Tuesday, September 30, 2008

New Monkees Story Coming Soon!

Oh, and Lauren and I are just finishing the epilogue of our newest Monkees Role Play story as I make this post! Look for it, and several short stories, in the next few days!
Thundering Thunderations!

Yipes! We're in the midst of a massive storm as I type this, though from the diminishing noise, it seems to be moving out of the area. Thank goodness it waited until late to come down. I was called in early again today. It seems that the manager who usually does the schedule is on leave due to family matters, and the manager who usually takes over for her is on vacation...so the one that took over for HER was told to cut hours and cut a little too much. They had to call me in just because they didn't have enough people to work this evening. It was just as well. My only plan for today was doing the laundry and running a few errands, all of which I did during a lovely morning with no problems. Dad was the only one at home and he was busy mowing the lawn, which may have been just as well. I just wanted to be in and out.
Swiss Miss

I'm so tired, I forgot to introduce my newest WebKinz! Meet Abbie, my St. Bernard pup! She's Duke the Lil'Kinz Pig's new buddy and has taken Rhonda the Deer's place in the Farm Room. (Rhonda moved to the Fall/Western room, which she'll share with the upcoming Buffalo.) I meant to call her "Addie," after Addie Mills, but I typed the wrong thing.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Lack Of Balance

I did manage to make it to Yogawood this time for this week's yoga class. It was a really full one, too, with at least 15 women, not counting the teacher, Jill. It was a gorgeous day when I headed out, sunny and bright...but there were clouds on the horizon, and by the time class was finished, the day had turned gloomy. I ran some errands after that. Stopped at the thrift shop to say "hi" to Erica and and found four great books, three of which I'd had as a child. The House Without A Christmas Tree was the first Addie Mills story, based after the 1972 TV movie of the same name. I've always loved the Paddington stories, and I haven't read them since I was little, so I was thrilled to find Paddington Goes To Town. We picked up the picture book The Great Mouse Detective: Basil's Greatest Escapes after seeing the movie on it's first release in 1986.

My favorite find was Disney's Year Book 1983, an odd collection of kid-friendly articles related to the year in question (cats, puppets, video games) and short stories featuring Disney characters who existed at the time. I remembered it the moment I saw Donald Duck going wild over the Atari-style game on the front cover. We actually had several of these from about 1983 to 1985, along with several encyclopedia-style Wonderful World of Reading Disney hardbacks Mom got through mail-order.

I made a quick stop at Walgreens in Westmont after leaving Collingswood to see if they had this month's new batch of WCares Lil'Kinz. Not yet, but I did get myself the last St. Bernard. The rest of the pile was mostly Black Bears, with a few Cows. I did this week's library volunteering, just some quick DVD organizing, then went home for what I thought would be lunch.

Instead, I was called in. One of the customer service managers had called earlier to ask if I wanted to work from 3-7. I got in around quarter of 2 and called her back to see if it was still open. It was, so I ate a very quick lunch, threw together a very quick PB&J on home-made-whole-wheat bread dinner, quickly changed into my uniform, and hurried to work.

To be honest, I was tired when I got in, and I might have turned them down if I'd had more than 20 hours this week. I could understand why they needed the extra help; work was steady-to-busy, with long lines until about a half-hour before I left.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Hurricane Season

It was a rather quiet day, at home and at work. I only worked for four hours this afternoon. It was steady, with a couple of annoying beginning-of-the-month customers, but otherwise not a problem. I tried calling Mom in the morning before work, but she was babysitting Skylar and had her hands full. I finally got a hold of her when I came home. She was watching the Dallas Cowboys-Washington Redskins game (which the 'Skins ultimately won) and resting - Dad and Keefe were both taking naps. She mentioned being awoken by a huge thunderstorm last night and said it may be on its way here.

She was right. Just a half-hour after we finished our call, we had a massive thunderstorm. Though the noise and pyrotechnics didn't stick around for very long, it's poured on and off for the rest of the night. I've spent most of it chatting with Lauren. We're working on the next Monkees role-play story, the finale of our 4-part story involving Peter switching sides. Look for it by the end of next week or beginning of October!

Oh, and congratulations to the Philadelphia Phillies for winning the NL East and making the playoffs for the second year in a row! Now, if only the Eagles could catch up to the Bears...

Saturday, September 27, 2008

At the Farm Market

I finally made it to the farm market for the first time since the day I went on vacation. I needed to refill my vegetable drawer and pick up some spinach that wasn't wilted like the stuff I find at Super Fresh. I also bought leeks, mushrooms, pears, a tomato, a large zucchini, yams, fresh cheddar cheese, and tiny little apples barely bigger than my fist. I wanted to buy honey, but the still-cloudy-weather must have scared the honey booth off. They weren't there today. It was still busy, though. Lots of people and LOTS of dogs, including a huge, noisy black poodle at one of the booths for local charities.

Spent the rest of the day at work. It was steady but not crazy-busy for most of the day. The weather was still cool, but also cloudy, windy, and horribly humid. It didn't even sprinkle this time, though. The clouds looked like they were breaking up when I left the farm market, but by the time I was finally finished with work around 6, they'd returned.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Musical Shelves

With this now my only day off, I spent the morning running errands. I got my paycheck at the Acme and bought a few groceries, then went to America's Best to see if my contacts were in yet. (They weren't.) I went to Wal-Mart after that to see if they had those wire shelves Lauren uses for her stuffed animals. I thought I'd use them for my Care Bears and to finally get some of my stuffed animals off my couch, chair, and bed. No luck, but I did finally find a DVD rack that looks like the one I got from the Wildwood Acme. It's a much darker color, like cherry instead of ash, but it's the same type that allows you to see all of the DVDs at once. It cost $22 with tax, which is certainly more expensive than getting it for free...but grocery stores don't close every day.

After going home and putting things away, I made a quick run to the bank and to Doria's Deli for brown sugar. (It's much cheaper there than at any grocery store.) The weather hadn't been great all day. I hadn't rained again, but it had sprinkled and misted on and off all day. The clouds remained, and the humidity was terrible. Not to mention, I had the feeling the weather wasn't quite done yet. (As far as I know, it hasn't rained since last night...but it's looked like it could.)

I spent the rest of the afternoon baking whole wheat bread, putting my new shelf together, organizing the DVDs, organizing the hardback books after I finally moved the book shelf I'd been using for the DVDs into my bedroom, and watching musicals. I was still feeling in the mood for light-hearted stories, nothing too deep. Inspired by Dancing Lady, I decided to run through some of the MGM musicals I taped off of TCM in college, including Lovely To Look At, Silk Stockings, the Warner Bros musical Look For the Silver Lining, the end of The Broadway Melody of 1940, and a special about Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy I taped off of PBS.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Trouble On the Express-Way

It was sunny when I went to the library for this week's volunteering session, but by the time I finished the children's DVDs and checked out the first Elizabeth Peters Vicky Bliss story in over a decade, The Laughter of Dead Kings, it had clouded over. I had a windy, chilly ride home and spent the rest of the afternoon reading and watching 30s musicals. I just finished one of Eleanor Powell's earliest vehicles, Born to Dance, and am working on one of her most popular, The Broadway Melody of 1940 with George Murphy and Fred Astaire.

It was still windy and gloomy when I headed to work around 2:30. Work was on-and-off steady and not really a problem...except for one incident around 5PM. I spent the night in the Express lane, which is 15 items or left. One woman customer had 17 items. I was fine with it (what's two items?), but the man behind her, who only had two items, had a total fit. He started yelling at her about having two items more than the sign said. She yelled some uncomplimentary things back. It got worse and worse and louder and louder, until I finally put my hands over my ears and said "Enough already!" I'd heard enough junk from people yesterday about that Coke sale. I wasn't up for it today, too. Why do people have to be babies over two items? It's JUST two items. If you're in a hurry, use another line or self-checkout...or, better yet, don't shop while in a hurry. Shop when you have time.

I cheered myself up after work with a treat of Edy's Pumpkin Ice Cream. Edy's was on sale this week, and their Pumpkin flavor is only on shelves between mid-September and Halloween, so I decided to take advantage and enjoy this year's indulgence. I've bought Edy's Pumpkin Ice Cream at least once a fall season since college. My friend Amanda and I first found it at the Acme in Mays Landing near Stockton. We loved it so much, we must have eaten the whole carton in less than two days. It really tastes like pumpkin pie, and it's sooo good.

Here's a little more about one of my favorite flavors:

Edy's Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream

It was finally raining by the time I got out of work...but not enough to prevent me from riding home. It's sure coming down now, though. I'm glad I didn't work late. I have errands to run tomorrow; if it rains, I'll just walk.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Balance In the Morning...But Not At Work

I did this week's yoga class this morning. Between a small class (just six today), an easier type of movement (half of the Wednesday class is devoted to Yin Yoga, which involves long-held poses to open joints), and the lovely, cool weather, I enjoyed my morning out. I browsed around Collingswood after class. I didn't buy anything, but I did note that not only has the Collingswood Variety Store gotten in the new (large-size) WebKinz, but they now carry more of them and a better selection.

Work didn't go nearly as well. My four-and-a-half-hour day felt more like ten, thanks to a fairly quiet evening and some obnoxious customers. I think I mentioned the sale that involved buying $25 worth of groceries in order to get a 5 for $12 sale on 12 packs of Coke in an earlier entry. It's still a pain in the neck. Today, a woman threw a fit when I tried to explain about it. She said the sign on the aisle hadn't said anything about needing to buy $25 to get the soda sale, and then went on and on about how terrible the store was and we were and why did she come here? I got sick of it and said a few things I shouldn't have myself. While supposedly the woman complained, I never heard anything about it. (Luckily, it seemed to happen while we were in the midst of shift-changes. Neither the outgoing nor the ingoing manager heard anything about it.) I hope they never do a sale like this again. I knew it was going to be nothing but trouble and no one would read that ad right...or read it at all.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Welcome to Fall

First of all, I forgot to herald yesterday's arrival of the first day of fall! Fall is my favorite time of year. The weather is perfect, warm enough to run around in but not too hot or humid. The leaves turn beautiful colors, making the world one big box of crayons and setting my porch a-blaze with half the hues of the rainbow. The farm market is filled with the delights of the autumn harvests - massive orange pumpkins, cute little gourds, fat squash of every shape and size, beautiful little apples, sweet pears, spicy apple cider, purple eggplant and yellow corn and leafy green spinach. No need for air conditioners or heaters in the fall. You can just leave your windows open and take in that smoky, wood-burning-scented air. You can go out of the house in just jeans, a T-shirt, and a windbreaker on cooler days. And don't forget fall holidays - Columbus Day, Halloween, Veteran's Day, and Thanksgiving (for the US and Canada)!

The arrival of fall is really the major excitement right now. I spent this morning working on editing our newest Monkees role play story and this evening at work. Work was surprisingly steady for a Tuesday, with no major problems other than a lack of help. (They just didn't assign enough people for today.)

Oh, and I watched That's Entertainment III this morning and started Dancing Lady this evening. Entertainment is one of three documentaries on the history of the MGM musical, this one showcasing cut and dropped numbers and behind-the-scenes sequences. Dancing Lady is one of MGM's two attempts to mimic the Busby Berkley Warner Bros musicals in late 1933. Joan Crawford hurls her way up the show business ladder from burlesque to Broadway stardom, thanks to nervy director Clark Gable and slumming playboy Franchot Tone. Though the film introduced the standard "Everything I Have Is Yours," the other musical numbers are either bizarre or just boring. (Check out the weird large-scale set piece with Crawford and Fred Astaire that begins in a Streamline city and ends in Bavaria.) The supporting cast is the only reason for non-Crawford/Gable fans to watch this one. In addition to Tone, we have the Three Stooges, comedienne Winnie Lightener as Crawford's roommate, Robert Benchley as an acerbic theater critic, and the film debuts of Astaire and Nelson Eddy in that odd finale.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Earthbound Alien

I was up and around for once when I got the call to come in today. Donna, the Acme's head front end manager, interrupted me in the middle of getting ready for my first Yogawood class in two weeks. Would I like to come in today from 10AM to 2PM? A manager called out, and they needed to borrow an employee who occasionally cashiers to be CSR today. I went in. It was only four hours. I could do the cheap Wednesday morning Yogawood class and put off everything else until after work or later in the week. I actually picked up another hour at the end of the day when Donna realized she didn't have enough people scheduled for tomorrow and asked me to come in very early tomorrow, at 10:30 instead of 2:30. I said 1:30 - I was going to do my laundry tomorrow.

Of course, two minutes after I left, I changed my mind and decided to do the laundry today, instead of waiting for tomorrow, and hold off on my library volunteering until later in the week. I should have just taken the extra hours.

I feel so out of place around here sometimes. I'm the only 29-year-old in my neighborhood - probably in all of Oaklyn, and maybe even in all of South Jersey - who lives alone. Everyone else my age is married, with children and houses and pets, or at least steadily dating a significant other and pets. Anyone who lives alone is middle-aged or elderly, like my landlady Miss Ellie, or is a college student. No one else enjoys shopping, or collecting stuffed animals, or going for long bike rides and walks in the park. They don't browse thrift shops, or spend the afternoon in the library. I have friends, but none of them are HERE.

I've spent most of my life feeling like an alien in a foreign planet. I love my friends...but they aren't here. People like me, but they aren't LIKE me. They can't relate to me. They have no time for someone who isn't a member of the PTA. Everyone always tells me they'll visit...someday, when they have time. When they aren't afraid to travel alone, without Mommy and Daddy. When they aren't busy with their kids or their real life. I'm never first on anyone's schedule.

I was thinking about all this as I rode home, about how I've always felt so out-of-place, no matter where I've gone. I've felt like an alien since I was in elementary school and couldn't fit in with the kids. I found myself thinking "alien" and wondering what it would be like if we could see an alien. How would we treat it?

I finally devised a short story in my head as I arrived home. An alien girl and her mother arrive on Earth, hoping to contact the locals. The girl goes off to play with other human young, trying to make herself look like them. They make fun of her and taunt her because she doesn't look right or act right or walk like them or talk like them or play the same games. A dog chases her. She hides...and see the children throw branches from a tree at the dog. The alien child finally returns to her mother. She tells her that she doesn't like Earth and doesn't think it would be a good place to try to make friends with. Her mother agrees. She's done her own research, talking to people on the street and watching human television. She's seen their wars, seen how they treat anything that's not like them, seen how the treat their animals and plants and planet. Earth is no place for them. They finally leave in their tiny ship that's invisible to the human eye.

I worked on the notes and first draft while my laundry was in the dryer. I'll see if I can finish the first draft sometime this week. I wouldn't count on seeing this story any time soon, if at all. I get hot for ideas, I start them...and then I get the next hot idea and never finish them. That's why I can't get anything published. I never finish anything.

I walked over to WaWa and the Oaklyn Library while the laundry was in the dryer. I bought four videos - two rare Christmas specials and two 80s children's videos - from the Library. Grabbed milk at WaWa, since their milk is cheaper than anyone else's in the area ($2.45, compared with $2.59 at the Acme and $2.79 at Super Fresh), and used the ATM machine. (The ATM machine at WaWa is for PNC Bank, which means there's no charge when I use it there.)

We had one of the Muppet Babies Video Storybook videos when we were little. It was actually one of the first videos we bought when Dad got a VCR. They're about as simple as a Jim Henson production gets. Kermit the Frog narrates three stories based after one of the Muppet Babies children's books. This tape featured Kermit the Hermit, in which Kermit imagines himself living in a cave in order to get some peace and quiet, A Love Note For Baby Piggy, which involves Piggy's daydreaming after someone gives her an unusual love letter, and Scooter and Skeeter's Merry-Go-Round Puzzle, which had the twins off on an adventure as they try to finish off their puzzle. The animation is limited to crudely moving the pictures from the books and Kermit's between-stories narration is a little annoying, but the stories themselves are charming and the pastel illustrations are cute.

The other 80s tape also featured a mid-80s phenomenon, only this one originated on children's toy shelves instead of TV. The Popples were popular stuffed animals in the mid and late 80s. Turn them inside-out, and they look like fuzzy neon balls. "Pop" them out, and they become cute, odd fuzzy little creatures. Like any toy from the 80s that was huge during my childhood, the colorful critters made the leap to the small screen...with decidedly mixed results. The show seems to be the tale of two siblings. Bonnie and Bobby, whose constant bickering is tempered by the appearance of the Popples, a wild group of neon-colored animals who only want to have a good time. Bobby's the goofy kid who wants to have fun; Bonnie is bossy and stricter. The two stories are as simple as you can get. One involves Bonnie trying to get her brother and the Popples to settle down long enough to help her plant a garden. The other has the pair and their critter pals trying to get a hole in one at a mini-golf course and win $25 for their mother's birthday present.

Actually, the most memorable thing about the show, other than some fairly cute gags, is a surprising (and rather refreshing) lack of villains. Most 80s cartoons had at least one or two major antagonists, but if there's bad guys in the Popples' world, they don't show up here. The closest we get is Bruno the dog in the garden episode, who scares the Popples briefly before they finally settle down enough to plant. That was about the only thing that did stand out, though. Neither the kids nor the Popples themselves made much of an impression.

My opinion was confirmed when I looked this show up on the Internet Movie Database. Apparently, it was originally from DIC's French studio, and there's more episodes available on DVD in Region 2. The show isn't on DVD here in the US, though, which doesn't surprise me. Most people seemed to agree that it's cute and pleasant but no where near as memorable as other mid-80s DIC hits like Care Bears Family and Inspector Gadget.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Rumble In the Keystone State

I had a late start today after staying up late with Lauren and the WENN chat last night. I basically just had enough time to call Mom and say "hi" before heading to work. Mom was fine. Dad was home; Keefe was in the shower. Their neighborhood had been having a block party this weekend, and they'd all joined in and had a marvelous time.

For once, work wasn't a problem, either. Everyone was in a good mood, possibly because of the lovely, upper-70s-and-sunny weather and the big football game later in the afternoon. I was in and out with no problems; my relief was on time. After I got out, I went straight home and straight over to Dad and Uncle Ken's for the 4:15 game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Pittsburgh Steelers, bringing a pan of Banana-Chocolate Chip Cupcakes and my WebKinz eagle Westbrook.

I'd forgotten that Uncle Ken and Dolores are still away in Florida, and will for at least another week. It was just Dad, Jodie, Jessa, Brittany, Mark, and a friend of Dad's, Pete. They ordered pizza and Jodie made chili and bought French bread from the Acme, so there was some food. Jodie and I chatted a bit on the porch during the second quarter, but I did watch most of the game, leaving towards the end of the fourth quarter when it became quite apparent that the Eagles were beating the Steelers' quarterback to a pulp and they were probably going to win. (I later discovered at home that yes, they did win, 15-6.) Unfortunately, we lost star running back Brian Westbrook in the first quarter; as of this second, it doesn't look like he'll play Chicago next week. The Eagles have a week off afterwards that'll hopefully allow him to rest.

In other football news, Dad's struggling Miami Dolphins managed a miracle earlier this afternoon. They handed the New England Patriots their first loss in the regular season since 2006, dominating a game that apparently shocked fans and delighted my father, who'd been calling the Dolphins "embarrassingly high school" for the past few weeks.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Seeing Clearly

Work is such a pain. I know I shouldn't complain, and that having a job is better than not having one, and that I haven't tried hard enough to get a better one, but...I'm just so sick of all the whining and complaining, even from employees who should know better!

I was really happy to get out of work and head down to America's Best for my contacts follow-up appointment. No, there really wasn't any problem. I did get a fresh right contact (though it took me a few minutes to put in) and got my eyes checked out. I'm going to be going back next week for three month's worth of contacts. The right eye cost $20 more than the left eye, which is understandable given that the right eye is the stigmatic eye. They were $50 all together, which isn't nearly as bad as I thought.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Down the Drain

Damn it, I lost one of my contacts today. I'm assuming it happened when I got so upset about half-way through my shift. A customer thought the larger Healthy Choice meals were on sale, but it was the smaller ones...and then a co-worker got mad when I told her I thought she should call Frozen Food and she said she should call Meat. I don't know why no one likes it when I apologize. I was holding up the line because I was getting everyone angry and upset, and then I couldn't help myself. I just started crying. The right eye was blurry after that. I was able to make it through my day, but I knew my contact was gone.

I'm so angry with myself. I'm DISGUSTED with myself. Why can't I just calm down and THINK and keep my mouth shut? Why can't I just do the right thing? If I hadn't gotten so upset and cried like a baby, I wouldn't have lost one of my contacts. America's Best wanted me to wear them for my follow-up appointment. What am I going to tell them? AND I kept going on and on and annoying people and embarrassed myself around customers. No wonder no one wants to hire me. No real job is going to hire someone who acts like a baby.

I wish I could do something that wouldn't get me mad. My morning was fine. I just calculated expenses from my vacation, sent out bills, and worked on editing Monkees role-play stories and writing. Why can't I just control myself and act like a normal adult? I'm the only person on the planet who would have gotten upset. Now I'll never get my contacts. It IS all my fault, no matter what everyone else says. It's ALWAYS my fault.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Fall Fest

I spent most of today on my computer, working on writing and editing and research...and WebKinz. The Fall Fest began in WebKinz World today. It's basically the same deal as January's WinterFest...only, instead of winter-themed items, you get fall-themed items. So far, I've gotten 7 Decorative Cornucopias, 6 cups of Hot Apple Cider, 2 Pumpkin Soups, 2 Fall Place Settings, one Wheat Sheath, one Orange Cable-Knit Sweater, and a Fall Poster. I set up a rustic-looking "Fall Store" room, a smaller version of my Holiday Store room. The Fall Store room will be for Fall Fest items. I'm hoping to make a fall/forest-themed room for Rhonda the Deer and the upcoming American Buffalo as well.

Work was on-and-off busy, with no really major problems. I had no relief and was able to leave fairly quickly.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

A Big Family Dinner

My first day back at work was a pain. I just get so BORED. I was surprised at how well I remembered all the register functions after being gone for more than a week. Even with helping to stock candy in the front of the registers, I still get bored and I'm still tired of listening to people fuss.

I made a quick stop at America's Best to set up a follow-up appointment for my contacts (it's Saturday after work), then went home and spent most of the rest of the afternoon working on stuff on and offline. I'm hoping to get this month's Monkees role-play story up tonight. We'll see how long I can stay awake.

Rose picked me up at quarter after 5 for dinner with Mom, Keefe, Anny, Skylar, and Anny's boyfriend Mike. We ate at the Applebee's at the Cumberland Mall in Vineland, which we thought was a somewhere we could all get to easily. Everyone admired my new contacts and slimmer look. Mom had the cutest bobbed hairstyle. Anny's very much pregnant now. She'll be having a boy sometime between Thanksgiving and early December. (The doctors say December 12th, but Skylar was three weeks early.) Speaking of my nephew, he's getting SOOO big! He can talk so well now. For all of Mom's fussing, he was fairly well-behaved. He only threw one tantrum, and it was a mild one (for him) that resulted in a short time-out. He was fine after that. In fact, he was adorable after that, chattering and showing off his new Transformer to the table.

I wish I could say the same for his uncle. My brother Keefe is very much 15 now - rude, crude, and addicted to caffeine, video games, and eating like a very big horse. He ate Skylar's French fries, nibbled off the other appetizer plates, then had more fries, Applebee's "Endless" Pork Ribs, and topped it all off with Chocolate Mousse. I hope he didn't really lose all that going home. My mother loves her car.

I loved my Smothered Grilled Chicken, steamed broccoli, and heavenly Cheese Smashed Red Potatoes. (I need to figure out how to make those at home.) Mom had Lime Tilapia. I forget what Rose had - I think she had the Lime Grilled Chicken. Skylar had mini-cheeseburgers. (When the waiter asked Sky what he wanted, he knew right away - "I wanna cheeseburger!") Anny and Mike had bowls of teryaki chicken, rice, and vegetables. Unlike the rest of us, they ended up bring most of theirs home. Those "bowls" were big enough for me to make bread in.

And when Rose and I were ready to leave...Skylar came up to me and gave me a very big hug. He gave me one after I arrived, too. He's a good little hugger.
WebKinz List

Just to get it out of the way, for those of you who were interested, here's all of the WebKinz I currently own.

Regular-Sized WebKinz

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

Lil'Kinz (Small WebKinz)

Kinsey the Basset Hound
Amalthea the Unicorn
Alice the Persian Cat
Creamsicle the Orange and White Cat
Maisie the Gray and White Cat
Elvis the Penguin
Miss Bianca the White Mouse
Ramses the Horse
Debbie the Golden Retriever
Davy the Tiger
Peter the Cocker Spaniel
Duke the Pig

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Baking Day

I did my first library volunteering session in over a week this morning. I stacked overflow books that had just been returned on wheeled carts to be put away later and did the children's DVDs. I stopped by Super Fresh after that for mushrooms (which I'd forgotten to get yesterday), leeks (which are cheaper there), and fresh bunched spinach (which the Acme doesn't carry).

After I dropped off my vegetables, I headed over to Dad's to do my laundry. It was quiet at Dad's today. Jessa was in school, Jodie was at work, Uncle Ken is still on vacation, and Dad was working on draining the pool. (Which confirms my suspicion that yes, pool season is over.)

I spent the rest of the evening baking. I missed baking. Lauren and her folks aren't into cooking and generally buy their goodies. I enjoy mixing and creating recipes...and tasting the results. I added applesauce and a bruised pear and peach to Duncan Hines' Spice Cake Mix, and while the results were very soft and a bit messy, they sure tasted good. I also made a simple whole wheat bread recipe from the classic Betty Crocker Cookbook that smelled absolutely divine in the oven. (You can't beat ol' Betty Crocker.)

Monday, September 15, 2008

Welcome Home

I mostly spent today catching up on errands. I went to the Acme to get my paycheck and do some much-needed grocery shopping. Everyone wanted to know about my vacation; I promised them I'd bring the Micky Dolenz autograph in my notebook soon to show them. I went home after I finished my shopping, put everything away, and had lunch. I also finally called Scott and left a message for him to reschedule my counseling appointment for this Thursday. I wasn't able to get the day off, and it's probably too soon after my vacation for counseling, anyway.

I then went for a walk to run some errands closer to home, and to enjoy the lovely day. It was sunny, with a few clouds in the bright blue sky and a wonderful breeze. I went to CVS to deposit two of my three cameras to be developed. CVS has a new system of camera development that's only for 1-hour. I decided to run my other quick errands in the neighborhood - milk at WaWa, a frame for my autographed Monkees photo at Family Dollar - then go home. I put the milk away and the photo in the frame and went back to CVS for the photos and a carton of eggs.

The rest of the afternoon was spent watching The Three Caballeros and The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh and organizing photos. I'm not happy with the way my pictures of the Micky Dolenz concert came out at all. You can't see anything on the stage in the ones from the 3PM concert (people kept getting in front of me!), and it was too dark to see much of anything in the 8PM concert. I ended up throwing those away. I also discovered pictures from my cousin Samantha's 4th of July barbecue I'd completely forgotten about on the Acme camera. I'll give those to her the next time I see her at an Eagles party at Uncle Ken's.

Oh, and my sister Rose called while I was in the shower. I managed to jump out and catch her before she left a message. We're going to go out to dinner with my mom, stepdad, and brother at 6PM on Wednesday. It's the first time I've seen them in over a year, and I'm looking forward to it. (Which reminds me, I need to call Mom, too.)

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Going Mobile

I'm writing this at home, on my own computer. After one last game of Mario Party 8 this morning, Lauren drove me to the Pittsfield Bus Terminal and stayed with me until the 10:30AM bus to New York arrived. She's the best best friend there is, and I miss her already.

The bus ride to New York was actually quite pleasant. It poured in the morning, but the rain let up around the time Lauren and I left for the bus terminal. By the time the bus hit Waterbury, Connecticut, the clouds were breaking up, and the sun was definitely out as we made our way through the mild traffic in the Bronx.

The Bronx wasn't the problem this time. The bus drove down 9th Street to get to Port Authority, and the traffic once we got past 5th Avenue and Central Park was appalling. No wonder they call it "Hell's Kitchen"; it sure felt like it. The bus was a half-hour late in arriving, and I barely made it to my next bus.

Have I mentioned how much I HATE, HATE Port Authority Bus Terminal? There were two long and disorganized lines waiting to go to Mt. Laurel and to Philadelphia by the time I got down there. Of course, both of those busses were late. Around quarter of 4 - fifteen minutes after the 3:30 bus was supposed to show up - a woman tells us to make one line, because we're all taking the same bus...and the Philadelphia line is already half-way across the terminal. Needless to say, this did NOT sit well with a lot of people, including me. As one of the last people in line, I had to argue my way onto the bus. I had a 3:30 ticket. It wasn't MY fault these idiots Port Authority hires obviously have no idea what they're doing. (I had problems there last Saturday, too. I had to ask four employees before I could find the Pittsfield gate...and a janitor finally told me!)

I was not a happy camper when I finally got on the bus. I was even less happy when I realized the bus was jammed to the gills and I ended up with the guy next to me snoring in my ear half-way to Mt. Laurel. Thankfully, the trip wasn't quite as bad as the last time I rode a bus that was full. The weather remained sunny, the traffic that had been so horrible in downtown New York had disappeared by the time the bus chugged its way through Lincoln Tunnel, and I didn't smell any smoke coming from the bathroom.

I called Dad right after I left New York and when I got in. I ate a lovely dinner of steak, corn, pierogies, and an old tomato recipe of Jodie's mother's after he picked me up and brought me over to their house. He, Jodie, and Jessa had spent the day watching football. Dad was watching - and yelling at - the Miami Dolphins-Arizona Cardinals game. Roughly translated, the Dolphins aren't very good these days. (Arizona slaughtered them, 31-10. (We also caught part of a much better game between the Jets and the Broncos. The latter just barely won, 39-38.)

Saturday, September 13, 2008


Not surprisingly, we slept in very late after yesterday's excitement. (Lauren didn't get up until almost 11:30!) We mostly spent the day playing Mario Party 8. (Lauren kicks rear at minigames.) Lauren did treat me to lunch/dinner at an awesome local bar/restaurant, the Highland. They have the best spaghetti on the planet (and the cheapest, too). I had the large spaghetti and a salad, and Lauren had huge chicken tenders. There were plenty of leftovers for dinner later. We stopped at Price Chopper so I could get some food for the bus ride home tomorrow, then came home and played lots more Mario Party.

Now, if only I could beat Lauren, who keeps kicking my butt at Mario Party... ;)

Tomorrow, I take the bus back to Mt. Laurel.

Friday, September 12, 2008

I'm A Believer

We once again made a trip through the Massachusetts wilderness this morning, this time on our way to the Eastern State Exposition in West Springfield to see former Monkee singer/drummer Micky Dolenz. I got quite a surprise when we ended up parking in the back yard of an enterprising local family. That would NEVER happen in Wildwood or Ocean City. (For one thing, most of the remaining residents of those towns don't HAVE back yards.)

We got our second surprise of the day when we got our tickets and went into the fair. The very first thing we saw beyond the gates was the stage where Micky was to perform, and there were not one, but two times listed for his appearances. Lauren said the fair's site only listed an 8PM, but it would seem there was also one at 3PM. We decided that since we had all day, we would stay for both shows.

We had some time to kill before the 3PM show, so we walked around a bit and got to know the lay of the land. While most of the fair was your basic fairgrounds with rides, games, souvenir stands, and food booths of every description, the fair did have many unusual attractions. Because it was an Exhibition like the World's Fair, there were lots of animal rides. There were pony rides and a ride on an elephant. Lauren and I took pictures of the goats, camel, and sleeping kangaroo in a petting zoo. We later took pictures of sheep and dairy goats in the Farm-A-Rama building. One of the sheep actually bleated when I pet him! "You win," Lauren said after that.

One of the big animal attractions was the Budwiser Clydesdales. Lauren and I snapped pictures of the famous team of Clydesdale horses who pull the Budwiser beer carts. Lauren even bought a WebKinz Clydesdale from a toy dealer just outside the Better Life Building.

The Better Life Building was huge and busy, filled with people and stands selling leather goods, hot tubs, furniture, food, and small appliances. I didn't buy anything there, but Lauren bought three leather belts for $10. (She says they were the woven-like kind that she can't find anymore.) It was really too busy to hang around in, so after Lauren got her belts, we hit the bathroom and head out. (That bathroom attendant was awfully friendly - a little too much, in my opinion.)

We walked around and explored until it was time to sit down for the concert. Lauren insisted on getting there early in order to beat the crowds. We sat down an hour and a half before the show. In addition to the (uncovered) benches in the main arena area, there were picnic tables on the grass on either side of the stage. These afforded us equally good views with lots more legroom.

After the show, we stood in line and got Micky's autograph. Lauren bought a photo of him from around the first season of the Monkees show. I just had him autograph the notebook I usually keep in my purse for random lists of things I need. (That autograph will stay in my purse as a good luck charm.)

It started to rain lightly towards the end of the show. To escape the rain, we headed over to one of the few indoor restaurants at the Exhibition, the Firehouse Restaurant. It was, indeed, a sit-down, counter-service eatery. We had Grilled Chicken Sandwiches (which were tasty but a bit slippery - Lauren took hers off the bun) while looking at the footage Lauren shot of Micky's concert with her digital camera and trying to decide what to do next.

After we ate, we decided to just walk around for a while until the next concert. By that time, the showers were in full force. We did walk around and take in more attractions...but we also got quite wet doing so. We walked over to the Midway area. We weren't going to buy the extra tickets for the rides, but we did play a few games. I won a cute little orange bear on the balloon dart game.

We eventually made our way back to the Avenue of the States. Each of the New England states had an exhibition house here based after their state capital building, toting the well-known wares of the state. New Hampshire boasted Stonybrook Farms Yogurt and Milk. Lauren bought flannel nightshirts for her dad from a Vermont booth, and I bought maple sugar candy and saw a booth for Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream. Rhode Island had a Del's Lemonade stand and a poster about legendary local radio and TV personality Salty Brine (both often mentioned by my friend Linda Young, a Rhode Island native). People were lined up half-way out the door for Maine baked potatoes, even in the pouring rain. Kids built with Legos and crowded around the Pez Dispenser booth in Connecticut.

I was surprised how crowded it still was, even with the weather. This probably had partially to do with many of the major attractions being indoors. However, as Lauren pointed out, New England weather is notoriously fickle and most natives are used to it. In Wildwood, people flee the boardwalk (and in many cases, the island) the moment a raindrop is seen. Unless you plan on spending the rest of the afternoon in the arcade or grocery shopping, there just isn't much to do on a rainy day in Wildwood.

By 6:30, we were cold and wet and ready to pack it in. We debated it on and off as we made our way back to the Center Stage and the gate we came in. We saw musicians tuning up on the stage and electricians fiddling with lights...and we finally decided that if Micky Dolenz could say "what the heck" and perform, so could we.

It was more than worth getting soaked to stay for the second show. The rain let up long enough for Micky and his sister Coco to perform "without being electrocuted" (as Micky said at one point), Lauren got more footage for YouTube, and we got to talk to a fellow Monkees fan who had come up for the late show from Boston. He was a middle-aged man who had actually worked on the Monkees show when they got their star on the Walk of Fame in LA and had recorded some footage of it. (He also mentioned that this wasn't the first time the Monkees had appeared at the Eastern State Exhibition. He said Mike, Micky, and Davy appeared at the Exhibition in 1969 when it was just the three of them, which makes sense. From what I've read, the three played a lot of similar fairs and carnivals during that time period.)

And yes, I even got my autographed photo. I opted for one of all four Monkees. (I did tell Micky he could sign over Davy, if he wanted.) Lauren topped me - she didn't want to spend more money on another autograph, so she had him sign a dollar bill!

Micky himself was in fine form tonight. In addition to well-known Monkees hit, he sang "Johnny B. Goode" (which he says was his audition piece for The Monkees show) and kicked rear on a great "Gimmie Some Lovin'" in the second show. Coco Dolenz did nicely with her solo pieces, one of my favorite Linda Rondstat songs "Different Drum." (Which, coincidentally, was written by one of the Monkees, Mike Nesmith.)

Not surprisingly, we went straight home after that, this time heading down the MassPike and other well-lit, straight highways. It was a fun ride despite the lack of a view. Lauren cranked up the heat and the Monkees music, and we sang our way across the Berkshires.

(Lauren also discovered the Massachusetts E-ZPass tolls have switched to a card system instead of tolls - you take a card in one toll booth and give the card to the person in the booth in the next toll. Simple...and cheaper.)

It turns out Lauren's parents weren't idle today despite the weather, either. They put up some lovely curtains over the French doors that look out to their deck and large back yard.

Here's Micky's website:

Micky Dolenz

And the site for the Eastern State Exhibition ("The Big E"):

Eastern States Exhibition

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Just A Couple of Country Girls

We drove into the wilds of the Berkshire Mountains today. After an enjoyable game of mini-golf in a lovely course called The Range (lovely view, too - I won by 1 point), we went into North Adams and up to...the hairpin turn. Apparently, the turn is infamous both for stunning views...and the amount of cars that go over it a year. Lauren, having lived here all her life, had no problems with it all. We did, however, had problems with her choice for lunch. The Golden Hawk Restaurant sat on a ledge by the hairpin turn, which allowed you to see for miles. However, it turned out it was only open for dinner. We turned around and went back to North Adams for lunch in a small local 50s-themed diner called the Moonlight Bar and Grille instead. I had a short stack of pancakes and a bowl of melons and grapes. Lauren had a massive eggplant quesadilla. (There's still some left in the fridge.)

We did finally take our drive into the Massachusetts countryside after that. (And after being stuck behind two slow, unwieldy trucks carrying logs to local saw mills.) We took in the breathtaking sights (and breathtaking turns) of the mountains. We saw rushing rivers and tall, fat green spruces, large dairy farms with grazing cows (some of them so close to the road, we could see them chewing their lunch), and thick groves of golden and purple wildflowers. We went around more turns (though not quite as crazy as the hairpin turn) and zig-zag roads. I'm not really a mountain person, but I have to admit, Lauren lives in a really beautiful area.

We went right around the mountains and back down to Pittsfield, but neither of us were up for a long trip or a big dinner after that. We browsed in a music store and a Big Lots and had a very quick dinner at Taco Bell before coming home in time for Wheel of Fortune and a game of Mario Party 8. (Yes, Lauren has it, too. We have good times playing that.)

Tomorrow, a long trip south to Conneticut for the fair and Micky Dolenz concert!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Into the Green Mountain State

We made our trip into Vermont today. There couldn't have been a more lovely day to do it, either. sunny and in the upper 60s-lower 70s. We started out in the late morning and arrived at the Manchester Outlets around 11:30. Turns out the outlets weren't really either of our speeds. Lauren got a full set of lotions and shampoo from Crabtree & Evelyn and I bought a travel-sized shampoo (the one I brought with me is almost empty). Most of the other stores were factory stores for major upscale clothing brands like Brooks Brothers that were way beyond our price ranges, even at outlet prices. We didn't get anything else there.

Our next stop was far more interesting. On our way to the outlets, we passed a bookstore. We decided to give it a go, and I'm very glad we did! The Northshire Book Store turned out to be a massive, 2-story independent book-and-media shop not unlike Barnes & Noble. It was a really gorgeous store, housed in a former inn. Lauren bought a Gene Autry CD for her dad. I got the original cast of the 1971 Broadway musical Follies. We had lunch in the book store's restaurant, appropriately named the Spiral Press Cafe. She had a ham pannini called the Anthem. Mine was called the Johnny Appleseed and had turkey, apples, cheddar cheese, and cranberry mayo (which was actually quite good). Our sandwiches came with chips and gigantic pickle quarters! Lauren doesn't like pickles and traded hers to me for my chips, since I'm not a big chips fan. I like pickles, but those babies were so big, I ate the first and one bite of the second and couldn't finish!

Here's the Northshire's website:

Northshire Book Store

While browsing around in the Outlets, we found a rack of pamphlets for other local attractions in the lobby area. In addition to fliers for the Northshire Book Store and Vermont Country Store, we found one for another intriguing store in the area. We both love stuffed animals, and The Big Black Bear Shop, a store for Lauren's favorite stuffed animal company Mary Meyer, was right up both our alleys. As it turned out, it was on our way to the Vermont Country Store, so we made it our next stop.

The Big Black Bear Shop is a toy store that, yes, mostly sells Mary Meyer stuffed toys. It also sells other playthings and a few kids' books. There's even a small museum devoted to the Mary Meyer company and making stuffed animals. The bright, colorful store was filled with so many wonderful animals, it was hard to choose! I finally found an adorable tan puppy, Buster, on sale for $3.00. Buster was the name of the Pound Puppy I had as a child, and I miss him. Lauren picked up a sea-green octopus named Ollie, a floppy cheetah named Speedy, and a fluffy white Christmas bear in a red and yellow striped stocking cap and scarf.

Here's the Big Black Bear Shop's site:

The Big Black Bear Shop

After a few wrong turns, we finally made it to the Vermont Country store an hour before closing. We took pictures of each other in front of the store, then browsed. The huge, rambling old farmhouse is filled from top to bottom with unusual, often old-fashioned items, ranging from flannel shirts to milled soap to local Vermont maple syrup, old-time candy brands that can only be found in catalogs, fancy cake and pancake mixes, tin toys, and some Vermont merchandise like sweaters and pewter keychains. We only had so much money and so much time by then. I just bought a tin container of real Vermont maple syrup. I switched to using real maple syrup on pancakes instead of cheap "pancake syrup"; it tastes so much better.

Lauren made better finds. She bought a box of little tablets that add flavored fizz to regular water (she's a big soda fan), orange marmalade for her mother, and wart remover for a small one on her foot. She discovered her best find, of all places, in the bathroom. She told me she smelled something citrusy in the women's bathroom and wondered what it was. It turned out to be the orange soap used at the sinks. She looked around the store and finally found a bottle for her dad, who apparently loves oranges.

Here's the Vermont Country Store's (apparently well-known, as my mother and friend Linda Young both order from them) site and online catalog:

Vermont Country Store

We stopped at a Friendly's in Barrington, Vermont for a small dinner. We shared their Munchies Mania plate (Lauren wanted the mozzarella sticks; I had the quesadilas), and we both had ice cream. Lauren had her favorite, Black Raspberry with Peanut Butter topping (which she says isn't as bad as it sounds); I had the Hunka Chunka PB Fudge.

It was worth the trip just for the gorgeous scenery. Now I know why they call Vermont "The Green Mountain State"; it's a well-earned moniker. The emerald mountains seemed to touch the fat, white clouds and dwarfed the almost-turning-colors trees and lovely old rustic farmhouses, hotels, inns, and restaurants. We passed over rushing rivers as clear as glass and passed by massive mountainsides of pure marble. We saw cows and horses (including one cute golden foal) grazing by big barns and fields filled with soy beans, hay, and corn. We passed by orchards laden with apples and farm markets overflowing with pumpkins and squash. I haven't seen such lovely farms since I left Cape May County (and there aren't too many like these left there).

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Raindrops On the Mountains

Someone at the Weather Channel needs glasses. They said it was supposed to rain in the evening and be cloudy in the morning, but we awoke to a huge thunderstorm. I let Lauren sleep in and just lay around in bed and read her Monkees books.

The rain did subside long enough to take in another shopping center near Lauren. This one had a larger FYE that had just gotten in the September WebKinz. I got the Eagle. (Of course I got the Eagle. I'm a Philadelphia Eagles fan! ;) ) Lauren got the Sheep and the Bat. (I almost got the Bat but decided to hold off for Halloween.) I also found Singin' In the Rain on sale for $12.99. It costs as much as $27 reguarly; $12 with the Membership Card is a steal. Lauren also picked up the third season of The Fresh Prince Of Bel Air and a couple of wrestling DVDs and posters. We walked through Wal-Mart and Michael's, but neither of us got anything else. Wal-Mart was just putting out their Halloween items. I liked looking at the new cookie cutters (though I usually end up too busy in October to do any kind of baking).

We had lunch at Price Chopper, the huge supermarket in the same mall. Like the Wegmans' in Cherry Hill, this Price Chopper has a small restaurant section on one side of the room. Unlike the Acme's tiny "cafe" area between the bakery and deli, with it's selection of fried chicken, salad bar, and deli sandwiches, this "cafe" had not only sandwiches and a salad bar, but a nice hot foods bar. (Acme sells some hot foods, but only at the deli.) I had mashed sweet potatoes, chicken Marsala, and baby carrots. Lauren had the chicken, chicken and gravy, cheesy baked pasta, and white rice. It was all quite tasty for a supermarket salad bar, and only $4.50 each, at least two times cheaper than the Old Country Buffet across the way (with some of the same food).

Since we were out anyway, Lauren stopped by a local pizzeria to pick up the pepperoni pizzas we were going to have for dinner. While the pizzas cooked, we looked at a small used book store in the same mall. They had a nice selection of paperback mysteries. I ended up with Death at Bishop's Keep (which I've been wanting to read - my grandmother gave me the second one, and the libraries only have the newer ones) and a small cake/cookies/pie cookbook. By that point, it was raining again, and had rained on and off all day. The rain didn't stop until we got home and were eating pizza over Wheel of Fortune (of course).

Tomorrow, we're going up to Vermont to the Vermont Country Store and the Manchester Outlets. It's supposed to be really nice, so we hopefully won't have the weather problem again. (It's now saying no more rain until Saturday, which we plan on spending relaxing at home after the Micky Dolenz concert.)

Oh, and meet my three new WebKinz, Swamp Fred the Bullfrog, Mochaberry the Cocoa Dinosaur, and Westbrook the Eagle! Swamp Fred and Mochaberry live in Fred's muddy swamp home, where Mochaberry has a hearthside bread business. Westbrook will have his own Red, White, and Blue Football room and will be in charge of the KinzBee's Sports Bar and Grill. (Westbrook is, of course, named for Philadelphia Eagle Brian Westbrook.)

Monday, September 08, 2008

Mall Rats

We slept in and spent the morning just hanging out, since Mrs. Miller had to borrow Lauren's car for a doctor's appointment. We were mostly hangin' out online. We didn't get going until around noon. Today was our mall day. We first checked out a shopping center near the bank where Lauren works. We stopped at a large KB Toys and checked that out first. It was the first free-standing KB Toys I'd ever seen. (And a drive through Pittsfield revealed why. It would seem KB's main headquarters is in downtown Pittsfield.) Lauren found four Fraggle Rock dolls. I walked out with two modern-style Care Bears, Harmony Bear and the new Heartsong Bear. There was a nice little Hallmark in the same shopping center. I picked up the WebKinz Bullfrog; Lauren got an adorable floppy panda.

We went to Lauren's favorite Subway for lunch (we both had Chicken Breast), then headed to an allergy doctor for Lauren's quick appointment. (He had a very nice waiting room with lots of reading material and very hard chairs.)

We spent the rest of the afternoon at the Berkshire Mall. The Berkshire Mall sits on a moutain, overlooking Mount Greylock. The Deptford Mall and Hamilton Mall can't claim views like that. We mostly walked around. I picked up The Classic Caballeros Collection from Best Buy (I've been wanting that - I love The Three Caballeros), the Cocoa Dinosaur, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, and the 4th Pink Panther cartoon collection from FYE, and finally found the Doc Hudson Cars car at Target. Lauren got a wrestling DVD, Evan Allmighty, and her own Cocoa Dinosaur from FYE, plastic hangers from Target, and two Garfield movies, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Volume 6, the 1999 Get Smart series from Best Buy.

Mrs. Miller had tilapia, swiss chard, and salad ready for us when we got home, which we ate while watching Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune together. Tomorrow, Downtown Pittsfield.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Rocky Mountain High in a New York Minute

Yesterday was a very long day. Tropical Storm Hanna held off long enough for me to go for a short ride and make a quick trip to the Collingswood Farm Market. I bought a little pastry for my trip and a jar of apple butter for Lauren's parents as a thank-you present. The morning was cloudy, warm, and amazingly humid, but I wanted to get a ride in before I spent the rest of the day on the bus. Actually, it was a rather pleasant morning. I spent the rest of it watching Care Bears and Strawberry Shortcake on CBS, baking the last of the Cinnamon Refrigerator Cookies, and getting my food for the trip together.

It just started raining after Dad and Jodie picked me up and dropped me off at the Greyhound Bus Terminal in Mt. Laurel, about 20 minutes from Oaklyn. Good thing I was there early, because just as it did last year, the bus to New York appeared more than 20 minutes ahead of schedule. I had no problems getting to New York. The bus was fairly full, but I did find open seats in the back.

I HATE Port Authority Bus Terminal. It's a good thing I had an almost three-hour layover there, because I got lost. Again. For the third damn year in a row. How do New Yorkers DO it? Even the employees couldn't figure it out. I spent over an hour in the wrong side of the building because the employees I asked directions from couldn't tell SPRINGFIELD from PITTSFIELD! And the place is dirty, dingy, dilapidated, and populated with some rather nasty-looking characters. (Never mind a few little construction projects - what that place needs is a total top-to-bottom, rip-it-out-and-start-over overhaul.)

The trip to Pittsfield wasn't much better. It's a good thing the bus wasn't anywhere near full, because I ended up spending over five hours on it. By the time we finally pulled out of Port Authority at 5PM, New York Rush Hour was in full force. Traffic was pure hell, especially going through the Bronx. The rain, which had abated shortly after leaving Mt. Laurel, had returned in full force by then, too. And of course, the Bronx seems to be about three-fourths bridges. We were supposed to have been at Danbury, Connecticut within an hour. We didn't get there until over a hour and a half later, by which time it was fully dark and the water was rushing across the sidewalks of Danbury in miniature rivers.

Even skipping two drop-offs that no one wanted to get off at, we were more than an hour late in Pittsfield. Thank god Lauren is one of the most patient and understanding best friends on the planet. She was there ten minutes after I called her and told her I'd finally arrived. It was still pouring, too. Good thing Lauren's parents new home has an attached garage. We spent the rest of that night playing Mario Kart on Lauren's Wii.

When we both finally dragged our rears out of bed around 9-ish, the sun was shining, the wind had diminished, and the trees on the majestic Greylock mountain range behind Pittsfield were as green as emeralds. Lauren and I slept in, then headed for Jiminy Peak, a ski resort/mini family amusement park a few miles outside of Pittsfield. We went there the first time I visited in 2006, but my knee injury prevented us from riding three of Jiminy's biggest attractions. With my knee in perfect working order, we were free to ride the Roller Coaster and the Slide as much as we pleased.

The "roller coaster" and slide rides aren't your ordinary coaster and slides. Both are self-propelled - YOU control how fast or slow you go, especially on the slide. The slide is on a bobsled-style course; the roller coaster looks like a scaled-down version of an ordinary small coaster. I liked the slide better. The ride's longer, you have more control of your vehicle, and there's more under you when you're on your way down.

(The slide has it's disadvantages, though. My third trip down was marred by a mother and her very young daughter who went suuuuppperr slloooowww. The little girl was so scared, she and Mommy just wouldn't move. The kid shouldn't really have been on the ride at all if she was that freaked. In fact, I'm surprised the ride's attendant let her go down - she couldn't have been more than 3.)

Jiminy Peak was fairly busy when we arrived. There was a line after us when we played the short mini-golf course. After the third run on the slides, we decided it was really getting too busy. We drove a few minutes away to Bob's Country Kitchen, a small, cozy diner-style restaurant. I love places like this. I had three big blueberry pancakes and hash browns. Lauren had baked sole, summer squash, and mashed potatoes with gravy.

We spent the rest of a quiet afternoon playing Mario Party 8 on Lauren's Wii, making a quick stop for take-home Taco Bell around 7. We're planning on spending tomorrow afternoon at the mall before Lauren watches wrestling with her parents.

Here's more on Jiminy Peak:

Jiminy Peak Mountain Adventure Park

(And in other news, the Philadelphia Eagles slaughtered the St. Louis Rams in their season opening game and first home game. It was truly a great day. ;) )

Friday, September 05, 2008

Gettin' Ready

I didn't sleep very well last night. My mind was on everything I wanted to do this morning. I eventually got up earlier than planned...and finished all my chores earlier. I went to the Acme and picked my paycheck (paychecks, actually - we get two when we go on vacation) and a few odds and ends for snacks for the bus. I also got to say goodbye to a few co-workers I didn't see yesterday. After I left the Acme, I went to Wal-Mart and bought cameras, a new pair of shorts that were only 3 dollars, wet wipes and a small pack of tissues for the trip, and a new computer mouse. The Acme hadn't been hugely busy, but Wal-Mart was, with a fairly long but fast-moving line. I then went up to the PNC Bank on the Black Horse Pike to deposit most of my paychecks, then to the Walgreens a few blocks down to get Lauren her thank-you gifts. I got her the WCares WebKinz Lil'Kinz Cow and another item.

It was sunny and windy when I got out this morning. By the time I got out of Walgreens, it was noon, and getting hotter by the minute. I could see large, fat white clouds in the sky, too, but they were hardly threatening...yet. I headed home for lunch. I'd wanted to take a nice walk that afternoon and give Uncle Ken and Dad some of my Blueberry White Cake and return Mark's computer mice, but it was just too hot. Actually, it was in the upper 80s - not as bad as it could be (it was supposed to get up to 93 today), but far worse than it has been recently. We just aren't used to the heat anymore. It was a bit humid, too. Uncle Ken was the only person home at his house. I gave everything to him and wished him a happy trip (he and Dolores are going away next week and will be gone when I come back), then just went home and spent the rest of the day finishing the pirate historical novel The Golden Hawk, watching the Beatles movie Help!, and packing.

(Incidentally, Lauren told me she has a laptop in addition to her regular computer that I can use to go online with when I'm there, so I'll be able to update this blog regularly while I'm on vacation this year.)

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Tell Everybody I'm On My Way

Thank goodness today was the last day of actual work before vacation! (I am going to go to the Acme tomorrow, but just to get my paycheck and buy a few things to eat on the bus ride up there.) It was steady-to-busy, no real major problems other than some obnoxious beginning-of-the-month customers. While few regular customers noticed my contacts, a lot of my co-workers did, and their praise was so sweet. Everyone says I look really good with them.

My relief showed up on time, allowing me to run home, take my contacts out (I'm only allowed to wear them for a few hours each day - I'm supposed to gradually build my eyes' tolerance for them), grab my laundry basket, and run over to Uncle Ken's to do my last laundry load before I leave. Rose and Dad were chatting on the porch when I arrived. I was glad to see Rose. She was very much awake and fairly happy and full of stories of Costa Rica and how different it is there. Dad was dead tired. He, Mark, and Uncle Ken had apparently spent the day trying to keep one of the side porch step railings from wobbling. Dad tried everything from a pick axe to a pole to dent the rotted concrete and, according to him, only found more rotted concrete.

After Rose left to help a classmate with a school project, I spent the rest of the evening playing Super Smash Bros Brawl with Jessa. For those of you who aren't big video game fans, the Super Smash Bros series is basically a massive crossover of just about every important character Nintendo owns, from Mario to Link to a couple of Pokemon, and even some never seen in America, like little Ness and Lucas. Each character "battles" with their own unique moves, against a backdrop representing one of the main characters (i.e, castles from Legend of Zelda, cartoony platforms from Mario Bros, jungles from Donkey Kong Country, spaceships from StarFox, etc). Jess and I particuarly enjoyed playing Princess Peach (me) and Zelda (Jess) against Link and Mario!

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

New Woman

I went to pick up my soft-lens contacts after a steady-to-busy, generally problem-free work day. It was a bit of a pain to get them in (my eyes just wanted to blink blink blink), but the lady in charge of contacts was really helpful and nice. In any event, since my contacts are trial lenses and disposables, I'm going to have to go back after my vacation for a follow-up exam. It looks so good, though. So...different. I've NEVER had contacts. I always assumed I was too clumsy and impatient for them, and that my eyes were too bad.

I was so happy after I got my contacts. They don't mask my lazy eye, but I looked so...different. I haven't really seen myself without glasses during my waking hours since I was in third grade.

Since getting the contacts went well, I decided I had enough time (and money) to finally get my hair done, too. I rode up to West King's Highway in Haddon Heights (between Pine Street and Station Avenue) and stopped at Hair Event. Rose went there to get her hair done before she went to Costa Rica. She said they did a great job, and Rose has very long, thick hair that's a lot like mine, but less curly...and manageable. I had my hair layered, trimmed, and thinned, all of which I badly needed. I love my curly hair, but it gets so thick and frizzy, especially in this weather! It looked terrific when I got out, layered with spiral curls. I even left it down, something I seldom do in hot weather.

I received the ultimate compliment when I stopped by Desserts By Design, a bakery in Audubon, for a treat. The owner and head baker didn't recognize me...and not only do I visit her store fairly often, but she's a regular Acme customer!

For once in my life, I'm very happy right now.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

The Return of Summer

Summer was back with a vengeance today as the temperatures climbed into the upper 80s-lower 90s for the first time in weeks. Even so, I had things to do and errands to run, since I didn't work until 4PM. I did my library volunteering early this afternoon, likely my last for a few weeks. I just did the children's DVDs. I must have either just missed Storybook Hour, or it ended after the summer. There were fewer kids around this time, and the librarians were still working on signing in the many DVDs that had been returned in the past few days.

I made a very quick trip to the Walgreens in Westmont after leaving the library in search of WebKinz. None of the WCares WebKinz of the Month - the Black Bear, the Monkey, and the Panda - interest me this time around, but Lauren said she'd like to have the Monkey. Unfortunately, the Lil'Kinz Monkey (and the Lil'Kinz Panda) are both retired and very rare. All I saw were Black Bears and Cows and St. Bernards leftover from previous months. I went home empty-handed and spent the rest of the afternoon working on editing some of the role-play stories Lauren and I have worked on over the past few days.

Speaking of Lauren, I found out something rather annoying when I read the Courier Post newspaper today. Apparently, we're supposed to get rain and wind all day Saturday...the day I leave for New England, of course. As long as there's no thunder traveling shouldn't be effected, but it may mean I won't be able to get to the Farm Market as I'd originally planned. Yahoo!Weather confirmed this later in the evening when I got home from work.

(And speaking of work, that was steady when I came in at 4, steady-but-dying when I left at 8. I suspect it'll be like that for the rest of the week. While it is right after a major holiday, it's also the beginning of the month, and most kids just went back to school or are getting ready to do so.)

Monday, September 01, 2008

Balancing Labor and Fun

I began this Labor Day with a Yoga class. Fortunately, the Monday morning class I usually take was the only one still running today...and it was full to capacity, for once with an equal amount of men and women. As Jill said, holidays seem to bring a lot of people out of the woodwork. Could have been the gorgeous, 80 degree day, too, or the fact that many people have off today.

I wasn't one of those people. Actually, I volunteered to work today. I knew darn well the store was going to be busy today. I'm going to have plenty of time off next week, and anyway, in Cape May County, you don't "sign up" to work on summer holidays. You work summer holidays, no questions asked. Even without the sand and sea air, the Acme was packed today, especially when I came in around noon. Not only is it a holiday, but it's the beginning of the month as well. Most public school kids start classes sometime between tomorrow and Thursday, too. (Private school kids start later - Jessa mentioned that her Catholic school doesn't start until next week.) Not to mention, Mondays are usually a busy day for us, anyway. I had no real plans for today other than my yoga class, and I'm going to get plenty of time off next week anyway. The nice weather must have affected my customers; for all the long lines, there were no major problems and no call-outs.

I have to admit, I had a pretty decent summer. It wasn't the most thrilling summer of my life, but I did do some cool stuff. I got new glasses. I went to see a Camden Riversharks game in an Executive Suite, no less. The wonderful weather allowed for a lot of riding around and exploring. I got my older blue bike back on the road. I finally started yoga classes. I spent some time with Jessa. I found that awesome, huge antique store in Barrington that I WILL be returning to. I bought some cool DVDs, including Get Smart and Tiny Toon Adventures. I read some fun books.

There were fewer lowlights - no hurt body parts (knock on wood this continues), more hours at work (and better hours), fewer days of humid weather. My biggest complaint is I didn't get to do EVERYTHING I wanted to do...and I should have done some things (like get my glasses and my ID) sooner.