Sunday, July 23, 2017

Sleepy Time Gal

My first day back at work in over a week was tiring. It wasn't really hot when I dashed off to the Acme, but it was killer, cut-the-air-with-a-knife humid. I spent the first hour and a half of my shift doing carts. They were empty when I arrived. We were busy, even early in the morning, and would remain busy all day. A college boy took over the carts around 10:30, allowing me to work on returns and bagging for the rest of the morning.

I was dead tired when I got off, but I couldn't go home just yet. First of all, I needed to get my schedule for the rest of the week. It's pretty much par for the course for this time of year, mid-morning or mid-afternoon, with Tuesday and Friday off again. While continuing with the extra hours might have been nice, it likely won't happen. It's rare that it's this busy during the summer.

I did have some grocery shopping to do. The Acme's having a 40% off Purdue and its brand chicken sale this week. I was able to buy two packs of chicken breasts for the first time in months. Grabbed breaded flounder for dinner. Restocked pancake mix, yogurt, peanut butter, skim milk, broccoli, blueberries (buy 1, get 1), and peaches. I had such a hard time deciding between Talenti on a great sale and a free online coupon for the new low-fat Enlightened Ice Cream, I bought them both. (The Talenti was coconut gelato; the Enlightened was Mint Chocolate Chip.) Plucked a container of mini corn muffins and a package of dessert sponge cake shells off the bakery sale rack.

When I finally got home, I was so tired, I just put everything away, ate a really quick lunch, and went straight to bed. Unfortunately, I was only able to nap for about an hour before a knock on the door jolted me out of my slumber. It was Charlie, who had come to install a stopper on my new door. (Which apparently is so tall, it's banging into those newly whitewashed rafters, cracking them.) I also got him to light the pilot in my oven. He says his men did the burners, but they must have forgotten to go inside.

I gave up on sleep after that. Ended up putting away the remaining books from the living area. Not all of them made it back there. Any Star Wars non-fiction wound up on the Star Wars shelves in my bedroom. Also cleared out one remaining Ever After High doll box and the boxes for the Disney Animator's Collection dolls. They're cute, but they take up room. From now on, I'll only keep the boxes if the toy in question is a genuine collectible.

Went over some of my half-finished Star Wars fanfiction next. Finally decided I'm going to try to complete the 80's action/comedy novel, now titled The Summer Strikes Back. In a riff on 80's summer comedies, Luke and Leia are twins who're visiting their Uncle Ben and his Cottages by the Sea in Ocean View, a fictional Jersey Shore town, during the summer of 1983. Luke wants to focus on becoming a great surfer, like the legendary group the Jedi Knights. Leia is more concerned about the evil corporation, Empire Industries, that's trying to buy the Cottages and half the buildings on the island and tear them down to build a massive resort-mall complex. They find themselves involved with the ragtag group who live at the Cottages and are trying to save their homes, including shady commercial fisherman Hank Solokowski and his northern Brit buddy Charlie Bachman.

The first part from last year is now up at Archive of Our Own. The rest will be coming within the next few weeks!

The Summer Strikes Back at Archive of Our Own

Finished the night with a tasty dinner and the soundtracks for The Pirate Movie and Flashdance as story inspiration. Pan-fried the breaded flounder; added a green salad with oil and vinegar and vegetable spiral pasta tossed with butter, garlic, herbs and Parmesan cheese. Dessert was blueberries in a dessert shell, topped with coconut gelato. Yum! A simple, relaxing meal for a nice, quiet day.

It showered briefly while I was at work, but it didn't really start raining until I was making dinner. We had some pretty noisy storms at one point. It seems pretty quiet now, but the National Weather Service still has a flash flood watch in effect until 6 tomorrow morning. We'll see what happenes.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Goodbye to You

After I finally got everything packed, Lauren, her parents, and I headed out around 10 for the Albany-Rensslauer Train Station. We dodged still more road work, including on the parking lot, as we drove through endless small farming communities and suburbs. It was cloudy and slightly humid, but nothing really terrible. I picked up a quick turkey-whole wheat sandwich for lunch before getting into line.

The Albany train was right on time...the only time I could say that the entire day. I ate my sandwich about 20 minutes or so after I boarded. At least none of the trains today were busy, including the one going to Albany. I was able to enjoy my lunch, color a picture of Han Solo and a strange cat-like creature that apparently got the drop on him in my Star Wars Marvel coloring book, and admire the stunning views of blue lakes and bobbing yachts.

The trouble started when we neared Penn Station. It took us 20 minutes just to pull up to a platform, thanks to congestion and track work. When I did finally make it to the main concourse, it turns out the train to Philly was 20 minutes late anyway. The 20 minutes gradually extended into 45 minutes. Good thing I had a long time between trains in Philly. I ate the remaining snacks I had on hand and watched the monitors.

Other than some rain as we neared Philadelphia, the train to Philly was even quieter than the one to Albany. I mostly listened to music and looked over the Starlog magazine. The view of graffiti, suburbs, and junk yards wasn't nearly as inspiring.

As soon as I got into Philly, I texted Dad and Lauren, then had dinner. Grabbed a quick egg sandwich, called "The Good Egg," and a red velvet-white chocolate chip cookie at Au Bon Pan. Had enough time to hit the bathroom before heading down to the tracks to catch the train to Cherry Hill...which was 10 minutes late. I once again texted Dad and explained the situation, then texted Lauren and told her I was almost home.

Dad was there when the train did arrive in Cherry Hill. It was warm, humid, and very wet. That rain I saw on the train to Philly seems to have been a full-blown thunderstorm here, with lightning and high winds that apparently left a mess in Dad's pool.

I didn't get home until after 8. In good news, Charlie did finish the roof, covering the exposed beams with what I assume to be white plaster. While he didn't leave as much of a mess as he did last time, there were still things that were where they shouldn't have been. He also turned off the fans, which meant the apartment was boiling hot when I arrived. I figured he'd, you know, need them.

Finally got to the first few episodes of Sailor Moon S as I got online. The third season opens with a monster attacking Rei as she wishes for peace. Usagi had been hoping they were all gone, but nope, the Sailor Guardians are back in action! New, more powerful monsters means a new scepter for Sailor Moon, new powers...and two new Sailor Guardians. Sailor Neptune and Uranus are determined to take out the monsters on their own, without any help from the other girls. And what do tomboyish Haruka and girlish, musically-gifted Micheru have to do with it all?

(Oh, and Lauren's fine. She went out to an area diner with her parents after they left Albany. She apparently spent the rest of the afternoon playing video games. They spent it napping. I had a great time, even better than last year. We always have fun when we get together.

And today marks the end of my vacation. I'm a little annoyed that I'm working at 9 AM tomorrow. They couldn't have eased me in and let me work a little later?)

Friday, July 21, 2017

Just What I Needed

We were on the road today by quarter of 10 (after eating our Cheerios and blueberries for breakfast). Once again, we headed towards Albany. Our destinations this time were two of the largest malls in upstate New York. It was another gorgeous day for a drive, much warmer but still sunny and dry. We went through a different part of the country, dodging the road work that seems to spread like mushrooms.

Our first stop of the day was the massive Crossgates Mall. It's so big, it has its own exit off the highway that goes right to it. While it's not as attractive as Holyoke, it does have a really great selection of stores, probably one of the few malls that cater to both upscale tastes and emptier wallets.

We started at JC Penney's.  I wanted to find a new pair of walking sandals. My old ones that I bought at Sears last year are getting worn. Though they had some great sales, I didn't see anything I liked. Lauren didn't, either. We headed into the mall proper.

Our original plan was to hit up their Jay Street Video Games first. This proved to be a tad difficult. According to two big orange signs under the bars, the store had been seized by the State of New York for non-payment of taxes! We had far more luck at a CEX - Electronics Exchange - around the corner. They sold used DVDs, video games, and small electronics items for super cheap. Lauren bought wrestling sets featuring her favorite classic wrestler "Rowdy" Roddy Piper. I picked up copies of two musicals from the 1970's, Scrooge for a dollar and New York, New York for $2. Their GameStop was huge, but alas, it yielded no finds.

Next up was Macy's. Theirs is absolutely huge, two wide stories. I peeked at the shoes and plus-sized blouses, but I didn't see anything for a decent price in the former, and they had nothing in my size on sale in the latter. Lauren grabbed a few more blouses for work.

Our next stops were more fun. We browsed through a Build-a-Bear store that was three times the size of the one at Cherry Hill, but didn't see anything we wanted. The Disney Store was even better. Lauren picked up a Grumpy-themed t-shirt for her dad and an Eeyore shirt for her mom. I was delighted to find beautiful Rey and Jyn dolls (they were listed as "action figures," but they were really closer to fashion doll size) on sale for $7.99 each! They even came with accessories and extra hands that could hold them. I was going to wait for the Forces of Destiny dolls next month, but that was far too good of a sale to pass up on. I'll get the Forces Ahsoka and Padme instead.

We also did well at their enormous FYE. I found the third season of Happy Days on sale for $9.99. Happy Days and Laverne & Shirley are the only live-action TV shows I'm trying to find DVD sets for right now. Lauren picked up a wrestling magazine.

It was past 1:30 at this point, and we both wanted lunch. We ran into our second reality check of the day here. The Ted's Fish Fry we ate at last year was empty and closed. A sign on their door said they closed on July 14th. Rats! We rode over to the Colonie Center, the other mall we wanted to visit, and ate at their Moe's Southwest Grill instead. Lauren had the "stack" - a crunch burrito "stacked" in a soft shell. I went simpler with a chicken quesadilla.

The Colonie Center is almost as big as Crossgates Mall. It's also far older (50 years old last year), and thanks to a recent renovation, one of the prettiest malls I've ever seen. Unlike Crossgates, which feels as sterile as the Cherry Hill Mall, Colonie has elegant wrought-iron railings, soft chairs surrounding vast fireplaces, and a beautiful art-deco-inspired exterior.

We absolutely had to visit the FYE here. Despite it being almost as big as the one at Crossgates, it had closing notices posted. (Sears did, too.) Everything was on sale for 40 or 50% off! It took me forever to choose something from the piles of CDs, toys, t-shirts, and DVDs laying around. I ultimately went with two of the last James Bond movies I didn't have, the Roger Moore movie For Your Eyes Only and the most recent Daniel Craig vehicle, Spectre. (Spectre was $5.99 - I knew that one would be cheaper if I waited. Eyes was $2.99.)

We browsed through their Jay Street Video Store (which was open), a much smaller GameStop, and Barnes & Noble, but found nothing of interest. I finally picked up a pair of comfortable white huarache sandals at Boscov's, along with hair bands for 99 cents each! Lauren grabbed some more blouses and a small 2-in-1 game board for her and her parents to play together. She found more work shirts at Christopher & Banks. I just leaned on those wrought-iron railings and kept an eye on her game board.

Lauren got two shirts at Macy's that she couldn't find in her size at Crossgates. I stuck by her this time. I hadn't found anything at the other one, and I really didn't feel like more wandering and getting lost.

We finally rolled out at around 6:30. We drove down Wolf Road, which is heavily populated with restaurants and shopping centers. As Lauren put it, "if you can't find it at Wolf Road, it doesn't exist." We saw another Ted's and what Lauren was looking for, Reed's Seafood. It's apparently a favorite of her parents, and she wanted to make sure it was still there.

It was past 8:30 when we finally pulled into the garage, and closer to 9 when we were showing Mr. and Mrs. Miller our finds and trying to get Rey and Jyn out of their heavily-twist-tied boxes. We had a quick dinner of defrosted frozen pizza before I took a shower and we went online.

I'm going home tomorrow, once again around noon. Lauren and her parents are going to drive me there. I texted Jodie when we were in Albany. I only got a "wonderful" from her, so I'm going to assume they'll be at Cherry Hill to pick me up tomorrow.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Nothin' But a Good Time

We got a slightly earlier start out around 9 this morning. Mr. and Mrs. Miller had a doctor's appointment and were awake to see us off this time. We had our Cheerios (mine with blueberries), gathered our purses and water bottles, and headed off for Lake George.

I love the ride through northern Massachusetts and upstate New York! It's like a painting of the country, with wildflower-dotted fields, weathered barns, cozy villages, and historic farmhouses. It was cloudy off and on as we made it onto the highway, going over a bridge with a fabulous view of downtown Albany. We encountered no traffic on the road and had no problems getting to Lake George.

We pulled into Six Flags Great Escape around 11. As she did last year, Lauren bought our tickets and parking vouchers in advance. She parked us in the Three Musketeers lot (all the parking lots at Great Escape are named after Mars candies), which at that point, wasn't even half-full. I made sure to leave the jewelry at home this time so there would be fewer things to take off and put through the metal detectors going into the park.

Great Escape is an expansion of an older park, Storytown USA. (Linda Young, who used to go on vacation to Lake George with her parents in the 60's, has mentioned attending the park in its early years.) The park's original attractions were miniature houses for kids to roam around in, with kid-sized furniture and entrances representing a wild west town and the homes of famous fairy tale characters. Lauren, who is a little over five feet, had an easier time getting in the houses to take pictures than I did. (I'm 5'4.) We waved to Cinderella in a sparkly turquoise gown by the bright yellow boot-shaped home of The Old Woman Who Lived In a Shoe. She spun and twirled, flaring out her fancy skirt, to the delight of little girls passing by.

After we waved to Scooby Doo, who was greeting kids between storybook houses, we found ourselves back in the Carousel Plaza. I love merry-go-rounds. They're so elegant and romantic. They remind me of my childhood, when they were often the first thing we'd ride after we got to the Wildwood boardwalk parks. I ended up riding the Grand Carousel solo. Lauren says the around and around makes her stomach queasy. I had no such problems as I managed to scramble onto a pretty white mare with an orange saddle painted with daisies. Some of the ride-on animals were really unique and detailed. I saw a lion, a rabbit, a cat, a camel, and even a dragon!

We strolled over the "wooden" bridge and into the 50's-themed Hot Rod USA. We were going to check out Thunder Alley, their car ride, but the line was ridiculous. We ended up waiting for the Swan Boats instead. They also had a fairly long line, but we were able to get on after 10 minutes because the large family in front of us wanted to stay together. We were greeted by a cheerful brunette Alice at the Alice In Wonderland Walk-Through and giggled at the real Canadian geese and ducks looking for a snack under the reeds of the River Dee. (The driver claimed there were baby marmots by the Jungle Rope Walk-Through. If there were, we didn't see them.)

Stopped for a quick lunch at the pizza booth across from the train station. We both got slices of pepperoni and small Cherry Cokes. As the train started its course around the park, the two of us settled down with our lunch and watched it leave.

Since we were there, we thought we'd hop on the train on its return to Hot Rod USA. The Storytown Train runs a similar route to the Swan Boats, going through a tunnel by Thunder Alley and around the river, past Humpty Dumpty, Popo the Purple Cow (who looks more like a friendly dragon), and Hickory Dickory Dock. Unlike the boats, it takes you through the spooky woods, giving you a glimpse of "abandoned" Ghost Town vehicles and Jungle Rope Bridge elephants and hippos.

Lauren's favorite ride at Great Escape is the Raging Rapids in the Alpine-themed Fest Area. She's not the only one who enjoys it. It's one of the most popular rides at the park...with one of the longest lines. By this point, the sun was in and out, making it the perfect time to get wet. The first time around, we shared our vehicle with three enthusiastic and funny teen sisters. They enjoyed the ride as much as we did! The poor youngest girl got soaked the worst, to her noisy dismay. On the second time around, we ended up between families who wanted to stay together and got a vehicle to ourselves. They added a few more bumps and waterfalls to the last lap, including a sprayer. Both times, we ended up pleasantly damp, but not soaked.

Normally, we love playing the boardwalk-style games around the corner from the Rapids, but they've gotten awfully expensive over the years. We did find an air hockey game outside and played a rematch; Lauren won again, 5-3. The crane games were a tad less pricey. I didn't win anything, but Lauren, after many tries, got a cute stuffed emoji star with heart eyes.

Since it's on the way back from the Fest Area, our next stop (after a break to use the bathroom and buy soda) was the Alice In Wonderland Walk-Through. Alice herself was gone by then, but I did get some shots of the massive fiberglass Cheshire Cat, the Caterpillar on his mushroom, Tweedledee and Tweedledum, and the Queen of Hearts and her court.

The line for Thunder Alley wasn't quite as daunting later in the afternoon as it had been around lunchtime. You ride 50's-style coupes with different paint jobs around a small track decorated with towering Technicolor tulips and billboards representing Storytown USA when it opened. The actual buildings from the 50's across the street added greatly to the atmosphere, including the red and blue neon sign with the giant chicken in the middle.

By this point, we were tired and dry, and the clouds were getting darker by the minute. It was time to buy souvenirs and head home. We explored a few stores at the International Village, but finally opted to buy stuffed animals from the gift shop that doubles as the park exit. She picked up a two-foot, electric blue bear with Six Flags' logo embroidered on his paw. I couldn't fit a stuffed animal that size in my luggage! I settled for a small stuffed tiger who bore something of a resemblance to Hobbes from the Calvin & Hobbes comics.

It sprinkled a bit as we made our way back to the car. Thankfully, the rain was long gone by the time we hit the highway. We had other problems. Traffic on 1-87 was backed up for miles, thanks to an accident. This part of the trip should have taken less than an hour. It was over an hour and a half later before the traffic finally broke up and we were back in business, as Lauren put it.

(I'm so glad she's good at dealing with traffic. The last time I was in a car that was stuck in traffic that badly was when Rose graduated American University in Washington DC in 2002. Mom drove Anny, Keefe, and me to her sister Terri's house in the DC suburbs in Virginia for the ceremony. The traffic around DC was a nightmare, even heavier than what we got stuck in today. Mom freaked out, screaming and crying. Anny cranked up the hard rock and flirted with truckers out the window. I think she was 16 or so at the time. I still don't know how 6-year-old Keefe slept through the entire incident. I was very close to jumping out a window and walking to Aunt Terri's, traffic be damned.)

It was almost 8 before we finally made it into the garage. We showed Mr. and Mrs. Miller our stuffed animals and heard about their day, gave them the mail, and ate turkey bacon sandwiches for a quick dinner. After Lauren looked up an old friend on Facebook, we played a couple of rounds of Yoshi's Woolly World. Finished up World 4 with a crazy ride on curtains, trying to direct arrow balls to treasures (and around Skyguys), and dodging a giant Audrey II-like piranha plant.

Tomorrow's my last full day here. At press time, we're planning on returning to Albany to browse through two major malls in he area.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Small Town Girls

I was up at quarter of 8 this morning. Lauren didn't start stirring until around 9:30. I read Crocodile on the Sandbank and wrote in my journal for a while, then got dressed and had cereal and the last peach for breakfast. I was messing around with my cell phone when Lauren came upstairs and said she was ready to go.

Our first stop of the day (after Lauren made a quick run to an ATM machine) was Steve Valenti's Clothes for Men in downtown Pittsfield. Turns out Mr. Valenti himself is a long-time friend of Lauren's dad. He met his wife when she moved from the bank Mr. Miller managed in North Adams to one in Pittsfield. Lauren chose two nice lightweight robes for him, one in mahogany, one in navy, both with white piping. She also found a pale blue plaid nightshirt.

We strolled down North Street, first checking out a "general store" that had apparently just opened. It held toys, some books, sodas, coffee, and other basic sundries. Lauren wanted to take a look at a small consignment store down the street and around the corner. They were a bit like Frugili Consignment in Collingswood, a narrow store selling mostly used women's clothes. Though Lauren says she likes them and has gotten things there before, neither of us bought anything there today.

We next drove down to Lanesborough to check out the Berkshire Mall. They have a farm market every Wednesday and Saturday morning in the summer. We were mainly there so I could get some fruit for breakfast. Though they had piles of early summer produce like Swiss chard and green beans, the only fruit they had were containers of blueberries. I grabbed a pint. I'll eat them in my cereal and give Lauren and her mom anything that's left on Saturday.

The Berkshire Mall's JC Penney is closing, their second anchor to shut down in less than a year after Macy's. Lauren says they're a week from permanent closure. Many departments have already been removed or re-organized, but we were able to find the women's clothing. My friend had more luck than I did. They were mostly getting rid of winter clothes, thick skirts, heavy sweaters, and corduroy slacks. I do need a winter skirt, but winter clothes are really too heavy for me to carry home. She found a set of orange hand towels to use in the bathrooms upstairs.

It was about noon by this point. The Berkshire Mall's food court is small, with just a pizza parlor, a Chinese booth, and one that sells Mexican and burgers. Kept things simple and opted for pizza. I had mushroom and cheese; she had mushroom. It was the right choice. The slices were excellent, salty and greasy with a perfectly soft crust.

A small arcade is nestled on the end of the food court, near the Regal Cinema movie theater. They have a decent selection for the space, including an air hockey machine. Lauren and I played two games, one right after we came in, the other before we left. Lauren won both, but it wasn't for lack of trying in the second! The score on the first game was 7-2. The other game was much closer, 2-1. We laughed and slapped at the puck and had a great time. We also played their ice-themed skee ball machines (I've never seen white plastic balls before). I took a whack at Galaga on the double Ms. Pac Man/Galaga console while Lauren shot basketballs. Between the two of us, we won enough points to pick a slap bracelet (Lauren), a string bracelet (me), and a cherry-limeade Tootsie Roll (I ate that).

There wasn't much else to see at the mall. The Berkshire Mall's been dying for several years, thanks to high rents and poor management that doesn't understand the area. The only stores there that remotely interested us were Jay Street Video Games and a toy shop, Toy Giant. We finally opted to return to Pittsfield for our show instead.

The Berkshire Theater Group is housed in a series of restored vintage buildings in downtown Pittsfield, including the gorgeous Colonial Theater. The auditorium, with its elaborate architecture recalling a bygone era, was the perfect setting for The Music Man. I was impressed. I thought the group did wonderfully with the delightful score. The kids in particular were adorable, and the lady who played Mrs. Shinn was an absolute riot. Her husband was pretty funny, too. Even Lauren said she enjoyed it, and unlike me, she's not really a big musical fan.

Headed further downtown after it let out for dinner at the Highland, a long-time favorite spot of Lauren and her parents. We had a little trouble trying to figure out where to park. All those road construction projects followed us to Pittsfield, including a closed parking lot. She finally ended up parking alongside a Burger King.

Dinner was worth the parking fuss. The Highland is a small hole-in-the-wall just off the main downtown. We've eaten there before, but not in a long time. According to the mirror over our booth, they've been in business since 1936, and they feel like it, with dark wood paneling, ancient vinyl booths, and pleasant old waitresses who knew Lauren on sight and even asked about her parents. She had Veal Parmesan, a huge pile of spaghetti, and a slice of Oreo Pudding Pie. I had a hot turkey sandwich, mashed potatoes, and cranberry sauce. I mainly ate the turkey and cranberry sauce. I'm not the biggest fan of gravy. The mashed potatoes were ok. I suspect they came from a mix, but they were at least nice and buttery. The turkey was yummy though, juicy and tender. My pie was a sweet, flaky Coconut Custard.

Unfortunately, we discovered when we came out that some idiot dumped ice cream across the front of Lauren's car, including on her windshield. She drove us to the nearest car wash to get it off. This ended up being kind of fun. A nice young fellow gave the car a good, solid scrubbing before we went through the literal ringers. The flashing lights in an arc around the brushes made the whole thing feel more like a ride at Wildwood than washing the car.

It was past 6:30 before we made it home. Lauren helped her dad try on his new sleepwear and passed on Mr. Valenti's greetings. Mrs. Miller and I snacked on blueberries. Oh boy, were they sweet! No wonder Massachusetts is a leading producer of blueberries, along with New Jersey and Michigan.

Lauren and I finished the night downstairs, playing more Yoshi's Woolly World. We went through the first half of World 4 tonight. We started in the jungle, dodging monkeys who couldn't be turned into yarn balls...and ended up dodging a massive catfish that could swallow Yoshis in one gulp! The hardest round was the Latiku maze. You not only have to make your way around the little yellow fellow who throws spike balls at you, you need to figure out how to find the end of the maze, too.

After much deliberation, due to iffy weather, we've decided we're going to visit Six Flags Great Escape in Lake George, New York tomorrow. This is one of our major, extra-long trips, and I always look forward to it.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

In a Big Country

We were once again out the door by 10, this time through New York and up into the wilds of Vermont. Every year, we drive through the countryside to visit The Vermont Country Store in the village of Weston. They sell thick Vermont flannels, penny candy, old-fashioned cleaning and beauty products, beautiful, lacy sleepwear, real maple syrup, classic toys, and their own chocolates, cheeses, and baked goods made in the area.

The drive is half the fun. Vermont is absolutely gorgeous. Its moniker "The Green Mountain State" is well-earned. We passed misty mountains cloaked in vast pine forests, ancient silos and weathered barns, cows grazing in pastures, and endless fields of waving corn. There were clouds early on, but by the time we rolled into Weston, the sun was out and it was a lovely day, dry and warm.

We picked the right day to go shopping. Unlike our previous visits, the dusty gravel parking lot wasn't full. Lauren had no trouble finding a spot for her van under a shady tree not far from the back of the store.

The store itself wasn't terribly busy, either. We had plenty of room to walk around and admire their vast selection. There wasn't even a line for the bathroom. The majority of the crowds were concentrated in the front of the store, where the food is sold. Not a surprise, when they had samples of their most tempting treats out for one and all to enjoy. I ended up with my favorite Boston fruit slices - flat half moon-shaped fruit gel candies covered in sugar. I'm also a big fan of their tasty little Cookie Buttons. Picked up peanut butter this year.

Unfortunately, as much as I love exploring the store, even their sale items can be too expensive for my budget. Their clothes in particular are outrageous (though most of them are well-made for what you get). Not to mention, I only have so much room in my smaller suitcase. Along with the food, I picked up two tiny jars of orange and blueberry fruit spread and a really nifty vintage Crayola tin that included an 8-pack of crayons.

Met Lauren at the main register an hour and a half later. She bought a pile of clothes for her parents and had gone to put them in her car. After she finished, she went next-door to The Bryant House Restaurant to see what the wait would be like. The last time we ate there in October 2015, we waited 20 minutes in a line that was out the door. This time, there was no line. We stood for maybe two minutes while they seated a family who came in ahead of us.

The Bryant House is a historic home made over as the Vermont Country Store's eat-in restaurant. They're expensive but worth it, with sandwiches, soups, and pot pies made from the freshest local ingredients. We both had the cheddar bacon soup with half a sandwich. Lauren's half was grilled cheese with chicken and tomato. Mine was thick, delicious chicken salad with lots of chunky nuts and fruits. The cheddar bacon soup was yummy, too, made from rich local cheese and pork. She had an iced tea with her meal. I had an egg cream - chocolate syrup, seltzer, and fresh milk. I love egg creams, but they don't often turn up in South Jersey. She had a slice of Triple Berry Pie for dessert. I went with a crunchy, just-sweet-enough apple crisp.

After lunch, we strolled across the street to check out a few other stores in town. Their Christmas shop is the only one I've ever seen come close to the Winterwood Christmas stores in Cape May County. They're jammed-full of every kind of ornament you can imagine, for every taste, from colorful kids' characters to sports to animals. Lauren picked up a flocked polar bear with a holly-print ribbon and faux holly around its neck. I saw nothing I could afford or carry home.

The Weston General Store is their next-door neighbor. It's a slightly more touristy version of The Vermont Country Store, with a lot of Vermont-themed sweaters and souvenirs along with the fudge, toys, and flannels. Once again, I didn't pick up anything, but Lauren bought a bag of polished rocks, a Yankees-themed Scrabble card game, and Yankees pens.

We returned to the Vermont Country Store and wandered around for another hour. Lauren wanted to check out their upstairs sales. I tried a few samples, but otherwise didn't buy anything else. Lauren came downstairs with a pretty patterned tank top for her mom and a pair of checked pajama pants for her.

Headed home around 4 PM. This year, Lauren did remember to tell her parents that cell phone coverage in Weston is spotty at best. They did get at least one text through that requested chicken sandwiches for dinner. We were going to stop at a small combination KFC/Taco Bell on the turn-off into Berrington to pick up something to eat anyway. I just bought tacos and a large Baja Blast. Lauren grabbed Chicken Sliders for her parents, chicken quesadillas for her, and a small chocolate bundt cake for all of us to share.

We arrived around 6:30. Mr. and Mrs. Miller were getting ready for tonight's games when we came in. Lauren gave her dad a green, red, and yellow plaid flannel shirt and two nightshirts, one short-sleeved, one long, two Clark bars, and orange creamsickle fudge. Mrs. Miller got the tank top, a sheer magenta blouse, and the larger orange jelly slices. We enjoyed our dinner while discussing the games.

(Incidentally, the local teams mostly did much better tonight. The Phillies topped the Marlins at 5-4, while the Orioles blew the Rangers out of the sky 12-1. The Arizona Diamondbacks also wailed the Cincinatti Reds in a blow-out, 11-2. The Yankees snuck past the Twins 6-3. At press time, the Blue Jays and the Red Sox are 4-4 way into the 12th inning.)

We're currently chatting online, listening to an 80's rock station on Pandora. Tomorrow, we're going to explore the Pittsfield area, including seeing a community production of The Music Man.

Monday, July 17, 2017

The Girls of Summer

Got started around 10 after we had our Honey-Nut Cheerios (and I had a peach). Today, we headed east towards Springfield and the Holyoke Mall. It was a beautiful day, sunny, clear, and dry, if a little warmer than yesterday. Other than running into several road repair projects, the ride through Lennox and Lee and down the Masspike was no problem, with no traffic anywhere.

The Holyoke Mall is the second largest mall in New England. (Only the mall in Natick near Boston that has the American Girl store is larger.) Since we parked by the east entrance to Macy's, we started there. Ever since Lauren's nearest Macy's shut down, she's been trying to hit every store she can. I'm not nearly as enamored by them as she is. They often don't have my size, and I think a lot of their clothes are overpriced for what you get. I used the bathroom in the women's department, then went looking for her. After fifteen minutes of fruitless searching, I plopped down in a surprisingly comfortable chair that was sitting next to the entrance and waited for her. She'd been upstairs, looking at bras; she finally bought three shirts on sale for her job as a head teller in a Pittsfield bank.

Our next stop was Uno Bar and Grill for lunch. I ordered a simple "Uno Burger" with garlic mayo, tomatoes, red onions, and lettuce. Lauren had a massive turkey avocado sandwich with Brussels sprouts. Half-way through our meal, she got a text from her father...and she wasn't happy about it. Something about their smoke alarm not working or going off, and he wanted her to buy a new one while we were at the mall.

As soon as we finished eating, we hiked all the way across the mall to Target so Lauren could by the darn smoke alarm. I spent the next 20 minutes watching her hem and haw over what to buy and what her father would want. What I wanted to do was grab the first thing I could reach, say "this is good," and move along, but I'm an adult. I stood and waited. (I don't know why her parents couldn't have gone down to the nearest hardware store and gotten one. I saw a couple of True Values on our trip to the flea market yesterday and while we were driving to the mall. They're both capable of driving.)

Things went better after Lauren finally chose a smoke alarm/carbon monoxide alarm two-pack. We decided to do something fun and browsed in the toy department. She didn't see anything she wanted, but I finally found the Finn Funko Pop to go with my Rey and the last Ever After High doll I intend to buy for a while, Nina Thumbell, the nature-loving, size-shifting daughter of Thumbelina. They were both on clearance, too. Finn was about $6.30; Nina came up to $10.

We were in and out of a couple of stores next. We browsed in Build-a-Bear, Game Stop, and an action figure store, but saw nothing of interest. Sears had an even worse selection of smoke alarms than Target did. I finally found the new dub of Sailor Moon Season 3, Part 1 on DVD at FYE, which I've been trying to get for a decent price since it came out. Lauren picked up The Official WWE Book of Rules (and How to Break Them). She found a really cute pair of ankle boots for work at JCPenny's. I got a pair of tan shorts to replace the khaki pair that blew out in May and the brown ones I bought last year that look like they're starting to go.

Our last stop of the day was the Christmas Tree Shops. She was hoping to find new dishes for her parents, but all the plates were plastic. I had more luck, picking up muffin papers and granola bars.

(By the way, I really like the Holyoke Mall. Unlike the remodel at Cherry Hill that left it looking rather sterile, this mall still looks like when it was built in 1979, with wood-paneled trim on the railings and graceful, curving floor plans. And unlike a lot of malls of this vintage that haven't had a lot of remodels, it looks attractive without being dated.)

By the time we finally made it across the mall and into the car, it was past 5. We were originally going to grab something fast at the food court, but Mr. Miller mentioned in one of his texts that he and his wife were going to heat up a frozen pizza and were willing to share. We headed home instead, dodging the constant road work and keeping an eye on the dark clouds building up on the horizon.

Mr. Miller was glued to the MLB Network when we got in. We showed them our purchases, then settled down and waited to eat. Mrs. Miller made us defrosted Freschetta meat pizza and a salad with greens and tomatoes for dinner. Lauren had a Magnum chocolate-raspberry bar for dessert. I went with a mint chocolate chip Klondike bar.

(Oh, and we mainly switched between the Yankees-Twins, Orioles-Rangers, and Blue Jays-Red Sox games. The Phillies played the Marlins this evening, too. No one did well. The Phillies just lost by one point, 6-5. The Red Sox did likewise, 4-3. The Yanks couldn't even get that far against the red-hot Twins, 4-2. The Orioles were the only local winners this evening, beating the Texas Rangers 3-1.)

We finished out the night playing Yoshi's Wooly World. Got through the desert/volcano-themed World 2, then half-way through the candy and treats-themed World 3 before breaking to go online. The thunder storm that had threatened since early in the evening finally appeared around 8, making some impressive noise.

Tomorrow, we're heading north to explore the wilds of Vermont and the rustic, much-loved Vermont Country Store.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Where Everybody Knows Your Name

Started my first day of vacation by sleeping in. By the time Lauren got up around 10, I was dressed and ready for breakfast. Had a bowl of Honey-Nut Cheerios and a peach (Lauren's not a fan of eating in the morning) before heading out.

An antique center about fifteen minutes from Lauren, just over the New York State border, has a big flea market every Sunday. Lauren's not the only one who loves it. The gravel lot was so full, we ended up parking in the grass.

The grounds were crawling with tents selling everything from collectibles to comics, floral sundresses to used toys. Lauren comes here every week and is well-known by several of the sellers. We started off with one she spoke to as a friend, a man who mostly sold boxes and boxes of CDs and DVDs (along with some toys and die-cast cars). The DVDs were buy two, get one free. I ended up with a second set of Bing Crosby movies, the original 30th anniversary Bedknobs & Broomsticks DVD release (it has a few interesting extras that didn't make it to the re-release from a few years ago), and National Lampoon's Animal House. Lauren bought a season of Gomer Pyle she didn't have and some things for her parents.

We headed inside next. Lauren says they're not normally open on Sundays, only once a month. I'm glad they were. She didn't find anything, but I picked a copy of Starlog off the magazine racks on Star Wars' 25th anniversary. I'm not a fan of most paper publications. They just take up too much room. Couldn't resist this one, though, especially the Harrison Ford interview. (It was only a dollar, too!)

We browsed around for a little while longer after that. Lauren bought a bolt of teddy bear-print fleece from another seller she knows well. (He evidently also sells vintage postcards.) I bought a Star Wars: New Hope picture book, probably from the late 90's re-release. (It had a "shimmer" theme.)

We'd passed a few more outdoor antique sales on our way to the flea market. Since it was only noon when we left, we thought we'd give them a try. A smaller antique-oriented flea market mainly had ancient furniture, but Lauren found a Coca Cola polar bear glass. A booth in the front held no interest for me, but Lauren picked up Christmas tree-themed pins and earrings for her job as head teller at a local bank. Went across the street to a smaller sale, but it was mostly junk and yielded no finds.

Finally headed home around 1. Spent the next few hours snacking on trail mix variations and playing Mario Kart 8 Deluxe for the Nintendo Switch. Unlike the previous versions of Mario Kart for the Wii and Wii U, this one uses the regular buttons, not the motion controls. (Lauren says it's an option, but they annoy her, too.) Made it much easier for us to race other players from around the world. Neither of us got further than 4th place, but it wasn't for lack of trying.

(I love some of the imaginative courses! Along with updated favorites from previous Mario Karts like Rainbow Road and Toad's Turnpike, you get the neon Blade Runner-esque New Bowser City, the colorful Toad's Harbor, the twisty Tick Tock Clock, and slippery Mount Wario, among others! There's also rounds based after other classic Nintendo games, like Animal Crossing and Excitebike.)

Around 4 PM, Mr. and Mrs. Miller called us upstairs. Did we want to toss bean bags on the porch? Sure, why not? The Millers have a huge back  yard and porch...which they seldom use. They all burn easily, and none of them are outdoor people. They don't even have any porch furniture.

The bean bag toss was a slightly better-made version of the typical game many kids probably still play in school. You throw ten yellow and blue bean-bags into targets marked 3, 2, or 1. If you miss, you have to toss it again. I came in last. I have terrible aim. (Though I did get better as we went on.) Lauren, who played softball in school and has great aim, won with 101 points. Mrs. Miller came in second, followed by her husband. (Mr. Miller did get the best points on an individual round, 18.)

We went back downstairs to Lauren's room while Mrs. Miller got dinner started. Lauren switched to Yoshi's Wooly World on the Wii U. Somewhat similar to Kirby's Epic Yarn, this one has Yoshi also finding himself in a textured universe made from knits and fabrics. He has to not only defeat villains, but find skeins of yarn to put his friends back together. We got half-way through Grass Island before Mrs. Miller called us to dinner.

The kitchen/living room area smelled wonderful when we came back upstairs! Mrs. Miller made ground veal patties, (boxed) scalloped potatoes, and amazing glazed carrots with cinnamon and maple syrup. Mr. Miller and I also had slices of bread and butter. We had Friendly's cherry chocolate chunk ice cream and Pepsi for dessert.

We watched episodes of Cheers from the 10th season as we ate. "Rich Man, Wood Man" has Woody the bartender returning from England with his sweet, wealthy girlfriend Kelly. Woody's trying to act rich, too, but it annoys the others. When Kelly realizes what's going on, she claims she'll try to get along without money. Lillith and Fraiser Crane deal with "Smotherly Love" when her mother visits and more-or-less forces them to repeat their wedding because she couldn't make it to the real one. "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" gives Sam one last shot at reviving his pitching career when he wins a spot on a minor-league team. Trouble is, most of the other players are younger than him and are acting silly and immature. Carla comes to tell him how proud they are of him, but he just wants to go home.

Finished the night back downstairs with more Wooly World. We were more than half through the second desert world when Lauren started insisting that her controller was running low on batteries. Not to mention, we did want to get online. We went on our laptops to chat around 10.

One of our major concerns this week is the weather. There's minor threats of rain all week. We'll be heading east to the Holyoke Mall in order to avoid storms here and in Upstate New York.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Going Mobile

I opened my eyes around 6:30. I shut them again...and didn't open them until quarter after 8. Having gotten a later start than planned, I settled for reading a couple of short stories from the Disney Storybookland anthology, a Paddington vacation-themed short story Paddington On the Road, and two American Girl Molly short stories.

In Paddington On the Road, the Browns are on vacation in a charming French village. The big excitement is the Tour de France bicycle race passing through. Paddington wants to join the race, so he borrows an old tricycle, cleans it up, and enters with the others. His inexperience with bikes and fixing them shows when he goes downhill...and can't stop...

Molly MacEntyre had two summer-themed short stories in the 90's. Molly Takes Flight introduces her grandparents and Aunt Eleanor. Her young aunt has joined the WASPs, the female flight corps in the Air Force. Molly's upset about losing her aunt's attention, until she shows her the joys of flying.

Molly Marches On takes us to Camp Gowanigan, the setting for Molly Saves the Day. All the new campers are going on a hiking trip that ends with a special surprise. Tired of their noise and wanting to prove she's as good at blazing trails as her heroine Sacajawea, Molly and her friend Susan go off on their own. They never do get to the surprise, but they do find an equally lovely one of their own.

Put on an episode of The Backyardigans as I ate breakfast and packed my laptop and the attendant wires and mouse. Pablo is "Le Master of Disguise," a suspicious little character who can quick-change into anyone. Inspector Austin follows him onto the Orient Express. With shady passengers like Conductor Uniqua, Cowboy Tyrone, and Circus Performer Tasha on board, it's going to be tough for Austin to track down the crafty penguin.

Switched to Strawberry Shortcake In Big Apple City as I finished packing my luggage and the kitchen. Strawberry is off to the big city as one of the two finalists in a televised bake-off. The Purple Pie Man is the other, and he'll do everything he can to make sure Strawberry doesn't win. Good thing she makes a lot of new friends who help her out, including eventual series regulars Orange Blossom and Lemon Meringue.

Made a really quick run to WaWa for more money. I was glad I'd be spending most of the day on the train. While warmer than yesterday, it was also back to being sunny, hazy, and humid. I kept my ride short - went in, used the ATM, went out.

Hastily made a tuna and tomato sandwich and gathered snacks while running a few shorts. The Three Stooges become "A Pain In the Pullman" when their monkey gets loose on a train and wrecks havoc and they can't get into their upper berth. Their noise upsets a pompous singer who demands they either quiet down or be thrown off.

Mickey Mouse has a similar problem with pets on trains in "Mr. Mouse Takes a Trip." He has to sneak Pluto on-board and past Conductor Pete. Pluto, however, isn't as small as a monkey and can't be hidden as easily. The two do their best to dodge the kitty conductor and still make it to their destination.

It took me so long to get organized, I still wasn't ready when Dad arrived. Thankfully, we had no problems once we got on the road. Dad even drove me to Cherry Hill in his beautiful early 60's Mustang convertible. Despite the warmth, it did really feel nice, with the wind in my hair. A couple of people on the White Horse Pike (including a man in an orange Mustang from the later 60's) leaned out and complimented Dad on his awesome car.

Once I got to the Cherry Hill Train Platform behind Shop Rite, it was smooth sailing. The trains to Philadelphia and Albany were right on time. The one to New York was slightly late, but nothing outrageous. Only the car going to Albany was full. The other two were barely half-full. I shared my seat going to Albany with a young businessman in a gray suit who watched videos on his cell phone the entire ride. 30th Street Station wasn't too crazy. Penn Station was, but their new digital monitors did help somewhat.

I love the view going to Albany. All you see on the trips to Philly and New York are wetlands, graffiti, junk yards, and suburbs. The Albany line earns it's name "Lake Shore Limited." The tracks passed shining lakes with tiny sailboats bobbing along, lacy bridges, massive green mountains, and lots of lovely old mansions and fascinating decaying factories. It's really beautiful.

Met Lauren and her parents Mr. and Mrs. Miller at the Albany-Rensslauer Station. We had dinner at a really nice Italian place about 15 minutes from their house, Mario's Restaurant. They were so busy, we ate outside...which suited us just fine. Not only was it quieter outside, but the view of the holyhocks and roses planted in front of the porch and the classic mid-century pop piped in was far more relaxing. Even the waitresses were happier to serve us - they could hear us give them our orders!

Mrs. Miller and I ended up having big squares of lasagna. Lauren had Veal Parmesan. Mr. Miller had Veal Oliver (veal with seafood sauce). I ate Mr. Miller's broccoli - he's not a fan of broccoli. I had chocolate mousse for dessert. Mrs. Miller's choice was a chocolate-covered cherry-vanilla gelato. Her husband opted for cinnamon crunch ice cream. Lauren loves raspberries - she went with chocolate raspberry mousse cake. We all had crusty bread, beans in olive oil, and iced tea. It was expensive, but very, very tasty. Our waitress was really sweet, too. She said she'd worked there for 39 years and had lots of experience.

I'm bushed from traveling for 7 hours. It's probably just as well that our only plans for tomorrow are a trip to a flea market in Lauren's area that only happens on Sundays.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Dodging the Rain On the Road to Vacation

It was just gloomy when I awoke this morning. Had breakfast while watching Garfield In the Rough. Jon takes his pets for a week of rest and relaxation in the wilderness. Garfield would rather rest and relax somewhere that has TV. He really gets freaked out when they learn that there's a panther loose in the area...and it may be nearer than they think.

I had a ton of things to do today, starting with packing up the living room. Charlie is apparently going to start working on the inside of the roof again after I leave for vacation.  I took all the cookbooks and the popcorn maker out of the tall shelf and all of the coffee table books off the IKEA shelf. Moved the coffee table crate and some of the things on the counter in the kitchen that wouldn't fit under the sink.

Did a couple of Disney shorts as I hauled boxes and crates. Pluto has a rough time keeping a persistent rodent out of Mickey's garden in "Pluto and the Gopher." "In the Bag" takes us to Brownstone National Park, where ranger J. Audubon Woodlore is having trouble cleaning up after the last departing tourists. He gets the bears to help with promises of a good meal afterwards. When they all shove the debris into Humphrey's section, he has to figure out how to get rid of it, or no dinner!

After I finished the packing, I figured it was time to get the grocery shopping done. I think I should have waited a bit. It had just begun showering as I walked out the door. By the time I got to the Acme, it was coming down at a pretty good clip. Oh well. At least the rain cleared out the customers. It wasn't any busier than it has been all week. I was mainly there for snacks for the train ride tomorrow and to restock sugar and skim milk.

I also tried one of the "Flavors of America" candy bars Hershey has out this summer. The Texas BBQ Payday was surprisingly tasty. Who knew hickory and caramel nougat worked so well together?

The rain had started slowing down on my way home. By the time I got in, it was gone, though the day remained cloudy and exceedingly humid. Finished off Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown (and Don't Come Back!) as I put everything away. Chuck, Linus, Marcie, Peppermint Patty, Snoopy, and Woodstock are on vacation in France (after a brief trip through England). Marcie and Peppermint Patty find themselves dealing with culture shock and vying for the attention of the cute son of their hosting family. The boys and animals have less luck with their host home. The Baron, the owner of the Chateau Mal Voisan, hates strangers and won't let them in. While Charlie Brown and Linus try to solve the mystery of the Chateau and find out who wanted them to come, Snoopy hits up a local cafe with a great selection of World War II-era tunes on the jukebox.

An unusually dark tale for the Peanuts. The mystery of the Chateau, its owners, and why they wanted Charlie Brown to come to France is far more interesting than the comic bits with Snoopy playing tennis and sobbing over "I'll Be Seeing You" or Peppermint Patty's culture shock. This is unique in several ways, not only for it's slightly spooky plot, but because this is the only movie where adults actually speak. (They weren't going to get away with letting the kids travel through Europe without adult intervention.)

If you have slightly older kids who have learned a bit about World War II or European history in school, they may find much to enjoy in this one.

I was originally going to eat lunch at my place. Charlie had called me earlier and said he was turning the gas off to do some work downstairs. Fine. To my annoyance, when I turned on the tap in the kitchen, I discovered the water wasn't running, either. He hadn't mentioned that part. I finally decided I'd be better off having my meal elsewhere.

Ended up down the street at Phillies Phatties. They were quiet for past noon. They even had a classic rock station on instead of ESPN. I had my usual slices of cheese and mushroom pizza with a can of Dew SA. Ate it inside; even with no rain, it was still too wet to sit at the wooden benches on the sidewalk. Watched families come in and out to order pizza as I enjoyed my lunch.

Next stop was the Oaklyn Library. They weren't much busier than anywhere else. I saw one older woman on the computers and a man reading along with the librarian. Organized the graphic novels in he kids' area, went over the DVDs. Found another interesting DVD on the sale racks, Anchors Aweigh with Gene Kelly, Kathryn Grayson, and Frank Sinatra (and Tom & Jerry).

Thankfully, the weather continued to hold out as I headed over to Westmont. Went to Dollar Tree first. I wanted sponges and thank-you cards for Lauren and her folks. They were busier than most everywhere else had been, but at least the line went fast.

The Haddon Township Library was also relatively busy. A sign on the DVD cart said to leave them out. Good thing there were piles of audio books and CDs to put away. I got those done and headed out. I still had one more stop I wanted to make before I rode home.

Cut across Newton Lake Park going back to Oaklyn. Despite the gloomy, killer humid day, the park was busy with bikers, fishermen, and people out for a stroll. Ducks awaited the start of the next round of rain. I was actually glad for the rain. The park is starting to look a little brown around the edges.

It held off long enough for me to make it to Dad and Jodie's house. They were watching the endless Law & Order re-runs on ION Television when I arrived. Jodie had just gotten in from work. I'd been meaning to get over there and say "hi" for over a week now. I haven't seen them since the 4th of July. Besides, I needed to pick up the pan I used for the Berry Icebox "Cake" I whipped up for the holiday. Dad gave me the tickets for the train to New England tomorrow and $100 spending money. (He also told me the cake was very popular. It vanished so quickly after I left, they had to save him the last piece.)

I'd been home ten minutes when the storm that had threatened all afternoon finally broke. The rain provided a great backdrop for the final part of my story. Not only does Langdon and his crew blow up the Death Star, but Duke Bail Organa shows up at the last minute with the Alderaan Navy.

Meanwhile, Luke's trying to get Vader off the Death Star, but Vader knows it's his time. He dies in his son's arms. Luke, Wedge, and the other members of the League just manage to get his armor on Wedge's ship the Rogue and ship off before the entire Death Star goes up in flames.

Luke is eventually crowned King of Naboo. Wedge becomes his regent. Henry moves Solo Shipping to Alderaan, where he and Leia take over as Grand Duke and Duchess. Charles is their bodyguard. Cedric and Rusty happily return to their jobs as secretary and handyman. Luke burns Vader in the woods near Nabarrie Palace; he buries him in the same tomb as Padme. Langdon buys Jenkins' Casino and makes it wildly popular with the gentry. We end in Alderaan, where Henry and Leia discuss that tumultuous summer they met...and Leia's impending arrival.

Wow. At over 104,000 words and 31 chapters, this is officially the longest story I've ever written, period. For anything. It took me six months to write, three times as long as anything else I've done. It's my first novel. I'm so proud of myself for actually finishing it!

When I get back next week, I definitely want to finish that 80's Star Wars story I started last year, and I may do a few fairy tales, both original and Star Wars universe. For now, this is a great way to end my writing time before vacation. At press time, The Adventures of the Crimson Hawk is only available at Archive of Our Own. I'll post it at my writing blog and after vacation.

The Adventures of the Crimson Hawk at Archive of Our Own

While the water was back on when I got home, the gas wasn't. This meant a cold shower and eating out of the fridge, instead of the omelet I'd planned on having for dinner. Cheered myself up with The Road to Morocco as I ate. Bing Crosby and Bob Hope are on their third Road To... adventure, this time in North Africa. Castaways after their ship explodes, they wash up on the coast of Morocco without a dime to their names. Bing sells Bob into slavery to make a quick buck. Bob's not happy...until he realizes he was bought by a lovely princess (Dorothy Lamour). But the Princess has her own reasons for wanting him...and her former fiancee (Anthony Quinn) wants both men out of the way.

My favorite of the Road to.. movies. If you want to know what this series is all about, start here. You get everything from a camel that (really) spit in Hope's eye to Bing introducing the standard "Moonlight Becomes You."

Ended the night online while watching National Lampoon's Vacation. Clark Grizwauld (Chevy Chase) is determined to take his wife Ellen (Beverly DiAngelo) and their two kids cross-country from Chicago to Wally World, a huge theme park in California. Even before their trip, absolutely nothing goes right. The car Clark wanted didn't come in, and they end up with an ugly clunker. Ellen's hillbilly cousin Eddie (Randy Quaid) hits Clark up for money. A cranky aunt (Imogene Coca) hitches a ride to Phoenix. Clark keeps seeing a beautiful woman in a red corvette (Christie Brinkley) throughout the trip. Even when they finally make it to Wally World, the disasters continue to pile up on Clark's lap. He wants to have a good time no matter what, but even he can only last so long before he snaps...

Another John Hughes-penned, vacation-themed comedy. Some good gags here, including the ultimate fate of that cranky aunt.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Hot Time for Vacation

Kicked off the morning with breakfast and Dr. Seuss. Pontoffel Pock, Where are You? is one of the more unusual later specials. Fired from his job at a pickle factory and dealing with his family's decaying home, the frustrated Pontoffel just wants to get away from it all. A fairy grants his wish, giving him a magical piano that can take him anywhere. His first trip to the mountain country of Groogan ends with the locals upset after he shows off. His second takes him to an Arabian country, where he falls for Eefa Neefa, an "eyeball dancer." He escapes her boss the sultan in the piano and gets lost. The fairies want to find him and the piano, but all he wants is to rescue his girl.

Work was a pain in the rear. On one hand, I only did carts for a half-hour when I came in. It was just as well. It was killer hot and humid, in the mid 90's. Even a good, stiff wind didn't cool things off. I spent the rest of the morning shelving returns.

The afternoon was more of a problem. One of the cashiers called out. The panicking managers wanted me to stay an extra hour and work the register. While I appreciated adding to my paycheck, I otherwise regretted it. I had to deal with at least two customers who got their WIC Checks (the checks for low-income families with babies and toddlers) partly or completely wrong. You have to buy exactly what it says on the pamphlet. One family didn't seem to speak English. The other was new to the system. When I went back to get the former the correct baby food, I also realized that the baby food shelves were really decimated. No wonder they had problems. And after they left, it was as dead as it was all day and it's been since the 4th of July. They probably didn't need the extra help.

Thank goodness today was my last day of work for over a week! When I finally made it home, I pulled out my luggage. I'd wanted to start packing my bags for vacation and the living room this afternoon. I never got to the living room. Did get most things organized in my bag. I'm trying to bring the least amount of luggage possible, especially since the suitcase I got for Christmas is smaller than Dad's.

Dark clouds moved in as early as 2 PM. At 4, they were just looking scary. It was even a little cooler, if just as humid. I figured, as long as it wasn't pouring, I would be fine doing the laundry. Needless to say, given the weather, they weren't busy. I mainly wanted to wash my work uniforms and a few things for vacation. Worked on story notes and half-listened to the news blaring warnings about excessive heat and even more excessive storms.

It was still just cloudy when I got home. After I got the laundry put away and loaded into my bag, I thought I'd have dinner. Made peppered salmon with Cucumber-Tomato Salad while watching a first-season episode of Moonlighting. It's "Next Stop Murder" when Agnes DiPesto wins a trip on a private train to take part in a murder mystery for 24 hours. It's a game put on by a popular crime author and his friends, including a local chef, his former lover, and the forensic technician who provides ideas for his novels. Maddie and David join in as well after being accidentally stranded on the train. This turns out to be a good thing when the author is found dead for real and half the people on the trip have a motive.

Worked on writing for a couple of hours after dinner. Even as Han takes down Boba Fettson, Luke is doing the same to Vader. His father claimed he would corrupt his sister to bring Luke out of hiding. Big mistake! Luke lunges at him, nearly tearing him apart before he actually does take off his arm. That's when the boy realizes he's getting dangerously close to being a little too much like his father. To Palpatine's dismay, he leaves his saber and pack on a chair and says he's now a Jedi and the true king of Naboo, and he has no desire to kill anyone, even Vader.

Meanwhile, Langdon Croydon and his men are trying to avoid the Death Star's guns in order to get under it and take it down. Rogue Squadron's explosion opens up the perfect hole to do so. As they go in, Admiral Ackbar announces that the Coruscant Navy is closing in. But help is on the way...

It was finally raining by the time I went online, but nothing like the storm they worried about all day. I listened to the rain while watching The Great Outdoors. Chet (John Candy) is taking his family on vacation to a remote cabin in Wisconsin that his parents used to rent during his childhood. He's looking forward to some bonding time...until his obnoxious rich brother-in-law Roman (Dan Ackroyd), his wife Kate (Annette Benning), and their spooky twin daughters show up uninvited. Roman constantly upstages Chet and brags about all the money he makes and his big job as a commodities trader. Tensions finally boil over during a thunderstorm...but when the twins vanish, the two fathers finally learn to work as a family.

A nice script by John Hughes and the unusual lakeside location makes this one a slight improvement on Summer Rental.  It actually reminds me a bit of National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation and Plains, Trains, and Automobiles, this time with the rich guy being the annoying one and the middle-class guy being the one who's put-upon. It also shares Planes' problem of an ending that's too sentimental for the previous wacky comedy.

If you're a fan of either leading man or Hughes' work as a scriptwriter, this is better than you might think and is certainly worth checking out.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Door Into Summer

Kicked off a hazy, partly cloudy morning with The Monkees. "Monkees at the Wheel" takes the groovy quartet to Las Vegas, where they have a gig at a casino. Micky thinks he has magic fingers after winning big money at the slot machines and bets it all on a roulette wheel that turns out to be rigged. The guys have to find the gangsters who rigged the wheel, or they're all going to end up in jail.

Made a quick run to Dollar General to pick up a few things after breakfast. Dollar General carries underwear, mainly Hanes. I don't have the money for one of the larger packs, and none of them came in my size anyway. I settled for a 3-pack. Found travel-sized bottles of mouthwash and body wash for my vacation. (I was going to get batteries, but I think Acme's generic batteries might actually be cheaper.)

Worked on my story for the rest of the morning. Leia shows Henry where she hid the jewels - in a secret panel under her birth mother Queen Padme's portrait in one of the halls. Unfortunately, Hux has followed them, hoping they would lead him to the location of the missing crown. Leia duels with him, finally disarming him. Boba Fett is there too, holding onto Henry. Cedric and Rusty bring the Ewoks to help take him down.

Broke around 2 for a late lunch. Did an episode of Tiny Toon Adventures while I ate and got ready for work. "High Toon," the first season finale, takes Babs and Buster on a trip to what they think is a popular local theme park. It turns out to be a real wild-west town that's being terrorized by bandits. The bunnies first recruit Plucky and Hampton to help them take down the criminals, then to rescue Hampton when he accidentally falls into their hide-out.

Work was pretty much the same as it was yesterday and has been all week - pin-drop quiet. I alternated between doing returns and gathering carts, mainly because I was alone until the night bagger showed up around 6. It was a very hot, humid day, not helped by the earlier clouds having mostly vanished by the afternoon.

After I got home and took a badly-needed shower, I went online and put on Captain Ron. Martin Harvey (Martin Short) inherits a vintage yacht from an uncle who moved to the Caribbean years ago. He takes his family to the islands in the hope of encouraging some family bonding time on-board. Martin's dreams of adventure get a reality check the moment they see the dilapidated pile of splinters his uncle's once-beloved vessel's become. Things really pick up when he hires Captain Ron (Kurt Russell) to teach them how to sail. Ron is a laid-back, eye patch-sporting sailor who keeps eyeing Martin's wife (Mary Kate Place), turning Monopoly into chances to gamble, and getting lost at every opportunity. Martin's about ready to throttle him, but it'll take all of their skills - including Ron's - to steal their boat back from the notorious Pirates of the Caribbean!

Another old family favorite, we watched this one a lot in the early-mid 90's. While the story is fairly typical. Short and Russell play off each other beautifully as the goofy sailor who learns a little about family and the over-eager father who discovers real "adventure" is often found in the places we're least looking for it. Fairly enjoyable if you're a fan of either leading man or National Lampoon's Vacation-type comedies.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Finally Peace and Quiet

Began a cloudy morning with breakfast and a travel-themed episode of Laverne & Shirley. Part 2 of "An Affair to Forget" from the third season takes the two on board a cruise ship for five days on Lake Michigan. While Laverne has fun with the sailors, Shirley's courted by a handsome officer. Meanwhile, Lenny and Squiggy have stowed away and are trying to avoid being found out.

Did writing for the rest of the morning. While Henry shows Leia where he hid the Crown Jewels, Vader and Palpatine have Luke on board the Death Star II. The evil prime minister tells Luke that his friends are either captured and awaiting execution or about to be blown out of the sky. Luke doesn't want to harm his father...but he does want to get rid of Palpatine. He's about to attack him when Vader blocks his electrical saber.

Meanwhile, Wedge Antilles and the Rogues, the other members of the League of the Crimson Hawk, are already on board, having delivered the Death Star II to Nabarrie Palace. They set up explosives on the generators that protect the vehicle and run their guns. As soon as they're down, Langdon Croydon and his men on the Falcon come swooping in to blow it to smithereens, before it destroys all of them!

Charlie briefly returned to finish the roof late this morning. By the time I broke for lunch at quarter of 1, he was gone and the new dormer roof over the door now had fresh brown shingles. I was able to enjoy blueberry muffins and watch two episodes of Scooby Doo, Where are You? with no banging overhead. Shaggy insists that "A Tiki Scare Is No Fair" after the luau he and Scooby were attending is attacked by a ghostly witch doctor, and their guide disappears. The gang drag the two to a haunted village to investigate.

They learn "Don't Fool With the Phantom" when a wax monster steals money from a local TV station, as well as the station's manager. An old man claims he set the monster after the station, but Velma thinks there's a less otherworldly reason for a creature made of wax to want money.

Work was just as quiet today as it was yesterday. Maybe even quieter. If people weren't on vacation, they may have been scared off by the heat and stifling humidity. I only did carts for an hour, and that because the bagger who had been doing carts had finished his shift. The rest of the day, I was inside gathering baskets, doing trash, or shelving returned items. I had plenty of help from both the head bagger and the night bagger and no problems whatsoever.

Finished out the night at home with leftovers for dinner and more Lego Star Wars: Clone Wars. "Blue Shadow Virus" was even less difficult in Free Play than it had been in Story Mode. I got six minikit pieces and enough studs to buy the x6 red brick. I had a far harder time with "Destroy the Malevolence." I did get a ton of studs and five minikit pieces, but one part that had Jedi using the Force to insert pieces into sets of pipes was a pain. I just couldn't seem to aim the characters in the right places to get the pieces in. I'll try again the next time I play.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Up On the Roof

Began a sunny, hazy morning with one of the later half-hour Danger Mouse episodes. "Danger Mouse On the Orient Express" starts in Venice, where DM and Penfold discover Baron Greenback paving over the Grand Canal. He wants to destroy tourism so everyone will come to his museum. Penfold gets his permit, which he promptly loses to a fish. While Danger Mouse avoids a convention of thieves on the Orient Express, Greenback tries to get his fat green fingers on Penfold and that permit.

Spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon writing and avoiding Charlie, who was nailing shingles onto the roof and making a lot of noise doing so, both from the hammering and his usual cursing his brains out. (I don't know why he sees fit to punctuate every single movement that goes wrong with a rant against half the deities in the heavens. I doubt they have anything to do with him having problems with nails or with the humidity.)

I had a hard time continuing the next part, but it finally got to this. The Ewoks, the freed Wookie natives, and the former dancers and workers from Jenkins' Casino all burst into the ballroom, ready to kick Coruscant soldier rear. Hux, however, is not about to let go of his quarry. He and his men are about to shoot Henry and Leia when he's grabbed from behind. Charles frees them and ties up Hux. Leia contacts Langdon on the Falcon and tells him about Luke's kidnapping. He says he'll tell Wedge, who is already on the Death Star Airship, to look out for him.

I got so into writing, I didn't break for lunch until around 1. Did a vacation-themed episode of Sailor Moon from the first season while I ate. Usagi and her family are off for a relaxing trip to a hot springs resort. The fun ends quickly when they're attacked by a monster from the lake. A brainwashed Mamoru reveals that the monster is a legendary lake sprite who had become jealous of an angel, and he released her. While the Guardians figure out how to get rid of her, Usagi has to figure out how to help out and keep her family from learning her secret identity.

Work was even quieter than it was yesterday. It got a little busy around 4, when rush hour began. Otherwise, there were no major problems. Though I did help with the carts when it got busy and gathered baskets, I was mostly organizing the gift card kiosk. They'd just gotten a new shipment in. There were a lot of empty spaces, including the credit gift cards. People must have been buying them for graduation and birthday presents. I managed to finish organizing a small box and a big box of cards, bringing them to the trash compactor in the back shortly before leaving for the day.

To my frustration, Charlie was still working on the roof when I came in. Not only that, but my kitchen and dining room table were a dusty mess. He never bothered putting down tarps and must not have realized how much dust he was dropping into the apartment with all his banging. I had to vacuum the kitchen twice and wipe down the table, sink, and stove innumerable times.

Ran Garfield In Hollywood while eating a quick dinner. Jon's delighted when he sees that Odie and Garfield can dance and enters them in a major pet talent show. Garfield thinks their act is dumb, but he is happy about the finals being in Hollywood. At last, he'll get the pampering he craves! But Jon wondering if winning the contest would mean leaving him behind...

It was almost 8 PM before Charlie quit for the day. I waited so long for him to leave, I never did get the bath I'd planned on. I just jumped in the shower instead.

Finished the night online while watching Summer Rental. John Candy headlines this 1985 comedy as an air-traffic controller from Atlanta who is burnt out and needs time off. He, his wife, and their three kids drive down to Florida, where they think they've rented the house of their dreams. Turns out they were in the wrong house. The real rental house is an old shack on a busy party beach. Things get even worse when he makes an enemy of the richest man in town (Richard Crenna), who happens to own their house. He'll throw them out...if they can't beat him in the local regatta. They enlist a crusty local sailor (Rip Torn), his crew, and his floating seafood restaurant to beat the snob at his own game.

This one has a lot in common with One Crazy Summer, including a similar finale revolving around a bet on a boating race. Not bad, not great. Fine for fans of Candy or the 80's "slobs vs snobs" comedies.

Sunday, July 09, 2017

By the Beautiful Creek

Started off a beautiful morning with Blueberry Pancakes and George M!. Yankee Doodle Dandy isn't the only musical biography of George M. Cohan's life out there. Joel Gray was Cohan and Bernadette Peters played his sister Josie in this 1968 Broadway show. With the real Cohan having passed away shortly after the release of Dandy in 1942, they were now free to be a tad bit more honest about his life. Both of his wives are prominent characters, and it touches on his siding with the producers during the Actor's Equity Strike of 1919 and how that damaged his career. The real attractions are a plethora of rarely-heard Cohan tunes, such as "Twentieth Century Love," "Musical Moon," and "Push Me Along In My Push Cart," that give a more complete view of his considerable talents.

After breakfast, I continued to work on my story. The chase is on all around the steps over the ballroom as Henry and Leia try to keep the jewels away from the Coruscant Army. Though they both think they dodge them, Henry's finally caught after he falls off the chandelier and into a piano, and Leia comes after him.

Hux arrives, wearing an ill-fitting uniform he borrowed from a soldier. He tells Leia he'll let Henry go if she marries him. Leia will do no such thing. Not only that, but they don't have the Crown Jewels on them. Hux orders their execution, right in front of the crowd.

Broke around 1 for a quick lunch and to get ready for work. Did another rarely-heard tale of turn-of-the-20th-century performers while I ate, By the Beautiful Sea. This charming 1954 musical was a vehicle for comedienne Shirley Booth, who plays a vaudevillian on vacation at her dad's boarding house near Coney Island's boardwalk. Baritone Wilbur Evans is the singer she falls for. I've owned this CD for over 20 years now, since I found it at a long-defunct music store in North Cape May as a teenager. The dull book is part of the reason this show was apparently tinkered with constantly before hitting Broadway, but some of the songs aren't bad. I'm especially fond of Booth's comic lament "I'd Rather Wake Up By Myself" and her "Sea Song" with the chorus, Evans' lovely ballad "Alone Too Long," and a fun number for cabaret performer Mae Barnes as Booth's maid, "Happy Habit."

Work was dead when I arrived, and only picked up a little bit around 4. The weather was probably the main reason. It was an utterly gorgeous day, sunny, breezy, dry, and in the lower 80's. Good thing it was too nice to be inside. I did carts and gathered trash for most of the day. There was one other bagger, but I saw her maybe twice helping old ladies out to their cars.

Had leftovers for dinner when I got home, then played some Lego Star Wars: Clone Wars. Did Free Play on "Ambush!" and "Jedi Crash." I did better on "Jedi Crash," coming up with 6 minikits and almost two million studs. Kept dying in "Ambush!" and didn't get nearly as many studs, but I did find a cave I hadn't seen before with a minikit piece in it. Next time I play, I'll probably return to Grievous to see what else I can find on the Malevolence.

Saturday, July 08, 2017

Sweet Summer Harvest

It was such a lovely morning, I opened the windows and let my apartment air out. Ate breakfast while watching a couple of beach and travel-themed black-and-white Mickey Mouse shorts. "Mickey's Choo Choo" is a funny little train that can be fed coal and dance along with its operator. But when the train can't get up a hill and loses the caboose that Minnie's traveling in, her boyfriend hits the tracks to go after her. He deals with some "Wild Waves" that sweep Minnie out to sea, cheering her up with a song and dance from him and a group of friendly beach critters. The mice join Clarabelle, Horace, and Pluto for "The Beach Party." They have a great time eating lunch and playing in the surf, until Pluto mistakes a sausage rope for an angry octopus! They use the remains of their lunch to fight back.

It was past 10:30 when I finally made it out the door for a run to the Collingswood Farm Market. While there was a nice breeze and it remained sunny and bright, it was also getting hotter and more humid by the minute. The Market incredibly busy with people buying produce for barbecues and summer birthday parties, I bumped into a few people (and at least one dog) as I tried to make my way around the tables that were richly loaded with summer's bounty. My finances were limited. I ended up with two ears of corn (the farm with the corn truck made their first appearance this year), a nice fat tomato, mushrooms, and peaches.

I was so hot and thirsty by the time I made it into Oaklyn, I stopped at the Common Grounds Coffee House for a drink. Bought a refreshing Coconut-Pineapple-Mango Smoothie. Feeling the need for chocolate, I added a peanut butter-coated cake pop, too.

Did a few more cartoons when I came home while putting away my finds and eating lunch, and then while making Blueberry Chocolate Chip Muffins. Woody Woodpecker is "The Beach Nut," whose antics with his surfboard and stealing food drives Wally Walrus crazy. Jerry the Mouse isn't much happier being bait for Tom in "Cat Fishin'." He finally brings in Spike help him out. Tom's wooing a lady cat at the beach in "Salt Water Tabby." Jerry's not impressed.

Worked on writing for a while after the cartoons ended. Vader is about to attack Luke, Leia, and Henry when Ahsoka stops him. She had once been a protege of his, until she was expelled from the Jedi Guards after being accused of a crime she didn't commit, and he left when they wouldn't increase his responsibility or give him a place as part of the head Council. She can't stand to see him acting like this. Henry and Leia are able to escape upstairs, but Luke stops to watch the fight.

Ahsoka holds her own until Vader gets the cover off the pack on her back that generates crystal power for her sabers. He knocks the sabers out of her hands and gets her in the side. Luke jumps in front of her with his saber before he can lose another mentor. Palpatine knocks him out with his Force lightning, intending to question him about his friends on the Death Star.

Finished my night with work. It was really busy when I got in, and once again, I had no help. There were apparently a lot of call-outs today. There were two other baggers when I arrived. Both ended up doing things inside. I got stuck doing the carts by myself for most of the day until a college boy arrived to help with them an hour before I was done.

Picked up two things I forgot yesterday on the way home. I didn't have the money for cherries at the Farm Market, so I got equally sweet grapes on sale. Also picked up eggs, which were also on a really good sale. Headed straight home after that and into a much-needed shower. As soon as it was done, the air conditioner went back on. It had gotten too hot - and way too humid - to leave them open.

Friday, July 07, 2017

Rainy Daze

Got up far earlier than normal lately. Maybe it was just as well. I had a lot to do today, starting with breakfast. After I ate and did the dishes, I was going to clean the kitchen. The water had been running low even when I was cleaning up from my meal. By the time I wanted to scrub the sink, there was nothing to scrub it with. Neither the bathroom nor the kitchen sinks were running. I'd heard banging downstairs. Charlie must have turned off the water to mess with the plumbing again. Thanks for telling me, fellas.

I took advantage of the unexpected downtime to make a new collage instead. I hadn't done one of my seasonal collages since January. I usually make them once every couple of months to clear out old catalogs. I've been doing so little shopping lately, especially online, that I haven't really been getting many catalogs besides a couple for plus-sized clothes. Oh well, I worked with what I had.

For those of you who have wanted to see my collages, here's the one I made this morning. Thanks to my cell phone, I was finally able to take a photo and post it on Facebook:

Summer 2017 Collage

It's just as well that I had planned on spending my morning cleaning. I wouldn't have been able to run errands anyhow, thanks to the weather. It showered off and on all morning, sometimes heavily. It was perfect weather to watch the mystery spoof My Favorite Brunette. Baby photographer Ronnie Jackson (Bob Hope) longs to be a private eye like his neighbor Sam McCloud (Alan Ladd). He gets his big chance when he's watching McCloud's office and encounters the Baroness Carlotta (Dorothy Lamour) who is begging for his help in finding her uncle. He learns that she may not be anything resembling what she claims...and neither are the man who claims to be her uncle (John Hoyt) or his lackeys Kismet (Peter Lorre) and Willie (Lon Chaney). When a scientist (Reginald Denny) is murdered in Ronnie's car, he's framed, and he and Carlotta flee from San Francisco to Washington DC to get the low down on who really did the deed.

Bob Hope was no stranger to wacky spoof, and this is one of his stranger ones. The shadowy world of film noir gets the raspberry here, complete with a convoluted, hard-to-follow plot. Some decent performances, notably Chaney reprising his slow-thinking Lennie from Of Mice and Men. It's in the public domain, so it's not hard to find if you're into Hope and his brand of comedy.

Finally gave up on waiting for the water to come back on and opted for vacuuming instead. Ran The Three Stooges Go Around the World In a Daze while I worked. Moe, Larry, and Curly Joe are the valets for the grandson of Phineas Fogg, the original gentleman traveler who went around the world in 80 days. A member of his club bets Phineas the Third that he can't do the same...and do it without spending a dime. Phineas is more than happy to accept the challenge. The Stooges, who know quite a bit about traveling with little or no money, help him get from country to country. Meanwhile, a thief has committed a crime in Phineas' name, which sends a determined cop after the entire group. Enjoyable time-waster for fans of the later Stooges.

The rain stopped around 11:30. I'd planned on going out and running a few errands at that point anyway, regardless of the weather. First stop was the Oaklyn Library. I wonder if they're busier in their afternoon sessions. I saw one other person reading books and the librarian. Looked over the DVDs and organized picture books and board books before moving on.

It was still cloudy, windy, and very humid when I headed to the Acme to do this week's grocery shopping. Didn't have a really huge order. Had a coupon for Crest toothpaste. Found one of the Pro-Health tubes on the clearance shelves. Deodorant was on a good sale, too. It's too hot to bake cookies; opted for the tasty Irwin's Spice Wafers. Restocked chicken legs, butter, diced tomatoes, yogurt, skim milk, parchment paper, peanut butter, and powdered sugar.

My schedule for next week isn't quite as busy as this week, but it's not bad, either. Once again, I work straight through until Friday. Not only do I have Friday off, but Saturday is the first day of my second vacation! Thursday is my only early day, which will give me plenty of time for writing. I also need to pack my suitcase and carry-on bag and anything I need to get out of Charlie's way before he comes back up here to finish my roof.

Rode straight home to put everything away and get organized for a run to Westmont. Did a Three Stooges short while I was there. Shemp joins Moe and Larry for "Hold That Lion!" The trio want to subpoena the crooked broker Ichabod Slipp, who has stolen their inheritance. They follow him onto a train, trying to catch him and dodge a hungry lion they accidentally released. (Look for a quick cameo by Curly as a snoring passenger - with a full head of hair!)

By the time I started out again, the sun had emerged...which only made it hot and sticky. I dodged the humid weather and more road repair on Cuthbert as I made my way to the Westmont Plaza. In honor of my new niece and the just-passed holiday, I treated myself to lunch at Friendly's. Had a huge Cheddar Pub Burger, smothered with cheese, sauteed onions, bacon, and horseradish sauce on a pretzel bun. Oooh, it was messy, but really nice and juicy. Dessert was strawberry ice cream with marshmallow sauce and a cherry. It was quiet in there for them, probably due to it being past 2 by then. I saw a college couple ordering their meal and a mom and her grade-school-age daughter enjoying ice cream.

The Haddon Township Library wasn't much busier than the Oaklyn Library had been. I did have a pile of kids' DVDs to shelve and organize. Shelved a bunch of CDs, too. I left the adult DVDs for the teen volunteers. I wanted to get some writing in and didn't want to linger too long. No movies or books this week. I want to concentrate on other things.

Took the long way home through Newton Lake Park to avoid the repair mess on Cuthbert. As the sun came out, so did the people. I saw lots of fisher-folk, including a whole family, a fellow biker, a group of teens enjoying snacks at a picnic table, and lots of locals just out for a walk or a jog. Likely thanks to the rain, the park looks absolutely gorgeous for July, green as emeralds with leaves often the size of adult hands. There's none of the algae that usually coats the water at this time of the year, here or in Oaklyn. The lake sparkles like a ribbon of pure green silk.

Settled down to writing when I got in around quarter after 4. Cedric is having the time of his life posing as Hux. At last, people give him the respect he deserves! As he's basking in the praise, the ceremony to crown Palpatine King of Naboo begins, with all the pomp and circumstances of true royalty. Just as the Bishop is about to place the crown on Palpatine's head, the lights in the chandelier go out. Three figures swing on the chandelier, grabbing the royal family jewels as they do. When the lights go back on, we see Han, Leia, and Luke - aka, the Crimson Hawk, the Golden Eagle, and the White Swan. Luke and Leia announce themselves as the true heirs to Naboo, which Palpatine fervently denies. They scatter before he can argue with them.

Broke at 6:30 for a very quick yogurt-and-cherries dinner. With the water having been restored when I got home, I was finally able to get the kitchen done. I didn't want to do too much here, since Charlie will be working in part of it, but the sink and stove top were really grungy.

Finished the night with Roman Holiday. Audrey Hepburn won an Oscar for her debut in this 1953 romantic comedy. Tired of her never-ending royal activities, Princess Ann (Hepburn) flees her stiffing royal schedule for a day of fun in Rome. She's found by cynical newspaper reporter Joe (Gregory Peck) after passing out. He smells a story and offers to take her around Rome, convincing his photographer buddy (Eddie Albert) to get pictures. She's wary at first, but finally accepts. They spend a marvelous day seeing the sights together, but when a dance on a boat ends in a melee after government agents come for her, Ann realizes that she must resume her matter how she feels about Joe.

Audrey Hepburn is the perfect princess on the lam in this enjoyable comedy, looking adorable with the sights and sounds of the real Rome on display. Peck is as charming and gallant as he apparently was in real-life (story has it that he gave up his star billing to Hepburn because he knew she'd be wonderful as the princess). Albert does the confused, eager pal so well, he earned a Supporting Actor nod; the costumes and story, along with Hepburn herself, did win.

If you're a fan of the cast or slightly bittersweet romantic comedies, this is one trip to Rome that's well worth your time.

Incidentally, the rain returned as Roman Holiday was ending. It was really going there for a while, this time with wind, too. It's calm out there now; hopefully, if it returns, it'll be after my trip to the farm market tomorrow.

Thursday, July 06, 2017

Showers, Showers Everywhere

Began a soggy, humid morning with my second day of early work this week. It was showering lightly when I rode there, so lightly I was barely damp. This state of affairs continued throughout the day, which could be one of the big reasons we weren't that busy. Traffic spiked a little around 11, then promptly quieted down again. I only had to do carts once, right when I got in. Otherwise, I gathered baskets, did two carts loaded with returns, and bagged.

The shower had picked up by the time I headed home. I arrived at home a bit more wet than I was earlier. Livened up the gloomy day with lunch and another episode of Wonder Woman. Lynda Carter gets to show off her excellent real-life singing voice in "Amazon Hot Wax" from the third season. Diana is undercover cutting an album at a small-time recording studio in LA. An extortionist wants money from the studio's owner, or she'll destroy the final album of a star who recently passed away. While Wonder Woman stops him from paying them off, a goofy KISS-like hard rock band puts two and two together and figures out that the "dead" star may not be as gone as everyone believes.

While the showers did slow somewhat, they never stopped all together. I opted to ignore them and get my laundry done anyway. I'm glad I did. It was dead when I arrived and was never busy. I think I saw maybe one or two other people the entire hour I was there. Good thing, because I had a really big load this week, including towels. I half-listened to talk shows and soap operas and worked on story notes.

After I got home and put everything away, I worked on writing for a few hours. Henry and Leia join Jyn and Cassian, Wedge and Luke, and Ahsoka and a Naboo officer in a romantic waltz. Their night of romance comes to a screeching halt when they catch sight of Boba Fettson skulking around, working security for Vader. He recognizes them and has every intention of telling Vader they've arrived. Henry tries to stop him, but Fettson belts him on the chin and takes off. The lovers don't have time to follow him before a courier announces that Palpatine's coronation has begun.

Ran two summer-themed episodes of Sailor Moon from the fourth season while eating chicken poached in a sauce made from white wine and home made vegetable broth, a green salad, and pasta for dinner. "Shining Summer Days: Ami Under the Sea-Breeze" has the Guardians hanging out at their local beach. Usagi's little brother Shingo has a huge crush on Ami and follows her around for a lot of the day. Tiger's Eye is also after Ami, trying to get her dreams. When he makes the mistake of picking on Shingo, Ami and the Guardians spring into action, making him wonder if he has anyone in his life who cares for him the way the girls and Shingo care for each other.

It's festival time in Tokyo! Usagi and Chibi-Usa aren't the only one enjoying the games, food, and fireworks. The Princess of Amethyst flees her royal duties to have a little fun with the tourists in "Juban Holiday: The Carefree Princess," a riff on Roman Holiday. Usagi and Chibi-Usa fear she may be in danger of becoming the Dead Moon Circus' next target and follow her, while Mamoru and the cats try to get her to return to her hotel and her people.

Hit the shower, then ended the night with Star Trek IV: The Undiscovered Country. The Klingon Empire is in turmoil after one of their moons and a primary source of energy explodes. Seeking aid, the Klingons finally attempt to make peace with the Federation. Kirk (William Shatner) is not overly happy with being assigned to rendezvous with the ambassador, especially after a Klingon killed his son the year before. They do manage to have dinner with them, but it's tense at best. The peace talks look like they may be off all together after the ambassador is assassinated by two men who resemble Kirk and Dr. McCoy (DeForest Kelley). The two are arrested after a tense trial and sentenced to a snow-bound mining colony. While they await their friends, Kirk's best friend Spock (Leonard Nimoy), his protege Valeris (Kim Cattrall), and Captain Sulu of the Excelsior try to figure out who really wants the wars to continue.

This is one of three Star Trek movies my parents taped off cable in the late 80's and early 90's, and I do have some fond memories of it. Inspired by the real-life end of the Cold War, the story is darker and far more interesting than chasing whales or chasing God. There are some goofy parts when Kirk and Dr. McCoy are trying to escape the mining colony, but they're better-incorporated into the script and aren't as obvious. Nice cast, too, including David Bowie's wife Iman as a shape-shifting alien on the mining colony and Christopher Plummer as Chang, the villainous Klingon.

Once again, the big complaints are some special effects that are only slightly advanced beyond the last movie. The lower budget on this does show at times, especially any point they use early CGI. The Klingon blood flinging around looks more like jam than blood.

Probably the best of the original Star Trek movies with Wrath of Khan, this is a welcome return to form after the ridiculous Final Frontier...but do see at least Wrath of Khan and Search for Spock before you come here.