Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Balancing Sidewalk and Nature

Rose and I did make it to Yogawood together this morning. Unlike the last time we went together, the class was fairly empty, seven people counting us and the teacher Jill. We did a lot of back bending and stretching the back and torso. I'm still wobbly on those, though my balance is getting better. I really wish I were in better shape. Even after two years of working out, I'm STILL in lousy shape.

I had an early lunch after Rose dropped me off at home. I woke up late and had a really fast breakfast. My first stop after I ate was this week's library volunteering. I hadn't done the children's DVDs in a few weeks, and they REALLY needed to be organized. There were tons of DVDs to put away, too.

It was such a gorgeous day, I just rode around for a while after leaving the library. I took the bike down Cuthbert Road and just kept going, all the way to Cooper River Park. This part of the park is between Collingswood and Cherry Hill, with two highways bordering it. I had a great ride. It was into the lower 60s by that time, about 1PM, perfectly sunny and breezy. There were tons of people out jogging, walking, fishing, or picnicking with their kids.

After leaving the park, I rode down Haddon Avenue and back into downtown Collingswood. I didn't feel like going home, and it was too nice of a day to sit around, so I decided to hop a train into Philly and do something I've wanted to do for a while. Several months ago, I made a list of as many thrift shops as I could find listed online for Center City Philadelphia and their addresses in the hope of checking them out. I hadn't gotten around to it until today. Either I'd forget the addresses, or I'd have another reason for going into Philly.

It was a great day for thrift shopping. The weather was just as nice in Philly, and there were lots of people out and around for a Tuesday afternoon in March. I tried one store on Spruce Street that was strictly used furniture before deciding it would be worth the hike to head for South Street. South Street is downtown Philly's hip mecca of shopping, where the bohemian meets the Society Hill swells.

I love South Street. While it's apparently not quite as funky as it was in past years, it's still a pretty damn cool area. There's tons of hip boutiques, vintage clothes shops, coffee shops, ice cream parlors (I didn't know Haagan Daas was sold anywhere but in tubs at the grocery store!), art galleries, night clubs, and awesome murals. (The one at the fire station was really cool!) I grabbed a Starbucks chai and slice of low-fat Cinnamon Coffee Cake and just watched the passing crowd.

My favorite find was Retrospect, a really cool vintage clothes shop with great prices. The place was surprisingly packed when I got in, and I found out why when I took a good look at the clothes. They sold real vintage stuff - wide legged "hip hop" pants and empire-waisted baby-doll frocks from the 90s, 80s prom gowns with huge puffed sleeves, long full skirts, and big bows in the back, bright polyester blouses and knit sweaters and ponchos from the 70s, even fur coats and paisley-print minidresses from the 60s! They had some other stuff as well - records, furniture, books, shoes, and other accessories. A few of the dresses had light stains on them, but most everything was in near-mint shape. I felt like a kid playing with Mom's dress-ups again. There was even a long pink gown covered with lace that reminded me of the dress our Victorian Barbie from the early 80s wore when my sisters and I were little.

I bought a really cute periwinkle blue sundress from the early 80s (according to the tag). It has spaghetti straps and and a two-tiered ruffled skirt in periwinkle with off-white polka-dots. Much to my delight, though the tag said $15, the dress turned out to be $7, thanks to a 50% certain merchandise sale. Had I known that many things were on sale, I would have gotten far more! I'll certainly go back there the next time I have money.

It was around 5PM by the time I hiked all the way back to 8th Street and the Gallery Mall. I was going to browse around in there, but I was dead tired. I briefly checked out Suncoast before hopping a busy rush-hour train home.

The cruiser bike managed to make it to the White Horse Pike, right near PNC Bank, before I heard a huge pop! I thought it was a car backfiring...but then I saw the air going out of my back tire. The worn-out tire I'd had since I got the bike five years ago finally chose now to give. This is the second time one of my tires busted right after I got the damn thing fixed. And of course, my neighbor wasn't home, and Dad wasn't either. I tried to patch it myself, but the patch kit I bought had lousy directions, and I couldn't figure out how to lift the tire or put it back. I tried to just put the patches on, but the tire wouldn't fill with air.

My landlady Miss Ellie suggested taking it to a nice man who owns an auto repair shop and helps with her car tomorrow. I doubt he can do much, but I'll try. I don't have much of a choice. I don't have the time to run to Wal Mart and buy another tire until Saturday...I work tomorrow, Thursday, and Friday!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Just Plain Tired

Work was soooo long. Not only did it seem to take forever, even though it was busy all afternoon, I had to stay a little later. One of the teenage boys never appeared. He never even called, and the lines were down to the aisles. I actually would have stayed longer, but I was dead tired and not in the best of moods. The manager let me go at 8:30, despite there still being a long line.

I spent most of the day doing this week's laundry session. Dad was in the living room messing around with his computer when I arrived. I joined him for a movie, a sci-fi/fantasy called City of Ember. It was really fascinating. Three children, two teenagers and a toddler, make their way out of a crumbling underground city using the box with the directions left by the city's long-ago builders. They're pursued by the city's corrupt current mayor and his hirings, not to mention some really nasty bug-like monsters.

This isn't the kind of fantasy with duels and damsels in distress, but if you're looking for something that creates a whole different world and does it well, this is excellent. There were a lot of great character actors (including Bill Murray as the mayor and Tim Robbins as the inventor father of one of the kids), some not-bad special effects, kids who were there for more than being cute, and an interesting look at a whole other culture.

In fact, my only mild complaint about the movie is...I wanted to see more of the crumbling world of the City of Ember, from its vaguely Communist-esque social structure (the kids choose jobs out of a hat instead of choosing their own) to ongoing lack of food and blackouts. Apparently, this movie was based after a series of novels, which explains the scope of the story.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Spring Comes Thundering In

It was raining when I finally dragged myself out of bed this morning, but the rain didn't last long. I spent the morning watching Sailor Moon episodes and messing around online, reading e-mail and watching Sailor Moon music videos on YouTube.

I called Mom for the usual Sunday chat. She's fine, though worried about my stepfather. Several fishing vessels have gone down in the Cape May area in the past few weeks, and it's understandably giving Dad some sleepless nights. Keefe was over Anny's, babysitting for Skylar and Collyn. He'd been up here over the weekend, volunteering at the Battleship New Jersey.

It was surprisingly warm when I stepped out of the apartment, muggy and probably in the upper 60s. The sun was just peeping through the clouds when I arrived at work. Work was steady, not bad at all for a Sunday. With Easter and the beginning of the month coming up, it should be busier by the end of this week.

The sun remained for most of the afternoon, but there were more ominous clouds on the horizon as I raced home, hoping to beat the next round of storms. I just made it. Ten minutes after I got in, it poured, and I heard mild rumblings of thunder. We had another short thunderstorm just a few minutes ago.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Back on the Bikes Again

Started this morning with the usual Saturday morning cartoons. The Strawberry Shortcake episode was a follow-up to last week's story about Honey Pie Pony and Ice Cream Island. This time, Honey Pie receives an invitation to attend Ice Cream Island's Filly Festival and be the grand marshal in their parade, but an evil horse-napper may spoil the kids' plans. This was the first episode of the revival to feature an actual villain. (Original bad guys Sour Grapes and the Peculiar Purple Pie Man would be revived a year later.) Many parents complained that it didn't fit the lighter tone of the series. I think they're the ones who need to lighten up. A little action never hurt a girl. Not everything can be hearts and flowers.

Just ask the Care Bears, who dealt with one of Grizzle's more forward attempts to take over Care-a-Lot. He dared to do something villains even in adult films don't - just walk in and say "I'm taking over" by sucking off the bears' Belly Badges that allow them to use their magical powers. However, he neglected to look for non-bears. McKenna, the Bears' kid friend, was in Care-a-Lot trying to learn how to share. She wasn't having much luck with it, constantly expecting something for nothing. Share Bear gave her half of her Belly Badge to try to get the general idea across. McKenna was going to take off with it, but she finally decided that the Bears had been too nice to her to abandon them.

I finally got a hold of Michael, my next-door neighbor, after the shows ended. I saw him at work yesterday and he told me he'd take a look at the bikes. I ran a few errands in the neighborhood while he worked on the blue cruiser. Went to the bank really fast to deposit my paycheck, and since he was still working on it when I got in, I walked over to Dad and Uncle Ken's to return the wrench I borrowed last week. Jessa was the only one home when I got in. I had a short chat with her. She's understandably excited about her school trip next week. Her senior class is going to spend a week in Walt Disney World, Universal Studios Orlando, and Clearwater Beach. She's especially excited about the big Illuminations fireworks and light show in Epcot. I can't blame her there - the version I saw with Dad in 1990 was awesome.

Michael had finished the cruiser bike and was starting the mountain bike when I got in. The chain and gears were loose; all had been tightened and de-rusted. He said I do still need to replace that dented back wheel, though. I know I do. I've been looking for bike wheels everywhere, but no one seems to carry them, not Target, not Wal Mart, not anybody. He suggested checking bikes left on the side of the road or at yard sales with useable tires; I'll look into that.

The news wasn't as good with the mountain bike. Some of the gears were stripped and the brake pads were goners. The brakes are practically useless. I made a quick stop at Wal Mart to see if they had brake pads, but alas, that was one of the few things they were out of in their bike section. After a quick Arby's lunch, I made a big shopping trip at the Acme. I needed to restock some pantry essentials, like jello and canned fruit, after I cleared out old canned goods on Thursday, and my fruit basket and vegetable crisper were getting low.

It was too late when I finally got back in to make a trip to Philadelphia or to Haddonfield like I'd originally planned. I just went for a ride to Newton River Park instead. I had a great ride, despite the lousy weather. It was cold, damp, windy, and cloudy, but my bike soared. There were a surprising amount of people out today, too. I passed joggers, dog-walkers, elderly couples, and parents taking their kids out to get rid of some energy before our next round of rain. I made a quick stop at CVS for mouthwash before heading home.

Spent the rest of the night baking and cooking. I made home-made chicken noodle soup with some of the chicken stock I made earlier in the week. (Alas, I spilled part of it when I took it out of the container, but there was enough left for the soup, which came out quite well.) I also made Hot Apple Muffins from my British baking cookbook and gave four to Michael to thank him for fixing the cruiser bike and at least finding the problems on the mountain bike.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Balancing Spring Cleaning

No, Rose didn't go to Yogawood with me today. Once again, she called this morning and claimed she just wasn't up to it. Not only am I not happy with her (why didn't she just say on Tuesday that she really wasn't up to it at all?), but I'm worried. I hope she doesn't end up in another depressed funk. The last time she went through one of her depressed phases, she ended up in the hospital. I'm going to call her again tomorrow and make sure she's all right.

Class was a small one today, only seven women including me and the teacher Micki. We did a lot of stretching and balancing moves, many involving trying to reach for the ankles or bending the knees that my knees just aren't up for. My balance is better than it used to be, but I'm still really not that fit.

I made a few quick stops in Collingswood after class. It might be just as well that Rose couldn't go. I was able to bring a big bag of donations to the thrift shop and take a look at the new WebKinz at the Variety Store (though I didn't buy anything). Besides, it was a lovely morning, sunny, windless, and warm, into the mid-60s. I had a really nice ride to and from both work and Collingswood.

After I got in, I returned to cleaning, this time over the sink. I keep dishes, cups, glasses, baking items (like flour and sugar), grains, oils, and honey up there. I moved everything, scrubbed the shelves (the area where the honey's kept was really sticky), and put down ant traps. I sprayed around the door, window, and between the sink and the side of the kitchen.

I had lunch and just hung around and read for an hour after finishing the shelves, then went to work. Work was steady to busy, with no real problems other than I got out a little late, thanks to someone being late from break. There was only one other cashier open and I didn't want to leave them alone.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Everything Including Under the Kitchen Sink

Finally got around to cleaning out under and next to the sink today. I've been seeing ants, and I think I might have a mouse, too. I scrubbed the area under the sink and put out ant bait and a mouse trap. Also cleared out a few pans I really never use.

Cleaning out the pantry proved to be slightly more complicated. I call it "The Pantry," but it's really two shelves in a small area between the sink, the stove, and the wall. I keep my unopened canned, boxed, and bottled goods there. I can't scrub the bottoms of the shelves, since they're made of wood, but they did need to be swept. Scrubbed the sides of the sink and the stove, too. It was really obvious I hadn't gone through my canned goods in a long time. I had to toss a few that were way past their expiration date, including one can of cranberry sauce from 2006!

It did finally rain last night, a good soaking rain that we badly needed. It was gloomy and damp for the rest of the day, but it never rained. I opted for riding to work after having a lunch of Tomato-Vegetable Beef Soup and Crusty Italian Bread. (The soup was a way to get rid of a carton of Creamy Tomato Soup that was almost expired.)

Work was steady, busier than the last few days but not crazy, with no major problems. The weather turned out to be a problem, though. It had started to rain while I was at work. It didn't seem too bad, so I rode home. That was a mistake. It picked up while I was on the road, and I arrived home soaked. Apparently, this isn't over yet, either. It's supposed to slow down by tomorrow and just start again on Saturday and continue for the whole weekend.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


Rose canceled Yogawood on me for the second day in a row. She was just too busy, she said. Fine. We'll try again Friday. After breakfast, I put up the Easter decorations and worked on adding DVDs to the inventories. It was so nice around noon, I went for a walk to the Oaklyn post office to deliver the small package with Lauren's copies of my vacation pictures. It was pretty much the same as yesterday - windy and mid-50s, with a so-blue-it-hurts-your-eyes kind of sky. It was also still very dry, something that's supposed to end starting tomorrow. They're talking possible thunderstorms for tomorrow and into the weekend.

Work wasn't much busier. It was dead for most of the night, except around the usual 4-5PM rush hour, when it was somewhat steady. There were dark clouds on the horizon when I was riding home, though, a good indication that the wet weather reports may be right.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Cats and Dogs and Kids and Nerds, Oh My!

Rose and I were supposed to go to Yogawood this morning, but she wasn't feeling well (something about her medication) and called it off. I just made a trip to the library instead for this week's volunteering. It was a nice day, still chilly and windy but not nearly as bad in either respect as yesterday, with a sky as blue as a robin's egg. The Haddon Township Library wasn't too bad when I arrived around 10:30AM. I mostly shelved DVDs and children's books. It was starting to pick up around quarter after 12, so I headed out after taking out two Calvin and Hobbes comic books (Weirdos From Another Planet and the 10th anniversary book) and the two newest Garfield comic books.

I made a quick stop at Super Fresh for aluminum foil, which I was out of and had forgotten to get at work yesterday. I ran into Dad doing his own shopping while I was there. Dad had apparently spent yesterday painting in his room, which is why I never saw him while I was doing the laundry.

The blue cruiser bike wasn't behaving today. The chain stayed on, but it made the most ghastly squeaking noises. I don't know if it needs oil or if the chain's on the verge of coming off again, but I'm getting sick of this. I really wish I knew which gear or lug nut I'm supposed to be fixing to tighten the chain!

After I got in, I had a simple yogurt-and-kiwi lunch, then did some baking. I ran out of the Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies I made yesterday. I was still craving chocolate, and I wanted to get rid of the last of the coconut, too. I ended up using a simple fudge brownie recipe and making Fudge Coconut-Chocolate Chip Brownies. They came out soooo good and very chocolaty. (I used cocoa powder instead of baking chocolate. It's lower in fat, and I like the texture better.)

After the brownies came out of the oven, I decided I was bored with reading comic books and watching Sailor Moon episodes and went for a walk. It was still a very nice day, in fact even nicer than earlier. It felt a bit warmer and less windy around 4:30. I walked down to Kendall Boulevard, then to the park behind the Oaklyn School. Everything was looking so green. Some trees had huge flower buds that looked ready to explode into color at any second.

I wasn't the only one out and about today, either. Packs of kids and whole families walked down the street, taking in the sunshine. People walked their dogs. Pre-teen boys and slightly older girls played on the playground behind the schoolyard. I was almost reluctant to go home and make the baked chicken legs I'd planned on for dinner, but I didn't really feel like eating out. (And I'm glad I didn't. The chicken legs came out really well. I just rubbed them with the basic garlic-salt-and-pepper and cooked them in water, red wine vinegar, and Worcestershire sauce. The sauce will make an excellent chicken stock for soup later in the week.)

Monday, March 23, 2009

Fire But No Rain

Today was windy, sunny, chilly, and dry as a bone. (When you're getting electrical shocks from grapefruit, you KNOW it's dry.) It was also Laundry Day. While the laundry was in the washer, I watched an episode of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and a Clubhouse "movie." In the episode, Daisy is taking care of a flock of 10 sheep for Little Bo Peep, but they've all run away and she's frantic. The rest of the Disney gang helps her find them. (The pop-up game with Chip and Dale was really cute.) The movie was mildly (and early) Easter-themed. Mickey's about to have a party at the Clubhouse, but just when it's about to begin, the pieces float away with the rest of the crew inside! Mickey has to search for all five pieces in order to find his friends and the Easter party supplies...and find out who made it fly away in the first place.

After the sheep episode, I tossed my clothes in the dryer and ran errands in the neighborhood. I'd been meaning to drop off the last regular film camera from last fall, the one with Halloween pictures and the remaining pictures of my vacation, ever since I'd gotten the money to do so. I finally decided to take advantage of CVS' 1-hour photo processing and do it today. They told me it would be more like one and a half hours. That was fine. I also needed to run to WaWa for milk and eat lunch. In fact, it ended up being more like two hours...and they knew it. They were nice enough to knock $2 off the price because they were late. I finally got home with enough time to put everything away, get dressed, throw a small dinner together, and rush to work.

I wish the bikes were working better. I don't know why the mountain bike is skipping gears so badly. I keep changing gears, but nothing's working. I'm afraid it's going to eventually get stuck and I won't be able to use it at all.

Work was steady-to-dead, with no major problems. The weather, however, continued to be cold, dry, and windy into the night...prime fire weather. There were fire trucks at the park, right next-door to our house and across from the VFW, when I arrived home. I don't know why they were there. I saw no smoke and nothing seemed to be burning, including my apartment. Maybe they were just being prepared.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Off Schedule

Not a whole lot happened today...other than a made a little mistake with the schedule. I thought I was supposed to go in at 1:30, but it turned out to be 1. I was late and I lost money. My co-workers were really more worried than upset, since I'm seldom late, but I was...and am...a little embarrassed. I could have sworn the schedule in the back room said 1:30! I couldn't even make up the extra half-hour. We were steady but not busy enough to need the help.

Other than that, I spent the day watching more Get Smart, mucking around online, and calling Mom. She was fine. My brother was still in bed, having spent most of the weekend with Anny and her kids, and Dad was out fishing, which meant Mom was having some rare quiet time to herself.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

An Ode to a Day Off

Yes, today was my only day off on what has been a rather busy week. I mostly spent the morning watching TV. Strawberry Shortcake and her crew helped Honey Pie Pony, Strawberry Land's only filly, get to Ice Cream Island, where the other horses apparently live. Honey Pie loves not being the only one of her kind...but she misses the kids, too.

Yeah, I know the feeling. I've mentioned how out-of-place I feel here. I'm the only unmarried, childless, relationship-less 30-year-old in the neighborhood...or really in all of South Jersey. I've never met anyone else my age who didn't have children (or even pets), wasn't in a relationship, and spent most of their time alone, on their bikes, or in libraries. It's really hard to be one of a kind.

Grizzle the Mechanical Bear showed two distinct sides today on The Care Bears. He was more pathetic than anything in the first story, where he was looking for his robot buddy Mr. Beaks and was so paranoid, he thought the Bears took him. They didn't, naturally, but were finally able to placate him with one Grumpy made...before Griz finally realized just how ridiculous he was acting. Grizzle was more of a typical bad guy in the second story. Bedtime rescues the other bears when Grizzle's newest machine invades their dreams and keeps them awake at night.

I ran Get Smart for a little while before I decided I wanted to hit the bank on my way to the Friends in Deed Thrift Shop. I told Erica I'd volunteer today, since she said they really needed the help. Once again, not only did they NOT really need help (there were two other volunteers there), but I didn't do much. I did help wrap and box a massive, really beautiful set of china for a Hispanic woman who was going to give it to her daughter for a wedding gift. I didn't make a lot of finds, but they were pretty good - a never-worn Layne Bryant false-layered shirt and a vintage paperback-style copy of the original Empire Strikes Back Marvel Comic Books. (I still have one of Rose's 1983 Return of the Jedi comic books, but I've never seen the ones from the earlier movies or in the book format rather than magazine-like.)

Since it was such a nice day, I browsed around Westmont before going home. Walgreens had finally gotten more WebKinz Lil'Kinz in - I bought a Black and White Cat. I also bought a giant egg-shaped sugar cookie from MacMillan's Bakery across from Walgreens and an Easter hanging from the party store a few doors down. By that point it was getting late, so I just headed home. Spent the rest of the evening baking bread, watching more Get Smart, and making Honey-Wine Glazed Chicken, Broccoli, and Whole Wheat Pasta for dinner.

Oh, and meet Felix, my Lil' Black and White Cat! I'm not sure where I'm going to put him, since he's a surprise find. Maybe I'll move him in with Miles the Black Bear, who has some extra room in his place after I moved Marza the Panda to the Asian Room.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Spring Is Here, I Hear

I awoke to a chilly, damp, cloudy first day of spring. Today was also Mom's birthday. I called her after breakfast to wish her a good one. Apparently, Cape May County got a snow squall this morning, though it was gone by the time I called. I don't remember seeing one here. One of my customers at the Acme later reported seeing one as well, so maybe it happened really early. Mom's an early riser.

I bought some coconut on sale yesterday. I was going to make coconut cake, but I already have cake in the freezer, so I decided to make coconut bread instead. I also added pineapple that was in the pantry shelf and a banana that was getting really ripe. It came out very, very tasty. I used the basic Betty Crocker Fruit Bread Recipe, but swapped some of the shortening for buttermilk and mashed banana. It came out very moist, sweet, and crumbly.

After the bread came out of the oven, I felt like doing something outside. I was tired of the same old walk, especially after playing tennis yesterday. I dug around in my living room closet for my field hockey stick and ball and hit that around the park next door. When I got tired of that, I did laps with the ball around the VFW's parking lot across the street (doing my best to avoid the puddle-filled potholes). I had a really nice time. I goofed around and had a little unusual exercise. I really need to start doing stuff like this more often. I have badminton equipment from when Keefe used to visit in Wildwood, a jump rope, and a frisbee in the living room closet. It's time I started using them again.

I went to work about an hour after my field hockey practice. Work was busier than the last few days, but still not nearly as crazy as last week. My hours were lousy, too. While I do have two days off again, I only have 22 hours and work until 8 and 7 the whole week except for Sunday, when I'm off at 5:30.

Headed to the mall behind the Acme for dinner after work. I have at least seven meal choices in that mall (eight if you count Acme). Applebee's would take too long. The Wal-Mart Subway is lousy. Chick Fil'A's had a line going out the door. I wasn't in the mood for burgers (which eliminated Five Guys and Arby's) or pizza (Tu Se Bella). I finally settled on Fat Jack's Barbecue, since they were so good the last time I was there. They were just as good again. I went with the Pulled Pork Sandwich again, this time with the Green Beans n' (shredded) Ham side. The beans were a little garlicky, but still pretty tasty. The sandwich was as delicious as it was two weeks ago. The girls working the counter were really sweet, too. I made sure to leave them a nice tip in the tip jar.

Made a quick stop at FYE next. I hadn't realized season 2 of Get Smart was already out on DVD, but I saw it mentioned online and thought I'd see if they had it. I managed to grab their last copy for about $21. One of the boys behind the counter tried to talk me into getting Twilight. Ugh! Sounds like vampire glop to me. I wouldn't touch that with a 200 foot pole. I hate gloppy romance and I really can't stand mopey pretty boys.

Ended up back at the Acme to do my grocery shopping. Good thing I only need a few things tonight - grapefruit, kiwi, bananas, romaine lettuce, cubed steak, pineapple, yogurt, canola oil (I'm almost out). The Acme wasn't too bad by the time I got back there and I was in and out fairly quickly.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Tennis, Anyone?

Rose and I did finally play tennis late this morning. Turns out that when I called her about it this morning, she was still in bed! I didn't mind. She's on her spring break. She NEEDS her sleep. After she got out and picked me up, it took us almost 20 minutes to find the Camden County Park tennis facilities. Rose got the directions from her boyfriend...but I don't know WHAT happened. Either he gave her the wrong directions, or she misheard him. They argued for at least ten minutes over Rose's cell phone while we drove around and around the Camden County Park area. I spent those ten minutes trying hard not to fall over laughing. It was like something out of a bad sitcom.

We had a good time when we did finally find the tennis courts. Rose and her boyfriend Craig hit the ball around every now and then, and Rose used to play with her friend Sheila, and before that with her best friend Colleen, who played on our high school girl's tennis team. The last time I played tennis was with a bunch of girlfriends in high school gym class who were just as bad as me. Rose showed me the right stance for hitting it and backhand. I felt really good. I didn't want to be perfect. I just wanted to hit the ball at all. I did hit the ball, many times.

We played for about an hour. Our lesson was finally called on account of Mother Nature. It had been damp, chilly, and cloudy all morning, and those clouds finally burst around quarter after 12. What had initially been just a sprinkle had turned into a shower by the time we hit Rose's car and were on our way back to my apartment.

It was still showering an hour later. I finally opted for a ride to work. Dad was late, and I felt bad about being late...but I'd been called in early anyway. Not to mention work was almost a complete repeat of yesterday - on-and-off steady, quiet enough that I did manage to get a lot of candy organizing done. (I'd rather be organizing candy than handling idiots.)

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Family Balance

Rose and I did Yogawood together again today. We drove there this time. Rose has this week off for her Spring Break. The class was VERY full, especially for a Wednesday. There were at least 20 people, including us and the teacher Jill. We had a lot of complicated moves today. I had trouble with the "Triangle Twist," a sideways move that involved trying to twist your arms to the opposite side while standing with your feet about three feet apart. It isn't nearly as easy as it sounds! Rose couldn't get it, either.

We went back to my apartment after class and had a long chat over cups of chai tea. We talked about Rose's boyfriend and her difficulties losing weight. (Apparently, his bad eating habits - lots of junk food and cheese steaks - aren't helping.) We talked about our family. We talked about my upcoming 30th birthday next month. I hadn't decided what I wanted to do for it. To be honest, I didn't really want to eat out, especially after the dinner at Applebee's with Mom, Keefe, Anny, and Anny's family last September didn't go that well. I'm not that big a fan of fancy restaurants. I loved Thanksgiving at Mom's house, so I decided I wanted something like that again. Rose said she'd bring the cake - she has "connections," in her words. I just want something chocolate.

I called Mom after Rose left and told her my idea. She loved it. I'm hoping for her roast beef and honey-glazed carrots...and definitely her fluffy biscuits! No one makes better biscuits than Mom.

The Acme called while I was chatting with Rose. Could I come in at 2 instead of 3? They were really busy. No problem. I had no plans for after Rose left. I had lunch, took down the St. Patrick's Day decorations, and headed over to the store. It was another gorgeous day, windier but still sunny, and I had great rides both ways.

Despite Marlene's worries, the Acme was merely steady by the time I made it in, and never really got that busy. It was even more dead tonight than last night. I spent a lot of the time working on putting candy on the racks. The baggers were still cleaning, too.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Top 'O the Evenin' To Ye!

And I hope all of ye lads and lassies had a fine St. Patrick's Day! Alas, I spent most of my day at work, though I did get some bills and birthday cards for Mom and my friend Kelly out this morning. Work was sooooooo looooooonnnnnggg. We were on-and-off busy, and between customers, everyone was cleaning the front end from top to bottom to get ready for the return of a manager who was on sick leave and is VERY particular about keeping the register area neat. (Reminds me of when my sisters and I would have to clean up the house in five minutes or less when Mom and Dad were coming up the driveway.)

I had some minor customer problems throughout the day. The worst was the lady who threw a fit when I told her she hadn't gotten the right cheese for her WIC Checks. You're supposed to get the cheese that's NOT wrapped individually and isn't labeled cheese food. She refused to get it herself, so I got it for her. Did I get a "thank you?" No. She whined "I'm going to go to Shop Rite for my WIC Checks from now on. THEY let me get the cheese food."

I'm sorry, but that's what the pamphlet says, and that's the rules. It's not my fault that they change every few months, or that Shop Rite doesn't follow them. Why fuss over something that isn't even real cheese anyway? That stuff is so gross. It's horrible for you, full of chemicals, and it tastes worse. The WIC checks allow you to buy real cheese.

(Something similar happened earlier in the day with another woman who picked the wrong cheese for her WIC check. She, however, didn't fuss. She just went and got the right cheese and left with a smile on her face.)

It was still a truly gorgeous spring day when I finally headed out at six. It was so dead when I finished, I was able to get off a tiny bit early, so I ran to America's Best behind the Acme and picked up my new order of contacts. I'm really glad I did. It was cloudy this morning, but by 6PM, it was sunny, breezy, and in the mid-50s.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Spring Rain

Today was cloudy, damp, and chilly, which makes it just as well that it was my errands day. I ran to CVS for eggs and to the Oaklyn Library while my laundry was in the dryer. It's really spring in the neighborhood now. Green growing things are popping up everywhere, from grass on lawns to a whole garden full of flowers. I've seen robins around, too, a sure sign that Mother Nature is ready for a change of season.

It was still cloudy when I finally headed for work around quarter after 2. Work was steady, but nowhere near as busy as over the weekend. I picked up an extra hour on Thursday when an older cashier explained that she had a doctor's appointment at 2:30 but worked until 3. No problem. I only had four hours that day anyway.

The streets were wet when I finally got out of work. It looked like it had rained, though not hard. It sprinkled a bit on the way home. Actually, I wish it would rain harder. We could use it. We haven't had any precipitation since that huge snow storm a few weeks ago.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Lazy Kind of Sunday

Spent a lazy Sunday morning just hanging around. I slept in (though not as long as last week), made Banana Chocolate Chip Pancakes, listened to the Beatles show on WOGL ("B sides of singles" was the theme today), read Calvin and Hobbes comics, and messed around online. I tried to get through to Mom several times, but I kept getting a busy signal. I assumed she was having a long phone chat with either Rose or her sister Terri and decided I'd call back after work.

Calvin and Hobbes is a recent thing with me. I was about Calvin's age when the strip first came out and, despite many of my peers' fondness for it, steadfastly resisted reading it regularly until I found Attack of the Mutant Snow Goons at the thrift shop two years ago. I laughed so hard, I ended up buying it. I've bought two more, the first one and Yukon Ho!, since then, and have taken out three other collections and The Authoritative Calvin and Hobbes from the Haddon Township Library. (Thank goodness for their massive comic book section!)

Calvin brings back a lot of memories for me. While I did have some things in common with Calvin - I was a decent student except for math (which I would have gladly hidden from...and still would), I had trouble with bullies, I thought the opposite sex existed to drive me bananas - in other things, he reminded me a lot more of my sisters.

- I never had any problems reading. For me, it was an escape. For my sisters, unless it was R.L Stine or comic books, it was a pain. (At least until Rose became a fantasy fanatic in high school. After that, she was reading as much as me. Anny and Keefe still aren't big readers, though.)

- I almost always ate what Mom put in front of me, partially because I'm really not a picky eater, partially because Mom's a genuinely great cook. Keefe to this day has no problem eating anything living, dead, or in between. Anny and Rose, however, have always been much pickier. One famous incident involved the time Mom made spinach crepes for Dad's birthday. He adored them. I loved them (and have repeatedly asked Mom for the recipe). Anny and Rose loathed them so much, Mom never made them again, much to my annoyance.

- Rose and Keefe are big fans of organized sports. Anny and I are not. This made any attempted games of soccer, softball, street hockey, volleyball, badminton, croquet, or football look more like "Calvinball" than any known version of those games.

- We had our own anti-boys club for several years when we lived on Maryland Avenue in Cape May. "The Tiger Lilly Girls' Club" was named after the large plot of said flower in front of the old guest house used as a clubhouse by us and our girlfriends. We'd meet a few times a summer and mostly ended up playing dress-up or making plots against the neighborhood boys we'd never really carry out. Later versions of the club did made half-hearted attempts to integrate males, mostly by request of Rose the tomboy who had several guy pals. ("The Tiger Lilly Club" would go on temporary hiatus during the fall and winter, partially due to school, but mostly because the guest house wasn't heated and smelled of dust and mold.)

- My sisters were more overtly rebellious than I was. They were the ones who stayed out too late, went places they weren't supposed to, climbed trees, got dirty, played with their toys to death, and drove Mom and Dad up the wall. The only way I did that was by being the opposite. I was a homebody who never really wanted to go anywhere, to the point where, by the time I was old enough to be going beyond the neighborhood on my own, Mom's usual answer to my "I'm bored" was "Why don't you go outside and amuse yourself?" This is when I began my rambling walks, in this case all over Cape Island, though it would inevitably include a long stop at the Cape May City Library.

(Keefe fell somewhere in between. He was more likely to go out and about than me, but he tended to get into less trouble than either of the girls when he did. In later years, he was usually accompanied by a posse of his neighborhood friends, all good guys who rarely got into any really major trouble.)

- Calvin would be surprised by the way the girls and I used to amuse ourselves. Yeah, we did all the girls' stuff - house, school, tea parties, dress-up - but we also created elaborate save-the-world plots with toys ranging from My Little Pony to Star Wars, from She-Ra to Thundercats, from stuffed animals to model planes. We raced Hot Wheels and built with Legos and wooden blocks (and Keefe inherited all three when he got old enough). We made whole communities with Little People, long after we'd grown out of them. We had plastic cats, dinosaurs, and little green army men. We built tents from sheets and fortresses from boxes. Anny's old baby tub made a great sailboat. Mom was a big feminist in the 70s, and she encouraged her daughters to do whatever they wanted, play the way they wanted to play, regardless of gender.

Thank goodness, work was still really busy but not as bad as yesterday. I figured out why it was so busy this weekend, too - there was a really huge 3-day sale going on (including that $1.99 Edy's I got on Friday).

And I did eventually get a hold of Mom. She WAS on the phone with Rose for a few hours this morning. Both seem to be fine. Mom was in a great mood - I could hear Keefe eating and Skylar yelling and Dad getting ice for his tea (he'd drink all ice if he could) in the background.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Little Wooden Head

For some weird reason, today's Strawberry Shortcake and Care Bears episodes were repeats of last week's (maybe the CBS execs thought kids wouldn't notice?), so I started today off with the tail end of the Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers vehicle The Barkleys of Broadway instead. Their only vehicle in color and at MGM started out as a rematch between Astaire and Judy Garland after Easter Parade, but Garland dropped the film thanks to her ongoing personal problems and Ginger Rogers stepped in. Ginger and Fred are a married Broadway couple who break up when she wants to do a dramatic show. Oscar Levant, the king of deadpan snark, steals the show as their long-time friend and city-lover.

After Fred and Ginger, I ran a couple of errands. Went on a pleasant walk to the bank first. It was a lovely day, in the mid-40s and perfectly sunny. I saw robins chirping in the trees and the first flower of the spring. People were out and about as well. Older kids wandered in groups. Parents walked hand-in-hand with younger children. Adults waved to me from newly-washed and oiled bikes.

I did the bank as quickly as I could. Thankfully, it wasn't busy. I left a little early to head to FYE before work to pick up the new Platinum DVD of Pinocchio and renew my Membership Card. It was worth the early lunch and rushed ride. This isn't my favorite Disney movie, but the DVD is awesome. The transfer is amazing. The colors just pop, especially in my favorite part, the opening sequence in Gepetto's shop.

I wish I'd stayed at FYE. Work was two pains and a half. There were long lines and cranky customers all day long, and we were very short on help for a Saturday! I guess everyone decided they'd rather spend this nice day outside. I don't know why the crowds were so heavy. St. Patrick's Day isn't exactly a huge-feast-for-the-whole-family kind of holiday, March Madness only covers junk food, and the weather report for the next couple of days calls for more of the same - sunny or mildly cloudy and upper 40s-lower 50s, without even a rain drop in sight.

And one of my last order was one of those annoying women who buys a huge cart full of groceries, then puts most of it back because oops, she only brought so much money and can't afford it all. AND she had a bunch of screaming, whining little girls running around her, AND she was rude to them and me! For crying out loud, LEARN TO COUNT! Count in your head while you're shopping, and don't randomly shove whatever into the cart and hope that someone will put it away for you later. We don't always have enough help to put everything away the moment you want us to.

I was so grateful that they sent a teenage boy just off his break in for me (my relief was the kid with a second job who is always late). I had my own shopping to do. Thankfully, it wasn't much - yogurt, grapefruit, oranges, bananas, a bag of apples, Cheerios, ground turkey, a box of white cake mix, and the big $1.99 Edy's Ice Cream sale. Edy's Light Coffee Ice Cream is divine.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Rockin' Robin

I slept in again and spent a very quiet and very pleasant morning hanging around the apartment. After Cheerios and grapefruit for breakfast, I was going to treat myself to a snickerdoodle...but discovered that after more than two weeks in the cookie canister, they'd gotten more than a little stale and even a bit moldy. Yuck! I threw away the remaining cookies. I saw a recipe in the copy of Prevention Magazine I got in the mail (thanks Linda!) for a low-fat Chocolate Chunk Cookie recipe that used canola oil and whole wheat flour instead of butter and regular flour. They came out very well, crisp on the outside, chewy on the inside, with a slight hint of nuttiness thanks to the whole wheat flour.

Work was very busy, but generally not a big problem other than some annoying old ladies giving sixteen thousand orders on how to bag and how to do this and how to do that. I hate it when they're condescending and act like I don't know what I'm doing. Excuse me, but after you work at a job for eight years, I think you have some idea of what you're doing.

And Webkinz has apparently fixed the adoption glitch so I can adopt my WebKinz Robin tonight! Meet Grayson the Robin! Lauren came up with the name. She's a Batman fan, and I thought it sounded classy. Gray will be my first WebKinz bird to get his own Tree Top Room, though his Jukebox will probably go in the Modern Pizzeria or the Candy Kitchen Soda Shoppe.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Invitation to the Dinner

The property inspector for Haddon Township arrived promptly at 9AM. (At least he was punctual.) He walked around the apartment, checking light fixtures, setting off alarms, and admiring my Star Wars action figure collection. He finally told me that there needs to be a second fire alarm in the bedroom, an electrical outlet and a cover in the bathroom, and a better electrical outlet for the air conditioner that doesn't require using an extension cord across the room.

Ok, the fire alarm is no big deal. (Though I will need Miss Ellie's nephew to actually install it. The celing in my bedroom is really high. I can barely reach the ceiling light on a living room chair.) The electrical wiring did not please Miss Ellie when I finally told her. I can't imagine it'll be cheap. This building is newer than my apartment in Wildwood, probably 50s vintage from the "space-age-y" pink-and-green Formica counter in the kitchen, but it's not THAT new. It's really not that big of a deal to me. The air conditioner runs just fine with the cord, and I don't use curling or crimping irons (and would use them in my bedroom even if I did)...but it was obviously a big deal to HIM.

The rest of the morning didn't go much better. I borrowed a wrench from Dad and tried to fix the stationary bike, but I wasn't sure where to begin. I tried tightening several parts of the spokes around the chain, but the chain never seemed any tighter. To make matters worse, I lost the nuts for the chain guard and had to use ones that were too big. I cried, I yelled, I screamed. It still didn't make anything better. I finally gave up around 11:30, had lunch, and took the bike to the library in the hope that it would hold out.

Thankfully, the bike did hold out, though it made noise thanks to that oversized nut. I was able to do my library volunteering and make a stop at the Dollar Tree. I put away DVDs and children's books at the library. I grabbed paper napkins, cards for Mom and my friend Kelly's birthdays next week, and sponges at Dollar Tree. I used to get a huge bag of sponges at Family Dollar, but I refuse to go there anymore and put up with their rude service.

I made it home, put my napkins and sponges away, and went online for an hour, looking up books on bike repair. I was about to get offline and make dinner when Dad's girlfriend Jodie called me. Seems she'd attended a huge luncheon at some Center City Philadelphia Italian restaurant and ended up bring home all the leftovers. Would I please, please come over and help clear them out?

I've never had someone beg me to eat before! I turned off the computer and headed over to Dad's as quickly as I could. Jodie was right. There WAS a huge spread of food on the kitchen island - pasta with broccoli, pasta with sausage, chicken with gravy and mushrooms, salmon with spinach, bruschetta, stuffed mushrooms, spinach salad, and Caeser salad. I had a little of everything but the Caeser salad (which I don't like and was soggy beyond edibility anyway) and the chicken (figured the salmon was enough protein). It was all really, really good. I ended up bringing three containers-full home with me.

Jodie had apparently spent all day trying to get rid of the food. She fed her son and his friend. She fed Dad, Jessa, and Dolores. (Poor Uncle Ken still isn't up to really solid foods.) She fed co-workers. She tried to feed Erica and Dolores's daughter and her son Blake, but they'd already ate. There was still tons left when Jessa took me home.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Clean Balance

Though it was warm, wet, and humid when I got up this morning, I made it to Yogawood before the next round of rain came through. Rose joined in this time. It was about a mid-sized class, 10 or so with Jill, Rose, and me. I don't know about Rose, but my balance was a little off today. I collapsed on one of the twists and bobbled on the more complicated Warrior poses.

I didn't have much more luck going home. The chain fell off my blue stationary bike AGAIN on my way back. Thankfully, I was more than half-way home when it did it, but I'm getting tired of it. I need to borrow a wrench from somebody, and SOON. I had to stop at CVS anyway and get mouthwash, but it was still annoying.

Spent the rest of the day after I finally got in dusting, taking down the winter decorations, and putting up the general spring and St. Patrick's Day items. I might have held off until tomorrow, but Miss Ellie has an inspector from the county coming around to look at her property, including my apartment, and I want my home to look its best.

Work was steady, rather unusual for a Wednesday night. The worst that happened was an over-hyper dad put back a quarter of his order because he didn't have enough on the two credit cards he had. I don't know what was up with that guy - kids aren't the only ones who overdose on sugar, I guess. Either that, or someone had about eighty cups of coffee before they went out.

I also picked up some hours on Saturday. One of the teenage boys asked me if I'd take his 1PM-6PM shift that day. That's fine. I was going to the Acme to go grocery shopping anyway. I just need to rearrange my errands for that day a bit.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Working Day

I slept so late, I barely had an hour to have breakfast, grab lunch, get dressed, and get to work! I wish I hadn't. Work is so depressing. It was surprisingly steady for a middle-of-the-week day, with a fair amount of obnoxious people. I really, really wish people would just read signs. One lady must have taken her big bag of crab legs off and on the order twice before she finally decided against them.

I really don't like work. I know what everyone is going to say. "It's a JOB! There's a RECESSION! You can't hate your job when no one else has one! It's security! It's money in the bank! That's all that matters!"

I'm sorry...but it does matter. I'm going crazy. This isn't what I want to do for the rest of my life. I feel useless. I wish I had some useful skills. I want to make things. I want to write things. I want to build things. I don't want to listen to people whine while pushing their food around. I wish I had the courage to look for a real job, to ask principals for a library assistant job or a job as a substitute teacher, or to ask local bakeries for jobs.

Alas, I don't know any teachers to ask, and most schools are downsizing. Alas, most of the local bakeries are family-run and likely won't accept anyone outside of the family who isn't a friend of a friend of a friend's friend. Most magazines and newspapers are cutting back, not adding more. Who would hire me when no one is hiring anybody? If I couldn't get a job seven years ago, when the market was better, why should I think I could get one now?

Monday, March 09, 2009

Family Matters

Today was laundry day. Uncle Ken and Dolores were the only ones home when I got in, doing paperwork and resting. Uncle Ken is still recovering from surgery that apparently took four hours and really left him hurting. Dolores says Samantha has been coming over every day to sit with him and talk to him, bring along her 3-year-old daughter Faith.

I had a lovely time with Faith. With Dad and Jodie taking a long weekend vising friends in Cape May, we were free to watch Dora the Explorer, Go Diego Go!, and The Backyardigans. Dora and Boots looked for the source of a strange sound in the first episode (I guessed correctly that it was Benny the Bull's hiccups) and tracked down all the animals in an alphabet book in a mystery-themed second episode. Diego helped his African friend find two lost baby gorillas who were about to be crowned King of the Mountain Gorillas. The Backyardigans was one I'd seen before - in a spoof of Star Trek, Tasha, Austin, and Uniqua are galactic trash gatherers, searching for new frontiers in stuff people throw away. Klingons Tyrone and Pablo are determined to steal their garbage to run their ship!

Faith herself was adorable, especially when she got up and "tip-toed" along with Dora and Boots as they tried to get around the sleeping Swiper the Fox! Apparently, Boots is her favorite Dora character.

I went home with my laundry shortly after Samantha left to put Faith down for her nap. Most of my socks weren't dry - I had to hang them up while I got ready for work.

Work was very busy, especially for a Monday. The only real problem was when a lady's stuffed pork chops didn't come off buy-one-get-one-free. I thought she might have looked at the sign wrong, but it turns out they WERE on sale - the meat department hadn't fixed the prices so they were listed as being on sale! I did give it to her, and I felt more than a little embarrassed for not believing her. I went and looked myself, but apparently they were being kept closer to the seafood department, because I didn't see them with the other pork items.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Late Riser

Between Daylight Savings and staying up late last night, I wasn't up this morning until well after 10. I made apple-chocolate-chip pancakes and listened to the WOGL Brunch With the Beatles show. ("Songs released in the spring" was the theme today.) I called the family in Cape May County after I finished brunch. I got my brother Keefe. He was fine, other than a runny nose. He and Mom were about to go out and buy chocolate cookies for him. Apparently, my stepfather ate most of the two pounds of chocolate-covered cookies Keefe's girlfriend gave him for Valentine's Day.

I spent the rest of the afternoon after the Beatles ended working on editing this month's Monkees story, which we finished last night. Look for it tonight or early this week!

It was still warm this afternoon when I went to work, well over 70s degrees, cloudy, and humid. It was still warm, humid, and cloudy when I got out. Work was busy, but nothing unusual for a Sunday afternoon. Everyone was on time and I had no trouble getting in or out.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Springing Into Spring

Began a gorgeous Saturday with cartoons. Strawberry Shortcake was a repeat, the episode about the kids having a pet show and Peppermint Fizz cheats, but the Adventures In Care-A-Lot was new to me. The first half in particular really struck a nerve. True Heart Bear does a major slapstick trip all over Care-A-Lot, prompting Tenderheart and Harmony Bear to tease her and call her "Stumbles." This upsets her badly, and she runs off. Oopsy Bear cheers her up by reminding her of all the times he's had major klutz moments. He finally convinces True Heart to tell the others that she doesn't appreciate the jokes, which she does. Harmony and Tenderheart realize what they did was really kind of mean, and they do apologize...until they learn exactly how Oopsy and True Heart felt when they have their own major klutz moment!

I've spent most of my life going through just what True Heart did. Teasing isn't always funny to the one who is on the receiving end. It really does hurt. Make sure the person (or bear) in question is laughing with you, not being laughed AT.

I ran a few short errands after Care Bears ended. Wal-Mart was a nut house, with incredibly long lines. I wanted a larger wrench to fix the chain on my blue stationary bike, but the individually packaged ones were TOO big, and the smaller ones only came in sets. I really need to find a Home Depot or a Lowes or larger hardware store.

After a brief stop at Staples, I headed to Fat Jack's, a local barbecue franchise, for lunch. One of this location's owners stopped in the Acme once and gave me and the bagger helping him coupons for a free sandwich. I decided to take him up on that offer. I got a free Pulled Pork Barbecue Sandwich and paid for a side of collard greens and a Diet Coke. The Collards were really salty, but otherwise, it was delicious. The Pulled Pork Sandwich was big, but not so much that I couldn't eat it in one sitting. They also didn't overload the barbecue sauce or the pork, and it all managed to stay on the bun and off my lap.

I made another quick stop, this time at the Acme for a small grocery trip (needed to restock oranges, grapefruit, bananas, and yogurt, and I was almost out of whole wheat flour), before heading home. I put everything away, then went right back out again. It was too nice of a day to hang around inside. Though it was cloudy, it was also incredibly warm, about 73 according to the sign outside the Beneficial Bank in Audubon. I went to the bank to deposit my paycheck, then just kept going down the White Horse Pike.

I ended up at some of my favorite Audubon shops. I didn't find anything I liked at Act Two Collectibles, but I did get the new WebKinz Robin from Willie the Woodsman and Wife and a used copy of the Beatles album Revolver from Bob at Abbie Road. I also treated myself to a smoothie at the Tree House Cafe and had a nice chat with the owner of Desserts By Design.

By this point, I was not only tired, but it was getting a bit cloudier and cooler. I was going to head home after I left Desserts By Design, but I realized half-way over the bridge going into Oaklyn that I'd left my sunglasses at the Tree House Cafe! Thank goodness the place was deserted and still open when I came back. The girl behind the counter was mopping the floor and hadn't even noticed them there.

When I finally did make it home, I finished up Kiss Me Kate and ran another Cole Porter MGM musical while I was eating dinner, The Pirate. One of the few musical swashbucklers, this one wasn't a success when first released in 1948 but is now considered to be something of a cult favorite. Judy Garland is a very romantic young lady in a Caribbean island in 1848 who longs for adventure and travel but finds herself engaged to her small town's fat and dull mayor. She dreams of being swept away by the Dread Pirate Maccoco, apparently a legend on the island. Gene Kelly is a traveling player who discovers her interest in the famous pirate and uses it to get her interested in HIM.

While I think it's cute, I can understand why it baffled audiences in 1948. It has an unusual quota of sex for an MGM musical, from Garland's slightly risque "Mack the Black" number to her desire for Maccoco to basically come and ravish her. This film, like Kiss Me Kate, also plays with the notion of theatrical artifice - what we really are versus what we appear to be.

The movie's probably best known today for the only standard to come from this score, "Be A Clown," which is used for not one, but two great numbers. The first showcases Kelly and the Nicholas Brothers doing some genuinely amazing acrobatic and dance tricks. The second ends the film on an odd - but very funny - note, as Kelly and Garland dress as clowns and entertain their new public...and the film viewers as well.

Ahh, and meet my new WebKinz Robin! I don't know what to call her yet. I don't think I'm going to adopt her tonight. They've apparently been having problems with adoptions at WebKinz World. She'll be the first to get the new Tree Top Room when I do!

Friday, March 06, 2009

Warming Up to Muffins

By the time I came home from my long walk yesterday, the snow was about half-gone, and melting fast. When I went outside to see if I had any mail (nope), it was nearly three-fourths gone. There is now almost no snow left anywhere, except for the usual dirty chunks along the highway and on parking lots that linger all winter. Today was about 55 degrees, sunny, and breezy but not gale-force wind. It's still a little too warm for this time of year, but it did manage to get rid of the snow. (The last time we had that much snow, it was around for weeks, thanks to a coating of ice that came down after it.) Looks like we may get some rain on Sunday night and Monday and it'll drop into a more normal mid-40s, but nothing like last week's storm!

Despite the decent weather, I spent most of the day inside. I really wasn't up to anything big after hiking around Camden County for most of yesterday. I read the books I took out of the library. I baked Brown Sugar Banana Muffins from the low-fat baking cookbook to get rid of two bruised bananas. (They came out quite nicely, too, moist and just sweet enough.)

I watched That's Entertainment III while reading and began Kiss Me Kate while the muffins were in the oven. The latter is MGM's version of the smash hit 1948 Cole Porter Broadway musical. Two sets of couples fight, fall for each other, and war again as they put on a musical version of Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew. Kathryn Grayson gets a rare chance to be the experienced leading lady instead of the sweet ingeune, and she relishes it; Howard Keel is great as her ham ex-husband. Ann Miller's "Too Darn Hot" is a sizzling delight, and she gets to join Tommy Rall for "Why Can't You Behave?" We also get a short bit of Bob Fosse choreography in "From This Moment On."

Actually, the reason my family watched this one a lot when I first got it as a teenager was it lead to many discussions on the role of men and women in society and what should be expected of both, and how their roles have changed. The "Battle of the Sexes" tends to get discussed a lot when your family is 4/6 female. Rose was dating a rather conservative fellow Mock Trial member at the time I got this movie, too - I remember how much they used to argue over it!

Work was busy during rush hour, but otherwise steady. I had another annoying chop shop guy. This one fussed and kept saying I'd rung up too many 12 packs of soda, but I know I rang up the amount he had. I once again sent him to customer service. He probably just wanted a freebie. Thankfully, my relief was early and I got in and out with no problems whatsoever.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Running On Ice

I'm dead tired. I spent most of the day on my feet. I tried fixing both bikes this morning. I'm not sure why the gears are skipping on the mountain bike, and I discovered that not only do I not have a large enough wrench to tighten the blue stationary bike, but the tarp, the bike, and the bike basket were frozen to the back wall of the house by a huge icicle! I didn't really want to mess with the mountain bike, either. That's too complicated for me. I just left both bikes at home and walked to Collingswood for today's counseling session.

Scott and I mostly discussed the events of the last month. I told him about my big tax return, about Uncle Ken coming home, talking to Scott about switching to the bakery, about weathering the storm earlier this week, and about the compliments I received for how I handled that annoying customer and his attempt to clear our sale inventory yesterday. My - and his - only problems is my continuing attempts to deal with my anxiety. It's not going well. My putting myself down is so ingrained, it's automatic. It's very hard to stop doing something that's been a knee-jerk reaction for most of your life. Even when your mind says it's not that big of a deal, instinct and fear tell you if you were normal, you wouldn't have made that mistake.

I spent the rest of the day running small errands in Collingswood and Westmont. I visited Erica at the thrift shop and said "hi." I had pizza at Cafe Antonio II in Collingswood. I bought one of the 60s Firestone Christmas records from the Collingswood Library. I made brief stops at Walgreens (no new WebKinz, just Lil' Tigers and Yorkies), the Dollar Plus next to the Westmont Acme (no more cheap holiday DVDs or videos), Super Fresh, and WaWa. I did this week's library volunteering and took out three books (two cookbooks and a Calvin and Hobbes comic book) and bought three children's books (a Strawberry Shortcake fairy tale, a Mickey Mouse hardback storybook, and a genuine vintage early 60s Yogi Bear Golden Book).

It was late when I finally got in. I watched The Big Broadcast of 1938 and read Calvin and Hobbes. I taped this one off of AMC when I was in college (probably one of the last genuine "classic" films they ever showed). It's more-or-less a goofy Paramount semi-revue - two cruise ships compete in a race, though we only focus on one, the S.S Gigantic, owned by WC Fields. Bob Hope is the radio announcer who's fondness for wives and gambling has him desperate for money. Dorothy Lamour is a guest on the ship who ends up in Hope's show, Shirley Ross is Hope's ex-wife, and Martha Raye is Fields' accident-prone daughter who breaks mirrors wherever she goes.

Not much substance to this one at all, and some truly weird "specialties," but necessary if you're a fan of Hope, Raye, and/or Fields. Fields and Raye have some nice moments (including Raye's amazing acrobatic dance with a group of sailors and Fields' airborne motorcycle), and Hope and Ross introduce what would become Hope's theme song, "Thanks For the Memory."

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Trying Hard to Balance

Went to Yogawood on my own this morning; Rose couldn't go this time. It was a mid-sized class, about 10 people with the teacher, Jill. I'm getting somewhat better with the balancing. I was able to do the Warrior III pose, which involves standing on one foot with your arms out and your leg in the air, but had trouble with lifting one leg up and out. And I still can't do headstands. I just have a hard time trusting myself enough.

Made a brief stop at the Rite Aid a few doors down after class for some contact solution, then headed home. I spent the rest of the afternoon cleaning the bathroom and the kitchen. I was originally only going to do the bathroom today, but I didn't work until four and it takes me less than an hour to do the bathroom, so I got the kitchen in, too.

Work was a pain, and still a bit hard to get to. The roads are clear, but many sidewalks are still covered with ice, especially on the Black Horse Pike. My bikes are both acting weird, too. The handlebar on the mountain bike is coming out again (though it feels more tight) and the gears are skipping badly. The chain on the blue stationary bike is loose.

We're still getting annoying beginning-of-the-month people at work, and we usually get people buying cart loads of sale items for the chop shops in Camden late at night, too. I caught one guy trying to buy up the Kellogg's cereal and Pop Tarts on a big sale this week when he wanted to use coupons for the cereal that weren't for the cereal itself. Turns out he didn't actually get the full sale on the cereal, either, because he already bought two loads the day before and you only get one sale per order. I just sent him over to the customer service desk. I'm done playing games with these people. Buy your inventory from a warehouse or don't be in business. What you're doing is illegal and takes away inventory that people need for their families.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Beginning of the Month Blues

After working on editing some of the parts of this month's Monkees role play this morning (look for it towards the middle of the month), I spent the afternoon working. It wasn't fun. While we had more help than we have the past few days, it was still really busy...a rarity on a Tuesday in early March. Not helping matters were people who were cranky, obnoxious, or just plain annoying. I do with some of the older ladies weren't so fussy about bags...and that people would just learn to read prices, period. One lady held up the line for five minutes while a bagger checked a price...that turned out to be right all along. She just didn't read the darn price right! Another group of mothers left behind a quarter of their order because they miscalculated and couldn't afford what they had in their cart.

Though today was sunny and windless, it was also literally freezing cold. Half the snow that was slushy yesterday was icy today. It was almost impossible to ride on the sidewalks on the Black Horse Pike, which were covered with mountains of dirty, salty ice and snow.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Memories of Snow Days

It was snowing heavily when I went to bed last night...and still snowing when I awoke around 8:30 this morning. It would seem that yes, we and most of the East Coast got more than a foot of snow overnight and throughout the day. In fact, it was the sound of my neighbor shoveling my steps that finally got me out of bed. All schools in the Philadelphia and South Jersey area were closed (including Rutgers, Jessa's Catholic high school, and Lower Cape May Regional, where Keefe goes).

I called Mom shortly after I hopped out of bed. Yes, they got it too...worse than we did, for once. Mom was inside, doing some chores around the house. Dad and Keefe had gone to buy snow shovels. Apparently, their old shovels were in the last load of things from the garage in the old house that Daddy didn't feel like going back for.

My stepfather's always loved the snow. He'd be the first one up and out in it...and not just because he'd have to shovel his way out to go to work in the morning, either. Mom hates snow. She wouldn't go out in it unless Dad talked her into a sledding trip...and forget driving! Anny just doesn't like the outdoors, period. She'd never want to stay out for very long. Rose and Keefe, however, had no problems with jumping out of bed the moment Scott Waul said "Lower Cape May Regional School District closed" on the radio.

Mom would make us all eat breakfast, of course, no matter who was going out, probably big bowls of oatmeal or cream of wheat, or maybe scrambled eggs and cinnamon toast and orange slices. Then, it would be into layers - snow pants over tights, socks over tights, sweaters over turtlenecks, jackets over sweaters, plastic bags over socks to keep them dry, boots over plastic bags. Hats or earmuffs on heads - and don't forget your scarves!

Then, it would be out to the backyard for a snowball fight, or maybe to try to build a snowman or a snow fort, or even to just chase each other around the yard. We might pretend to be James Bond chasing bad-guys in the snow, or Han Solo and Luke Skywalker looking for Imperial spies on Hoth, or Daffy Duck and Bugs Bunny eluding Elmer Fudd's gun.

When Dad came home from work, Mom would stick her head out and tell us it's the perfect time to shovel the sidewalk - if it's in North Cape May, we'd probably have to shovel the walk for our elderly neighbor Miss Ida, too. Not that we actually did a lot of shoveling. For every scoop that was actually removed from the sidewalk, another two would be thrown in someone's direction. Mom would come out to sweep the front stoop...and cluck at her husband and children and try to get them to do some real shoveling.

Then, we'd all bundle into the car - even Mom - and would go to the West Cape May Bridge to go sledding. The right side West Cape May Bridge going into Cape May borders a field, and it's one of the few places in flat Cape May County that anyone can go sledding. A dense crust of brush and trees keeps sledders out of the Cape May Canal. We'd all go down several times, sharing the long old plastic orange and blue sleds that we'd had for years. It was always mandatory that someone older had to go down with little Anny, and later Keefe - they were too young to go down on their own.

After we'd all gotten good and tired from sledding, it was home for lunch. Dad would go back to work, or if he didn't, he'd plop in front of the TV, snoring over soaps and re-runs for the rest of the afternoon. Us kids would enjoy a hot lunch, maybe grilled cheese heavy with butter and cheddar, or Mom's home-made chicken or potato and cheese soup. If we were up for it, we'd get back into our boots and go right back out again. I liked to go for walks up to WaWa on Bayshore when we lived in North Cape May and buy a soda or an Icee. When we lived in West Cape May, it might be a trip to 7-11 for an Chocolate Chip Ice Cream sandwich, maybe with Bridgitte, my best friend at the time, whose mother worked in 7-11 when we lived in West Cape May.

By the time dusk was spreading across the pearly skies over Cape May County, all six of us would be inside, playing a long board game like Life or Monopoly, or after about 1987, playing long fantasy RPG video games like "Final Fantasy" or "The Legend of Zelda." This would break up when Mom would say it was time for her to make dinner and Dad would want to go catch the news. If Anny or Keefe were still little, it would be time to put them down for a nap. Us older kids would go upstairs to play a shorter video game or a card game or play with toys until dinner.

I actually did get a nice walk in the snow in with Jessa this morning while my laundry was in the dryer. I really couldn't put off doing the laundry today. I desperately needed clean work clothes! My neighbor was nice enough to shovel my steps before he went to work, or I wouldn't have been going anywhere today at all.

Jess and I hiked through the ankle-deep snow drifts across the tracks to the park next-door to my apartment. It was really eerie and still. Few cars passed by. No trains chugged down the track between Hillcrest and Manor Avenues; no planes roared overhead. Most sounds were muffled, including our own voices. It was as if time had stopped. It was still snowing, too, quite heavily, and very windy. We walked the perimeter of the park, bouncing over snow that felt more like springy marshmallows in some places. When we got back to Dad's house, I walked down the steep hill in the backyard while Jessa went to get some heavier layers. I found a huge holly tree that had a nice little spot to sit down and watch the storm in. After Jessa came back out, we cleared the snow off her car, a huge old Buick, so she could go out sledding with a friend later.

When I got in from the laundry, I had lunch, cleaned off the snow that had accumulated on my steps since that morning, and added more salt. Dad drove me to work. I don't think I would have been able to get TO my bikes, much less ride on them today. It was still snowing and windy when we left, and I was worried about it getting cold and icing up later.

I was one of the only people who actually DID go to work. We had 18 call-outs today, mostly in the morning. By the time I went in, the kids who work late and were likely bored by this point were starting to trickle in. We ending up needing their help. It was surprisingly steady today, not insanely busy like yesterday, but not really dead, either.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Marshmallow World

It started to snow late last night, as Lauren and I were finishing up our daily chat. It continued to snow when I went to bed, and when I got up in the morning, there was at least two inches on the ground. It looked like fat, fluffy marshmallows had been dropped onto a hot cocoa world...and it melted just as fast. By the time I rode to work, there was almost no snow left on the ground, and water was dripping everywhere.

Work was a madhouse. Between the weather, this being the first day of the month, and the fact that we're normally busy on Sundays no matter what the weather conditions, the Acme was PACKED. There were long lines all day long, and it was only just starting to slow down when I finally left at 6:30.

I'm lucky I managed to get out a few minutes early. I felt a few teeny-tiny snow flakes on my nose as I rode down the White Horse Pike, but it was still windless and dry. Less than 20 minutes after I got home, the snow was coming down faster and thicker (though still not the blizzard conditions many of my customers were worried about). I think there's about an inch to two inches out there now. I heard were were supposed to get anywhere from 6 to 14 inches at work today.