It was just gray and cloudy when I got up this morning. I still had quite a bit to do to get ready for my old college friend Amanda's arrival. I ate breakfast. I made the bed. I tidied up the apartment. I did the dishes. To save time (since she'd probably leave at 3:30 and we'd be eating lunch out first), I pulled out the Christmas tree and put the lights on. Vacuumed under it before I left. Artificial trees shed almost as much as the real ones do!
Amanda texted me earlier in the morning and said she'd be in by 11. I walked over ten minutes early. As it turned out, I could have waited a little longer. She was at least 15 minutes late. Evidently, she'd had to stop at her local bank for money, then ran into traffic.
We had lunch at The Pop Shop in Collingswood. We've done the gourmet Mexican restaurant Tortilla Press for the last few years, but Amanda really wanted to try their award-winning ice cream concoctions. We timed it right. They were only a little busy, mostly with college students on break or families with small children who were either too young for school, or attending half-day kindergarten.
Since we were there relatively early, we ate off their breakfast menu. I had an Egg, Cheese, and Vegetable Quesadilla with crispy hash browns and no jalapenos. Amanda was braver than me. She had a Buffalo chicken omelet with the same hash browns. My quesadilla was yummy, filled with egg and veggie pieces, and just enough to eat most of in one sitting. Amanda's Buffalo chicken omelet was huge, and way too much to eat in one sitting, especially if one was planning to have ice cream later. She took it home with her. We had enough room left for a scoop of coffee ice cream with hot fudge and chocolate sprinkles for me and a scoop of chocolate marshmallow with marshmallow sauce for her.
We stopped at The Candy Jar, a few stores down from The Pop Shop, on the way back to her car. I have plenty of junk food at home, so despite creative chocolate molded snowflakes and lumps called "Frosty's Baby Picture" and "Reindeer Poop," I didn't buy anything. Amanda got licorice for her dad and Mallow Cups for her. The owner did let me sample an orange jelly chocolate, though.
It was starting to shower lightly just as we were leaving The Pop Shop. This was no day to be lingering anywhere. We went back to her car and headed back to Oaklyn. Lauren wanted coffee. I recommended Common Grounds around the corner from me. They're cheaper than Groove Ground in Collingswood, with drinks that are just as good and a cozier atmosphere. We sat and chat while she sipped her brew and I slurped my favorite spicy-sweet iced tea.
As soon as we got home, we exchanged gifts. We give each other little things, usually stuff we find at Target or where we work. Amanda has two jobs, one of which is at the Cumberland Mall's Bath and Body Works. She gave me a small fragrance spray and bottles of shower gel and hand lotion in a new holiday-themed scent called Magic In the Air, one of those cane-shaped plastic tubes filled with Hershey's candies, a pair of gingerbread-themed sleep socks, and three packs of Swiss Miss cocoa. I gave her a stuffed Hello Kitty in an elf outfit (she loves Hello Kitty), candy, a hand-crocheted ornament, and mechanical pencils and a notebook for college. (She's studying to become a veterinary technician - essentially, a nurse, from what she says.)
We decorated the tree for the next hour and a half. I don't have a big tree. It's tall, but rather thin. Which isn't a bad thing, since I have a ton of ornaments! I've picked them up here, there, and everywhere. Mom's given me a ton from the Winterwood Christmas stores and fancy gift shops in Cape May County. I've found them at yard sales, thrift shops, church bazaars, and half-price after-Christmas sales. Friends have given me big Hallmark character ornaments. Mom made felt folk art-style ornaments and a Christmas Holly Hobbie when I was in high school. My cousin Samantha made a pile of beaded ornaments one year.
We finished it all just in time for Amanda to head out. I walked her to her car, which was left at the VFW's huge parking lot across the street. The rain was really coming down by then. I was out long enough to make sure she made it into her car and down the street before hurrying back inside.
Considering the weather, it's a good thing I'd planned on spending the rest of the night working on my story. Rey battles Prince Ben, but neither will give an inch. Rey wants him to realize what his lust for power has done to the Land of Sweets, but he's too consumed with the need for power and the desire to be like his grandfather. She finally knocks him on the ground, then runs to her shattered Nutcracker. Snoke is about to convince Ben to turn all of them, including his parents, into wood when Rey hears sleigh bells. Could it be Father Christmas himself?
Moved to Lego Star Wars while having lemon chicken rosemary soup for dinner. I was able to complete two challenges I looked up on YouTube last night, "Negotiations" and "Secret Plans." Almost got "Darth Vader," "Darth Maul," and "Escape From Naboo." Didn't get quite as far "Chancellor In Peril" or the lengthy "Defense of Kashyyak."
Finished the night on the couch with my laptop and the rain pattering overhead. Watched All the President's Men while I was online. An all-star cast headlines this real-life journalism tale, based after a best-selling book. Carl Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman) and Bob Woodward (Robert Redford) couldn't be more different in their approaches to journalism or their personal habits, but they set these aside to work together on the biggest scandal in the US in the 70's - the burglary of Democratic papers from the Watergate Hotel by several political higher-ups. It turns out there's a lot more to this than a burglary gone wrong, as the duo follow the money...and discover just how far corruption can run when power remains unchecked.
Quietly powerful tale of political corruption, abuse of power, and the strength of the press. The enormous cast does impressive work. Jason Robards won a supporting actor Oscar as Woodward and Bernstein's hard-nosed editor Ben Bradlee. The film also won Best Art Direction for it's spot-on recreation of the Washington Post offices and Best Adapted Screenplay for William Goldman's tough script.
If you are interested in the cast, the era, or US political history, or you just want to see a good thriller, this is a low-key but well-done tale.