Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Year's Eve With the Girls

My stepsister Jessa, her best friend Brittany, and I celebrated the end of 2008 with a shopping spree in downtown Philadelphia. Brittany's mother's boyfriend (and Uncle Ken's oldest son) Mark drove us to the PATCO station. We took the Speedline to the Gallery Mall, where we began our trip. The girls were chomping at the bit to check out the Suncoast Video, and I wanted to go back there, too. I figured it would be the only place I'd be able to find one of the things I really wanted today, and I did find what I was looking for, the only DVD set I bought today - The Chronological Donald, Vol 4! It's the last of the four Walt Disney Treasures Donald Duck shorts set and includes, among other great cartoons, "Trick or Treat," "Chips Ahoy," "Working for Peanuts" (which was originally in 3-D, but apparently this couldn't be recreated here), and the classic "Donald in Mathmagic Land" and "How to Have An Accident..." series!

After a brief stop at Borders Express (I bought a Tom and Jerry Calender for my room), we next went to FYE. The girls looked at posters while I went next-door to Modell's Sports Equipment and bought new New Balance sneakers. Both my good work sneakers and my cheap "errands-running" sneakers are done. The backs have been rubbed to death, and there's cracks in the cheap ones. (And I've only had the cheap ones since July! The New Balances lasted much longer. I think I got them in either 2004 or 2005.)

After I got my sneakers (on sale for $40), we decided we wanted some air...and got quite a surprise when snow greeted us as we exited at 10th Street. It was much colder than that morning, and far windier. Jess and Britt were so excited about the snow! They were more like 7-year-olds than teenagers as we made our way down 10th Street to Russkoff's Used Books and Records. It was really cute.

Cramped and musty as it was, Russkoff's seemed warm and inviting after the blizzard outside! I went through the crates of records on the floor, while the girls checked out the collection of old posters up front. I bought three records (Bob Seeger and the Silver Bullet Band, one of Who member Roger Daltrey's solo albums, and the original Broadway cast album for Camelot) and a Garfield comic book I didn't have. Jessa didn't find anything, but Brittany bought two posters, one for George Harrison and one for Nirvana.

We went back the way we came down 10th Street to Market...but this time, instead of heading for the Gallery Mall, we went a few blocks down to Reading Terminal Market. The girls wanted Asian for lunch. Jessa spotted a Japanese food booth. She had Shrimp Tempura. Brittany had Chicken Lo Mein. I had a tasty Grilled Shrimp Teryaki with rice, vegetables, and bean sprouts. It was a bit messy (they need to give you something other than a flimsy paper plate for all the food they ladle onto it), but we all enjoyed it, and it felt great to have a warm lunch after the wind and cold.

By this time, the snow was long gone (much to the dismay of the girls), but the wind had grown even stronger. We had to fight our way through the freezing gale to the huge Macy's on the end of Market Street near City Hall. I don't think any of us were ever so happy to see a Macy's in our entire lives! We walked around the store, admiring the Light Show and the Grand Court. The girls didn't get anything, but I bought a much-needed pair of jeans.

After leaving Macy's, I lead the girls through City Hall (which I figured would be a lot less windy than going around it) to South Broad Street. We browsed through the big FYE and Borders on the Avenue of the Arts. Jessa bought a movie at the big FYE and a chai latte at Borders. I bought an Indiana Jones paperback and a slice of Pumpkin Spice Bread at Borders.

We were all tired out after walking around all day, and I'd told the girls' parents I'd get them home by 4:30. We'd debated going back to the Gallery Mall, but it was quarter after 4 by that point, and I figured we'd had enough. We just went to the 12th Street and Locust PATCO station and took a very full train home, where Mark awaited us.

I spent the rest of my New Year's Eve at home, watching Donald Duck cartoons, eating the last of the chili Jodie gave me on Friday, and beginning the next Monkees role-play story with Lauren. (Incidentally, our next story, this year's alt-universe "round robin" story, is a bit involved and may take a while - look for it towards the end of January.) I suddenly heard booms over the river as we chatted. I opened my window...and saw a burst of pink and green glitter sparkling across the dark waters of the river.

Happy New Year to all! Here's hoping everyone has a sparkling 2009!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Laundry in the Moonlight

Today was Laundry Day. There was an awful lot of it, too, since I had three days off last week and the last of the baking to clean up after. I watched The Backyardigans while it was in the laundry machine and a double-length Go, Diego, Go! episode after it was in the dryer.

The Backyardigans was a repeat, but it was a favorite of mine. Uniqua teaches Pablo a lesson in sharing and in playing with a group in "Blazing Paddles." Pablo the Ping Pong Bandit wins everyone's ping pong paddles with his amazing Bandit SlamIt move, including Sheriff Uniqua's. Uniqua vows to return to her friends and show Pablo how ping pong is REALLY played...with two people.

Diego and Alyssia took their turns with story-telling in "Moonlight Rescue." Diego tells a story of how Luna the Moon is broken apart by a comet and falls into the ocean. He, Alyssia, and Dooga the Sea Turtle have to rescue her and put her back together so Dooga's babies can follow the light of the moon to the ocean. A rare Go Diego foray into fantasy, and an enjoyable one. I wish more sea turtles came up to Cape May. I'd love for them to eat the jellyfish that occasionally wash up on shore in the heat of the summer...and sting anyone who steps on them!

I made a short trip to CVS while the laundry was in the dryer for toothpaste. Uncle Ken and Dolores were there when I got back. Dad and Jessa weren't around at all this morning. Dolores told me they went to visit relatives in Pennsylvania. Dolores chatted with Linda, one of my neighbors on Manor (and my landlady's sister).

I had just enough time to eat lunch, put away my laundry, make dinner, and change into my work uniform before heading to the Acme. The weather today was the same as yesterday - a little windy, otherwise mid-40s and sunny, perfect for this time of year. The Acme was busier but also otherwise the same as yesterday. There were no major problems other than long lines during rush hour, and I had no relief and was able to get off quickly.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Balanced New Year

I went to Yogawood this morning after skipping it last week due to the extremely cold weather. Today was fine, sunny and in the mid-40s, perfectly normal for this time of year. Today's class was really tough! We did a lot of stretching moves with the strap I'd never done before and a LOT of complicated Warrior and Half Moon balances. I'm still not very good at balancing. I just can't stay up for very long, and my shoulders still aren't strong enough for head or shoulder stands.

I went by the Collingswood Variety Store, hoping to look at WebKinz, but they were closed. I just went straight home instead. The rest of the morning was spent running Avast! on my computer again and watching cartoons. (No, it didn't do anything. I may try downloading other spy programs Lauren sent me the names of later this week.)

Work was steady-to-dead and, thankfully after yesterday, problem-free. Once again, I was in and out, and my relief was on time.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Fly Like An Eagle

It was a lovely, quiet morning here at home, my first morning at home in months. I usually work early on Sundays, but today, I didn't go in until 2PM. I listened to the Beatles show in full ("The Beatles' #1 Hits" was the theme today), read Flight of the Silver Turtle, and tried to get my computer working. I've had trouble with my computer for at least a month or more now. It picked up an annoying virus, I believe from one of the Yahoo!Groups. It's been running very, very slow, and a popup appears when the desktop first turns up, selling spyware (which would probably just add another virus if purchased). I tried running Avast!, which a friend recommended, but it didn't pick anything up. I'll run it again tomorrow after Yogawood and maybe see if I can find some other programs for slow computers. I also put my Christmas presents away and hung the last of my Christmas cards.

Work was mostly very slow...except for one annoying and frustrating incident about mid-way through my shift. A group of women wanted to pay for half their order. First of all, they made a big fuss over each of them paying EXACTLY half the order. I had to call for a calculator to get that right! (And no, we don't have calculators at the register.) One woman tried to get money back, but because she put her card through first, the computer read it as adding more money onto the order. She ended up paying for twenty dollars more than she wanted to! She threw a fit when we tried to explain that instead of getting money back, she'd just added more onto her part of the payment. She should have gone last if she wanted extra money back.

I'm still a little frustrated. Why do people have to be so obnoxious? I was on my way to my break, and they heard the manager say that! I finally just left and went on my break, before I smacked those selfish, stupid women silly. Jade, the manager who got stuck handling them, told me later that she finally took the till in the back room to count it. Even then, the woman who had tried to get the money back pushed her way over to the main office to try to get her 20 bucks. Customers are NOT allowed past the manager's podium! Jade said everything came out fine and the woman just made a mistake...not that the woman accepted that. I really wish these city people would learn to leave their rude attitudes at home...and learn how to LISTEN.

I was still angry when I got off. (Good thing my relief showed up early.) By the time work was done, the wind that had plagued Camden County all morning had vanished, leaving nothing spring-like temperatures and clouds. I sped home in record time, taking all my anger out on my bike. I dropped my bike with my other one next to the porch steps and headed over to Uncle Ken's.

I found out why the Acme was so dead when I saw the score of the Eagles-Cowboys game. The Eagles flattened the faltering Cowpokes, 44-6. Not only that, but they made the playoffs, thanks to the Houston Texans beating the Chicago Bears and the Oakland Raiders' underdog defeat of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Dad's happy, too. After going 1-15 last year, the Miami Dolphins beat the New York Jets and not only won the AFC East, but also made the playoffs. (Not bad for a team Dad called "embarrassingly high school" back in September.)

Mom was also quite happy when I finally called her after the game. She and Keefe were playing Parcheesi, and she was trying to get around one of his many blockades. (He always sets up 800 blockades during the course of the game, letting everyone build up behind them...and getting killed when he has to move them and everyone comes after him.) Poor Keefe's now added a bad (but not itchy) rash and nausea to his sore throat and headache. Mom apparently took him to the hospital, and they said it was part of the bug and not chicken pox (which I could have sworn he had - I know the girls and I had it). My stepfather was watching football and was NOT a happy camper. The Giants lost to the Minnesota Vikings (who just won the NFC North and are on their way to playing us in the playoffs).

Saturday, December 27, 2008

In the Holiday Mood

After spending most of yesterday feeling depressed, I decided to cheer myself up with a long walk this evening. I really needed to go to the bank anyway. Work was pretty much the same as yesterday - steady, with no real problems other than that lack of help and a few annoying customers. One older woman wanted one thing in each bag...and told us so 50,000 times. Hello, we CAN hear you!

I went right home after work. I grabbed my purse and headed out again on foot. I really needed to go to the bank and deposit my Christmas money, and since I was out and about and it was too early for dinner, I decided to walk around and look at outdoor Christmas lights. I went down the White Horse Pike, stopping briefly at WaWa for hot chocolate, then walked around in the neighborhoods behind West Clinton Avenue and on either side of Kendall Boulevard.

I really enjoyed my walk. The sky was clear as a bell. Stars showed like bright little jewels over the glistening strands of lights on many houses. The displays ranged from small candles in each window to five hundred strands of lights covering the entire house, with tons of plastic and/or helium-filled figures in the yard. The triangular entrance to one house was outlined in lights to look like a Christmas tree, complete with a star on top. Another house was so filled with weird figures and lights, I couldn't see the yard...including one snowman sitting on top of a digital sign saying "Ho ho ho!" A house down the street went avant-guard with three white trees covered with big flashing multi-colored bulbs.

I really appreciate the festive atmosphere in Oaklyn, for Halloween and Christmas. Christmas in Wildwood never looked this good. The few people left who live in Wildwood proper year-round were either as poor as me or Hispanics whose Christmas traditions didn't involve outdoor displays. Some folks who stayed in condos would hang lights on their windows and balconies, but most of those would disappear as soon as Wildwood's Christmas Parade ended. It's nice to live in a place where it really feels like Christmas...and not in July, either.

Friday, December 26, 2008

'Twas the Night After Christmas

...And all through the apartment, things are fairly quiet, and have been all day. I spent most of today at work. Work was steady to busy, with a definite lack of help (ahem, that's what happens when you don't give people enough hours during the week of THE biggest holiday of the year - this is a bad time to be cutting back). I got my schedule during my break. I have more and better hours next week, and the two days I have off are New Year's Eve and New Year's Day! (I really need to ask for Christmas Eve off. I feel bad, asking off on a busy day, but it couldn't hurt to ask.)

Someday, I'm going to have lots of people over my house to visit me, and I'll be able to bake for them and make them dinner and play games with them in MY house, with MY family. I really want to be a part of my own family, not just breezing and saying hello and giving cookies, but really being there. I want people to come and visit me all the time and stop saying "no, I'm too busy." I want to know there are other people in this area who are like me.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Oh What A Merry Christmas Day

Christmas Day dawned chilly and clear across the Delaware Valley. I crept to the tree around 8AM to unwrap my December 25th gifts from my friend Linda Young. She gave me the Barry Manilow Great Songs of the Fifties CD (which I put into my stocking so I would have a "stocking stuffer") and two really cool-looking children's adventure books about three kids seeking a group of missing professors, The 7 Professors of the Far North, and the follow-up Flight of the Silver Turtle. I made myself a Christmas Coffee Cake from scratch with whole wheat and unbleached flour, yogurt, applesauce, and various odds and ends I had leftover from cookie baking.

I called the family in Cape May County while the coffee cake baked to wish them "Merry Christmas!" Mom said everything went fine. Skylar loved his Transformers. Keefe loved Hancock. Mom and Dad loved the cookies. The Molasses Roll-Outs were a big hit; Mom said she'd already eaten most of them.

I went over to Dad and Uncle Ken's after I had coffee cake and watched 'Twas the Night Before Christmas and part of Mickey's Once Upon a Christmas. Dad, Jodie, and Jessa were watching Mamma Mia! in their pajamas, having already opened most of their gifts to each other. Jessa gave me two WebKinz, the adorable Otter and a second Cardinal. (She'll be a Christmas decoration; the male Cardinal will stay out year-round.) Bruce gave me money. Jodie gave me bunny slippers.

I opened the gifts from the family in Cape May County while Dad and Jodie took showers and everyone got dressed and had a brunch of tea sandwiches and cookies. Mom and Dad gave me the annual calender (cute folk-art chef pictures this year), a Philadelphia Eagles football ornament, a gingerbread man ornament with long, dangly legs, a lovely "hostess" apron of red floral print fabric, a bread cookbook, and money. Anny and Mike gave me an ornament shaped like a grand piano. Keefe gave me a huge red vase and a red crystal-like paperweight. (God only knows what I'll do with either of them.) Rose and Craig gave me a "recipe box" with three actual recipes and three small lotions with scents based after baked goods.

Mark, Vanessa, and Brittany came over while Jodie was still showering and the rest of us were watching the new Get Smart movie with Steve Carrell. I gave them their cookies. They gave Uncle Ken a neon "bar" sign, Jessa T-shirts with goofy sayings on them (she loves those), Dad an electric wine bottle opener (Dad is a wine connoisseur), and me a WebKinz Lil'Kinz Googles. Jessa and I agreed to join them for dinner later in the afternoon, since Dad and Jodie were eating at Jodie's aunt's house and neither of us know her very well.

Dad, Jodie, Jess, and I (and the Google and Otter) bundled up and packed into Dad's van to visit a few relatives. We first headed up to see Uncle Ken's daughter Samantha and her family. Though her husband David and their children Faith (3), Matt (12), and Ethan (10) were up and around when we arrived, poor Samantha wasn't. David said she had woken up feeling sick and was napping. The kids were just fine; Faith was very cute in her pink and gray sweater. The boys were still playing Wii in their pajamas. David gave me a container of their home-made cookies. I really appreciated that. I'd only kept a few of my own. I gave most of my cookies away as gifts.

Uncle Ken's ex-wife (and Samantha's mother) Jane and her husband live less than five minutes from Samantha, so we made them our next stop. We were only there about a half-hour, long enough to say "hi" and catch up with Jane and Mario and let them exclaim over how different we were and chat about Jessa's senior pictures and her college choices.

After we got home, Jessa and I jumped in Dad's van again (Jodie and Dad said they'd take Jodie's truck to her aunt's house). We stopped briefly at my apartment to drop off my Christmas gifts, then headed over to Mark and Vanessa's. I played Wii Fit and Wii Music with the girls until dinner. Both are interactive games that are exactly what their names say they are. The wildly popular Wii Fit allows you to play various sport games and events and even weighs you via a pad the game comes with. Wii Music allows you to play several music-related games, play along with several songs, and create your own. (And someone at Nintendo has excellent taste in music. One of the songs you can play along with is "Daydream Believer.")

Dinner was really delicious. We had cornish hens (the first time I've had them on Christmas since I was about 12) on a bed of wild rice, home-made stuffing, roasted red potatoes, Vanessa's macaroni and cheese (with lots of burnt cheese on the sides for Mark), steamed collard greens with ham for Vanessa and me (no one else wanted to try them - chickens!), and cranberry sauce, with Chocolate Pecan and Pumpkin Pies for dessert. TBS' 24-hour A Christmas Story marathon ran in the background.

The five of us played Monopoly after dinner. Brittany, who became a die-hard Beatles fan after seeing Across the Universe last year, received a Beatles Monopoly game for Christmas. It's played like ordinary Monopoly, but the "properties" are Beatles English and American albums, "Boardwalk" and "Park Place" are the two studios were the Beatles made their albums, the "railroads" are concert dates, the "Utilities" are stadiums, the cards are "Beatlemania" and "The Fab Four," the cards mention song titles, and you pay the "Taxman" instead of Income Tax. Brittany ended up with an entire side of the board and Mark got the studios; between the two of them and Vanessa not wanting to sell or trade anything, they wiped the rest of us clean. (Especially Jessa, who must have landed in jail at least fifteen times during the course of the game.)

Jessa, Brittany, and I ended up in their upstairs game room, playing Super Smash Brothers Brawl on the Wii for about an hour or so before Jessa and I finally decided we were both tired and it was time to call it quits. We headed out just as Jodie and Bruce, on their way back from Jodie's aunt's, were heading in to say "hi."

I jumped in the shower and went online to chat with Lauren, "adopt" my new Cardinal, and get today's Christmas WebKinz gift. Oh, and meet my three new WebKinz, Holly the Cardinal, Emmett the Otter, and the Google, whom I haven't thought of a name for yet. Holly moved in the Christmas Room with Arizona. I moved Clarabelle to the Star Room, thanks to Holly being WebKinz #60 and coming with the Lunar Landing Bed (which I've wanted to complete that room for a while).

I had a really lovely, if hectic, holiday. Here's hoping all of you had a day that was just as much fun...and shared it with the people you love.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

"What A Wondrous Sight Is Christmas Eve..."

I ran The Monkees' only Christmas episode this morning as I got ready for work. In this mid-second-season tale, appropriately titled "The Christmas Show," the Monkees find themselves babysitting for an obnoxious rich child who grouchily refuses to accept them or the idea of Christmas spirit. The boys do everything they can with their meager money supply, from buying a tree to going shopping, to appease the child, but nothing works until they realize what he REALLY wants for Christmas. There's some hilarious moments here. Micky and Davy on and in front of the chimney is adorable.

I went to work after How the Grinch Stole Christmas ended and I dropped three cupcakes on Miss Ellie's front stoop (her car wasn't in the driveway). Work was insane, no great surprise given today is the last day before Christmas. There were no major problems other than some mildly obnoxious customers and I was late getting out. The Acme closed at 6 today, and since I got off at 3, I had no relief and a long line. The only way I could give my Secret Santa present to my co-worker Sara, a college student back for the Christmas holidays, was to go through her line. No big deal. I needed milk and brown sugar anyway, and her line wasn't too long.

I spent some more quiet time to myself after I finally got home. I watched A Garfield Christmas Special and the two Peanuts Christmas specials and colored in the "Elmo's Christmas" coloring book I bought about two or three years ago because it was just so darn cute. (You can tell how old it is - lots of Elmo and Zoe, but no Abby Cadabba. I colored a picture of Zoe putting together a wreath made of dyed pasta and an unusually happy Oscar the Grouch in his trash can decorated with junk.)

The weather had been cloudy, damp, and humid all day. It rained while I was in work, but was fine when I was going to and from work. It had just started sprinkling again as I stepped out to Jodie's party. I went back for my umbrella, then made my first stop. No one answered the door at my neighbors' house, so I left their cranberry bread and card on the door.

I love the light displays in my neighborhood. They range from the insane Clark Grizwald-like show across the street from my apartment to elegant multi-colored "Icicle" lights hanging off roofs that make them look like gingerbread houses. I spotted a blow-up Rudolph at one house, a Frosty at another. I really appreciate the festive atmosphere in Oaklyn during Halloween and Christmas. The citizens of Wildwood never really got into any holiday that wasn't during the summer. My neighbors in Wildwood were mostly Hispanics who could neither afford nor believed in the tinsel, lights, and big trees. The only light displays were on the few stores left open and a couple of houses and condos with people visiting over the holidays.

By the time the rain started to pick up, I was a block from Jodie's house. The only people at the party when I arrived were Jodie and her relatives. Dad had gone to pick up our cousins Karen and Jim, who had just gotten in from visiting their relatives in Minnesota, from the Philadelphia International Airport. I ate salad, macaroni salad, a meatball sandwich, and pretzels while chatting with various people. Dad finally arrived with Jessa, Mark, Vanessa, and Brittany about a half-hour later, and Rose and Craig showed up from Cape May County with wine for Jodie and Dad and presents for me.

I stayed there for another hour or so, chatting with everyone. Rose, Craig, and Dad escaped back to Dad and Uncle Ken's house to say "hi" to Uncle Ken and Dolores. Uncle Ken apparently isn't feeling well again. I joined them after talking with Jessa, Brittany, and Vanessa. Dad was telling stories of his involvement in the Vietnam War to Rose and Craig when I got in. Rose and Craig drove me home. I said "hi" to Uncle Ken and Dolores...and THEY gave me a beautiful new heavy winter coat, a great big black coat with a fur-trimmed hood. It's a good one, too, a London Fog. It even came in a really cool felt "Santa Sack."

I'm home now, chatting with Lauren while listening to the Christmas blues CD I bought from the Big Lots in North Cape May about four years ago. For all of you who'll be spending tomorrow with your own families and won't get online, I wish you the merriest of Christmases and the safest and happiest of holiday seasons!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Peace On Earth, Goodwill Towards Men

It was an unusually peaceful day today. I seem to be one of the only people on the planet who isn't running around, trying to get everything done! I started Jodie's pudding pie this morning and finished this afternoon. I always make Dad's girlfriend Jodie something for her Christmas Eve party for her Christmas present. The pudding pie I made for her son's graduation party last July was such a bit hit, I thought I'd make her another one.

Dad was one of the people running around, trying to get everything done. He was wrapping presents when I went over to his and Uncle Ken's house to do this week's laundry. I got to show off my new camera to Dad, and then Dolores and Uncle Ken when they got home. I even got a really nice shot of Uncle Ken sitting in the couch in the downstairs den area known as "The Eagles' Den," where he keeps all of his Eagles paraphernalia.

I also got to show it to Jodie and Jessa when they came in from shopping and confirm our Christmas Day plans. Sounds like we're going to meet at 10AM and visit various relatives, including Samantha and her family, Karen and Jim, and an aunt of Jodie's.

Rose passed through as I put away my laundry. She, too, was apparently knee-deep in unwrapped presents, but she wanted to pick up my presents (wrapped) to deliver to the family in Cape May County. She'll and her boyfriend Craig will be going down to Erma tomorrow morning and coming back in time for Jodie's party.

I did run into Collingswood to donate the three videos I replaced with DVDs yesterday to the Friends In Deed Thrift Shop. I picked up a few Christmas gifts for myself, four more records and a Peanuts Christmas comic book. The records this time around were a studio cast recording of The King & I featuring Broadway leading lady Barbara Cook, the original Broadway cast recording of Irma La Douce, a double-disc set of Glenn Miller songs, and a set of Leonard Bernstein and the London Philharmonic performing Christmas music.

I spent the rest of a quiet afternoon watching It's A Wonderful Life and National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation and finishing A Christmas Story (which I started to watch at Uncle Ken's). It's really weird to be finished with everything. The only thing I need to do is deliver my remaining gifts. Everything is wrapped. Everything is baked. Everything is made. There's nothing left to do.

It's really a lovely feeling.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Christmas In the 21st Century

A package arrived for me just as I was putting the cupcakes in the oven this morning. It was another Christmas present from Lauren, and it was a doozy - my first digital camera! I've never had the money for a digital camera. It's such a cute little thing, and once I figured out how to backlight the pictures and insert the memory card (Lauren sent me three of those and rechargeable batteries), it was easy to click away. I took nine pictures today, ten counting the one of my Sailor Moon dolls I deleted because it was too bright. I'll try posting them here once I figure out all the logistics. I got a really nice one of the sun just as it was setting.

I had a harder time getting the camera out of that damn blister pack than figuring out how to work the thing! I literally had to cut into the blister packs for the camera and the memory cards with a knife, and I still haven't opened the rechargeable batteries. Isn't there a way they can package electronics that doesn't require the aid of sharp, heavy objects to open them?

I popped my head out for a moment shortly after the cupcakes came out of the oven. It was still windy, brisk, and cold, but not quite as cold as I thought it would be. It was probably in the low 30s, freezing but not intolerable for someone who prefers the cold anyway. I decided I'd let the cupcakes cool before frosting them and head over to the Acme's employee luncheon and to the FYE to use the gift card I got from Lauren.

The employee luncheon is a potluck party. Everyone brings something, from hot pasta dishes to desserts. The produce and deli departments donate trays of vegetables and hoagies. It was just after lunchtime when I arrived with my container of cookies, my contribution, and half the store was in there. I had a hard time finding a seat! I had a good time, though. The food was so good! There were deviled eggs, two different kinds of pasta salad (I liked the one with the light dressing and vegetables), heavy caramel brownies, rice pudding, baked ziti, these delicious little garlic pierogies, two different carrot cakes (one round, one in a pan), cupcakes and gingerbread bites from the bakery, a plate of salami and three cheeses...and that's just what I can remember! I had a lovely time, chatting with my fellow employees and not having to worry about being too long on my break.

I went to FYE next to spend my gift card. I made use of the sale on Christmas movies and Disney movies to replace my videos of Mickey's Once Upon A Christmas, Miracle On 34th Street, and Christmas In Connecticut. Connecticut in particular needed to be replaced. I taped it off of TCM during my last semester of college in 2001. I also finally bought the first Now That's What I Call Christmas! double CD, which I've wanted for years but could never afford during the holiday season. I made a brief return to the Acme after FYE to use their bathroom. A co-worker admonished me to try one of her cookies after she promised to try one of mine yesterday, but I'm afraid I was so stuffed by then, I barely had the room for a very tasty coconut macaroon. (I was so full, all I had for dinner was yogurt and a granola bar!)

The rest of the afternoon was spent frosting the cupcakes and watching the Laurel and Hardy March of the Toy Soldiers, the 1986 TV version of Babes In Toyland, and the Sailor Moon "movie" Hearts In Ice. Hearts In Ice isn't technically a Christmas movie. It concerns Sailor Moon's cat Luna falling in love with a human scientist while Serena and the Sailor Soldiers try to figure out why an evil ice witch and her snowy minions are attacking Earth. However, since it's set during the winter and one scene does mention Santa Claus, I tend to watch this one around the December holidays.

The cupcakes finish my actual holiday baking. The pudding pie I'm going to make tomorrow doesn't require an oven or a lot of time. I may go to Collingswood to drop the videos off at the thrift shop after I do the laundry.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Holiday Breakfast Treat

Got any candied fruit leftover from Christmas bread or fruitcakes? Here's an unusual holiday breakfast dish that'll use up some of those candied fruits and make for a sweet morning treat!

Wonderland Holiday Pancakes

1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 egg
2 tbsp cooking oil (I used canola, but vegetable or corn would probably be fine)
3 tbsp molasses
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup wheat germ (optional)
1/4 cup candied fruit and citron
1/4 tsp salt
Butter or cooking spray for greasing griddle or frying pan

Combine flour, egg, salt, baking powder, molasses, cooking oil, and milk. Stir until just mixed, then fold in wheat germ and candied fruits. Drop spoonfuls onto greased griddle or frying pan and cook until a golden brown.

Serves 4
Festival of Ice

First of all, Happy Hanukkah to all who celebrate it! Today is the first day of the Jewish Feast of Lights. I'm not Jewish, but there were several Jewish families in Cape May when I was a kid. One December, each class in Cape May Elementary was assigned a different country. They'd study it's holiday customs and even do a craft or recipe related to the country. Rose's class did Poland. Mom hung her "Polish angel" in the house for years. Because of the Jewish kids in our class, mine did Israel. We had a wonderful time playing with dredals and making potato latkas. To this day, I still love the dredel game...and potato latkes are sooo good!

Second, the weather has not been pleasant here, a reminder that today is also the Winter Solstice, the first day of winter. I awoke this morning to sleet and a porch that was sheer ice. I didn't want to call for a ride after what happened last week, and I couldn't ride my ice-covered bike, so I lowered myself down the icy steps (soaking my pants doing so) and walked to work. I was fifteen minutes late...but as it turned out, so was everyone else. The rain had stopped by the time I arrived at work. By the time I was finally finished, the sun was out, and most of the ice had melted. I told them I'd stay an extra fifteen minutes to make up for my lateness (and make sure I got the money)...and ended up staying about five or ten minutes more because, like yesterday, it was just so darn busy! Thankfully, a co-worker was nice enough to give me a ride home.

I had settled into listening to the Eagles game (they played poorly and lost to the Washington Redskins 10-3) on the radio when Jodie called. They had hoagies and wanted to know if I was up for joining them. I'd just finished the cranberry bread I'd made for my neighbors and was only going to listen to the game and watch The Bishop's Wife for the rest of the night, so I figured...what the heck?

Jessa drove me there and back. Dad's finally home. He, Jodie, and Jessa bought their (huge, natural) tree today and were going to decorate it tonight or tomorrow. Dad put up the lights on the house, too, and all the house decorations were out, including their massive collection of Christmas stuffed animals and Jessa's stocking. (Only kid in the world with a flamingo on her stocking.) We had hoagies and soft pretzels and chatted with Dolores as she showed off what her granddaughters had given her for a Christmas party - a Nintendo DS. (For those of you who, like Jodie, Dolores, and me, are video-game illiterate, the DS is the fancier, more interactive version of the hand-held Game Boy.) I watched the Eagles-Washington and Jets-Seahawks games with Daddy while Dolores, Jodie, and Jess worked on figuring out Brain Age 2. (I don't think they ever really got very far.) The Jets-Seahawks game was really interesting. They played in a snowstorm! (The Seahawks won, incidentally.)

I'll be doing cupcakes for Christmas presents tomorrow. It's really windy out there now. Gusts are supposed to get up to 40 miles an hour and stay that way until tomorrow afternoon. I don't think I'll make it to Yogawood, but if it does calm down by the afternoon, I'll try for the Acme luncheon.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Must Be Santa

First of all, I finally posted this month's Monkees role play and several holiday-related short stories. Lauren and I really finished them over two weeks ago, but I've been so busy, I haven't really had the chance to edit them until now. Enjoy!

Second, after a quick walk to the bank to drop off my paycheck (and give the rest of my rent to Miss Ellie), I spent most of the day at work. The Acme was so busy from my arrival at 11 until a little after 4, there were lines out to the aisles. We kept having to call stock workers and bakery people to help bag and handle the registers up front! Even with all the commotion, except for one grouchy lady who fussed when I asked her if she had anything under the cart, the customers were fine. I don't understand why she wanted me to look under the card. How hard is it to say "Yes, I do" and "No, I don't?"

Nicole, one of the recent teenage baggers who just switched to cashiering, gave me my Secret Santa gift. She gave me the cutest little purple fairy figure, with pretty wings and a hopeful smile. She's a very sweet girl. I put the fairy with my porcelain doll collection.

Nicole wasn't the only one giving out presents today. "Santa Claus" was walking around the store this afternoon, ringing a bell and giving away candy canes to all the kids. I have no idea who he was - someone told us, and I couldn't hear who they said it was. (My guess would be Mr. Wolf, the assistant manager who wears glasses and is Santa-ly round.)

I received a nice compliment from one of the stock workers who helped me back, the one who tried to fix my glasses when they broke last summer. He was impressed with how I handled the major crowds we had today. That was nothing! He's never been in the Acmes in North Cape May and Wildwood during the height of summer. You learn pretty quickly how to deal with mobs of people then.

I did the Pumpkin Bread for my sister Anny and her boyfriend Mike after getting home from work tonight. It came out quite nicely and smelled divine. I'll do the Cranberry Bread for my neighbors tomorrow.

Oh, and I'm really glad I've finished my mall shopping. Most of my customers said the malls were packed elbow-to-elbow today, and parking spaces were so hard to find, people were following other cars in search of a space! That's why I always try to do mine fairly early.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Blue Christmas

I did not have a good day. Again. First of all, my last batch of cookies, the Cherry Coconut Bars, didn't turn out right. They're supposed to be like lemon bars, but with cherry-coconut custard filling instead of lemon filling. Half the bars lost their pastry-parts entirely. They crumbled into a sea of crumbs when I tried to cut them. They were still edible and I was still able to give them out, but it was disappointing after the Molasses Roll-Outs went so well yesterday.

Second, it poured for most of the day. It was raining so hard by the time I had to go to work, I had to call Uncle Ken and Dolores for a ride. Dolores picked me up, but she reminded me that she's not always there, Dad's not always there, Jessa's not always there, Uncle Ken has cancer and can't drive on medication, and he feels bad that he can't help. I'm not going to always be able to call people for rides.

I wish I were smarter, or better, or had an easier time talking to people. I wish I had a real job where everyone carpools, like they do with normal jobs. I feel so guilty, calling people who have lives to drag me around. I felt so depressed at work for most of the night. Didn't help that I spent $40 on my grocery bill, even after the sales card and a few coupons.

Jessa was able to pick me up after work. I asked her if she knew what we're doing for Christmas Day. She has no more idea than I do. I'm afraid I'll end up alone for half the day, like I did two years ago. I suggested she and her best friend Brittany come over to my house for the afternoon, to watch Christmas specials and Disney movies. Jessa also suggested going over to Mark and Vanessa's. Both are ideas worth considering if we don't end up at a relative's house like last year.

I'm not thrilled with my schedule for next week, either. How did I get only 22 hours during the week of Christmas? Ok, I know we get paid for Christmas Day, but still...26 hours? I expected 30 or more. Plus, I'm off Monday and Tuesday in addition to Christmas Day, but Monday's our employee Christmas luncheon. I need to get items for the pudding pie I'm going to make a friend anyway, so I was thinking I'd ride to the Acme after Yogawood, get the pie stuff, and have lunch at the Acme.

Now I discover it may drop to as little as 21 degrees on Monday! Why can't Mother Nature make up her damn mind? One day, it'll be 50 degrees. The next, 30. This is ridiculous. And everyone keeps talking snow, though right now they're barely predicting a "wintry mix." And possible rain on Christmas Eve! I'll NEVER get a ride that day!

I wish everything could be like last year. Everything went so RIGHT last year! Why can't I make everything better? I wish I could get a real job. I wish I could make Uncle Ken better. I wish I had a family of my own, so I'd know what I was doing on the holidays, or a hundred friends in walking distance I could spend the day with. I wish the weather would cooperate. I wish I could make it all right.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

'Tis the Season For Baking

I did the Molasses Roll-Outs today, also known in The Betty Crocker Cooky Book as Merry Christmas Molasses Cookies. Like sugar cookies, they get rolled with a rolling pin and cut into shapes. Unlike sugar cookies, they're made with less sugar and with molasses and spices instead of vanilla. They have a less-sweet, subtly spicy flavor. I love spice anything, and everyone does sugar cookies. These aren't something you'll buy in the store.

For possibly the first time since I've started making them about four or five years ago, they came out perfectly. The edges were slightly browned and a little crisp but not hard, nothing broke when I took it off the tray, and none of them burned. I even didn't make too much of a mess, thanks to remembering to put the Coca-Cola towel under the cookies when I roll them. (The towel gives the bottoms a nice, rough textile look, too.)

I watched Christmas movies and specials while I baked. Bugs Bunny's Christmas Tales, from 1979, is a Looney Tunes anthology of three original Christmas shorts. My personal favorite is the last, involving Bugs, his nephew Clyde, and the Tazmanian Devil dressed as Santa Claus. (Check out Clyde's Christmas list!) Chuck Jones fans will appreciate seeing one of his last Road Runner-Wile E. Coyote match-ups, and the only one with a winter theme.

Two very different Christmas movies followed the Looney Tunes. The House Without A Christmas Tree is a touching TV movie from 1972 about a young girl in 1946 whose gruff father, still grieving for her mother, won't allow her the titular decoration. My friend Linda Young has far more information on this film and the wonderful character of Addie at her Addie Mills site.

Ernest Saves Christmas, on the other hand, is all slapstick and sentiment. Ernest P. Worrell, of "Hey Vern!" fame, finds himself helping the one and only Santa Claus when he comes to Orlando, Florida to seek his replacement. This is one of the stronger Ernest vehicles (holidays seemed to bring something good out of Jim Varney - the Halloween-themed Ernest Scared Stupid was also fun), with a great finale and some nice gags.

Work was steady tonight but not too busy, especially towards the end. We had a lot of help. The new cashiers were starting tonight. In fact, I bagged for one and helped her figure out the gift card system.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Joy of Giving Is What Christmas Is All About

I heard the pounding of heavy footsteps on my porch as I prepared my breakfast of oatmeal and a banana. When I went outside, I discovered a package from my best friend, Lauren Miller, sitting on my porch. I did manage to eat my breakfast before I tore into the box.

Lauren knows me very well. She gave me three WebKinz, the Brown Cow, the Cardinal, and the Gray Squirrel. The Cow and the Squirrel were so popular, Ganz retired them before they were even released! I had a stuffed brown cow named Clarabelle in high school. I once brought her to school as part of a Halloween costume. The girls on the field hockey team all decided to dress as farmers my senior year. I didn't have a pair of regular overalls...but I did have overalls with a "skort," a skirt over shorts, so I wore those, a bandanna around my hair, gave myself "freckles" with makeup, carried Clarabelle, and called myself the Farmer's Wife. Clarabelle was a big hit - one girlfriend dressed as a cowgirl wouldn't let her go when I let her hold her!

I also received the new Get Smart movie (the reviews weren't great, but it sounds like fun and I like Steve Carrell), two WebKinz Ornaments (how many people can claim to have Zangoz and Googles on their tree?), and $25 gift cards for FYE, Barnes and Noble, and the Vermont Country Store. Lauren sent me two catalogs for the last-named, and I'll probably check out their website sometime after Christmas as well.

The weather was gloomy, cold, and damp, but neither raining nor sleeting nor snowing, or even blowing. I was able to get over to the Haddon Township Library for this week's library volunteering session. I returned children's books, which were literally overflowing on the returns cart. I don't put books away more often because I have a habit of reading them before I can put them back...especially the children's books! I did manage to get some put away before I headed back out. The Library ended up giving me a Christmas present of sorts when I found a Disney Comic Book on the sale table. It was originally 50 cents, but after I explained I was out of change and would have to give them a larger bill, they just gave it to me for free!

(I'm glad I did get to the library today. It's highly unlikely I'll have the time next week. Christmas Eve is a week from today.)

I spent the rest of the afternoon after coming home working on my holiday baking and watching Christmas movies, specials, and TV show episodes. The Biscotti came out fine. I broke the last few candy canes on the last batch, but I'll just give those to Mom and Dad. Daddy and Keefe won't notice if any are broken. They'll eat anything that's edible. I had more trouble with the Stollen. I made it all right, but I accidentally set it on the wrong temperature, and it took forever to bake. Then the glaze didn't come out right at all. I always make it too runny. I'm still going to give it to Rose and Craig, but I hope they don't mind that it's a little too crispy on the outside and very sticky.

Perfect Strangers did two Christmas episodes, the second season's A Christmas Story and the fourth season's Gift of the Mypiot. I prefer the first one. Larry's very much looking forward to taking Balki home to his family for Christmas, but a blizzard leaves them stranded in Chicago. Larry's bitterly disappointed, until Balki finds a way to remind Larry that at Christmas, our families are wherever we are...and we don't need Christmas turtles and roasted radishes to make happy holiday memories.

Gift of the Mypiot is quite different. The boys were working at the Chicago Chronicle by this point. Larry has forbidden Balki from inviting their nasty boss Mr. Gorpley to their big Christmas Eve party, but kind-hearted Balki does anyway. Gorpley proceeds to annoy everyone around him at the party...until Balki discovers the real reason he's behaving so badly. How Balki finally shows Mr. Gorpley the Christmas spirit is one of the loveliest moments in the entire series.

I did Remember WENN's Christmas In the Airwaves next. The WENN staff are set for a good old-fashioned happy holiday, until the station's grieving owner and her snobby financier arrive and order no Christmas at the station! It takes a holiday team effort to show their boss that life goes on, and that we'll always keep our loved ones in our hearts, especially during the holidays.

I only had very vague memories of The Man In the Santa Claus Suit, a 1979 TV movie. Fred Astaire appears in a variety of roles has he helps three men - a down-and-out homeless man, a too-busy political aide, and a nervous math teacher hoping to ask his glamorous girlfriend to marry him - solve their problems on Christmas Eve. I like the homeless man's sweet, somewhat Home Alone-esque story the best. The aide's story came off as a bit melodramatic and seemed rushed, while the math teacher's story was adorable, but also a bit more predictable.

Mickey's Once Upon a Christmas came out in 1999 as an anthology of three Disney shorts featuring the regular characters, two of them adapted from famous holiday short stories. My favorite by far is "Donald Duck: Stuck On Christmas", Disney's adaptation of Christmas Every Day. It was really more like Groundhog Day - Huey, Dewey, and Louie wish it could be Christmas every day, with some fairly hilarious results. The other short story adaptation was also lovely, Mickey and Minnie's version of Gift of the Magi, but the Max and Goofy story about Santa feels a bit uneven.

Oh, and meet Arizona the Cardinal, Clarabelle the Brown Cow, and Rocky the Squirrel! Clarabelle and Arizona are going to live in the new Christmas room. They just put out the rest of the Christmas theme this evening, and while I agree it's a little busy, some of it is really pretty. I especially love the little retro lamp with all the greens around it. They also got the tree that you get from the codes that come with the ornaments. I don't know where I'm going to put Rocky yet. I'll adopt him last.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

There's Snow Place Like Home for the Holidays

Actually, more like sleet and rain, but it didn't sound as good in the title. Anyway, it did snow a little today while I was at work. It mostly sleeted and rained, though. I think it's raining now. It doesn't sound like sleet.

Other than the odd weather, not a whole lot happened today...although today generally went better than yesterday did. I started the morning after breakfast with this week's laundry session. I had a little trouble getting Uncle Ken's TV working (he has so many remote controls, I get confused as to which one goes to which device), and by the time I finally did, it was time to put the laundry in the dryer. I returned the Christmas books I took out a couple of weeks ago to the Oaklyn Library, then went back to Uncle Ken's house and watched The Backyardigans. I've only seen a few minutes of "The Swamp Monster" before. Uniqua and Pablo are tour guides eager to show off their boat and their swamp home. They lure a skeptical Tasha and Austin with the promise of a "Swamp Monster" lurking beneath the surface of the murky water...and get quite a shock when they discover just what IS under the swamp!

It started sleeting while The Backyardigans were on. I walked the short way home, managing to get up my steps despite the ice gathering on them. The rest of the time before work was spent editing this month's Monkees role play and a few random holiday stories we've written in the past week and eating a quick lunch. (Look for the main story in the next few days!)

Work was steady to busy, with some annoying people but nothing like last night. And it looks like we're getting more help for the holidays. Three new baggers started tonight, and Sue, the head of the cashiers, was training four new cashiers this evening. Riding home from work wasn't as fun. It was raining lightly when I arrived at work, and had sleeted and snowed on and off for the rest of the evening. It was sleeting lightly when I rode home. The sleet and snow isn't sticking to the ground (it's still too warm), but it IS sticking to my porch and steps. It took me forever just to get upstairs.

Oh, and I called Mom this morning to wish her and Daddy a happy 24th anniversary! Mom was home. Daddy wasn't; he was out fishing. Mom was on her way to doing the laundry and in a very good mood (understandable - she just became a grandmother again last week). She, Anny, and Skylar were going to see my brother Keefe play the drums in Lower Cape May Regional High School's Christmas Concert. He's a really good drummer who's won awards for his work. Anny's boyfriend Mike is taking care of the new baby Colin while they're out.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Tough Balance

Aargh, this was NOT a good day. I had a hard time with Yogawood. We were doing a lot of fairly complicated moves, including ones that involved a lot of twisting, holding one up on one's arms, and balancing on one foot. I'm not good at balancing, my shoulders aren't very strong, and I'm not very agile, either. I feel sore and annoyed. I was the only one in the class who really had trouble. Everyone else seemed to do it just fine, including two men.

I went to the Friends In Deed Thrift Shop after class. Erica called me late last week, claiming the head manager desperately needed help Monday morning. I figured I'd do it, since I was going to be in Collingswood for yoga anyway. Turns out she never told the manager I was coming in, and the manager called in two other volunteers. I did do a few things for about a half-hour, but with two other people there and many things to be done this week, I ended up heading home earlier than planned.

It's just as well that I did leave early. I was able to stop at CVS for eggs and do some more baking. I did the Peanut Butter Cookies today while running Christmas records, mostly albums from The Joy of Christmas and Great Songs of Christmas series. The Peanut Butter Cookies came out fairly well, despite having to rush them. They were nice and crumbly and VERY peanut-buttery (I put in a little more than called for). I ate lunch, put the cookies in the Christmas Ziploc containers to give them away to family and the Acme's employee holiday luncheon, and headed off to work.

I wish I hadn't. Work was a pain in the rear end tonight. It was busy, and I was dead tired from yoga class and getting up early and staying up late. I was not up to dealing with obnoxious idiots. One old man threw a fit when the bag of chips he thought were on sale weren't. I brought him the one that was, but I'd taken the chips off his order because I thought he didn't want them. Turns out he DID want them and was VERY angry that I hadn't put them back on! He walked off muttering and complaining about how terrible the store was and how terrible I was and how he wouldn't shop here again and why didn't he go to perfect Shop Rite? I just kept yelling "I'm sorry! I'm sorry!" after him. I was so upset. Why did he get so angry over a bag of chips?

At least something's going right. At press time, the Philadelphia Eagles continue their run for the play-offs by running over the Cleveland Browns, 30-10, with 2 minutes remaining in the 4th quarter.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Christmas Carols and Cookies

I began my Christmas baking today. This week, I'm going to concentrate on yeast breads and the usual five kinds of cookies:

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip
Peanut Butter
Molasses Roll-Outs
Cherry Coconut Bars

I did the Oatmeal Chocolate Chip today after coming home from work and picking up a few things for baking. I used a recipe from the small Betty Crocker Cookies and Cakes cookbook I picked up from Pittsfield in September. It really called for chocolate-covered raisins, but I just used chocolate chips. They came out beautifully, golden-brown with a nutty oatmeal flavor.

Next week, I'll do the cupcakes and quick breads.

I ran several different versions of the classic Charles Dickens novel A Christmas Carol while eating dinner. The first one, the 1951 English version featuring popular character actor Alistair Sim as Ebeneezer Scrooge, is quite interesting. Sim makes for a perfect Scrooge, and while it doesn't really adhere faithfully to the book (there's a lot more emphasis on Scrooge's past, his fiancee is Alice instead of Belle and she becomes a nurse), it has a lot of nice touches of its own. I especially liked the use of the charwoman Mrs. Dawber...and how scared she gets when Scrooge "reforms" on Christmas morning. (Really, isn't that how most people would react when a man who's been a despised miser for 50 years suddenly starts laughing and pattering about Christmas and giving to the poor?)

I own at least four animated versions of A Christmas Carol. I ran the two I have on DVD this evening. Many of you, especially those of you who grew up in the 80s like I did, may be quite familiar with Mickey's Christmas Carol, one of Disney's best half-hour featurettes. The Stingiest Man In Town, a Rankin-Bass version of A Christmas Carol from 1978, is less well-known. According to Musicals 101, this was originally a live-action NBC musical special in 1956 that was remembered well-enough for Rankin-Bass to adapt it 20 years later. I can understand why. While it's not Rankin-Bass' best production, the songs are quite lovely, and Walter Matthau makes a good Scrooge. ("Yes, There Is A Santa Claus" is especially memorable.)

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Walking a Christmas Mile

I had an incredibly long day. I was supposed to be meeting my friend Amanda at 11:45 to see The Nutcracker at Richard Stockton College at 1PM. Long story short, I did get on the right bus this morning on time...but I got off at not only the wrong stop, but a stop over a mile from where I was supposed to get off! The White Horse Pike/Pomona Road stop is kind of in the middle of nowhere, and I must have missed the sign. I ended up getting off at Absecon!

I had no idea when the next bus was going to arrive, and Absecon is on a part of the White Horse Pike that's really more of a major highway, so I just walked back to Pomona Road. That was probably a mistake. It was a clear, cold day, and I was wearing my cheap sneakers, which are falling apart. (I wore them because they're comfortable and I didn't think I'd be doing a lot of walking today!) I was so upset over getting off, I cried and berated myself the whole way back.

By the time I got there, it was 1PM, the Nutcracker had already begun, I was freezing and hungry, and my feet were not only killing me, but my old sneakers had rubbed the backs of my feet so bad, they were bleeding. I walked around another hour, looking for Amanda's car. When I couldn't find it or her by quarter after 2, I put Band-Aids on my feet (good thing I always carry some in my purse) and took the quick express bus to Stockton. (I know that bus well. I used to take it to the Hamilton Mall or to the small groceria on Pomona Road to buy food for me and my roommates when I lived in the Housing IV apartments.)

The bus goes directly by Stockton. (I would occasionally be able to convince kind-hearted bus drivers to stop at Housing IV when I lived there. The bus literally goes right by my old apartment.) Stockton's been doing some major updating in the past decade or so. They'd already begun when I was there with the new Housing IV apartments and "Big Blue" freestanding gym/auditorium. From what I could see from the bus, they'd added another set of apartments in what used to be a bare, grassy area between Housing IV and Housing I (probably Housing V) and had renovated the exteriors of Housing I, which were looking more than a little scuzzy between 1997 and 2001. They'd also turned the old causeway on the path over Lake Fred between the apartments and the main campus into a lovely bridge.

There were more renovations as I made my way past the front brick building that houses the art classes, where the bus lets off. There was so much construction going on in the first two wings, I had to go around them outside! Not something that made me happy after all the outdoor walking I did. I finally made it to K-Wing on the other side of the main campus, where the stage is. There was no one guarding the doors to the stage, and nobody objected when I just walked right in.

I did end up getting to see the last half-hour of The Nutcracker, which was lovely. I came in just as the Chinese Tea dancers were getting started. My favorites were the vigorous Russian Trepack dancers (three gentleman and a rare lady - the Russian dancers are usually all male) and the lovely pas de deux of the Sugar Plum Fairy and her cavalier and their subsequent solos.

I met Amanda after the show. As it turned out, she had been waiting for me but finally left about 10 minutes to 1...not long before I arrived at Pomona Road! They gave her credit for the unused ticket. We had originally planned on walking around Stockton after the show, but between the very cold day and my tired feet, we decided to head to dinner at the Hamilton Mall instead.

We ate a lovely meal at Red Lobster. We shared the Jumbo Coconut Shrimp. Amanda had a Caesar Salad and stuffed flounder. I had a garden salad and (Broiled) Tilapia in a Bag with Winter Vegetables. My Tilapia was a tad mushy, but otherwise, it was really, really good. Amanda said her stuffed flounder was excellent, but she doesn't have the appetite I do (and hadn't been walking in the cold for two hours), so she ended up taking her home. We got to take home two each of those heavenly cheddar drop biscuits Red Lobster does so well, too.

We walked around the Hamilton Mall after that, too, which may have been a mistake. Not surprisingly for a Saturday evening in December, the place was mobbed. I was happy to see that they still have some of my favorite stores, though, including the Suncoast Video that's yielded some of my favorite video and DVD finds over the years. Amanda actually ended up buying a Three Stooges DVD set that was on sale there.
I picked up presents at Claire's and at Gertrude Hawk's Chocolates (though the latter present was for kids, and not actually food).

Though the lines at Gertrude Hawk and Claire's weren't bad, it was hard to just walk around in the mall...and the traffic outside was much worse. We missed the bus the first time and went back to a Starbucks across from the mall, next to Applebee's for warm drinks. In fact, we almost missed the NEXT bus, but Amanda was able to follow it to the next stop on the White Horse Pike, and I picked it up from there.

The ride home was smooth sailing, with no traffic and no problems, on the bus or the train. It was really quite pleasant. A lot of the White Horse Pike runs through small towns and farms and wineries, giving homes and businesses plenty of space for massive Christmas lights displays. Seeing all those gorgeous lights really cheered me up after all the trouble I'd had today.

Today concludes my Christmas shopping. I'll wrap my presents tomorrow and spend the rest of the next two weeks baking and raking.

And some good came out of today. Now I know where the stop for the Lindenwald-Atantic City bus is, and that it's not really that far from the bus terminal (a little under an hour). I also discovered that the Voorhees Town Center is minutes from the Woodcrest, Ashland, and Lindenwald PATCO terminals, and they're all close to each other. Both might be better places to occasionally meet with Amanda than Deptford.

Friday, December 12, 2008

A Loaf of Bread, A Jug of Iced Tea

Today was a very quiet day. I was going to rake, but though the rain had stopped by morning and the sun finally came out, I figured it would be too wet for raking, so I worked on editing this month's Monkees Role-Play and made more French Bread for my sandwiches for work instead. The bread came out really, really well, some of the best I ever made. It's so nice and soft and chewy, with a crackly crust. I used a cup of whole wheat flour and wheat germ in addition to white bread, and it gave it a lovely nutty flavor.

Work was steady, not too bad...but my relief was late, and it took me longer to go grocery shopping than I thought it would. It wasn't even as big of a trip as last week, too. I mostly needed things for the cookies and breads I'm planning on making next week.

Oh, and we're finishing up this month's Monkees Role Play holiday story right now. Look for the main story by the beginning of next week and more vignettes by Christmas!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Poor Wandering One

Rain or no rain, I had DVDs due at the Haddon Township Library, and I promised Erica I'd volunteer at the thrift shop in Collingswood. I began with the latter. The shop wasn't busy, thanks to the lousy weather, but there was still plenty to do. I helped clear off several racks so two of the older volunteers could bring out more women's blouses and sweaters and arranged Christmas items.

I finally found some good records at the thrift shop today. I haven't seen records there in months. Amid classical albums and obscure 60s singers were several Christmas records, soundtracks, and cast albums, some fairly rare. I ended up with four cast albums, two soundtracks, a comedy double album with selections from everyone from Stan Freburg ("St. George and the Dragonet") to Lenny Bruce, and one of the Great Songs of Christmas holiday albums. The cast albums were the 60s Sherlock Holmes musical adventure Baker Street, the early 70s hit Purlie, a studio album for Show Boat, and the 1981 Broadway revival cast of The Pirates of Penzance. The soundtracks are for Easy Rider and the 1966 TV remake of Rogers and Hammerstein's Cinderella.

I left Erica's around quarter of 1. I wasn't that hungry, so I just stopped by the Philadelphia Pretzel Factory, a small shop further down Haddon Avenue specializing in soft pretzels, and bought myself a bottle of water and a pretzel shaped like a candy cane. It was warm and pretty tasty. My next stop was Walgreens. I was hoping to find socks for Jessa, but no luck. They had a much better selection of WebKinz this time, everything from Pandas to Yorkies, but I'm really trying to wait for Christmas.

I went straight to the Haddon Township Library next. It was surprisingly quiet for a rainy day. I guess everyone opted to stay inside instead. I did help a mother find a Wonder Pets DVD for her little girl (the only one they had there that day) and reorganized the American Girls books, which were in lousy shape. And yes, I returned the DVDs. Didn't see anything else I liked, though.

I made quick stops at Super Fresh, and then Dollar Tree for two teddy bears. I dropped one bear in the toy box at Dollar Tree for a charity that gives toys for the children of soldiers overseas. The other teddy bear went in a Toys For Tots box at the Oaklyn Library, which was my last stop for the day.

I spent the rest of the evening working on editing this month's Monkees role-play (which we should finish tomorrow) and listening to my new records. The rain had been on and off all day. It was light as I walked home, but picked up again shortly after I got in and has poured ever since. It was really rather cozy at home this evening, between the rain and the music and my tree all lit up with the little colored lights.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Rained-Out Holidays

The rest of my day was quietly pleasant. As it turned out, I never made it to Yogawood with Rose. She called early in the morning and said she wasn't feeling well and wasn't up for going. No problem. I went out to the yard after breakfast and started raking. Unfortunately, it was obvious it had rained overnight. Everything was wet, and it was warm, cloudy, and ridiculously humid for this time of year. I'd only been raking a half-hour when it started raining hard. I ended up spending the rest of the afternoon inside, baking gingerbread cookies, wrapping presents, and getting my Christmas cards together.

Work was more of a pain. First of all, Donna called me in a half-hour early about ten minutes before Mom called with the big news about my new nephew. I didn't mind that so much. I really needed the hours. However, I had to call for a ride because it started pouring again around 3PM and I was due in at 3:30. Jessa drove me to and from work. Turns out she'd finally gotten her license after failing last summer.

Though work was steady, there was quite a few cranky people who wouldn't bag or just acted obnoxious. Thank goodness my relief was on time for once. Jess and I went to the FYE behind the Acme afterwards. I wanted to buy a present for a family member; Jess just wanted to prowl around, and she ran into some friends from her Catholic school, too.
Drink To the Health of the Christmas Child

I'm so excited, I just couldn't wait to post this tonight. My sister Anny had her second baby this morning. His name is Colin. He's 6 pounds, 10 ounces, and 19 inches long. Mom called me this morning and told me. She was just getting ready to take Skylar to see his new brother.

I'm an Auntie again! :D

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

WebKinz List

Here's the WebKinz I currently own, updated for the holidays:

Regular-Sized WebKinz

Eliza and Henry the Black Poodles
Chester the Alley Cat
Shadow the Charcoal Cat
Cassie the Himalayan Cat
Yum-Yum the Siamese Cat
Blanche the White Poodle
Rouge the Pink Poodle
Nelson the Yellow Lab
Boo the Bat
Linda the Collie
Nanni the Husky
Cadbury the Brown Dog
Crystal the Samoyed Dog
Micky the Cheeky Monkey
Sundance the Raccoon
Miles the Black Bear
Quinn the Polar Bear
Marza the Panda
Lily the Duck
Stuffy the Rabbit
Everglades the Crocodile
Rose the Pink Pony
Nicholas the Clydesdale
King the Black Frisian (Horse)
Clarence and Mary the Reindeer
Amelia the Brown Arabian (Horse)
Emerson the Gray Arabian (Horse)
Sitting Bull the Buffalo
Rhonda the Deer
Swamp Fred the Bullfrog
Mochaberry the Cocoa Dinosaur
Louis the (Regular) Elephant
Nesmith the Pinto (Horse)
Westbrook the Eagle
Athena the Whimsy Dragon

Lil'Kinz WebKinz

Duke the Pig
Amalthea the Unicorn
Debbie the Golden Retriever
Peter the Cocker Spaniel
Davy the Tiger
Kinsey the Basset Hound
Abbie the St. Bernard
Chicka the Chickadee
Ramses the Horse
Miss Bianca the White Mouse
Alice the Persian Cat
Creamsicle the Orange and White Cat
Maisie the Gray and White Cat
Elvis the Penguin
Meeska-Mooska Mouse-ka Laundry Day

Today was Laundry Day. I was on my own for about an hour. Uncle Ken and Dolores came in from doctor appointments and errands shortly after I put my laundry in the dryer. Uncle Ken was nice enough to make me a tasty egg and scrapple sandwich for lunch, and I chatted with him and with Dolores while watching cartoons.

On Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Mickey Mouse helped Donald find his lost stuffed lion. Turns out the toy made an extra-loud roar that startled Daisy and made her lose her sunglasses, scared Minnie's kitten Figaro into a tree, and made Goofy break his surfboard. (And I'm still trying to figure out how Goofy "surfed" in the desert.) Micky and Donald help the others out and gets Donald to apologize while they search for Donald's beloved toy.

Switched to Nickelodeon for Dora the Explorer. Dora and Boots helped a mother "Bugga-Bugga" bug bring a big cookie to her ten hungry babies. Bugs and how they live are the theme of this episode. It was too cute when the cookie was finally separated for the baby Bugga-Buggas! (And this must be an early episode. Mama Bugga-Bugga and her family have turned up several more times and are somewhat semi-regulars.)

I'd already seen the Go Diego Go! episode (the one about the otter siblings who are washed downstream by the Bobo Brothers), so I ended up watching A Pup Named Scooby Doo instead. This was Warner's version of the "babyfied" cartoons that were "in" during the mid-late 80s. It falls somewhere between the intentionally cute Muppet Babies and the very hip Tiny Toon Adventures. It separates itself from previous Scooby cartoons by going for an odd anime style (the kids all have huge eyes and short bodies) and giving Fred, Velma, and especially Daphne more character than usual. (Although it must be admitted that, as in the film versions, Fred usually comes off as a doofus and Daphne as a brat.) Where Pup Named really scores is in spoofing Scooby conventions - at one point, Shaggy says it's "Time for the music!" and Scooby actually jumps into a record store and starts the pop song for the next "everyone runs in and out of doors" romp!

Went back to Nick for The Backyardigans, which turned out to be "Cave Party," one of the episodes I've rented in the last month. Just as well that my laundry was almost done and I was just about on my way home.

I had just enough time to put away my laundry, change into my uniform, put a quick dinner together, and head to work. It was still cloudy and windless, but unlike yesterday, it was in the 50s. Getting to and from work was no problem. Work was steady but not really crazy, with a few annoying customers but otherwise no problems.

Rose called this morning while I was eating breakfast. She's been wanting to go to Yogawood with me since last summer, but has never had the time. She must have finally finished her classes, or at least her morning classes. She wanted to go to the hour-long morning class tomorrow and asked if I wanted to come, too. Sure. My only plans for tomorrow besides late work were raking, and if it rains like Yahoo!Weather's saying it's supposed to, I won't even be able to do that.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Cold Balance

Brr! It was barely 30 degrees when I headed out for yoga class this morning. I was late getting out and they'd already started when I got in. It was a pretty tough class, too. We did some moves I'd never done before, including one where you put your foot against the wall, stretch your arms out, and balance on the other foot. Not easy, especially since, while my balance has somewhat improved, it still isn't that great. I didn't fall over, but I couldn't do it for very long. We did a lot of shoulder balancing, too. Maybe too much. One arm is now a bit sore. I guess I overdid it.

I went straight home after yoga class ended. The Christmas Toy was overdue. The librarian at the Oaklyn Library was really sweet and said I didn't have to pay one day's overdue, but I gave her a dollar anyway. The library needs the money. Oaklyn's talking about shutting it down, which I think is ridiculous. Oaklyn needs that little library. Where would the kids go to take books out, or people use computers?

I ran to WaWa after leaving the library for milk. (Incidentally, while a half-gallon of skim milk went back up to $2.69 at the Acme, it dropped to $2.39 at WaWa.) I also bought turkey for dinners at work this week and also had butter and a roll for a snack and a small cup of Pumpkin Latte to get some warmth back in me.

Though it was very cold and a bit cloudy, the wind was gone, and it was fairly easy to get to and from work. Work was steady to busy, with a few obnoxious customers (including a fight between an older woman and a disabled man, the latter of whom started putting his order on the belt before she'd finished hers because she was taking forever and he thought she was done) but otherwise no problems. I was in and out.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

The Winds of Christmas

Work was kinda fun today. There were three different tables in the bakery and deli section of the store giving out free samples. One had cake and cookies from the bakery a vegetable tray from Produce, and one of those fancy new Culinary Circle gourmet crab cakes and brie from the deli. The smaller table had cubed cheeses, deli mustard, and pepperoni. There was also a seafood display. I ended up making a nice little lunch out of it all.

My relief was late, but the Eagles game was on by the time I left and the crowds were fairly light. I headed straight home, at least as well as I could. The wind was intense today, whipping across the Black Horse Pike and stinging my cheeks and making my eyes water. It was a really nice ride, though. It was very cold, probably in the lower 30s, but the air had the clean, crisp scent of winter.

The Eagles game was over by the time I finally made it to Uncle Ken's, but there was still food out, and I had a nice chat with Dolores and Uncle Ken for about an hour afterwards. Dad's out on a work trip and won't be back for over a week. He was apparently docked in Cape May today (not something I envy - it has to be cold on the water), and Jodie and Jessa had driven there to see him.

I called Mom for our weekly chat when I got home. She was tired, but quite happy. The Eagles played very well and beat a distracted Giants 20-14. Apparently, she's spent the last week taking care of sick family members, including my pregnant sister Anny, not to mention herself, but was finally feeling better.

Since I had some unexpected time on my hands, I watched the original 1947 Miracle On 34th Street while talking to Mom and reading some of the Christmas gift books I took out of the Oaklyn Library. I like to watch Miracle early in the Christmas season, since the opening sequence deals with the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade and much of it takes place well before the actual Christmas holiday. In some ways, Miracle reminds me of the Disney live action/animated film Enchanted. Both deal with gentle people in cynical New York who believe themselves to be otherwordly...and how they change the way a city, and a parent and their child, look at faith, trust, and one's ability to believe in the things that can't be seen.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Playing Santa Claus

Oh, goodness. I forgot that I opened my first Christmas present today. Today is St. Nicholas Day, the day in which children in Scandinavia and parts of Europe receive presents from the patron saint of children, sailors, and beggars. As she did last year, Linda sent me a St. Nicholas Day gift along with Christmas presents. She gave me the last book of the Melendy Quartet series that I loved so much last summer, Spiderweb For Two. I'll read it after I finish How Mrs. Claus Saved Christmas. Thanks, Linda! More of the Melendys is definitely welcome!
Christmas In the City of Brotherly Love

Yawn. I've had a long but generally enjoyable day. Work was very early today; my shift started at 7AM, and I picked up an extra hour because two of the teenagers were fired and, of course, one of them was supposed to be my relief. (Finally fired - one's been a pain in the rear end since he was hired. Frankly, I'm surprised he lasted as long as he did.) I had a few cranky people, too, including one idiot who threw a fit when I asked him about under his cart. It's just a question!

I went straight home when I finally got off of work. After a quick lunch, I grabbed my bike and headed for the bank. I deposited my paycheck in the ATM machine and rode over to the PATCO station in Collingswood to head into Philadelphia for my first real Christmas shopping of the year.

My first stop was The Gallery Mall on Market Street in Philadelphia. It was packed with people, even this early in the season. I looked for a book for my 3-year-old cousin Faith and a movie for my brother Keefe at Suncoast, FYE, and Borders Express. I had more luck at the stuffed-full KB Toys, where I picked up a pack of the "Robot Heroes" lines of Transformers for my 4-year-old nephew Skylar. I also had luck on my next stop, picking up a present for a friend at Bath and Body Works.

Tired of the stuffy mall and wanting to see what the rest of the city looked like during Christmas, I headed out after I left Bath and Body Works. It was cloudy, windy, and cold when I hit the streets of Center City Philadelphia, but everyone seemed to be in a good mood, and the crowds were at least somewhat bearable. As I walked down Market Street, I remembered another popular holiday attraction a few blocks from The Gallery that I'd always wanted to see. I made my way across the street and over to Macy's, formerly (and still in my mind) Wanamaker's.

This store is HUGE. And I mean, massive. It's all marble and fancy cornices and architectural details, and it's been downtown Philadelphia's premiere shopping destination for at least a century. It looked a little like one of those old-time movie "palaces," and I suppose it was the same concept - a palace for shopping. Though I made the excuse to myself that I was in there looking for socks for my sister Jessa, I knew why I was really there. I made my way to the Grand Court and caught the last five minutes or so of one of the most famous holiday sights in Philadelphia.

I've always wanted to see the Wanamaker's Light Show (now the Macy's Light Show). Every year, the big old Wanamaker's Building hangs hundreds of lights in their "Grand Court" area and plays the huge old pipe organ (the world's largest) and keeps it as a display from late November through New Year's Eve. Even though I only got to see the last five minutes or so, it was still a treat that really buoyed my holiday spirits. The light show is really cool, with all those colors and those nifty little characters made entirely by lights.

Here's a taping of the show on YouTube.

(Note the "Wanamaker's." I don't care who owns it, that building will always be "Wanamaker's" to me. I remember seeing the Wanamaker's commercials and seeing the building on TV as a kid and thinking how glamorous and elegant it looked. And I wish I'd known about the Dickens Village on the third floor. I would have gone to see that, too.)

I walked around Macy's/Wanamaker's, just drinking in how posh it all was, before deciding I wasn't going to find anything for Jessa there and heading out again. The crowds were still fairly heavy, even as I made a few twists and turns and headed for the Chestnut Street Shopping District, on my way to the big Borders and FYE on the Avenue of the Arts near City Hall. Borders turned out to be busy but navigable. I found a really cute picture book for about Marie, the sassy female kitten from Disney's The Aristocats, going on a trip around Paris with her mouse friend Roquefort Jr, for my 3-year-old cousin Faith. I also made a brief stop on the second floor for some Vanilla Soda and a slice of pumpkin bread.

A brief stop at FYE yielded nothing of interest. It had been growing more and more cloudy since I left Macy's/Wanamaker's, but I hadn't really thought much of it, until I left FYE and it felt like it was raining. The street lamps and headlights on the cars I passed while crossing Broad Street told me otherwise. It wasn't raining. It was snowing...and pretty heavily, too. Nothing was sticking, but it looked lovely with all the lights and decorations. Between my presents and the bedecked streets and buildings, it really felt like Christmas as I made my way to the PATCO station on 13th Street and Locust.

I assumed it was only in Philly and would be gone by the time I made it home, but this proved to be far from the case. It was still coming down when I got off the train and out of the station in Collingswood. I had a lovely, if cold, ride home in the snow, admiring all the fancy displays in various neighborhoods in the area. I even went past Newton River Park and got to see it in the snow. The snow was just starting to stick to the sidewalks and ground as I made it home. The snow has since stopped, but there's a nice layer on my porch.

(The other big event in Philadelphia tonight was the Army-Navy football game. I couldn't figure out why there were so many people in uniform roaming the streets of downtown Philly until I remembered the game tonight. Incidentally, Navy won their 7th straight over the Army, which should make my mother happy. She always roots for the Navy. She has relatives in the Navy.)

Friday, December 05, 2008

Sending Christmas Cheer

I spent this morning wrapping Lauren's Christmas present and getting her box and any Christmas cards that needed to be sent in the mail together. I sent my out-of-town Christmas cards and packages around mid-month last year and ended up having to wait in line for 15 minutes in a tiny post office barely bigger than the room I'm sitting in now. I really don't want to go through that again. I still need to send Lauren her copies of the pictures I took while we were on vacation, but I may wait until January. (I still need to get the second camera developed.)

Work was busier than it has been the rest of the week...and with more obnoxious beginning-of-the-month people. I'm actually glad I work really early tomorrow. Not only will I be getting out early, but I'll hopefully be able to avoid the worst of the weekend crowds.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Front Page Holiday News

Today was my only day off this week...and the only reason I had it off was for this month's counseling session. Scott and I mostly discussed my plans for the holidays. My love of Christmas (and my relief over almost being finished with my decorating) showed. He said I looked like I was in a much better mood...and I am. He mostly just wants me to work on trying to calm down at work and getting to know my co-workers better.

I wasn't hungry, so I just had a large Blueberry Muffin and a Passionfruit Pear Iced Tea at Grooveground, then stopped at the Thrift Shop to say "hi" to Erica and tell her I'd love to help her out at the store the next time I'm able to. I bought some really pretty Christmas themed quilted placemats (poinsettias on a green background) and a video copy of the Fred Astaire TV film The Man In the Santa Claus Suit, which I haven't seen in years.

I had more luck with Christmas videos when I stopped at the Dollar General Plus store next to the Westmont Acme on my way to the Haddon Township Library. While most of the DVDs I saw the last time I was there were gone, they still had stacks and stacks of videos. I ended up with How the Toys Saved Christmas (which I took out of the Oaklyn Library last year) and Recess Christmas: Miracle on 3rd Street. I also bought paper snowflakes for my windows, small jingle bells to put in the large, empty Ferrer Rocher bell I got from my cousins last year, four plastic Christmas hangings with Looney Tunes and Disney characters (I kept Donald and Daffy for my bathroom window - Taz and Goofy and Pluto will be Christmas presents), and a CD as a Christmas present for a friend.

I was in and out of the library fairly quickly. It was getting late by then, and the sky, which was sunny when I went out to Collingswood late this morning, was growing more and more cloudy by the second. I organized the Children's DVDs and put the adult DVDs away, then took out two Backyardigans DVDs I hadn't seen and a Walt Disney Christmas comic book.

I ran The Backyardigans while finishing the last of my Christmas decorating. I put up the displays on the baker's rack in the living room, the tiny tree that goes with the Sailor Moon and Care Bears dolls, and the Santa Claus display on top of the large book shelf next to my bed, then hung all the paper cut-outs and the print of carolers cut from a college choir poster.

News was the theme of much of The Backyardigans this evening. Three of the eight episodes on the two DVDs dealt with news, news shows, newspapers, and reporters. I took out the Into the Deep and Escape From Fairytale Villiage DVDs, and my favorite episodes all ended up being on the latter. Tasha spoofs Superman and Spiderman as a reporter with a secret superhero identity after a big front-page photo in "Front Page News." Austin got a rare chance to be in the spotlight in two of the better episodes, "Le Master of Disguise" (playing a Poirot-like detective in a spoof of Murder on the Orient Express), and "Pirate Camp," where he's the dashing head of camp for hopeful young buccaneers. Brave Uniqua is game, but Pablo the Penguin is chicken...until both have to save Austin from the ghost of Captain (Tasha) Redboot the Pirate, who tickles you until you become a ghost!

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Redmer Family Christmas

Work was pretty much the same as yesterday. It was quiet for most of the day, except for the usual spurts whenever we'd get people coming from work. Once again, there were a couple of annoying beginning-of-the-month people, but otherwise no problems, and my relief was on time. I bought a pizza to share with my sister Jessa and headed home after that.

I enjoyed my little tree-trimming party with my 17-year-old stepsister Jessa so much last year, I decided to do it again this year. I put up the lights and the garland while she was in art class. I'd just finished the garland and tossed the pizza in the oven when she arrived. We had a lovely time, putting up my boxes and boxes of ornaments and eating pizza, gingerbread, and the loaf of French Bread I'd made earlier that evening. She wants to a be a commercial artist when she graduates high school this spring, and she does have a wonderful eye. The tree looks great, and once again, we did it in half the time it takes me alone. It was a lot more fun to have someone to talk to and tell all the stories behind my many ornaments, too. Some of my ornaments were presents from Mom that came from Winterwood and Cape May gift shops. Some came from thrift shops; others from yard sales or Acme after-Christmas sales. A few came from dollar stores. There's a very few I've had since childhood.

We did so well with the tree, we decided to dress and organize the bears after it was done and we had our gingerbread for dessert. Every year, I dress up my teddy bear collection and some bears kept specifically for this purpose (along with a couple of other animals) in old winter and Christmas baby clothes and put them under the tree. We both dressed them, and Jessa largely arranged them. She has such a wonderful eye. They look fantastic, not too bunched. She's such a sweet kid.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Oh Christmas Tree

Today was Laundry Day. I ended up at the Oaklyn Library while the laundry was in the dryer. Poor Dad was sick with a nasty cold, and I figured it would be best if I just left him alone. I returned the Thanksgiving books and Christmas In America and took out a book of kids' Christmas stories that looks like it's from the 50s, a children's book about Christmas traditions and crafts, A Child's Christmas In Wales, and two books with recipes and ideas for giving food as gifts at Christmas. I also took out The Christmas Toy, a cute but rarely-seen Muppet Christmas special. The kindergarden kids who occasionally go to the Library with their teacher were in the Children's Section when I arrived. I got to listen to the teacher read The Berenstein Bears Meet Santa Bear, one of the earlier paperback Berenstein Bears books and one that Mom's had for years. (I imagine she still reads it to Skylar.)

I put my Christmas tree up when I got in. I only had the time put put the tree itself together. My tree is artificial. Mom bought it for me when I lived in Wildwood and didn't trust a real tree around that huge old heater in my apartment. I've always loved my tree. It's the perfect size for me, just enough that I don't have to stand on a stool to put the star on top. There's huge gaps in the tree, and if it were a real tree, it would be called scrawny, but it has lots of room for decorations. Good thing, too, because I have a ton of decorations, collected from yard sales, thrift shops, my childhood, the Acme's after-Christmas sales, and Mom's yearly heirloom ornament gifts to us.

Work was dead for most of the night, except for during the 4PM-6PM rush hour, when it was mobbed. Lots of obnoxious beginning-of-the-month people, otherwise no problems.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Christmas Balancing Act

Finally got back to Yogawood this morning after having to skip it last week due to work. It was surprisingly quiet. There were only seven women there today, not counting me and the the teacher, Lisa. Lisa was a good teacher, sweet and very enthusiastic, but I have the feeling a lot of people are still getting over the Thanksgiving Weekend.

I stopped at Rite Aid briefly after class to buy contact solution, then headed home. I began this year's Christmas decorating as soon as I got in, hauling out the bags with the large items and the crate with the garlands. One garland, the one I usually put on the DVD and video rack, was looking stringy. I originally got it in college for my dorm room. I tossed it and used the red poinsettia-like ribbons I usually tie around it on the tinsel garland that gets wrapped around the top of the baker's rack instead.

I had a very windy ride to work, but thankfully, not a chilly one. It had been on-and-off cloudy all morning. Work was steady tonight, surprising for the beginning of the month, but what crowds we did have were annoying. Doesn't anyone know how to count anymore? At least three people had to return a quarter or more of their orders because they didn't have enough on their cards or enough money to pay for them.

I got lucky weather-wise again. The streets were wet when I came out, but it wasn't raining and the wind was gone. It didn't start raining until more than an hour after I was home and beginning the next Monkees role-play story with Lauren. (Look for this year's Christmas story in mid-December!)

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Finishing the Christmas Cleaning

When I first opened my eyes this morning and turned over to look at my bedside clock, I assumed it would say 7:30 or maybe quarter of 9. Instead, it said 9:38...and I had work at 11:30! Needless to say, I did quite a bit of rushing around. After all that, work was steady-to-dead for the majority of the day. I rode to work in the rain, since I didn't really have enough time to call for a ride. It rained all day and I got wet, but oh well. I didn't think I'd sleep that long!

It might have been just as well that the weather was so bad. The rest of the afternoon was spent indoors, finally finishing the pre-holiday cleaning. I vacuumed the apartment and dusted under everything, including my collectibles and stuffed animal display that I usually only clean around. I really need to dust that stuff more often. My collectible teddy bear collection literally had cobwebs! I didn't realize it had gotten that bad.

I watched two of the three Christmas documentaries Linda sent me last year while finishing the cleaning and eating chicken soup and applesauce for dinner. I'm not normally a fan of documentaries, but those are really enjoyable, especially the British Christmas Past, since it discusses many English Christmas traditions that never made it to this side of the Atlantic, like Christmas crackers and Christmas for servants in English manor houses. I think I'll try to watch those every year while cleaning the house for Christmas and/or putting up the first decorations. I enjoy hearing about the history of one of the biggest holidays of the year as I prepare for this year's chapter.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

A Clean Apartment Is a Christmas Apartment

I spent most of today working again. It was busier today than earlier in the week. I guess everyone's coming in from the malls. We had to call a lot of bakery and stock workers to the front to help. Thankfully, other than that, there were no problems and my relief was on time. I bought milk and pretzels, then headed home as fast as I could. I wanted to finish cleaning my apartment today so I could start my Christmas decorating tomorrow, but I was just able to do the windows and dress my dolls Dulcie, Samantha, and the Sailor Soldiers in their Christmas outfits. I'll try to finish up tomorrow.

Friday, November 28, 2008

It's the Holiday Season

I spent my Black Friday morning at work, where it was steady, but not really crazy. Who wants to go major food shopping the day after Thanksgiving? Um, ok, I did, but I didn't cook yesterday and a "major" shopping trip for me is $30 (and in fact, today's only came up to about $20). I also got my schedule for next week. While the upside is more hours...the downside is LOUSY hours, including only one day off (counseling day) and 7AM to 12PM on Saturday. I hate having to go to bed really early for those early days. Throws off my internal clock. I really wish I had consistent hours.

After I finished shopping, I went straight home, put everything away, changed my shirt, and made a quick run to the bank. I heard the tellers complain that it was busy earlier, but the tellers were the only people there by the time I arrived around quarter of 4.

The rest of the day was devoted to taking down the Thanksgiving decorations and cleaning the kitchen. I'll do as much cleaning as I can tomorrow and try to start putting up the Christmas decorations Sunday.