gift cards just would not work. I finally left her with my relief and rushed out as fast as I could.

Finally got my schedule after work. (They were late posting it. It wasn't up when I came in.) Actually, it's very good, the best I've had in weeks. I have Monday and Christmas Day off, and a perfectly normal 10 to 4 shift on Christmas Eve. This will give me the chance to get a lot of things done, including the remaining baking. There's a couple more hours than I have been getting.

There was a box waiting by the mail box for me when I got home. My Christmas presents from my best friend Lauren Miller and her parents had arrived! She always gives me fun stuff. This year, I got an Our Generation Retro white and purple floral dress and shiny purple shoes for Whitney (Our Generation is Target's 18 inch doll line - I love their Retro collection), a pile of American Girl books, including four hardback short stories, Happy Birthday, Addy!, and Changes for Felicity, and some much-needed soft headbands (the hard ones give me headaches, wearing them all day) from Lauren. Her parents gave me 20 dollars in a sweet card. Lauren said they loved my chocolate chip cookies so much, they've eaten all but a few.

Oh, and as a Star Wars fan, I must mention that I'm really excited by all the positive reviews I've seen for The Force Awakens. While I would love to see this in the theater, it's more likely I'll catch it the moment it hits DVD.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

A Foggy Holiday

I thought I had plenty of time this morning to do the last of the cookies after breakfast. The Cherry-Coconut Bars are another recipe from the Betty Crocker Cooky Book. They're really Lemon Bars with a filling made with coconut and maraschino cherries instead of lemon juice. They're extremely sweet, but maybe that's what people like. They're probably my second-most-requested cookie after the Merry Christmas Molasses Cookies.

Started National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation while I ate breakfast and did the bars. Clark Griswauld is looking forward to an old-fashioned holiday with all the family around him, a huge tree, lots of presents, and a big bonus from work. As usual in this series, what Clark imagines and what actually happens are two entirely different matters. The two sets of grandparents don't get along. His boss is a grouchy jerk, and that much-desired bonus is very late. The obnoxious yuppies next door think he's lost his marbles. The tree is so big, it doesn't really fit in his living room. About mid-way through the season, his slob cousin Eddie and his family show up unannounced and create even more chaos. The simmering insanity explodes on Christmas Eve...literally, at one point...with the addition of a senile uncle and aunt and the arrival of a bonus that isn't anything like Clark expected. In the end, he finally learns that while nobody's Christmas is perfect, that doesn't mean it can't be memorable.

Yeah, I've always had a soft spot for this one, if for no other reason than it reminded me of why my parents always insisted relatives visit on Christmas Day or the week after, not right before. Ok, so yeah, the jokes are slapsticky and scatological and the yuppies are annoyingly dated, but for all the squirrels in trees and hillbilly cousins, it's pretty realistic. A lot of people may be going through some of the same things as Clark, even as I write this. Tweens on up will have fun with this one as they get into their own Christmas vacations next week.

It had been raining on and off all morning. I hoped it would have stopped by the time I went to work. Unfortunately, I got a call around quarter after 11. I had written down noon on my schedule, but apparently, I was supposed to have been in at 11! I felt like a total and complete idiot. I didn't have the time to finish the movie or the cookies, or even call for a ride. I just changed, threw together a lunch, and rushed off in the rain. I deserved getting soaked for not writing my schedule down right.

At least it was quiet when I did finally arrive at 11:45. In fact, we were mildly steady all day. There were no really major problems. Not only was my relief on time, but it was so quiet by 5 PM, they didn't really need anyone to stay. I couldn't make up the lost 45 minutes.

At least it wasn't raining by the time I rode home. It was just damp and very, very foggy. It was thickest fog I'd seen in a while. I could barely see in front of my face riding home. Thank goodness for those Christmas lights making the streets a little brighter!

When I got home, I tried to unload the cookies, but they stuck too much. I put them back in the oven as I worked a little bit on writing. Scott's been accused of stealing Maple's sheep. The kids are sure he's innocent. Betty doesn't know what to think. Scott swears he hasn't done it...but he has stolen livestock before. Mr. Eldridge's befuddled attempts to stand up for Scott don't make him feel much better.

After the bars cooled a little, I loaded them into the boxes. They were still a little gooey, but I was tired of waiting. They're the last batch of cookies I do for Christmas, which means all the boxes of cookies I give away are now ready. I just need to do the cupcakes for Dad-Bruce and a few neighbors, the Cranberry Bread for the McHughs next door, and the Pumpkin Mousse Pie for Jodie and Dad-Bruce's Christmas Eve party.

I had a very quick dinner of leftover soup while finishing Christmas Vacation, then went into some episodes of Max & Ruby. "Ruby's Snowbunny" will be the biggest she's ever made, if she can distract her brother from sledding long enough to help her. "Ruby's Snowflake" is actually three cookies she wants to decorate to look exactly alike, but hungry Max and his toys don't make that easy! Max wants to play "Duck Duck Goose," but Ruby and her friends need to find winter birds for their merit badges. Max finally finds a way to help them and have some fun.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The Oaklyn Holiday Light Show

I once again went right into cookie-baking after breakfast. I started with the biscotti. This is a little different than the hard cookies many of you dunk into hot drinks. I roll mine into candy cane and wreath shapes and cover them in colored sugar, and I only bake them once. They're very buttery and rich, but quite tasty. (Though it's not called for in the recipe, I give them added flavor with a little real almond extract.) They came out beautifully, just brown enough on the sides, even though I could not find the pastry brush anywhere and had to dunk the tops in egg white instead.

Put on Christmas In Connecticut while I baked. In this 1944 romantic comedy, Elizabeth Lane (Barbara Stanwick) is a popular food and home columnist who writes about her farm and family in Connecticut. Trouble is, she's a city girl can't boil water. She gets all the recipes from her Hungarian friend who owns a restaurant Felix (S.K Sakall). When her boss (Sydney Greenstreet) invites a handsome soldier (Dennis Morgan) to Christmas at her farm, she ends up borrowing the homestead that belongs to a boring architect who wants to marry her. She's not particularly interested in him...especially after she discovers that the soldier is handsome and good-natured. After a lot of shenanigans involving switched babies, roaming cows, and local dances, she finally learns that honesty really is the best policy, especially when love is concerned. Cute tale with Greenstreet and Sakall especially good as the very different bosses.

Also did the short included with my DVD copy, the Oscar-winning 1941 short A Star In the East. J. Carrol Naish is Tony, the Italian owner of a hotel and cafe in the desert. He's feeling grouchy on Christmas Eve because his customers are all giving him trouble. He doesn't think there's any good left in people. It takes the arrival of a young Hispanic couple who are expecting and a wayfarer who insists otherwise to show Tony that there is good in the hearts of all at Christmas.

Tossed on a Scooby Doo, Where are You? winter-related episode as I cleaned up and got ready to go. "That's Snow Ghost" takes the Mystery Inc kids to a dilapidated ski resort near an old logging mill. There's a ghost that's been roaming around, terrorizing visitors. An old Asian man thinks he's the cause, but the kids find a far less fantastical reason for the ghost to want people out of the area.

Headed out as soon as I finished the dishes. It was cloudy and gray, but not rainy. The wind made it much cooler than it has been, though still not as cold as it should be at this time of the year.

It was around 12:30 when I finally hit Friendly's for lunch. I guess the weather scared people off. There were only a few older couples and parents with adult children enjoying lunch. I admired their cute bows and mini-stockings with the staff's names on them while eating the five-dollar Fried Chicken Wrap and fries  and the tasty and very minty Peppermint Stick Ice Cream with hot fudge sauce and a pile of whipped cream on top the size of a small mountain.

The Haddon Township Library was even quieter than Friendly's. There wasn't a whole lot for me to do. I mainly shelved audio books and CDs and the few DVDs. I actually got all the kids' titles in; only three adult titles didn't fit. I didn't take anything out. I don't know if I'll have the time next week to return anything, and I have plenty of holiday movies at home to watch anyway.

Thriftway was next on the list. I had to pick up some things I needed for baking. I'll be using the coconut and maraschino cherries tomorrow for the cherry-coconut bars. I used the last of the sugar on the biscotti. The eggs had gone up to $3.09, but I didn't feel like stopping at WaWa. They were dead, too. The only reason there were lines up front was they only had two registers open.

I was in by 2:30 and had begun to work on the Merry Christmas Molasses Cookies by quarter after 3. These are some of my most-requested cookies. The original Merry Christmas Cookies recipe in the Betty Crocker Cooky Book calls for honey and lemon flavoring. I prefer the variant that uses molasses, brown sugar, and spices - it's more like crisp gingerbread. They are cut-out cookies, though, and while I enjoy sprinkling them with colored sugar and rolling them out, they do take a while to make. That and the shortening in them that makes them very rich is why I only do them once a year.

(Oh, and I did find the pastry brush, after a half-hour's worth of searching. It was right in the drawer where it was supposed to be, hiding under a stack of icing bags.)

Ran An American Christmas Carol while the cookies were baking and as I had chicken soup for dinner. This TV movie from the late 70's has Henry Winkler in ten pounds of aging makeup as Benedict Slade, a miserly man who repossesses the treasures of half the New England town he lives in and fires his clerk on Christmas Eve. He finally learns a lesson in holiday charity from three ghosts who resemble the town's residents, with help from a radio that keeps playing the music of the past or the future. Ok version of A Christmas Carol; Winkler is better than you might think as the Scrooge character.

I decided I need to walk off all the cookies and crispy chicken and ice cream I ate today, so after dinner, I went for my annual walk around the neighborhood to look at the lights. The trend in lights this year is a floodlight that causes whatever it illuminates to resemble a field of beautiful multi-colored stars. I saw it at many homes tonight, including at least one down the street from me. I strolled down to the neighborhood behind Kendall Boulevard and the Oaklyn School. One house had nothing but elegant gold and white lights on its bushes and tree. Another had all-red lights. Still another wrapped the columns on its front walkway with a dazzling rainbow string. I didn't see as many cute inflatables this year as I have in previous years. One house did have two Peanuts-themed inflatables, one their Christmas pageant in a snow globe, the other Linus, Lucy, Chuck, and Snoopy by a tree. There was a really cute one with a shivering snowman popping out of an igloo at another house. (Though I can't imagine how he's been cold, given the warm weather lately!)

As I was walking, I realized it's been a while since I've really touched base with anyone in the family. I started by calling the Cape May side. I got Dad-Bill. He and Mom had just come back from Christmas shopping at the big box stores in Mays Landing, outside of Atlantic City. Dad said they were fine; Mom was upstairs wrapping presents.

Finished the night with a little bit of writing. Lisa falls asleep before she has a chance to warn Scott that Barnaby is up to something. She tells Alan about it the next morning. Before they have a chance to tell Scott, Barnaby and the cops show up with a warrant for his arrest for stealing Maple's sheep and toys from the toy factory.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Merry Cookies

The weather was now sunny and beautiful when I awoke. I began the beautiful day with breakfast, then started this year's Christmas baking. I make five kinds of cookies to give away to adults and groups as Christmas gifts - chocolate chip oatmeal, cake mix peanut butter, biscotti, molasses roll outs, and cherry coconut bars. I started with the chocolate chip. They're fairly easy and quick to make (though they do need to be chilled before baking), and they're my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe.

Ran the 1951 British version of A Christmas Carol while I worked. Alistair Sim's wonderfully nasty Scrooge is the highlight, along with a lengthier Christmas past sequence. The DVD also comes with the 1949 Dave Fleischer Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer cartoon. This is a tad simpler (and closer to the original Montgomery Ward book) than the Rankin-Bass special. Rudolph is a cutie who is made fun of by the other reindeer. Santa actually shows up at his house to deliver gifts, sees his nose, and asks him to help out.

I got the cookies out just in time to rush off to work. Work was quiet for most of the afternoon. I wish some of the customers were more pleasant. There were a lot of grouchy people today who complained or fussed or wouldn't help bag. At least one guy did help with an older lady's order. Thankfully, my relief was actually early, and I had no problems getting out despite leaving during the beginning of rush hour.

Went straight home and right back into cookie baking. I first found what's now known as Cake Mix Peanut Butter Cookies during Christmas 2012. This was right after the whole incident with my broken ankle and being out of work for two months. I was really broke and looking to cut a few corners. As you can guess from the current title, this requires a yellow cake mix as a base. The resulting cookies were so delicious, this is now my go-to peanut butter cookie recipe.

Put on Arthur Christmas while the cookies were in the oven and I was eating leftover Chicken-Tomato Soup for dinner. The current Santa has two sons who want to succeed him, ultra-efficient Steve and bumbling but kind-hearted Arthur. When one child's present is forgotten, Arthur is determined to make sure she gets it and keeps her faith in Santa. Grandsanta, the current Santa's father, tries to help...but his sleigh is a relic and he has no idea of where he's going. Helped by his grandfather and a present-wrapping elf, Arthur discovers just how important the magic of Christmas is, to every child. A sweet story with some wonderful animation (from the studio that created Wallace and Grommit and Shaun the Sheep) that really deserves to be better-known.

Finished the night with writing. Lisa convinces Betty to go talk to Scott outside in the shoe's garden. This leads to a romantic scene and a kiss, much to the delight of the other kids in the shoe. Later, Lisa can't sleep. The cots in their grandfather's room are very uncomfortable. While she's trying to get settled down, she overhears voices talking in the street...and they may have some terrible plans for Scott Piper...

Monday, December 14, 2015

Winter Was Too Warm

Started a cloudy, humid morning with breakfast and a couple of short holiday specials. The First Christmas Snow is an unusual religion-based Rankin-Bass special from the mid-70's. Angela Landsbury is the narrator of this melodramatic tale of a shepherd boy who is blinded in a lightning storm, then taken in by a group of nuns and a priest (Cyril Ritchard). The little boy dreams of the snow one of the nuns has told him about, but he's more worried that the well-meaning priest may send him to an orphanage.

Moved on to Ice Age: A Mammoth Christmas Special as I prepare to run errands. Manny gets upset when Sid the Sloth breaks his treasured Christmas rock and tells him he's on the naughty list. He then says to his daughter Peaches that there's no Santa at all. Determined to prove otherwise, Peaches and the comic possum critters Crash and Eddie head to the North Pole to find the real Santa.

Headed out to run errands around quarter after 11. My first stop of the day was the Oaklyn Post Office. It took me longer to get there than it did in line. For some reason, the city of Oaklyn had to pick the Christmas season to do road work in front of the post office. Thankfully, once I got in, the line was short, and I had no problems sending my out-of-state packages to Linda and James Young and Lauren Miller and her parents.

Went down to CVS next. Even as I did, the clouds were breaking apart, and a sunny, too-warm-for-December day was emerging, to my surprise. It was supposed to rain all day! CVS wasn't overly busy. It was suddenly too nice for shopping. I just bought a 9 volt battery for my smoke alarm and Dawn dishwashing detergent on sale.

The Oaklyn Library wasn't any busier. In fact, it was just me and two librarians. I actually got to organizing the kids' books for the first time in weeks. I also got to give a hug to the older librarian, who is retiring after tomorrow. I'll miss her. She was always so sweet.

I needed skim milk and it was past noon. Time for lunch. I went to WaWa - to my delight, their quart of skim milk dropped from $1.65 to $1.45. Picked up a Gobbler small hoagie and a Mint Cream Smoothie for lunch. It was so nice and sunny by 12:30, I ate them at the picnic benches on West Clinton, outside of Studio LuLoo and Phillies Phatties. The smoothie was very green and very, very minty; the Gobbler was a total mess (other than it seems to be using real turkey slices rather than deli meat now).

Went home...then went right back out again. I had laundry to do. The sun had vanished again by this time, and it was getting a wee bit colder. Maybe that's why the laundromat was so quiet. It was dead the entire time I was there. I worked on story notes and listened to cooking/talk shows on ABC in peace. It's probably just as well my load took less than an hour anyway.

After I got in and put everything away, I went right into writing. Mr. Eldridge and the kids let two of the toy soldiers carry Pruitt off. He vows to get revenge on them, especially Scott. Scott does get a smitten but not quite convinced Betty to go with him to the Christmas Festival the next day.

Mr. Eldridge agrees to let them stay with him, Betty, and Scott in the Shoe that's owned by Betty's mother, the Widow Gertie Blue. While Scott plays with Alan and the Widow's other children, Lisa asks Betty about her relationship with Scott. She says she likes him...she may even love him...but she's not sure she can trust him. He may be charming and handsome and smart and makes her melt, but he's also a former criminal who's been known to tell more than a few fibs.

Around 5:30, I went into taking this year's Christmas portraits of the American Girl dolls and various decorations. I had trouble uploading them to Photobucket. I'll mess around more with them tomorrow and see if I can fix them. I also discovered that somewhere around here, it had finally started raining. I went outside to take a shot of Molly, but the porch was wet, and it was showering.

I finally made simple buttermilk pancakes for dinner, along with broccoli and a slice of meatloaf. Ran White Christmas throughout the evening. Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye headline this smash hit 1954 musical. Two popular performers who are now producing a Broadway show falls in love with a sister act (Rosemary Clooney and Vera Ellen) and follow them to Vermont. They encounter their old army general, whose ski resort is suffering from a lack of cold weather. Musical numbers and misunderstandings follow as the men pursue the ladies and bring up their show to help the general regain his confidence. Slick and fun until the middle, which sags terribly thanks to the contrived romantic comedy cliches. Look for Bing singing the title number in the touching opening sequence set during World War II.

Finished a busy day with a nice, quiet bath. I read American Girl holiday stories while listening to one of my classical-based True Value Happy Holidays CDs. Kirsten's Surprise is her plan to kick off her pioneer family's holidays with St. Lucia Day, a favorite holiday in Sweden. She needs her father to get their trunks from the near-by town for her plan to work. When they're stranded in a blizzard, Kirsten discovers just how strong she can be.

Josefina's Surprise also revolves around popular regional traditions. Josefina isn't sure if she's looking forward to traditional New Mexican holiday events like Las Posadas. Her mother died the year before, and their Christmas wasn't much fun. When they discover that the altar cloth their mother embroidered was damaged in a flood, Josefina and her sisters learn how they can keep her memory alive.

Addy's Surprise takes us almost literally home, to Philadelphia in 1864. Addy dreams of buying her mother something nice for Christmas. She almost has enough money when her volunteer work helping newly freed slaves arriving from the south reminds her that freedom has a cost. Her Christmas turns out to be full of happy surprises...including the arrival of a member of her family.

(Oh, and the rain ended when I was in the bath. I don't think it's going now. It's supposed to knock down the temperatures - it'll be in the 40's by the weekend.)

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Looney Tunes Holidays

I slept far longer than I'd originally planned. I barely had the time to eat breakfast and listen to Christmas With the Looney Tunes. I found this cassette at the Wildwood CVS around 2003. The later voices of the Tunes characters perform both original numbers and goofy versions of classic holiday songs. Of the originals, Daffy's "All I Want For Christmas Is More, More, More" is my favorite - it's a riot, and very Daffy. "The Halle-Looney Chorus," a medley of traditional holiday songs, and Bugs and Taz's "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" are the funniest of the covers.

Work was very busy, far busier than it has been all week. It was so busy, my break was almost an hour late. Otherwise, there were no really major problems, and my relief was right on time.

It did clear out a bit later in the afternoon. While some of this may have been due to the increasingly cloudy and breezy weather, I suspect most of it was because of the Eagles game. I saw a little bit of the end of the first half in the back room during my break. Joined a couple of guys in the back for a little bit of the end. The Buffalo Bills lack the Patriots' sterling record, and are really closer to them statistics-wise. As it turned out, the most ballyhooed aspect of this game - the return of star LeShaun "Shady" McCoy to Philadelphia after being turned over to the Bills - wasn't that big of a deal. McCoy didn't make too many big plays. I saw the Eagles get one last field goal right before heading home. It was enough to let them win by the skin of their beaks, 23-20.

As soon as I got home, I went into writing. Scott and the kids let the toy soldiers and an airplane chase Pruitt Barnaby into the garbage chute. They think they've gotten rid of him, but he turns back up in the main work area, trying to ask Betty to the Christmas Festival. Scott, the kids, Mr. Eldridge, and two toy soldiers show up to cool off Barnaby's ardor. Barnaby asks Scott how he got his job when he was a known pig thief. Scott said he promised Victor Be Nimble, who was the original factory manager, that he'd reform.

Turned leftovers into Tomato-Chicken Soup for dinner while listening to more holiday Looney Tunes tales. Holi-Daze is a Peter Pan kids' LP with four stories on it. The title story tells how Bugs and Granny went to Holly, Arizona to avoid the snow and were mistaken for bank robbers by Sheriff Yosemite Sam. "'Twas a Sight Before Christmas" has Bugs interviewing several Toons in an attempt to prove to his nephew that Santa is real. "Bugs, the Red-Nosed Bunny" has Bugs taking Rudolph's place when he comes down with the flu. My favorite is the cute "Santa Claus-trophobia." Daffy and Bugs play psychiatrist and nurse for millionaire Elmer, who is upset because he thinks he's Santa. While Elmer flirts with nurse Daffy, Bugs comes up with a more positive use of Elmer's "affliction."

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Boxed In

Started the morning with breakfast and the Prep & Landing specials. This is Disney's take on how Santa still manages to deliver presents to millions of children every holiday season. Their answer - a high-tech covert operation of elves that makes sure every house is ready and waiting for Santa's arrival. In the first special, Prep & Landing, we meet Wayne, who has been working for the prep and landing department of the North Pole for literally hundreds of years. When he's passed over for a promotion, he gets upset and goofs around on the job...until it looks like a kid may not get toys because the house isn't ready.

Naughty & Nice takes us even further into how Santa makes use of 21st century technology. A kid manages to hack into Santa's naughty list. To stop her, Santa sends Wayne, his partner Larry, and to Wayne's annoyance, his coal-mining brother, who seems to do everything better than him. When the kid's dickering on the computer ends up turning the entire nice list into the naughty list, Wayne and his brother learn a lesson in working together to fix the problem. We also get two shorts, one with Wayne and Larry hunting down a gift for Santa in his office, and one with Tiny the office elf trying to fix coffee.

I packed the boxes with Linda and James' cookies and Lauren's presents while running the Sean the Sheep holiday and winter episodes. "We Wish Ewe a Merry Christmas" has the sheep and Bitzer the Dog showing how much they appreciate their farmer by decorating his home to make his holiday merrier. "Snowed In" shows the antics of the animals on a big snow day, including the farmer trying to ski off his roof. Bitzer is the "Fireside Favorite" when he gets sick. Pidsley the Cat doesn't like a dog hogging his usual spot and tries everything he can to get rid of him. The sheep sabotage his efforts. "Bitzer's New Hat" was a Christmas gift from the farmer's niece. It's rather ugly, and he just wants his old hat back. The naughty pigs aren't going to make retrieving it easy!

It took me a LOT longer to get the boxes together than I thought! The boxes I was using were from my Amazon Prime shipments last year. I tried to get as much tape off as I could, but finally gave up and just decided I wasn't going to get to the post office today. I taped them, put them aside, ate leftovers for lunch really fast, and hurried off to work.

Work probably wasn't worth the rush. It was once again mostly quiet. There was a bit of a rush around 2 or 3 PM as people started to come out of various church or synagogue functions or from the malls. Other than that and some cranky people, there were no major problems. My relief was one of the college boys, and he was right on time.

I had the shrimp I bought yesterday with Cranberry Flummery and the last of the Brussels sprouts for dinner. Ran the less-bizarre of the two mildly holiday-oriented Wonder Woman episodes.  "The Deadly Toys" has Diana Prince protecting two scientists who just destroyed their formula for a super-weapon after the third seems to have been replaced by a life-like robot. When a second scientist is replaced with a robot, Diana discovers all three scientists were fans of role-playing war games involving toy soldiers in make-believe battles. She discovers the toy soldiers came from one specific shop...whose owner can make life-sized robotic replicas of any human, including Wonder Woman.