Sunday, May 28, 2017

Yankee Doodle Girl

Began the day with the first of two early work sessions in a row. I mopped the floor in the men's bathroom (which I never got to yesterday) and did some returns, but I was mostly outside gathering carts. Also ended up sweeping cigarette butts again. The managers put up signs saying only to smoke in certain places, but I really doubt most people will listen.

It was steady all morning, though thankfully never overwhelming. I was able to use the free iodized salt coupon I couldn't use yesterday because they were out after work. It was still sunny, breezy, and warm at this point, and had been all morning. I took advantage of the nice weather to head down Nicholson Road for a bike ride. The traffic was fairly heavy down by Wal Mart and the Hispanic church. The closer I go to Oaklyn, the faster it vanished.

When I got in, I put on a record while making Peanut Butter Pancakes for lunch (since I didn't have the time to make them for breakfast). Yankee Doodle Mickey is a collection of patriotic songs performed by the Disney characters, the Disneyland Chorus, and a young Molly Ringwauld, I believe from the late 70's-early 80's. Along with folk tunes like "Yankee Doodle," two George M. Cohan tunes ("Yankee Doodle Dandy," "You're a Grand Old Flag"), and the expected hymns and anthems ("God Bless America," "The Battle Hymn of the Republic") are some unique or unusual numbers. The Disneyland Glee Club puts in a rousing performance of "The Liberty Tree" from Disney's version of Johnny Tremain, while the Disney characters do a medley to honor the Armed Services. (Mickey sings for the Air Force and the Marines, Goofy for the Army, and of course, Donald gets the Navy.)

Finally finished Shadow Games after lunch, since I didn't have time for reading this morning. Since I was already in bed, as soon as the book was done, I took a nap. It's been a while since I had a really early work day, and I did a lot of running around. I was just tired out.

I was only out for about an hour or so. When I pulled myself out of bed, I did a little writing. Langdon wants to take back his home and make up for Henry's arrest and abduction. He orders his own valet Laurence and his stable boys to subdue the Coruscant soldiers. Leia and Charles aren't ready to trust him. Cedric does - after all, he's a gentleman! Charles nearly squeezes the life out of him before he reveals that Fettson has Henry in the stables and is just about ready to leave.

It was almost quarter of 7 before I finally broke for dinner. Had chicken salad sandwiches on hot dog rolls for a quick dinner. Played Lego Star Wars: Clone Wars while I ate. I had more luck with this one on my own than I did with Lauren. Managed to get Anakin onto one of the critters and take a preying mantis-like monster out before the Jedi Calvary arrived. When they did get there, I had to make sure they got back on their ships and close the door safely.

Unlike Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga, which is based after linear films, Clone Wars was inspired by a weekly ongoing action cartoon. Instead of just moving on to the next mission from the hub, two missions opened. I tried one, with Obi-Wan and Anakin chasing Count Dooku, but I didn't get far. Did much better with Anakin's apprentice Ahsoka, one of the clone commanders Rex, and a little black astometech droid setting up explosives to blow up a clone-making facility. Once I figured out what I was doing, that one was kind of fun. It ended with the black droid turning out to be a spy...and Artoo actually dueling with him while the others escaped.

Clone Wars is slightly more complex than Complete Saga, both in graphics and in game play. With so many Jedi around, you use the Force a lot more, including for most building. The clones and their grappling guns replace Indy's whip here. It's also a lot easier to get killed. Enemies are stronger, and there's more of them. It's more like what I've seen of Lego The Force Awakens online. I'll see if I can return to the Dooku mission the next time I play, now that I have a better understanding of how the basics work.

Oh, and the clouds were scuttling in, even as I rode home. It didn't start raining until a few hours ago, though. Thankfully, it sounds like the rain is going to peter out by early morning. Jodie invited me over for burgers and hot dogs tomorrow at 4, and I suspect she'd be happier cooking them while dry.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

May Fair Affair

I was grateful to see a warm sun when I awoke this morning. Celebrated with breakfast and a couple of Universal wartime shorts. Woody Woodpecker's only war-related cartoon was "Ace In the Hole." Woody wants to fly planes, but his sergeant has him shearing horses. Woody does finally make it into the air...with explosive results. "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B" is the tale of a popular jazz trumpeter who lands in the army and keeps his unit humming with his swinging tunes. (This may be awash in stereotypes, but it also features a really nifty version of the title song and is one of the few shorts of its era to depict minorities in the military.) "Pigeon Patrol" gives a country bumpkin bird a chance to shine when he helps a downed flyer get an important message past the enemy.

Finally headed out around quarter of 10. I wanted to at least briefly check out this year's Collingswood May Fair, but I first needed money. Along with hitting the ATM machine at WaWa, I found another limited edition Pepsi flavor. "Dew S.A" It's a combination of their three bright-colored fruit flavors, White Out, Voltage, and Code Red. Not bad. A very pleasing berry flavor.

The Farm Market is absorbed into the May Fair for the week, taking up a side street. Even with fewer booths, they were still elbow-to-elbow busy. Though I did see the first snap peas of the season, I settled for small organic heads of Boston and Red Romaine lettuce. Also grabbed strawberries and bananas.

Strolled around the fair for a little bit. The May Fair is Collingswood's big Memorial Day Weekend community event, covering most of Haddon Avenue. Though there's rides for the kids and an antique car show, I basically just had time to peek at the craft booths. Mainly saw art and hand-made jewelry, but I also noticed wood carvers, photographers, knitters, stuffed animal and pillow makers, doll clothes and children's clothes seamstresses, carpenters, and several local businesses. There's also a ton of food booths, from fresh-squeezed lemonade to funnel cake, and bands playing at a couple of stages.

Had enough time to hurry home, eat Apple-Cinnamon Muffins and strawberries for lunch, and change while watching a couple of Popeye shorts. Popeye entered the war several months before the US did, in "The Mighty Navy." Most of his adventures at sea, like "Fleets of Strength" or "Blunder Below," shows how hard a time he has with following the Navy's orders...before taking on their attackers in his own way.

He and Bluto continue to compete for Olive in the exotic "Kicking the Conga Around." They want to show off for Senorita Olive, but Popeye can't dance the conga like Bluto. Spinach turns him into a dancing and fighting machine!

Got my schedule right when I arrived at work. I figured I'd work on Memorial Day, but not this early, or early on Sunday, either. And while I don't have off again until Wednesday, I do get Wednesday and Friday.

Work was a bit of a pain. Despite it being one of the major holiday weekends of the late spring, I spent most of my shift cleaning the bathroom, doing returns, organizing soda coolers, and sweeping up cigarette butts...and I never did get a chance to finish the first two. I kept getting called to do other things, including during my break. The other bagger was scrubbing the soda coolers when I finally realized how low the carts were getting. We gathered carts for the last hour, which we probably should have been doing all afternoon.

Headed home after picking up an onion (which I forgot at the farm market) and using two Monopoly free coupons to buy aluminum foil and hot dog rolls. Did a little writing for the next few hours. Leia kicks and screams, but it does no good. Fettson finally drags Henry away. Meanwhile, Luke and Rusty have arrived. Charles and Leia try to warn them, but they take off anyway. Rusty suggests they split up, with Luke going after Henry and Rusty following the others.

Luke does start after Fettson, until he notices a rustling black cape in the garden. Determined to eliminate Vader once and for all, he makes his way up the stone staircase and into the winding mountainside greenery.

Broke around quarter of 7 for crusted salmon and a green salad with home-made honey mustard dressing for dinner. Finished the Popeye wartime shorts, with a few extra ones, as I ate. Though Popeye and Bluto continue to pursue Olive in "Olive Oyl and Water Don't Mix" and "Aloma of the South Seas," they also deal with more (and a few less) typical Navy matters. When Olive leaves Sweet Pea in Popeye's care, the child wanders all over the ship, sending his sitter on a frantic search for him in "Baby Wants a Bottleship." Popeye finds himself temporarily in the Army in "Many Tanks" when Bluto switches places with him so he can land a date with Olive. He makes his way past the Nazis to deliver "Spinach to Britain." Bluto claims he's "Too Weak to Work," but what he really wants is time in the hospital to avoid his duties.

Also did two non-military shorts while I cleaned up from dinner. Popeye's saying "Nix on Hypnotrics" when a nefarious hypnotist uses his powers on Olive and tries to bring her to him. "Cartoons Ain't Human" is one of my favorite shorts from this era. Popeye goes about as meta as you can get and creates his own version of a typical Popeye/Olive rescue romp, much to the delight of his nephews.

Made a Banana Cake while watching Shaun the Sheep: The Movie. Shaun is bored with his typical routine and wishes the Farmer would go on holiday, or at least do something a bit different. He gets a lot more adventure than he bargained for when an accident lands the Farmer in the hospital with amnesia. First Shaun, then Blitzer, then all the sheep on the farm go after him. While they try to jolt his memory, the nasty head of Animal Control is determined to capture Shaun and the others

An action-packed send-off to Shaun and his fellow farm animals, with more movie and TV references than you can shake a razor at. For all the shout-outs, I was surprised at some of the darker moments, especially after the Farmer vanishes and when he doesn't recognize them. If you're a fan of Shaun or his series or other Aardman projects, this is a really enjoyable way to send off a great show.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Looney Wartime Tales

It was still cloudy and cool when I got going this morning. Celebrated the beginning of Memorial Day Weekend with three shorts that had Superman fighting Axis powers during World War II. Despite some Japanese stereotypes, "The Eleventh Hour" is also a surprisingly mature tale of Superman committing sabotage in Tokyo while he and Lois are being held hostage. "Jungle Drums" has him rescuing Lois from natives who are being controlled by Nazis. He aids a "Secret Agent" who is trying to get papers with vital information to Washington.

It was past 11 when I headed out for my first errand of the day. I didn't have that much laundry to do, but I figured I might as well get it done before the weekend kicks in. Everyone else in Camden County must have had the same idea. They were busy with several families when I arrived. I worked on my story notes and explained them to a curious little girl.

Went home and put everything away, then headed back out. First stop on the agenda was Rite Aid. I was hoping they'd have that copy of Vanity Fair with the four Star Wars: The Last Jedi covers. No luck, but I did pick up a USB stick on a major clearance. I'll use it to clear the photos off my cell phone and make room for apps I can use while traveling.

Had lunch at Friendly's in the Westmont Plaza across the street. It was just after 1 PM, and they were still pretty busy. A large family in the back consisted mainly of older children and seemed to be having a lot of fun. The family next to me wasn't nearly so amusing. The children were far younger, the oldest not much more than a toddler. He sat in a high chair and kept reaching for everything, including my burger and fries. Thankfully, his arms were too short to get anywhere near them. I ate my All-American Burger, fries, and Viennese Mocha Chunk ice cream with marshmallow sauce and a mountain of whipped cream and ignored them.

The Haddon Township Library wasn't anywhere near that busy. In fact, there really wasn't much going on there. There weren't even many DVDs or new releases to shelve. I did put away some audio books and CDs. Didn't take out any movies, but I did find some books. I'm intrigued by the new DC Superhero Girls line of dolls...but as nifty as they are, they cost the same twenty bucks as the Ever After High dolls. I'm not starting yet another collection I may lose interest in a year or so later. I'll give the first novels for Wonder Woman, Supergirl, and Batgirl a try before I buy anything.

Made short stops at CVS and the Acme to try to find that Star Wars magazine. No luck. The weather wasn't looking pretty, either. The sun had been in and out all day, but by quarter of 3, clouds were starting to build up again. Not to mention, the kids were on their way out of school. I saw a couple as I rolled across Newton Lake Park. They're so green right now, probably thanks to all the rain we've gotten. The leaves are almost at their full sizes now.

Spent the rest of the afternoon working on my story. Determined to break the Crimson Hawk and use his pain to lure his ward, Vader tortures Henry's burned arm, using his electrical sword to burn it further, then slowly dripping ice down it. He formally arrests Henry, then brings Langdon and Bob "Boba" Fettson to take him to Jenkins Huttman, the most notorious gangster on the Tatoonie Islands, who will decide his fate. Before they drag him away, Leia breaks from the soldier who holds her and into Henry's arms. She loves him, she says. I know, he tells her before they drag him away.

Broke around quarter after 6 PM for dinner. I kept things simple with a raspberry jam and cheese omelet and green beans. Made my favorite Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies recipe for dessert.

Ran Warner Brothers wartime shorts as I ate and baked. Termite Terrace leaped into the war years, making tons of propaganda shorts along with the "Snafu" series for the Army. Did some of the regular wartime shorts tonight. They mainly fell into three categories - basic character comedies that happened to have a wartime bent ("Herr Meets Hare," "Daffy the Commando," "The Draft Horse"), sketch comedy revues on life in the barracks and on the home front ("Wacky Blackout," "Rookie Revue," "The Weakly Reader"), and allegories on how we got into the war...and how we planned to get out ("The Duckinators," "Fifth Column Mouse"). We also got an earlier Warners take on war, the black-and-white World War I musical tale "Bosko the Doughboy."

My favorite World War II shorts from Warners are three classics from Bob Clampett and Chuck Jones featuring Bugs and Daffy. Bugs spoofs the Golden Age of Superheroes when an enhanced carrot turns him into "Super Rabbit." A rabbit-hating cowboy and his horse try to take Bugs on. Meanwhile, Daffy's having his own problems with that pesky Little Man from the Draft Board in "Draftee Daffy." Bugs has a rare encounter with an antagonist who gives as good as he gets when he tangles with a gremlin sabotaging planes in "Falling Hare."

(Oh, and the clouds broke up shortly after I got home. It ended up being a pretty nice evening, actually.)

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Stormy Weather

Started the day with my first work shift in over a week and a half. It was raining when I headed out to the Acme. Thankfully, it had started to slow down even by the time I arrived. I had just finished rounding up the carts when it started up again. Spent the rest of the morning inside. I did get some returns and most of the bathrooms done before my break. Good thing. The rain had caused some flooding, and several people called out. I was stuck in the registers for the last hour of my shift. It was busy with frustrating people and absolutely no fun.

I hurried home as quickly as possible the moment I finished. Had Apple-Cinnamon Muffins for lunch while watching the first of two Backyardigans hour-long episodes, "Super Secret Super Spy." Pablo is the Bond-type secret agent who likes his apple juice shaken and his cars filled with gadgets. He's assigned by Ms. T (Tasha) to find three containers and keep them away from The Lady In Pink (Uniqua) and her hench-moose (Tyrone). If she gets her feelers on them, it could be a recipe for disaster! Pablo's fellow agent Austin does his best to help.

Spent the next couple of hours working on my story. Vader tries to question Leia and Henry at the dinner, but he gets nothing out of them. Not to mention, they make it quite clear from their hand-holding and dreamy expressions that they're crazy about each other. Their love-sick stares remind Vader entirely too much of how it was for him and Padme, years ago.

Vader finally has them brought to his chambers upstairs. He strips Henry's shirt off and whips his back until he screams. Leia is forced to watch. While they do have a tender moment while she tends to Henry's scarred back, it doesn't last. First Charles and the battered Cedric is tossed in with them, then Langdon shows up with Vader and his men. They reveal that they're trying to lure Luke there...and he and Rusty are already on their way. While Cedric fusses over Rusty leading Luke into danger, Henry attacks Langdon. It takes all of Langdon's men to hold him back.

Broke around 6:30 to make leftovers for dinner. Watched Moana as I ate. The title character is the prin...chief's daughter of a Polynesian island, where the people live happily and haven't left in decades. Unlike most of her people, Moana feels the call of the ocean and wishes to travel. Her father fears for her safety and discourages her, but her grandmother tells her the story of their ancestors, who were explorers. She discovers upon her grandmother's death that the island is also dying. Mischievous, selfish demigod Maui stole the green eye of a goddess island, who was destroyed by a great fire monster. Moana sets out to return the emerald eye the island and get Maui to put it back where it belongs. The great demigod turns out to be an obnoxious jerk who only cares about himself and how humans see him. Even when he tries to lose her on the Island of Monsters, she remains determined to see her quest through.

The first half of this feels a bit cliched, Pocahontas crossed with Brave with the South-Seas setting of Lilo and Stitch. The movie picks up considerably once we've hit the water for good. Maui's obnoxious and annoying, but he's also hilarious, and he has a great song, "You're Welcome." (I had no idea Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson was such a good singer.) The sequence with the giant singing crab was weird, but it is very well-animated, and the song "Shiny" is so enjoyably campy. Lin-Manuel Miranda of Hamilton fame wrote the lyrics, which explains a lot of things (including the Oscar nomination for Moana's big song, "How Far I'll Go").

For all the wacky personalities around her, I really loved Moana. Feisty and determined, this girl won't let anything come between her and her chance to save her people - not crabs, fire monsters, rough seas, snarky demigods, or her own lack of sailing abilities. The ocean chose her, and she will NOT let it, or anyone, down. I'm also glad to see her relationship with Maui played as more of friend/mentor deal than obvious love interest. It's very refreshing in a Disney movie, especially one aimed at girls.

While I didn't love it quite as much as last March's Zootopia, this is a fun, colorful movie in its own right, with unique characters, a wonderful heroine, and a fabulous score. If you or your daughters loved other girl-oriented Disney adventures like Mulan or Brave, or are interested in the ocean, sailing, or exotic cultures, this is one high-seas voyage that's well worth taking.

Incidentally, the rain returned while I was writing, this time with thunder and lightning. It's been storming on and off ever since.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Nobody Does It Better

Today was Lauren's last day here. We spent the morning quietly, playing Kirby's Epic Yarn. We were able to finish off the main rounds of Treat World, including the boss for this round, Squashini. We did the extra patches...but we ran out of time to play the rounds. By the time we finished the boss level, it was 11:30. Dad was going to be around to pick us up at 11:55. Lauren finished stuffing everything into her suitcase and backpack before taking the suitcase down early.

Dad was on time picking us up, and there were no problems on the road. We pulled into Cherry Hill well ahead of the train's scheduled time. I hugged Lauren at the platform, and we said our good-byes there. She said she had a great time, and despite a few bobbles with yesterday, so did I. We always have fun when we get together.

After I got home, I went right upstairs, put my blue rain coat away, and headed back out. I wanted to run a few errands, starting at the Oaklyn Library. They were slightly busier than they were when Lauren and I dropped by yesterday. Several folks were using the computers, including a grandmother who was trying to calm a fussy baby. The kids' DVDs and the board books badly needed to be organized. The adult titles weren't nearly as bad. I was out in about a half-hour.

Took out a few movies from the Oaklyn Library. They don't have as large of a collection as Haddon Township, but they get the latest titles right when they come out (instead of a month or so later), they have them around for longer, and they do have a few titles that Haddon Township doesn't. I opted for one of the newer titles I wanted to see too badly to wait (Moana, the latest Disney princess film) and two that the Haddon Township Library doesn't have (Sean the Sheep: The Movie and the live-action Disney Swiss Family Robinson).

I didn't have much of a choice about hitting the Acme. I needed my schedule. I'm working in the morning tomorrow and afternoon Saturday and am off Friday. I'll have time to work on writing, clean up from my visitor, and do some volunteering at the Haddon Township Library, plus I work late enough on Saturday to get away with a quick run to the Collingswood Farm Market.

Only needed a few things there. I cheered myself up with a vanilla creme doughnut, using my last free doughnut coupon. Restocked sugar, cereal (Quaker was on sale - I got Cinnamon Oatmeal Squares), black beans, tomato sauce, and honey. I wasn't going to do major grocery shopping this week, so I figured I might as well get anything now that couldn't wait.

Had a quick lunch of yogurt, a granola protein bar, and a banana when I got in. Watched The Backyardigans as I ate and put everything away. Tyrone, Uniqua, and Pablo are on a "Secret Misson" to return an object to the museum. They have to navigate their way around booby traps and three halls filled with artifacts before they find the one they're looking for. But will Tyrone's "spy maple syrup" ever come in handy?

Spent the rest of the day at home, working on my story. Vader does invite them to dinner. He's trying to get information from Henry and Leia about Luke, where he is and his arrival. He taunts them both before Bob "Boba" Fettson arrives as well, revealing that he told Vader where they were going and intends to take Henry to the notorious gangster Jenkins Huttman.

Broke around 5;30 to make Apple-Cinnamon Muffins and have leftover chicken tenders, asparagus and a toasted hamburger roll for dinner. Watched A View to a Kill while I ate in honor of Sir Roger Moore, who passed away yesterday. James Bond (Moore) is trying to figure out who's been putting microchips in race horses. The trail leads to Zorin (Christopher Walken), an industrial genius with an interesting past, and his intimidating lady friend May Day (Grace Jones). Zorin isn't just using microchips on horses. He's hoping to destroy all of San Fransisco's Silicon Valley and dominate the world's microchip industry. James, with the help of Stacy Sutton (Tanya Roberts), heads from France to Frisco to stop him.

Definitely one of the stranger Bond movies. It's also one of the slowest-moving. I have no idea why all that nonsense with the horse racing was even necessary, other than giving Patrick MacNee something to do and letting Bond prance around in a palace. Moore was really showing his age at this point as well - this would be his final Bond movie. Some of the action set pieces are just too campy for words, even for this franchise, including the chase in a cab in Paris and the wild chase in San Francisco involving a fire truck and half their police force. Roberts is one of the worst Bond women, dull and fairly useless. The saving graces are Walken and Jones as two of the series' more intriguing villains, some action that does work (including the finale on the Golden Gate Bridge), and an awesome title song by Duran Duran,

Finished out the night with a much-needed bath. I haven't taken one in ages, and I badly needed it after having spent the last week and a half hiking all over Camden County. I kicked back, listened to jazz, and looked over cake decorating magazines.

(Oh, and I last heard from Lauren a half-hour ago. She said she was at home, showing her parents her goodies. There were no problems at all on the trains or at the station.)

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

A View to a Chill

We slept in again. Lauren wasn't up until 10. It was past 11:30 when we headed out for a short stroll in Oaklyn. Our first stop was the Oaklyn Library. We didn't buy any of the DVDs for sale, but I did get to introduce Lauren to the morning librarian.

Next up, we returned to the House of Fun and Comicrypt. I didn't buy anything at either place. Lauren did better, picking up several vintage wrestling magazines and the large, rubbery LJN version of Roddy Piper from the mid-80's. Lauren browsed at the comics store (which wasn't nearly as busy as it was last Wednesday). I settled for petting the cats.

Headed a couple of blocks down and across the street to WaWa. Lauren wanted soda for her trip home tomorrow. Since we were there, I suggested getting sandwiches for lunch instead of eating out. I got a roast beef and provolone hoagie on a whole wheat Shorti roll, a bag of multi-grain chips, and discovered Coke released a Sprite Cherry Zero. Lauren got that roast beef and horseradish panini I tried a while back, honey barbecue chips, and the Sprite Cherry and a Wild Cherry Pepsi.

We ate at the benches on West Clinton. Lauren took a quick side trip into Phillies Phatties to grab something called Pepsi Fire, a cinnamon-flavored soda that's apparently only out for a few weeks this summer. She also discovered the same thing I did when I had that sandwich - WaWa's got some potent horseradish. That stuff makes your eyes water!

Our last stop was a little consignment shop across the street from Phillies Phatties, Deja Vu. The lady who owns the shop is a very enthusiastic clothes collector and fashion designer. She only buys the best...which means that even the cheapest item in the store was still beyond my budget. It was mostly good clothes, suit jackets and dresses and high-heeled shoes and fancy purses and silk sweaters. Lauren bought a sweater for herself for work and a blouse for her mother. Even if I'd had the money, most of those high-end designers don't do plus sizes. I found very few things that would actually fit.

Spent the next couple of hours at home, playing Kirby's Epic Yarn and Lego Indiana Jones 2. We finished Hot Land (including the extra rounds) and got through the first two rounds of Treat World in the former and completed Part II and most of Part III in Indy. By 6, we were getting really bored. It had been cloudy, chilly, and damp all day. We were supposed to get rain later in the afternoon, but it never happened. We finally said "the heck with it" and went back out.

Ended up and Phillies Yummies for a treat (after Lauren shooed one of Charlie's dogs back into the front yard). She got a strawberry lemonade water ice. I got a mint-chocolate Yum Yum (creamier, grittier water ice). Oooh, it was soo minty! The flavor was really strong with this one. We ignored the cool evening (and the Mr. Softee truck coming down the street) and headed home, water ice and Yum Yum in hand.

Lauren packed and I combined the leftover dip and Sloppy Joe mixes for dinner. Did a Dreamworks Animation double feature while we ate and got organized, starting with How to Train Your Dragon. Hiccup is not your typical viking. He's skinny and sarcastic, preferring to create weapons to fighting fire-breathing lizards, like his father the chief and the rest of the village. When they think he's killed a dragon, he's recruited with other young people (including his crush, the very intense Astrid) to become the next generation of dragon-killers. Hiccup really doesn't want to kill dragons. He finally makes friends with one of the most fearsome...who shows him the reason the dragons are attacking the villagers in the first place. Now Hiccup and Astrid have to convince the vikings that the dragons aren't evil, before there's more casualties on both sides.

We were online and Lauren was finishing the chips and dip by the time we'd switched to The Croods. They're the not-so-modern, very-much-stone-age family who live in fear of the many things outside their cave that can kill them, especially dad Grug. Daughter Eep is less fearful. After finally venturing outside the cave, she encounters a handsome non-Neanderthol named Guy. Guy is perpetually creating wonderful things, like fire and puppets...and he's on the run. He insists that the end of the world is coming. An earthquake that destroys the Croods' cave bears this out. Grug is upset when everyone elects to follow Guy and discover what's beyond the mountains...but even he eventually discovers that stepping out of our caves and into the light may help us evolve, and that change isn't always such a horrible thing.

How to Train Your Dragon is one of Dreamworks' most beloved franchises, spawning a TV series and a second, equally-good film. The Croods is an underrated exploration of family, curiosity, and taking risks that got lost in the cracks between Dreamworks owners and deserves to be better-known.

Today was our last full day together. Lauren goes home at 12:20 tomorrow. I'll go to the Acme and get my schedule, then see how I feel.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Philadelphia Freedom

My eyes fluttered open and checked the clock on my crate bedstand...which read quarter of 10. Yikes! We'd planned on being out of the house by 10:30! Not to mention, rain pattered heavily on the roof. By the time I'd finished with my journal and was dressed and eating breakfast, Lauren was on her phone. Her dad had apparently texted her, asking her for help with something.

Lauren put on a couple of season 5 Danger Mouse shorts while she dealt with her dad and I got organized. Danger Mouse and Penfold are on vacation, but they still get involved with "The Long Lost Crown Affair" when they seek the headgear of a king who was a well-known practical joker. They're saying "By George, It's a Dragon!" when they're dispatched to stop the title lizard in Wales. But this odd fellow isn't quite as bad as you might expect. DM has to "Tiptoe Through the Penfolds" when Baron Greenback's new cloning machine produces thousands of his best friend. "Project Moon" takes the duo to outer space to dismantle Greenback's lunar communications jamming device. "The Next Ice Age Begins at Midnight" if DM and Penfold don't stop his weather creating machine. Danger Mouse is to meet some intergalactic travelers in "The Aliens are Coming," but they just want to play with their toys...and him.

It was still raining by quarter of noon. We finally just gave up, threw on jackets and umbrellas, and headed out. It was at least slowing down a bit by the time we arrived at Tortilla Press, a gourmet Mexican restaurant in Collingswood. We always have lunch there at least once when Lauren visits. The main dining area, with its primary-colored walls and beautiful artwork, was surprisingly quiet for lunch hour. Only one other group of older men enjoyed a meal. We had the same quesadillas we did last year. She had shrimp and bacon; I had mango, chicken, and brie. They were just as good this time around.

The rain had returned, once again heavily, as we stepped onto Haddon Avenue. We just ignored the weather and kept walking. Lauren's been wanting to see Rocket Fizz, a unique candy store and gift shop in Westmont. They sell "Rowdy" Roddy Piper Bubble Gum and Bubble Gum-Flavored Soda, among other unusual sodas and confections. I didn't get anything. I still have plenty of snacks at home.

Though the rain was slowing down at this point, it was also almost 2 PM. Not to mention, even if we wanted to do more local shopping, many small stores here are closed on Monday. We settled for strolling back to Collingswood, where we hopped on a half-full PATCO train to Philadelphia.

With the big FYE on Broad Street gone, our only real interest in Center City was the massive Macy's. We spent an hour here. Other than going to the bathroom, I didn't get anything. As almost everyone at the party reminded me yesterday, I don't have a lot of money. Lunch and train tickets cost enough as it was. Lauren took advantage of a buy two, get one half-off sale on bras to pick up a few for her. We were back in the PATCO station by 3:30 and in Collingswood by quarter after 4.

(By the way, we got to check out the newly remodeled cars both ways. The ugly tan-and-sage seats had been replaced by more heavily-padded gray ones with striking red trim and thick plastic and vinyl handles. Much nicer and sleeker.)

Thankfully, by this point, the air was warmer and the rain was long gone. It was just cloudy when we hit The Pop Shop for a snack. The popular local diner wasn't terribly busy - we'd just missed kids coming out of school. We both had Cherry Soda Floats. Lauren had hers with vanilla ice cream, I had mine with chocolate. Lauren got mozzarella sticks for a snack. The two of us ended up sharing them.

Strolled home after we ate, dodging rush-hour traffic on Haddon Avenue and the White Horse Pike. Played video games for a while after we got in. This time, it was Kirby's Epic Yarn that glitched as we were working on Dino Jungle in Hot Land. Switched back to Lego Indiana Jones 2 and finished that crash-and-bash cutter tank round.

The "challenge" round was certainly that. We had to go back through the round in the dark and pop 10 balloons to get the golden treasure chest. This wasn't nearly as easy at it sounds! You don't have the cutter here, only the Russian jeeps and trucks, making it harder to get through the foliage. It's also in the dark. The trees and flora make it hard to see during the regular round, never mind in the dark! It must have taken us 20 minutes or more to do this round.

We had quite enough of video games after that. I hit the shower, then made us leftover Sloppy Joes for dinner. I threw in the half of a grapefruit I didn't have the time to eat this morning for fruit.

Finished out the night online while watching Brave. This unique Pixar tale introduces us to Merida (Kelly MacDonald), a Scottish princess who loves running free, shooting her bows and arrows and riding her horse Angus. What she doesn't like is learning about the proper rules of decorum from her straight-laced mother (Emma Thompson). She's really upset when her parents invite the nerdy sons of the local clan chiefs to their land to win her hand in marriage. It's her mother who's angry when she steps up and out-shoots the guys, winning her own hand. After she and her mother rashly destroy the things that mean the most to them, she goes to a witch (Julie Christie) to find a potion to change her mother's mind. What she didn't expect was for it to change her mother into a bear...and her mischievous brothers, too. Now she has to find a way to change them back, before her father mistakes them for Mordu, the frightening wild bear who almost killed her family.

This is unusual for Disney in general and Pixar in particular in many respects. Although Merida is an "official" Disney princess, she has more in common with Mulan and Moana than Snow White and Cinderella. No prince awaits her, nor does she want one to. Indeed, the story hinges on Merida controlling her own destiny and learning to respect her mother and her heritage. This is also very much a woman's movie, mainly revolving around a mother-daughter relationship. Many men may not understand it much more than the clan chiefs and Merida's father did.

Women and families with girls who are looking for a "princess" film where the princess does something besides prance around in ball gowns will really love this one.

Tomorrow is Lauren's last full day. We're still going to be dodging rain and I need to watch my fiances. We're likely just going to be strolling around in Oaklyn and eating in one of the smaller places on West Clinton Avenue.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

We are Family

We slept in today, since we had no plans for the morning. When we did roll out of bed, it was a glorious, sunny morning, bright and windy. Enjoyed the lovely day with a walk to WaWa. I needed milk and money. There were quite a few people out and about, too, working in their gardens, riding bikes with their kids, or chatting on their porches. WaWa wasn't too busy, probably because we got there around 10:30-11, when most people were in church or working in their yards. I got my milk, got my money, and we headed out.

Lauren ran Pink Panther shorts while I made Banana Pancakes for our brunch. "It's Pink, but Is It Mink?" has Tarzan trying to capture the Pink Panther to turn his fur into an outfit for Jane. The pastel feline goes on a "Pink Campaign" when a lumberjack cuts down his home. He becomes "The Scarlet Pink-ernel" to rescue dogs from the dog catcher. A magician's rabbit takes a shine to him in "Mystic Pink." "The Pink of Arabee" visits the Middle East and goes paw-to-tassel with a magic carpet. He claims to be "The Pink Pro" who can teach one poor fellow to play any sport, but his attempts lands his client in the hospital. "The Pink Piper" wants to lead the rats out of town, but when his playing doesn't seem to work, the baker decides on more aggressive methods. "Pinky Doodle" is ordered to send pamphlets to the citizens of Philadelphia during the American Revolution, but a Red Coat horse doesn't make this easy!

Kicked back and relaxed for a few hours, playing Lego Indiana Jones 2 together. We went into "Kingdom of the Crystal Skull-Part 2," getting through the hospital and the temple (after having problems with our controllers getting stuck on the former). It took her a while, but Lauren finally did the motorcycle run, winning a Russian soldier character we could buy. Turns out the soldier was able to unlock a bonus round. Lauren accidentally found another near the temple.

Headed out to Dad and Jodie's around quarter after 2. They were already swarming with people when we arrived. I thought this was going to be a small thing, just the two sides of the family and maybe a few neighbors and their kids. Nothing is EVER small in my family. Dad and Jodie must have invited a bunch of their friends from the area, too. I didn't recognize more than half the people there. At least Lauren did get to meet most of my family, including Anny and her brood, Mom and Dad-Bill, Vanessa (Mark apparently claimed baby showers were for women), and Craig's parents and brother. Jessa was there as well. Jodie even gave little Lilah, who loves horses, one of her porcelain carousel horses that she's trying to get rid of. Lilah couldn't take her eyes off them. Khai and Lilah's brothers spent most of the afternoon in the pool, though Craig and Jay, Anny's boyfriend, did take them down the hill to the small dock for a while.

There was so much food. The dining room table groaned with pasta salad, macaroni salad with mayo, baked ziti, hot and sweet sausage, Chicken Marsala, green beans baked with garlic, meatballs, and a spring salad with carrots, radishes, and celery. My pudding pie and tartlets and petit fours from Desserts by Design were joined by chocolate and vanilla cupcakes, eclairs, giant peanut butter, chocolate chip, and oatmeal raisin cookies (Anny made those - the oatmeal cookies were amazing), muffins, baklava, scones, and massive danishes and elephant's ears. I had the Chicken Marsala in a crusty bakery roll, baked ziti (it was dry), salad, and green beans. Lauren replaced the ziti with the pasta salad and had her chicken on the plate. We both had cupcakes. I had a strawberry petit four and cookies. She had an eclair.

I can't believe how many gifts Rose got! Along with the usual things like boxes of diapers and wipes and baby furniture, there were toys, books, a rubber duckie (Khai insisted his baby sister would need her own rubber duckie), piles and piles of clothes (including ones hung all over the first floor of the house as decorations), and hand-knitted and crocheted blankets, hats, and stuffed animals. Khai and his buddies from the neighborhood had a blast helping her open all those boxes and baskets. Rose loved the Philadelphia Phillies onesie Lauren and I gave her. Rose and Craig are huge baseball fans. (And ironically, after all Rose's fussing, a lot of the clothing and toys were pink.)

Lauren and I strolled home around 5, shortly after Rose finished opening the presents. We're not party people, and Lauren doesn't really know my family well. We went back to Lego Indiana Jones 2 until the jungle crash-and-bash round glitched and got stuck. Switched to Kirby's Epic Yarn after that, playing through Grass World and the first few rounds of Hot Land.

Had leftover Tex-Mex dip and chips for dinner while watching The Goonies. A group of Oregon teenagers desperately want to figure out how to save their homes from developers. While exploring their attic, one of the youngest, Mikey (Sean Astin), discovers a map that could lead to the fabled lost treasure of pirate One-Eyed Willy. He figures this could be their way of staying together...if they can get past a family of thieves who are also after the treasure. Meanwhile, plump, perpetually lying Chunk (Jeff Cohen) befriends Sloth, the hulking, damaged son of the thieves.

This has been a favorite of my family since it came out in 1985. It was one of the first two movies we recorded off cable when we got a VCR in 1986 (along with Return of the Jedi). It always felt a little more real to us than it probably did to most kids, growing up at the Jersey Shore around similar pirate yarns. Older kids and young teens who love adventure stories and adults who grew up with this may get just as much of a kick out of it as we did.

Lauren wanted to see the rather strange video Cyndi Lauper did for the song "Good Enough," which can be heard in the beginning of the film and during the credits. Lauper had been working with the WWF (now WWE) at the time, and several beloved professional wrestlers of the era (including Lauren's favorite, "Rowdy" Roddy Piper), put in appearances in a spoof of The Goonies and treasure-hunt tails in general.

Tomorrow we're going to dodge rain to explore downtown Philadelphia and take a further look at Collingswood and Westmont.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

The Eye of the Tiger

We both got going around 8:30-9 this morning to run errands. Lauren hasn't seen She-Ra in years, so I put on an episode of that while we got going. "Duel at Devlan" has She-Ra helping a small town that's being bullied by members of the Horde. They're counting on the townspeople being too frightened to help her, but when they see her going against the soldiers alone, they realize how important it is for them to fight back.

The weather had changed completely overnight. It was raining when we awoke. By 10:30, the rain was long gone, but the damp clouds and chilly wind remained. It was so cold, we both needed jackets for the first time since Lauren arrived. Despite the temperatures, the Collingswood Farm Market was elbow-to-elbow busy. I was afraid of squishing strawberries and blueberries, and they tend to be pricey. I ended up buying green beans, plus bananas and grapefruit from the fruit wholesaler.

I wanted to look at the record store, but despite the sign on their window saying they opened at 11, the door was still locked tight when we arrived. We strolled a few doors down to Frugili Consignment instead. I didn't get anything, but Lauren bought two pairs of shorts for herself and a sweater for her mother.

Had lunch at Cafe Antonio's, a couple of blocks down Haddon Avenue. Like Tu Se Bella, they make gourmet pizza with unique toppings (and slightly better prices). Lauren had a teriyaki tomato. I had broccoli-tomato-white. We both had "Chicken Parmesan," cheese and breaded chicken, and Wild Cherry Pepsi. Yum. The Chicken Parmesan was especially amazing.

The record store was open when we were passing after lunch. Lauren checked out the candy store while I browsed. Ended up with two fairly rare Broadway cast albums, the 1959 hit Fanny and the 1960 flop Greenwillow, along with the soundtrack from the film version of The Music Man (replacing the cassette copy I've had since high school).

Headed back around 1. We still had other things to do. Rested and put everything away, then headed back out. Lauren needed to wash clothes for the week, and I had new clothes that needed to be cleaned. The laundromat was fairly busy when we arrived...which made it all the more embarrassing when the Tide I meant to pour into the washing machine spilled and went all over my hand and the top of the machine instead. Good thing I had towels from the kitchen in there. I was also out of money, and while I was able to pay for the washing machine, Lauren and I ended up splitting the drier.

Spent an hour playing video games when we got in. We finished the first part of Kingdom of the Crystal Skull in Lego Indiana Jones 2 in record time, once I figured out I had to use Indy's whip to get the cranes to drop down. Since we didn't have much time left, we went back and did another bonus round instead of moving on.

I made a tasty dinner of Sloppy Joes (from Julie's Cooking Studio) and green beans, mainly to use those free hamburger rolls I got with the Monopoly coupons. We watched more She-Ra as we ate and I did the dishes. Bow is jealous of "The Red Knight" when the mysterious warrior bests him in a race, but he learns how important he is when his archery skills save the Knight and Queen Angelica. "The Missing Ax" was lost by two little boys who were playing instead of keeping an eye on it. They lie and tell their father it was stolen. When Bow hears this, he goes into a Horde-controlled town after it and is captured. She-Ra has to get the truth from the kids, then rescue Bow.

Jessa picked us up around quarter after 6. She and Joe just moved into a slightly larger condo above their old one. They got to show us around (and gave me three stuffed Sailor Moon dolls, part of the things they were trying to get rid of at a yard sale today) before we all headed to a local community center to see the wrestling show.

The ECWA is East Coast wrestling, not huge, but certainly noisy enough! I'm not a wresting fan and can't really tell you much about what happened, other than there were at least two no-holds-barred free-for-alls, including in the end after the previous champ had beaten the favorite. Oh, and Jessa won the 50-50 raffle.

We were so tired, we came home and went straight online. Given all the hiking around we've been doing, it may be just as well that we're mostly just going to be doing Rose's baby shower tomorrow. (I do need to hit WaWa at some point for money and milk.)

Friday, May 19, 2017

Some Kind of Wonderful

It was still sunny and hot when I got up this morning. We wanted to leave a little earlier this time and beat the heat. Lauren was already up by 8:30. Put on a couple of Bugs Bunny shorts as I had breakfast and we got organized. "Baseball Bugs" takes over an entire team in order to put a passel of obnoxious stadium-sized players in their place. "Rabbit Seasoning" is second of three Bugs/Elmer/Daffy hunting cartoons. Bugs goes baton-to-banjo with an opera singer with no sense of humor (or fondness for hits from Warners musical movies) in "Long-Haired Hare." Bugs is a "High Diving Hare" when Yosemite Sam wants him to do the high-diving act in place of the original performer...but the clever bunny has many ways of wiggling out of it. Sam ends up being the one who's all wet.

Headed out around quarter of 10. Made a quick stop at WaWa for money and Gatorade to keep us hydrated on another hot, sizzling sunny day. We strolled as briskly as we could get away with in the heat. Made it to King's Highway in Audubon with ten minutes to spare. The bus to the Moorestown Mall was only a minute or two late. There was no problem getting there, no traffic anywhere on the route, and only four other people went all the way to the end with us.

Instead of starting in the mall and heading outside as we did last year, since we were already outside when we got off, we started with a walk around the sprawling East Gate Shopping Center. I noticed a Chick Fil'A as the bus was winding down the street. We were going in that direction anyway, so we ate there first.

We got in at quarter of 12, just missing the lunch crowds. Lauren had a chicken wrap with waffle fries and soda. I had a chicken club sandwich with the waffle fries and a frozen lemonade. The "frosty lemonade" was creamy and sweet, more like a lemon milkshake than a slush, and absolutely worth the extra money. We chatted and watched kids play in the playground in the front of the building.

Our main interests on that side of the street were Ross Dress for Less and Game Stop. Ross is more-or-less the same thing as TJ Maxx or Marshall's, a department store that sells recent high-end merchandise for a fraction of the cost. Lauren bought clothes for work. I found a cute turquoise blouse for $5.99.

Their Game Stop is a pretty good size for a shopping center store. Lauren bought a Nintendo Switch game, the first either of us have ever seen used. (The system was just released last month!) I bought Indiana Jones and the Staff of Kings, an RPG that lets you play as Indy in an original story. It was only five dollars. For that price, I figured I'd give it a chance.

I always forget there's a free-standing Old Navy on the other side, in the same part of the mall as Michael's. We went there next. They're bigger than the one in Cherry Hill, and have a better selection, too. I found a short-sleeved tunic in a beautiful shade of red coral on clearance for $4.49. Lauren picked up a pair of shorts and two tank tops.

Hiked across the street to spend an hour or so at their enormous Barnes and Noble. While they're one of the few local stores that still sells CDs and DVDs, my main interest was more Star Wars novels. I ended up with Shadow Games, an older novel about Han and Dash Rendar of Shadows of the Empire working together to rescue a pop singer who has fled her marriage to a notorious gangster.

Hit the main mall for a few hours after we got out of Barnes and Noble. Lauren bought a few more blouses for work at Boscov's and a glass with her dad's favorite wrestler (the Ultimate Warrior) on it at FYE. I figured I'd spent enough and didn't buy anything at either place. Enjoyed water ices from Rita's. (I had coconut-pear. Lauren went with a cherry-chocolate Misto Shake.) We browsed in Hallmark, but neither of us saw anything interesting.

Took the 5:37 bus home. It was right on time, and there were once again no problems on the road. If anything, the traffic was worse on the White Horse Pike when we got off. We strolled the back roads home, enjoying the nice breeze, clouds, and slightly cooler temperatures.

(It was supposed to have rained a little today. Hasn't done it yet.)

After we got home and got organized, I made us dinner. I originally intended to coat the chicken tenders I pulled out this morning with some kind of breading and pan-fry them, but it was too late to mess around with it. Sauteed them in home-made turkey stock instead. With steamed asparagus and vegetable spiral pasta from the Acme, it made for a very filling meal after two long days of walking.

Finished out the night and the current Star Wars film series with The Force Awakens. (I'll hold off on the somewhat depressing Rogue One for now.) Rey (Daisy Ridley), a scavenger living on the desert planet Jakku, intercepts an adorable rolly-polly droid who has part of map leading to missing Jedi master Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill). She and former stormtrooper Finn (John Boyega) manage to flee the evil Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), who also wants the droid...and run right into Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Chewbacca (Peter Mahew). They've been looking for their stolen ship, the Millennium Falcon. Han's not thrilled about being in the thick of battle again, but he does it anyway for his wife Leia (Carrie Fisher), now the head of the Resistance. But Ren has a connection to Han and to Leia that could have dire consequences for Rey, her new friends, and the galaxy...

I don't have the problems with this that a lot of older fans do. I'm not bothered by how the original characters were written. They don't have to live perfect lives to be fascinating. I do wish the writing on the villains had been stronger. Kylo Ren comes off as a spoiled brat until his heart-rendering confrontation with Han on the Starkiller Base, and Hux and Phasma barely register (despite the former's considerable female fan base).

And while I'm also not someone who thinks this is a total re-write of New Hope...the Starkiller Base finale was not necessary. Han and Ren could have met anywhere and been just as dramatic. They definitely need to stay away from planet-destroying weapons for the remainder of this series.

I still recommend this for major Star Wars fans, as long as they're open to a different take on a galaxy far, far away.

Tomorrow, we're going to hit the Collingswood Farm Market and explore Haddon Avenue in the morning, then spend the afternoon at home. Jess and Joe invited us to go to a local wrestling tournament in the evening.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Cherry Hill Dreamin'

I started off a hot, hazy day with writing and reading. Lauren didn't get going until past 10. While she got organized, I ate banana-chocolate chip muffins and watched one of the Garfield travel specials. Garfield In the Rough takes the fat cat outdoors when Jon takes him and Odie camping. Garfield's not happy with being stuck in a tiny tent with those two to begin with, but things really take a scary turn when they hear about a panther loose in the area.

We headed off to Westmont around 11. It was a hot, sunny day, even hotter than yesterday, dry but hazy and blistering. I was so happy when we finally got into the Westmont Bagel Shop. It was only 11:30-quarter of 12 at that point, too early for lunch. We had the back dining area almost entirely to ourselves. Lauren had a BLT. I had scrambled eggs with hash browns and a toasted cranberry-whole wheat bagel with butter. We chatted and watched The Price Is Right while we ate.

The bus wasn't coming until 12:47, so we checked out a few more stores. Stopped in Dollar Tree first. I picked up a card for the baby shower on Thursday. Browsed in Tuesday Morning for a while, but didn't buy anything.

The bus finally arrived around 1. There was no traffic anywhere, and we had no trouble getting into Cherry Hill. I was even able to point out the Holiday Inn where the toy convention was back in March.

Explored the Cherry Hill Mall for a while when we got in. Didn't get anything at their small Game Stop. I bought a new brown floral blouse and a 3-pack of (thicker) socks at JC Penney's. Lauren bought three work blouses at Macy's and outfits for her bears at Build-a-Bear. We browsed in The Disney Store, but Lauren didn't see any t-shirts she wanted, and I'm holding off on more Star Wars merchandise until the new "Forces of Destiny" doll line debuts in August and we learn more about The Last Jedi.

It was too hot to do a lot of wandering around outside. Not to mention, by this point, it was past 4. We limited our venture across the pedestrian bridge to a short stop at Babies R Us. We wanted to get Rose's baby girl something unique...but we're not mothers. We don't have children and don't really know what they like or need. We ended up buying a Philadelphia Phillies-themed romper.

I did want to get to Target, but it was hot, we were sweaty, and Lauren was hungry. We ended up going back to the food court at the mall. Lauren bought two massive slices of pepperoni pizza and a soda from Lorenzo's Pizza. I settled for a Royal Reeces Brownie Blizzard from Dairy Queen. Yumm. Hearty and sweet, with lots of peanut butter swirl and brownie batter pieces. It even came in a Rocket Raccoon cup.

The two of us strolled around for a half-hour, just to do something...but I was dead tired. Not to mention, it was almost 5:30. The mall was starting to get much busier with local teens out of school and families avoiding the heat. We took an on-time 5:30 bus home. There was heavy traffic on Cuthbert Road and Haddon Avenue, but it moved fairly fast. We got off at the former Camden Restaurant Supply Store  on the White Horse Pike and strolled home from there.

Played Indiana Jones 2 for an hour after we got in while settling down and eating out of the fridge. Had fun crashing and bashing Russian cars in the "Motorcycle Mayhem" round. We unlocked a bunch of characters after that...among them Indy's former dean at the university, who was able to open up a bonus round.

Finished the night online while watching Revenge of the Sith. We open in the thick of the Clone Wars, with Obi-Wan (Ewan MacGregor), Anakin (Hayden Christensen), and Artoo involved in a daring mission to rescue Chancellor Palpatine (Ian MacDermid) from the nefarious Count Dooku (Christopher Lee). All is not well, however. Anakin desperately wants to become a Jedi Master, but the heads of the order, including Mace Windu (Samuel L. Jackson) and Yoda (voice of Frank Oz) don't think he's ready. That's far from his only problem. His wife Padme (Natalie Portman) is pregnant, and he has a nightmare about her dying. Palpatine claims that his becoming a Sith will allow him to gain the powers to keep her alive. Anakin's destructive choices have heartbreaking consequences for his best friend, his family, the Jedi Order...and ultimately, for himself.

This is my favorite of the prequel films, though it's still no masterpiece. The dialogue remains clunky, and it has the same problems with an over-reliance on then-cutting edge special effects as Attack of the Clones. Anakin turns far too quickly to the dark side! More exploration of what made him change his mind and less Clone Wars would have been nice.

On the other hand, Christensen and Portman do a little better here - their scene where Padme reveals that they're about to expand the family is especially touching. The duels between Palpatine and Yoda and Obi-Wan and Anakin in the finale are truly amazing (even if the latter does go on a bit too long). MacGregor's especially fun as the beleaguered Jedi teacher who doesn't understand why his best friend suddenly turned on him.

Not the most uplifting Star Wars movie or the best choice for families (there's a lot of violence, even for this franchise, and kids are among the dead in the end), but if you can only see one prequel film, see this one. The script's a bit better, the characters are more interesting, the plot isn't quite as complicated, and it has more bearing on what happens in the later movies.

Tomorrow is our second mall trip, this one to Moorestown. I want to get going a little earlier this time. We may be getting a few storms in the afternoon.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The Warmth of the Sun

Lauren and I were so tuckered out from our long day yesterday (she traveled for 8 hours; I did a lot of running around, including a bike ride that was over 30 minutes both ways), we went to bed relatively early. I was up at 7:30. Wrote in my journal and read The Sword and the Shadow, then messed with my phone until Lauren awoke.

Put on an episode of Tiny Toon Adventures while I had breakfast. (Lauren doesn't like to eat in the morning.) Plucky wins a tour of Europe in "Europe In 30 Minutes" and brings the bunnies and Hampton along. They're not impressed at first when the tour moves too fast for them to see much of anything, at least until they end up in England and discover a plot to kidnap the royal family and ransom them for the crown jewels!

We headed out on foot around 10. It turned out to be too early. We were going to do The House of Fun first, but they don't open until 11. We visited a small spiritual books and oils shop first, then Dollar General. It was hot even that early, 78 according to the digital sign at Oaklyn's city hall. At the very least, there was a nice breeze, and it wasn't terribly humid. We stopped at the hillside overlooking Newton Lake Park (formerly the home of an abandoned Burger King) and the parking lot of the empty former PNC bank building before Lauren saw someone open the House of Fun.

The House of Fun was the usual dusty jumble of pop culture debris and arcade games (not turned on today, probably because they just opened). We both made finds here. Lauren dug through a bin and came up with four loose wrestling action figures from the 80's, including one representing her favorite, "Rowdy" Roddy Piper. I bought the 1998 Power of the Force 12-inch Luke to join the Han, Leia, and Lando I got here in December and February.

It was nearly noon when we finally made it out. There was a big crowd standing around the door to The House of Fun's next-door neighbor Comicrypt, consisting mainly of twentysomething and thirtysomething comics collectors. Lauren bought two issues of G.I Joe that she'd been looking for. I settled for petting the two cats who curl over the boxes and shelves.

We hiked over the train bridge and into Audubon for a stop at Abbie Road, a used music shop. While Lauren chatted with Bob, I went through his used stock. She mostly bought classic rock and gospel for her father. I came up with The Best of James Bond: 30th Anniversary Collection 2-disc set and and two collections of 20's and 30's standards, Those Were the Days.

It was getting hotter by the minute, into the lower 90's. Lauren hadn't eaten yet, and I was starved. We had lunch at Sonic. By the time we made it over there, it was nearly 2, too late for most people to be eating meals. We had the patio largely to ourselves. She had an Ultimate Chicken Club, tater tots, and a cherry limeade. I had a cheeseburger, tater tots, and a frozen cherry limeade. The burger was ok, probably a fake patty but still edible. The frozen cherry limeade really hit the spot.

Backtracked to the Game Stop in the Audubon Crossings Shopping Center after lunch. Lauren didn't get anything here. I got a Lego Star Wars game based around the Clone Wars cartoon series.

Strolled over to the Acme next, mainly for snacks and for me to get things to make a pudding pie for the baby shower on Sunday. We used two of my three remaining free doughnut coupons for a jelly-filled and a vanilla cream-filled. Bought white corn chips to go with the Tex Mex Bean Dip I was planning on making for dinner that night. Went through my Monopoly coupon stash to get Pepperidge Farm Cookies (their Raspberry Chocolate Milanos) and free hamburger rolls for Sloppy Joes later this week or early next week. I wanted yogurt for a snack. Grabbed two boxes of Special K granola bars to use with a coupon. Got Dasani Sparkling Waters for the walk home.

When we finally got in, we both settled down and put everything away for a while, then played video games. We couldn't figure out the first round of Lego Clone Wars, and for some reason, it wouldn't let Lauren play. Switched to Lego Indiana Jones 2 and started that over instead. Got up through the fight round with the Russian mooks before we broke for dinner.

I'm really happy with how the Bean Dip came out. The turkey stock I made last night was just as tasty as the picante sauce the recipe called for. Lauren's chips were a brilliant idea. We enjoyed the fruits of working together as we munched.

Ran the first two Star Wars prequel films as we ate, and later as we went online. The Phantom Menace introduces us to Jedi master and apprentice Qui-Gon (Liam Neeson) and Obi-Wan (Ewan MacGregor), who find themselves on the run from the greedy Trade Federation while protecting lovely young Queen Amidala (Natalie Portman). They have to make an emergency stop on Tatoonie, where they encounter child slave Anakin Skywalker (Jake Lloyd) and his mother Shimi (Pernilla August). Anakin's pod racing gets them enough money to get off-planet and gain his freedom. The Trade Federation is now blockading Naboo. They'll need help from the goofy frog-like Gungans, including their leader Boss Nass (Brian Blessed) and the rather ridiculous Jar-Jar Binks to save the planet. But a fellow in red and black make-up and horns is skulking in the background, waiting for a chance to attack Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan...

Went straight into Attack of the Clones after that finished. Anakin (Hayden Christensen) is now a Jedi teenager, chafing under the strict tutelage of Obi-Wan. He almost literally leaps at the chance to protect the now-Senator Amidala, whom he has a huge crush on. While the two fall in love on Naboo, Obi-Wan explores a strange mystery involving an unknown planet and an army of clones. When Obi-Wan goes missing, captured by the evil Count Dooku (Christopher Lee), Padme and Anakin go to rescue him...and Yoda ends up rescuing them.

While I slightly prefer Attack of the Clones, with its interesting mystery with the clones and exciting climax in Genosis, to the muddled and too-complicated Phantom Menace, neither of these are top-drawer Star Wars. Unless you're a big fan of the cast or the prequels, I'd go elsewhere. George Lucas would do better things with this material in the cartoons and Revenge of the Sith.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Let the Sunshine In

Awoke to another glorious sunny spring day. Good thing, because I had a lot to do before Lauren's arrival, starting with breakfast. Ran Strawberry Shortcake In Big Apple City while I ate. Strawberry's on her way to the Big Bake-Off in the title city. The Peculiar Purple Pie Man is the other contestant, and he'll do anything to make sure Strawberry doesn't win the fancy gazebo that's the big prize. Good thing Strawberry makes a lot of friends in Spinach Village who help her out, including eventual series regulars Orange Marmalade and Lemon Meringue.

Spent the rest of the morning tidying and cleaning. I made the bed. I vacuumed. I did the windows. I ran a dust cloth over anything that showed. Signed a "thanks for coming" card for Lauren and a get well card for Willa. Fluffed pillows and moved dolls so Lauren could sleep on the couch.

Watched One Crazy Summer while I cleaned. Hoops McCann (John Cusack) is hoping his trip to Nantucket with his buddy George will teach him enough about life and love to be able to illustrate a romance comic and win an art scholarship. He gets a real eye-opener from Cassandra (Demi Moore), a young singer whose beachfront home is threatened by a rich seafood restaurant owner and his spoiled son. Hoops finds himself falling for Cassandra while he and his strange buddies try to figure out how to help her save her home.

Wacky comedy benefits from "Savage" Steve Holland's nutty direction and the oddball cast, including Bob Golthwait as the wilder half of a pair of unalike twins. If you love the cast or 80's "slobs vs snobs" comedies, this one is worth checking out.

Moved to one of the three Garfield vacation-themed specials while eating a quick lunch. Garfield In Paradise takes Jon, Garfield, and Odie to a tropical tourist trap where the sleazy hotel owners spout Jack Benny jokes. Their trip takes a turn for the bizarre when their classic 50's rental car takes them to a village filled with doo-wop loving natives (including Wolfman Jack as their chief) and a volcano that's about to go off.

Tossed on a few Mickey Mouse black and white shorts while getting organized. It's Mickey to the rescue when Minnie's caught in some "Wild Waves." The duo take Pluto (then Rover) on "The Picnic," but a rain storm brings an end to their fun. Mickey and Pluto are "Fishin' Around" when they hit a pond for an afternoon. A cop isn't as pleased with their choice of fishing spots.

Headed out around quarter of 1 to run errands and hit counseling. First on the agenda was volunteering at the Oaklyn Library. Once again, it was too nice for them to be busy. It was just me, the librarian, an old woman on the computers, and CNN blathering about the choices for CIA director in the background. I organized DVDs and took a look at the kids' books for 20 minutes.

After a short stop at WaWa for money, I dodged traffic on Cuthbert and Crystal Lake Road and took the back roads into Haddonfield. At least it was a nice day for a long ride. It was even nicer than yesterday. The wind had diminished considerably, and it was warmer, probably into the mid-upper 70's. Once again, I got into counseling a little early and just messed around on my new phone until she was ready.

I told her how excited I was to be on vacation and what Lauren and I have planned for this week and next. I also told her about the baby shower and everyone being here. We discussed Rose's lecture to me on Saturday. Basically, she said don't be so hard on yourself, and work on your stories so you can eventually sell them.

Though I mostly want to save my money for later in the week, I did stop at Primo's Water Ice for a treat. Their small size is only about $1.50. I wasn't the only one. School was out by then, and there was a whole gaggle of little boys ordering water ices, and two little girls behind me who wanted gelatis. I tried the small Oreo cookie dough flavor. Vanilla water ice with Oreo bits and big cookie dough pieces. Very sweet and very yummy.

Took Newton Lake Park home to avoid traffic on Cuthbert. Between the nice day and school being out by 3:30, they were very busy with people fishing, sunning themselves, walking dogs, strolling, riding bikes, and jogging. I ended up carrying my bike (as well as I could) up one of the sets of stone steps to the neighborhoods in Haddon Township to avoid the crowds.

When I got home, I did the last work on my story I'll get to until next Wednesday. Even as Luke and Rusty are leaving the swamps (to Yoda's dismay), Leia's beginning to realize she and Han have been snookered. Cedric turns up beaten to a pulp, and Langdon is nervous as a cat under his charming smile. She realizes why Langdon is so upset when he brings them to a fancy dinner party...occupied only by Baron Vader, his men, and bounty hunter Bob "Boba" Fettson. Henry's attempts to shoot Vader ends when Vader takes and destroys his gun.

Lauren and I had been keeping abreast of each other via texting since around 11;30. By 6:30, she was in Philly. Dad invited me over to his house instead of picking me up there. Sure, I said. Why not? It was too nice to hang around inside all day. I walked over to Hillcrest, passing kids in yards and parents working on gardens.

Spent the next hour kind of bored. Dad didn't tell me he and Jodie had guests over, old friends of theirs. The women talked about politics and their families. The men talked about high school reunions. I ate cheese and crackers, texted Lauren, and wished I knew what to say.

Dad and I finally drove out to Cherry Hill at 7:30. We got there right on time. The train arrived just a minute after I stepped up to the platform. Lauren had no troubles anywhere on the road. New York was a little busy. Otherwise, all the trains were on time, and she was able to get onto them without a fuss.

We're both too tired from our busy days to do much more than eat dinner (in my case - Lauren ate at the 30th Street Station) and go online. Tomorrow, we're going to sleep in, then rest our brains with a relaxing stroll through Oaklyn and Audubon.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Spring, Spring, Spring

I awoke to the nicest day we've had in weeks. The sun was out, the wind was blowing, and it was already a bit warmer at 10 AM. Celebrated the return of the sunshine with breakfast and one of the more bizarre original Dr. Seuss animated specials. The title character of Pontofel Pock, Where are You? is a self-proclaimed "schnook" who just got fired from his pickle factory job and is trying to pay for his family's decaying home. His wish to get away from it all is heard by MacGillicudy, a fairy who gives him a magical flying piano. Pontofel's first visit to a small mountain village ends badly when he shows off and upsets the townspeople. On a trip to the Middle East, he encounters Eefa Neefa, an "eyeball dancer," and falls for her. He accidentally leaves her behind when he escapes. While the fairies go on a mad chase to find him, he just wants to get back to his girl.

Hit the laundromat around 11. I didn't have a huge load, but I did want to get a few things done before Lauren comes tomorrow, including my last work clothes for a week and a half. They were fairly busy, but it started to slow down by the time my clothes were in the washer. I worked on story notes and half-listened to The View.

Put everything away when I got in, then ran a few episodes of The Backyardigans during lunch. Pablo is "Le Master of Disguise," a quick-change artist who can appear as anything. Austin is a French detective who chases him onto the Oriental Express in a parody of the Inspector Poiroit Agatha Christie series.

Photographer Tasha is hoping to be "Front Page News" when a robot on the rampage in Bigopolis gives her the opportunity to take a major shot. She's also Super Snap, the speedy superheroine. She ends up spending so much time helping Captain Bubble (Tyrone) and Bug Girl (Uniqua), she doesn't have the chance to take the picture. The robot keeps saying he wants "cheese." The others think he's hungry, but Tasha knows what he really means...

Headed out around 1:30 to run errands. I couldn't believe how gorgeous it was as I rode through Newton Lake Park, especially after it's been so cold and dreary for the past few weeks. The sun was warm. The sky was perfectly blue. It was warm, but not too much for this time of year, probably in the upper 60's-lower 70's. A few fleecy clouds scuttled across the horizon. I dodged people out for strolls, Canadian geese looking for lunch, other bikers, and dog walkers.

It was too nice for the Haddon Township Library to be busy. It was also about 2 when I was there, and school wasn't out yet. I was mainly there to return We are Pirates, but I did shelve audio books, CDs, non-fiction DVDs, and paperback romance novels.

Made a few stops on the way home. Picked up cards for Lauren and for my landlady Willa (who is in a wheelchair at the moment after having a bunion removed) and a small box of sugar at Dollar Tree. I bought my current fan at Family Dollar, but with major heat coming later this week, I didn't think it would be enough. I arrived in the parking lot just in time to see a manager scream at a man who had apparently been caught (and photographed) shoplifting. Maybe it's just as well they didn't have what I was looking for, anyway.

Dollar General's selection was only slightly better. I finally bought one of those new high-velocity fans. It was small, but it was all I could afford. Also picked up a six-pack of Pepsi for Lauren (she loves her soda) and eggs (they were $1.20 there, much cheaper than the Acme's).

Spent the next few hours after I got in writing. Henry and Leia enjoy several weeks of bliss on the Falcon between breakdowns. He and Charles teach her how to fix a steam engine and drive the ship. Charles and Cedric even make a romantic dinner for them. Leia knows it can't continue. Sooner or later, she's going to have to go home, and he'll be leaving for the US. Or so he's said. Henry's beginning to wonder if he actually will leave now. He's fallen too hard for the strong-willed duchess.

They do finally arrive at the Chateau du Luck, the beautiful mansion belonging to Cloudy City's mayor and administrator Langdon Croydon, a former gambler who is a good friend of Henry's. He's friendly and charming, but Leia suspects something isn't right under his smooth facade.

Broke around quarter of 7 to have leftovers for dinner. Thought I'd try something for dessert. I loved that Hot Fudge Pudding Cake I made a few months ago. The Better Homes and Garden New Cookbook has a similar recipe called Brownie Pudding. Other than replacing the melted shortening with canola oil, I made the recipe as called for. I wanted to get my baking out of the way before it becomes too hot to do so, starting tomorrow.

Ran Seven Brides for Seven Brothers while making the cake, and then while online. This unusual 1955 musical takes us to the rugged Oregon Territory in 1850. Farmer Adam Pontipee (Howard Keel) says he's looking for a wife. What he really wants is someone who can help him take care of his six rambunctious brothers. Tough-minded Millie (Jane Powell) agrees to wed him after falling for him at first sight. She's not happy at first about having to play nursemaid to six uncouth hillbillies, but she eventually warms up to them. She's hoping to get them married off to several of the young ladies in the near-by town, but their attempts to show off their newly-acquired social skills at a barn-raising dance is a disaster. They're so desperate, Adam encourages them to kidnap their girls for the winter. Millie's understandably livid. She banishes the boys to the barn. Adam takes off...but he learns a lesson in how you treat people when the girls do fall for the boys, and he sees how they feel...and how he'd feel if he had his new member of the family taken from him.

This was Dad-Bill and Keefe's favorite musical, and one of the only ones we could get Dad-Bill to watch. He loves Howard Keel in this! I love the dances and the colorful costumes. The wardrobe department was apparently forced by budget cuts to use old quilts for the girls' dresses...which is completely appropriate for pioneer women in that time and situation. In fact, this is another movie Mom used to use as a springboard to discuss history, in this case homesteading out west in the mid-1800's.

There's no denying that parts of this musical haven't dated well at all, especially the kidnapping and the finale. What keeps it from being unwatchable, besides the fabulous dance numbers and fun music, is a decent script and Jane Powell's performance as Millie. She may be a dreamer, but she's also a spitfire who has no qualms about overturning the dinner table on the brothers when they make pigs of themselves or telling Adam off after the kidnapping incident.

Dated romantic aspects aside, I still recommend this to fans of MGM musicals and to dance lovers who'll get a kick out of the incredible routines (including the famous "Barn Raising Ballet"). If you've got a man who thinks he's too "manly" for musicals, try this one on him.

Oh, and tomorrow officially begins my vacation. Lauren doesn't come in until 7:40, which may be just as well. I still have some things to do, including counseling and tidying up the apartment.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Mama's Talkin' Soft

Started off Mother's Day with an early work session. This being a Sunday and a holiday, we were insane all day with families picking up flowers for Mom and Grandma and barbecue fixings for dinner. The sun was in and out, and it was really windy. It even sprinkled briefly around 10 AM. Even with clouds, it was still warmer and much nicer than yesterday. I didn't mind being outside all morning, but I wish I had more help. It was hard to keep up with the carts on my own.

I was so happy to head out around 12:30! Today was my last day of work for a week and a half. I have a normal day off tomorrow, and then vacation officially starts on Tuesday when Lauren arrives. I still have things to do before she comes, so I went straight home. Besides, I was starved. I had a quick lunch while listening to one of my K-Tel 70's albums.

After I ate, I called Mom and wished her a Happy Mother's Day. I'd already ran into Jodie at the Acme and got to wish the same to her. I knew she was probably working at the Cape May-Lewes Ferry by 1 PM. I didn't expect to get her, and I didn't, so I left a message.

Rested for a bit after lunch while reading some Mother's Day material from Colliers Harvest of Holidays. The short story is The Most Beautiful Mother In the World, about a little Ukrainian farm girl who gets separated from her mother while helping with the wheat harvest. She keeps telling the people helping her look for her family that her mother is "the most beautiful woman in the world." She may not be to others, but in her daughter's eyes, she's all that's happy and safe. There were also a couple of poems.

Next on the list was finishing the spring cleaning. The trash and recycling canisters badly needed to be scrubbed. I normally do them twice a year, in May after it's gotten warm enough to turn on the hose, and in October before it becomes too cold to, but I put it off last fall. That wasn't a good idea. They were disgusting, especially the smaller container I use for recycling bottles and cans. Something must have leaked a while back and made a dark, gluey mess. Since I was out there, I washed the dirt and pollen off my bike, too.

Worked on writing for a while after I came in. Luke is getting intensely into his training with Yoda, in much the same way as he does in the film. Rusty is around to make sure Yoda doesn't push too hard on him, including after Luke sees his own face in Darth Vader's severed head in a cave. Two weeks after his arrival, he has a vision about Henry, Leia, and Charles being in trouble in a city high in the mountains. Rusty's ready to go, but Yoda's worried about him abandoning his training. Luke's torn - he's worried about his friends, but he wants to finish and become a real Jedi.

Broke around 5:30 to have leftovers for dinner and do some baking. The recipe for Chocolate Raspberry Cookies comes from that one-bowl cookie cookbook Lauren gave me for my birthday. That's rather appropriate, since I'm making them in her honor. Lauren loves raspberries. A bush of wild raspberries grew in her yard for years. This is also an opportunity to finally make some use of the bottle of raspberry extract I picked up on the Acme's big clearance sales when they remodeled last fall. They came out amazing, delicious and rich nuggets of dark chocolate-fruity goodness.

Ran a couple of Broadway cast albums while I baked. In honor of the current Broadway revival of Hello Dolly! with Bette Midler and David Hyde Pierce, I put on my favorite version. Pearl Bailey headed an all-black cast in the late 60's, and I still think no one's done it better. Wish her Horace Vandergelder, Cab Calloway, had stuck around. He's a lot of fun on the cast album. "Ribbons Down My Back" is also quite lovely.

Did Gypsy for Mother's Day. Tough Rose Hovick (played in my original cast album by Ethel Merman) is the ultimate show business mother, alternately smothering and shoving her two daughters into the vaudeville big-time. She couldn't have picked a worse time to do it. It's the late 20's-early 30's, and vaudeville is dying. Her daughters did eventually become stars...as stage comedienne June Havoc and striptease artist and mystery writer Gypsy Rose Lee.

My favorite number from this show was actually cut before opening. "Mama's Talkin' Soft" was intended for the girls to sing in counterpoint to "Small World," their view of Rose going after Herbie, while perched on a catwalk over their heads. One of the girls was afraid of heights...which meant the end of this number. Too bad. It's a great song. June and Louise basically say that they've seen their mom run through men like this before. Herbie also had a good song that got cut, his assessment of Rose, "Nice She Ain't."

Speaking of mothers, mine texted me back around 4:30. She was at work...but she'd see me next week. She asked for next Sunday off so she and Dad-Bill can come up to Rose's baby shower, too. Great! I haven't seen them since Thanksgiving, and they'll finally get to meet Lauren.

And Happy Mother's Day to all mothers out there (including those whose children are four-legged for feathered)!

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Rain Dazed

It was raining cats, dogs, pigs, and Wookies when I got up this morning. Not the most pleasant start to the day. I brightened things up a bit with breakfast and Tiny Toon Adventures. We're  not the only ones dealing with bad weather. In "Rainy Daze," Buster and Babs also think of ways to amuse themselves during storms. In the first story, Buster is Montana Max's much-abused rent-a-friend, until he figures out a way to turn the tables. Babs is solo in the second story. She turns a rainy afternoon into one of adventure by just letting her considerable imagination run wild. The third segment has both bunnies escaping the constant rain by burying their way out. Like Bugs, their left turn takes them into trouble, in this case rescuing an Arctic seal from a female poacher.

Worked on writing for the next few hours. Leia helps Charles repair the Falcon while Cedric fusses over Henry's burned arm. A week later, Leia finds Henry looking over the charts, preparing their course for Cloud City. She finally gets him to admit that yes, he's the Crimson Hawk, and yes, he and Luke are the ones who rescued her and have been helping the people of Naboo. Henry rescues Wookies because Charles is his dear friend. He once saved him from slavers and is now trying to help his family. He's about to tell her why he's helping Luke when Cedric shows up unannounced. The Falcon's flying again. Henry never does tell Leia Luke's secret, but he does get a kiss on the cheek from her.

Did a few Popeye cartoons while having a spinach, mushroom, and cheese omelet for lunch. "Popeye Meets Sinbad the Sailor," the first of three Technicolor featurettes the Fleischers did with the character, has him dealing with the boastful owner of an island filled with strange monsters. When Sinbad grabs Olive, Popeye goes after him and his menagerie.

The Fleischers put Popeye on the road in two shorts about cars and travel. Tired of Bluto's bullying on his ferry, Popeye, Olive, and Wimpy set out to build a bridge instead in "Bridge Ahoy!" Bluto's fancy new car outranks Popeye's little jalopy in "The Spinach Roadster." Olive learns that cars don't make the man when Bluto tries to put the moves on her.

It was still pouring when I left for work. Rose drove me there and back. I ended up getting a lecture from  her about not telling our parents what I was doing and not warning them about my financial state sooner. I wish she'd stop being a lawyer with me. She means well, but reminding me that I'm broke and have no real financial or apartment prospects is not either encouraging or making me feel better.

Spending two hours out in the rain rounding up carts didn't help, either. I didn't have a lot of help for most of that time. The head bagger had been outside literally all day and had no desire to go back out. Thankfully, another guy came in to help by 2:30. The rain slowed down a bit by then, too. I spent the second half of my shift bagging and drying off.

Rose picked me up, this time with a slightly grumpy Khai. (He'd apparently just woken up from a nap.) As soon as I got in, I changed, and decided I'd try something a little different for dinner. I found turkey legs on a good sale with a manager's coupon a while back. I rubbed two with maple-bacon spices and molasses and two with poultry spices and white cooking wine and added home-made stock to both. I think I overcooked them a little. The poultry spiced one I ate with boiled green beans for dinner tasted ok, but was a bit tough. At least the Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins I made later came out well.

Finished the night with two Marx Brothers movies. Their first movie was The Coconuts, which also happens to be the first traditional Broadway musical comedy adapted for the big screen. Groucho is the owner of a failing Florida hotel. He's hoping to make big bucks in the Florida land boom of the mid-late 20's, but con-men Chico and Harpo just make a mess of things. Meanwhile, an architect (Oscar Shaw) is hoping to court the daughter (Mary Eaton) of Groucho's only customer (Margaret Dumont), but two jewel thieves have set him up for stealing Dumont's diamond necklace/ The Marxes have to reveal the real thieves and bring the lovers together.

Monkey Business was their third movie, and their first written directly for the screen. It's also the only time we see them together as a quartet from the outset. They've stowed away on an ocean liner in herring barrels and are driving the ship's staff crazy. They only manage to avoid the brig by getting themselves hired out to two feuding gangsters. Groucho falls for the bored wife of one (Thelma Todd); Zeppo pursues the daughter of another. When the daughter is kidnapped by the rival group, all four of the Marxes spring into action!

As cute as Monkey Business is (especially in the first half), I prefer the more traditional The Coconuts, bad early talkie musical numbers and all. Neither are really top-drawer Marx Brothers, but they're fun to catch on TCM for fans of them or classic comedy.

And the rain's been off and on the rest of the night (though it sounds like it's off at the moment). There may be a little rain tomorrow, then not only are we not due to get any for a week, but it's going to get much hotter, into the 90's by late next week. Thank goodness. Lauren's visiting starting on Tuesday. A lot of what we do involves walking.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Meddling Kids and Guardians

Got a little bit of a later start today. Ate breakfast and got organized while watching a few travel and vacation-themed episodes of Sailor Moon. "Usagi & Rei: Nightmare In Dreamland" is set right after Rei joins the Guardians in the early first season. The duo, Luna, and Ami investigate a new amusement park in Tokyo. Evidently, guests have been vanishing from the park at an alarming rate. Rei and Usagi keep bickering over every little thing, from riding the life-like robotic animals to whether or not Mamoru looks like Tuxedo Mask. They have to learn to get along in a hurry when Ami is trapped by a creepy robot princess who creates spell-binding illusions.

"I Want a Boyfriend: The Luxury Cruise Ship Is a Trap" takes the trio onto a romantic dream cruise for two. Rei wins tickets and invites Ami along for the ride. A jealous Usagi stows away with a less-than-amused Luna. Usagi's thrilled when the captain pays attention to her, but the trip loses its glamour fast when it turns out to be a Negaverse plot.

Usagi's on a more serene vacation in "The Legendary Lake Yokai: The Bond of Usagi's Family." Her parents take her and her brother to a beautiful mountain resort. The lake has a folk story about a jealous monster attached to it. A hypnotized Mamoru thinks he can use the monster...but the creature has its own ideas.

Headed out to run errands around 11:30. First stop was the Acme. I was originally going to do my grocery shopping tomorrow, but we're supposed to get torrential downpours. Despite the chilly clouds, I figured I was better off getting it done today. With Lauren visiting next week, I needed a huge order.

First of all, there's no way I'm going to make it to the Collingswood Farm Market tomorrow if it's going to rain that hard. I picked up bananas, grapefruit, apples, mushrooms, and green beans. Restocked chocolate chips, cocoa, Pepperidge Farm Goldfish Graham Crackers (French Toast this time), skim milk, tuna, yogurt (one Dannon, two Chobani), shredded cheese, cake mix, peanut butter, black beans, canola oil, and pasta. For once, they were having really good chicken sales, possibly due to Mother's Day this weekend. I found chicken tenders for a good price and skinned chicken thighs with coupons on them that brought them down to a more manageable price. I had a lot of Monopoly coupons I wanted to use, too, Used one for Triscuits; tried the Dill, Sea Salt, and Olive Oil flavor. (Yum! It's delicious.)

Picked up my schedule while I was there. I'm mostly on vacation this week, with an extra day off on Monday. On one hand, I figured I'd be working Sunday for Mother's Day, and I could use even a little money when I get back. The hours are early in the morning, though, which is a bit of a pain on a Sunday.

When I finally got home, I put everything away and had lunch while watching Scooby Doo, Where are You? The Mystery Inc crew has their own monster to deal with in "Nowhere to Hyde" from the second season. The gang is shocked to discover none other than Mr. Hyde of the famous novel rooting around in their van. They follow him to a mansion, where the great-grandson of the original mad scientist insists he's been turning into him and committing robberies. In one of the trickier mysteries of the original series, the gang thinks the maid might be doing it instead...but is it really her?

Daphne gets caught in a "Mystery Mask Mix-Up" while the gang's visiting San Francisco's Chinatown. The golden mask she bought from an antique shop turns out to have been stolen centuries before from the tomb of a warlord...and now, he and his undead henchmen want it back, even if they have to kidnap Daphne to do it!

It was past 2 before I got started on the next round of errands. I needed stamps for my card for Mom in Erma. The Oaklyn Post Office was empty when I arrived. The nice lady there helped me choose some nifty Mexican food-themed stamps.

The other big thing I wanted to get done today was a haircut. My hair has been a frizzy mess for months. I totally forgot it's prom season. The salon chairs at the Hair Cuttery in Collingswood were filled with young ladies getting their hair styled into fancy updos and curls. It was over a half-hour before I was able to get mine cut and styled, but it was worth the wait. I got it cut much shorter this time, just under my shoulders. The older blond lady styled it and even gave me a conditioning treatment. It's layered, shiny, and bouncy now, and I just love it.

My original plan was to volunteer at the Haddon Township Library next, but I'd waited for too long. It was quarter after 4 by the time they were finished with my hair. I just ended up riding home.

Did some writing for the next few hours. Luke and Rusty travel down the Calamari River to Dagobah, a swampy country far downstream. It's not the most friendly country, either. Rusty's nearly eaten by a river creature on arrival. After Luke gets him out, they encounter a tiny Asian man. He tries to fool Luke, but Rusty knows him. He's fought with him. Yes, he's Liang Yoda, the wise Chinese man who had been one of the top Jedi Guards. He's worried Luke will turn out like his wayward father. Luke, Rusty, and the spirit of Sir Benjamin Kenton insist otherwise.

Finished the night with leftover tacos and sauteed spinach and mushrooms for dinner and two more episodes of Scooby Doo. "A Night of Fright Is No Delight" for Scooby when he's set to inherit a million dollars from an eccentric old man he once rescued...provided he and the other heirs can spend a night in the man's spooky old mansion. A pair of green phantoms are determined to scare all of the heirs away, including Scooby.

The gang is saying "Go Away Ghost Ship" when they help a man whose shipping company has been plagued by the ghost of a pirate who had once been jailed by his ancestor. When they explore the ship itself, they find a far more recent reason for Blackbeard to once again be plying his trade.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

The Leaning Stacks of Fruit Cups

It was cloudy and cool when I climbed out of bed this morning. Got a quick start with breakfast and the soundtrack from Goldfinger (the latter to drown out Charlie's constant and obnoxious cursing outside). The Star Wars and Superman albums I listened to last week and on Tuesday put me in the mood to dig more largely orchestral soundtracks out of my collection. John Barry did the music for this one, including incorporating the famous "James Bond theme." I didn't know Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley, one of the most popular British songwriters of the 1960's, did the lyrics for the much-loved theme song.

Work was on-and-off busy, and a bit of a pain. Someone keeps stacking heavy boxes of fruit cup 4-packs too high in aisle 5. Like most buildings in this area, the Audubon Acme is on a hill. Things are going to tilt, especially if they're stacked high. I'm glad me, the self-checkout cashier, and a manager found the mess early in the morning and got it cleaned up quickly. (And according to the self-checkout cashier and another bagger, this was the third time this week it happened. Hopefully, they got the hint this time. They're losing inventory.)

I got stuck in the registers for a little while around noon, covering for someone's break. Thankfully, I spent the rest of the day rounding up carts, gathering baskets, bagging, and helping old ladies get the flowers they wanted and take them to their cars. There were otherwise no major problems. I ducked out as quickly as I could when I was done.

Had an apple and a snack when I got home. Did another Sailor Moon episode after finishing out yesterday's. Chibi-Usa's friend Kyusuke is totally fearless when it comes to sports...except for the vaulting horse. An accident when he was younger left him afraid to go near it. Tough-minded Jun Jun helps him train for the upcoming sports meet by teaching him not to be afraid. Chibi-Usa also fears the vaulting horse. It takes the need to rescue her friend to show her and Kyusuke not to let fear get in the way of their dreams.

Worked on my story for the rest of the afternoon. Henry leads them to the junkyard where the Junk Pickers worked. The shack they have there turns out to be a laboratory and headquarters, with maps indicating their next move. Henry orders them to bring his engine, grabbing their maps and any papers he can find. The Falcon is kept in a hanger deep under the trash piles. They blast out just as Vader arrives.

The man with him knows what his plans are, though. Robert Fettman tells Vader that Henry's likely heading towards Bespin, the home of a friend of his. He also admits that he lost Luke and Rusty at the Regatta. No matter, says Vader. He knows how to lure the lad out of hiding...

Did a second season episode of Wonder Woman while turning the last of the leftover Tex Mex Bean Dip into Bean, Egg, and Cheese Wraps. "The Queen and the Thief" takes Diana and Steve to Palm Beach to protect jewels belonging to the female monarch of an unstable country. Wonder Woman has to stop a charming professional cat burglar from stealing the jewels from under the queen's nose.

Played Kirby's Epic Yarn for a half-hour or so after dinner. Got through a second "training" mini game. You had to take out 20 enemies in the same amount of time. Definitely not as easy as it sounds. It took me five or six tries to manage it. Tried Yin Yarn again, and still couldn't get those extra patches.

Gave up around 7:30 and put on The Road to Zanzibar instead. This time, Bing and Bob are traveling through Africa, with Bing coming up with increasingly outlandish stunts for Bob to perform. After one of those stunts burns down the carnival they were working for, they go on the lam. First an eccentric millionaire (Eric Blore) sells them a phony diamond mine, then Bing spend more money rescuing a beautiful girl from an auction. The girl (Dorothy Lamour) and her buddy (Una Merkel) hit them up for a ride into the Congo to marry Lamour off to a rich man. The boys chase her, then get mad when they find out they've been taken for fools. They run off again...and this time right in to a native tribe who think they're gods, then want Hope to wrestle a gorilla!

My only problem with this entry is the ending, which feels rushed and anti-climatic after Bing and Bob went native. Otherwise, this is one of the better movies in the series; the opening, with all the crazy stuff Bing gets Bob to do, is especially fun.