Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Day Is Just Packed

Woke up late and had a quick cereal-and-grapefruit breakfast before heading out for this week's library volunteering. I'd planned on spending a lot of time there today to make up for skimping last week and skipping the week before. The children's DVDs were looking pretty good, so I shelved children's books and DVDs for adults and kids.

I did a little exploring on my own later. It always takes me forever to decide on books! I've read a lot of mysteries lately, so I kept it down to one of the newest Amanda Pepper stories, A Hole In Juan, by Gillian Roberts. Amanda Pepper is a teacher at a fictional school in Philadelphia who often sniffs out clues among Delware Valley's high-society. I also found a trio of X-Men novels (not of the graphic variety - I prefer to imagine the characters myself when I read) and a really cool-looking novel about what might have happened if two real-life pulp fiction novelists examined the mysterious death of a third, The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril, by Paul Malmont. I also took out a Calvin and Hobbes comic book, The Days are Just Packed, and a cookbook on making light desserts with real butter and sugar.

It was still cloudy and cool when I left for the library around 11, but by the time I finally got out at around quarter after 2, it was mostly sunny and into the lower 60s, a perfect spring day if there ever was one. I ran to Dollar Tree for cleaner, sponges, and soap, then stopped at the Westmont Bagel Cafe next to Friendly's for a very late lunch. I had "nova" (which looked like uncooked salmon) very thin on a toasted salt bagel with lettuce, tomato, onion, and a Diet Pepsi. I took the long way home across Newton River Park, since the weather had gotten so nice, passing many kids on the way home from the five or six schools in the area.

Spent the rest of the afternoon at home, baking cookies, making dinner, and finishing up the Tiny Toons set. It's worth buying just for two classic pieces of Toons lunacy, Tiny Toons Music Television and The Return of the Acme Acres Zone. The spoofs of early 90s Madonna and "Downtown" Julie Brown on the former are dated, but it includes the inspired videos for a pair of hits by real-life rock group They Might Be Giants, "Istanbul (Not Constantinople)" and "Particle Man."

Acme Acres Zone may be the single weirdest episode the Tiny Toons ever did. How many kids' shows include takes on Blade Runner, old haunted house movies, and end-of-the-universe sci-fi? (The last named is the only episode of the entire series to reference "Duck Dodgers" and feature Marvin the Martian and his protege Marsha.)

I also watched three more Good Eats episodes, all on maligned veggies - broccoli, celery, and Brussels sprouts. I've never tried the last named, not because it's bad, but because it ain't cheap, either. The other two are long-time favorites of mine. I eat a lot of celery in particular, especially in the winter, when it's often one of the few affordable fresh vegetables one can find in the supermarket. Alton's braised celery dish came out quite nicely and made for a great dinner with a turkey burger and Roasted Apples and Honey.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Thank You For the Music

The local property inspector came by this morning while I was making my bed to make sure all the outlets were now up to code. He left satisfied, and I finished my bed and did my chores. Since it was raining and much cooler, I spent the morning baking Banana Muffins and finishing Iron Man and watching Mamma Mia!

Both movies were equally good, but in quite different ways. Iron Man is the Batman-like story of the spoiled playboy owner of a company that specializes in missiles and other military weapons of destruction. The playboy is taken prisoner while demonstrating his own weapons in Afghanistan...and is aghast when he sees what they're doing to both Americans and Middle East residents alike. He's hit by shrapnel and is only kept alive by a machine his company created. He escapes via a high-tech suit of armor he built himself. When he returns to the US, he vows to give up building weapons of destruction, which doesn't sit well with his scuzzy second-in-command who has been making deals with both sides...

While I didn't like it quite as much as the X-Men movies, there's still much to enjoy in Iron Man. Robert Downey Jr's excellent performance as the conflicted title superhero, a man who learns a very hard and damaging lesson about taking responsibility lightly, really makes the movie. Gwyneth Paltrow is also good as his girl Friday.

Going in totally the opposite direction on the hormones meter, Mamma Mia! is the very girlie tale of a young woman who lives on a remote Greek island with her single mother. Mom runs a ramshackle hotel on the island, staffed by locals and barely staying open. The girl is about to get married and wants to be given away by her father...if only she knew who she was. She finds a diary of her mother's that mentions three men whom she may have slept with the year she was born and takes it on herself to invite the trio to the island for the wedding. She thinks it'll be easy to decide which one is Daddy...but could you pick between Colin Firth and Pierce Bronsonan? Not to mention, Mom and her own buddies don't take it well...

And yes, there is lots and lots of ABBA performed. This is 110 percent a woman's movie. From the teary mother-daughter relationships to the music belted every five minutes and the goofy plot and crazy numbers (you've never lived until you've seen Meryl Streep and half the women on a Greek island performing "Dancing Queen"), no man should go within a hundred miles of this unless they're a major ABBA fan, a fan of musicals, or were dragged along by their wives. And yes, being a fan of ABBA and of musicals in general is also required. At least 20 ABBA songs are belted during the course of this movie, and not everyone doing the singing is actually good at it. (Pierce Bronsonan still makes great eye candy, but his singing's painful - and he has two major ballads. On the other hand, Meryl Streep has done musicals, and Christine Baranski's done Broadway for years.) I think this would be a great for anything involving groups of women, from girl's night in to a bridal shower or a bachelorette party.

The rain was long gone by the time the last note of "Dancing Queen" faded away. I took the time to finish up the raking. It only took me about a half-hour to rake the side path going to my apartment. There may be leaves on the ground, but it's nothing like the fall! Since I had time before work, I also ran Mamma Mia! and Iron Man back to the Oaklyn Library and picked up milk at WaWa.

Work was steady to busy for most of the night. No major problems, other than I left late because I didn't want to leave one person on duty, but it turns out there was no one else coming in.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Working in the Garden

Did chores this morning. I ran a very small load of laundry over to Dad and Uncle Ken's and raked the front yard and gathered sticks while it was in the dryer. I got as much done as I could, considering how high the grass is. It was too high for me to rake on the edge of the property near Miss Ellie's car. I hope she can get her nephew or our neighbor to mow it soon. (That's one thing I've never learned to do. Dad always did it when I lived with my parents, and there was no grass to mow in Wildwood.) The yard looks much better, and I earned 20 bucks. I'll do the path leading to my apartment tomorrow morning. I might have done it today, but while it was somewhat cooler and there was a nice breeze, it's still pretty hot out there.

Work was steady up through 6-ish, after which it died very hard. No problems, got out on time. Great ride, thanks to the breezes.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Hotter than a Mutant In April

Yes, it's still hot. Actually, I think it might have been slightly cooler today, into the upper 80s...but that's still too hot for this time of year. Once again, I'm glad I spent most of the day at work. Work was steady all day, with no major problems. My relief was on time, and I was able to get to and from work with no problems.

I went for a short walk to the Oaklyn Library after I got home and changed into shorts and a tank top to return X-Men: The Last Stand and Wall-E. I'm glad I did. Turns out, first of all, that the Oaklyn Library is one of the few non-residential buildings to have it's air conditioning on at this time of year. It felt GREAT in there! Second, I found a real collectible, a Whitman hard-back copy of the children's book Five Little Peppers...and How they Grew. My older friend Linda Young, who loves classic kids' literature, can tell you more about these stories at her site about them. I bought the Peppers and rented Mamma Mia! and Iron Man and headed home.

I finished X-2: Mutants United while making turkey burgers and carrots for dinner and eating my last slice of chocolate birthday cake. I have to say, I'm quite impressed with all three X-Men films. They're unusually mature and well-written for what's supposed to be shoot-em-up superhero sci-fi, even the third one that everyone fussed about. My only complaint is that, for once, there may be TOO much going on. Some characters get so little screen time. I would loved to have seen more of Alan Cummings' odd-but-sweet devil-thing Nightcrawler, or Kelsey Grammer's mutant diplomat Hank McCoy, or little Anna Paquin's troubled Rogue.

By the way, another nice touch - it's great to see a summer blockbuster series with such a diverse cast, ranging from older acting favorites Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen to teenager Paquin.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Hot Sunday

Started off my Sunday with Banana-Applesauce Pancakes and a call to Mom. Mom's fine. My brother Keefe had a bad weekend, though. He stepped on some long nail or something that went so deep into his foot, it was hours before Mom and Dad could get it out. Not surprisingly, he's not walking well at the moment.

Work was steady-to-busy, with no real problems. After work, I rode home. The apartment was devilishly much, that I HAD to turn on the air conditioner, whether I liked the idea or not. I rode out the rest of the heat of the day watching Wall-E.

Wall-E is the tale of a little robot on a destroyed Earth who spends his time compacting garbage, collecting various bits of junk, and cultivating taste in movies - he constantly runs his one Hello Dolly! video. (Incidentally, yes, they did manage to work footage and music from the real Dolly! movie into this. Kudos to the Pixar wizards for that, and to Fox for letting them have the scenes and songs.) The lonely little fellow finally gains a friend when a gorgeous, sleek white robot named EVE appears and captivates him. He gets a lot more than he bargained for, though, when he discovers what EVE does...and what happened to all the humans who once lived on Earth...

I can understand all the accolades this one received. It was a touching, heartbreaking, and surprisingly cynical view of how mankind treats nature and each other. EVE and Wall-E's relationship was one of the sweetest, dearest things I've ever seen in any movie, and there was some genuinely amazing animation as well. As cute as the robots were, the depiction of humans as slothful and lazy was not only more than a little pointed...but entirely too close to the truth, especially as people try to cut down on both food intake and spending in real-life.

I went for a short walk after Wall-E. While not quite as hot as earlier in the day, it still wasn't anywhere near the usual temperatures for this time of year. I hiked down to the river, then into the development near the school and back down West Clinton and Manor Avenue. There were still a lot of people outside, despite the heat. Kids rode bikes. Teenage boys shot hoops. A dad taught his daughter to ride a bike. A young couple nuzzled in the shade by the river. An older couple and their dog drowsed on a porch on Manor.

The scenery is lovely, too. The leaves are getting fatter and greener. The tulips are bright and spicy. The lilacs are just starting to bloom. Some yards have so much grass, they're starting to look like miniature jungles.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Too Darn HOT!

This is ridiculous. It is NOT supposed to be 90 degrees in April in New Jersey. (Yells up to the heavens) When I said I wanted it to get warmer, this isn't what I had in mind!

Yes, it was almost 90 degrees, sunny, and breezy here in Southern New Jersey. It was probably just as well that I spent the warmest part of the day working. Work was generally a lot easier than the last few days, steady but not too busy, with plenty of help. There were a few annoying customers towards the end. One couple fussed when they thought a two-pack of Raid was $4.49...but the sign under where they'd supposedly found them was for the single cans. Someone must have put the pack in the wrong place. Another man obsessively asked me about every price and couldn't tell that 128 oz equals one gallon.

Did my weekly grocery shopping after I got off. Acme's having a sale where you can get certain small items for $.25 each if you buy four of them and your order is over $25. I got toilet paper, kiwi, and cans of no-salt tomato sauce as part of the sale. I also grabbed grapefruit, apples, tomatoes, bananas, celery, yogurt (Acme Light Pina Colada Yogurt - yum!), the 18-pack of eggs (another good sale this week), and a box of granola bars that were on sale and I had a coupon for.

After I got in and put everything away, I changed into shorts, one of my new t-shirts, and sandals, and went for a quick walk to the bank to deposit this week's paycheck in the ATM machine. Despite the heat, it was a nice walk. There were a surprising amount of people outside, enjoying walks now that the worst of the heat had passed. I even heard kids splashing in a pool! The scenery was gorgeous, too. The lilacs are blooming, the tulips are stunning, the dogwood is so pretty, and the pale green leaves on the trees are coming in nicely.

Watched X-Men this morning before Strawberry Shortcake (which turned out to be a repeat, anyway, the one about Sea Berry telling a story about mermaids who get greedy over a treasure). I was really impressed. I'm not normally fond of the Marvel comics heroes, but these guys were a lot of fun to watch...and made you think. I especially loved the completely adorable teacher-student relationship between lone-wolf X-Man Wolverine and frightened newcomer Rogue. That was one of the sweetest and most touching things I've ever seen in an action movie.

Watched Tiny Toon Adventures this evening. For all the dated references (Sweetie Bird mentions the Evander Holyfield-Robin Gibbons fight of the early 90s at one point), this show is still a lot of fun if you're old enough to get the gags about dating and finding jobs...and are better-written than some of the original Looney Tunes in some ways.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Spring Fling with a Wolverine and a Koala

It was an absolutely perfect day weather-wise, sunny, breezy, and warm but not too much like it's supposed to be over the weekend. Shame I didn't get to spend much time in it. I worked for most of the day. It was a real pain in the rear in the late morning and early afternoon. Seems half the store called out for one reason or another, leaving just about every department short-handed. Poor Jackie, the only person at customer service, was going crazy. The lines were ridiculously long until the college and high school kids started arriving later in the afternoon, when it cooled down to merely steady.

It was too nice to just go home after work. I decided to go for a ride over to FYE instead. I wanted to see if they had the first two X-Men movies. Neither of the libraries do, rather surprising given this series' popularity. I really ended up liking the third movie, despite the complaints from friends that it was the worst of the series. I'm not a big comic book fan and have no idea what's the back story here (and I'm generally more of a DC superhero girl), but the characters and premise (mutants as metaphors for all kinds of things people want to suppress) were intriguing enough for me to want more. Well, that and James Marsden and Hugh Jackman in tight leather.

Not only did I get both movies for cheaper than they were at Target, thanks to my Membership Card and that 20% off used items sale, but I also found another great sale. For some reason, FYE was selling Lil'Kinz Koalas for $5 with any purchase. Well, why not?

So...say "g'day, mate!" to Olivia, my baby koala! Named for Australian singer Olivia Newton-John, I may move her into the space in Miles the Black Bear's room recently vacated by Marza Panda until I can find her something else.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Good Eats and Mall Adventures

First stop today was the Haddon Township Library for this week's first volunteering session in two weeks. (I skipped last week; there was just too much going on for me to get there then.) The kids' DVDs were in pretty good shape for once, so I made sure the adult DVDs were equally well-organized and did the soundtrack, jazz, and holiday CDs. Helped some kids find DVDs, too. Had a lovely chat with a five-year-old about the Samantha American Girls movie and helped a little boy and his mother find Disney shorts DVDs. (When he couldn't find a Mickey DVD, he opted for Donald's nephews.)

I headed to the Collingswood PATCO next to hop a train and a bus to the Deptford Mall area. While it was a nicer day than the last few have been, it was still very windy and a tad cold...not a bad mall day. I had somewhat better shopping luck at the malls than at Philly. No clothes at Target, but I did get shampoo and mouthwash (which I needed), the newest Good Eats DVD set (turned out Target's Food Network DVD sets were on sale this week), and the second Tiny Toon Adventures set. The Toons were a splurge - at $34, it was more expensive than Alton Brown but cheaper than it probably would be at FYE.

I had a quick grilled chicken wrap and cole slaw at the Chick Fil'A in the Deptford Mall's Food Court, then went clothes shopping. The clothes are still ugly, but I did manage to find some things I liked. Skorts are back in, much to my surprise. Fine by me. Means I'll be able to wear a skirt and still ride my bike. I bought a skort and a good, simple blouse at Sears, a plain orange t-shirt and olive tank-top at JC Penny, a good button-down white shirt that I really liked at Avenue, and a somewhat fancier scoop-neck blouse at Charlotte Russe. I also checked out New York and Company, Layne Bryant, the Ann Taylor Loft, and American Eagle Outfitters with no luck.

The clothes weren't my only good finds at Sears. I'd been hoping to finally get an inexpensive CD/cassette player to replace the recalcitrant Victrola on this trip. The one at Target was $60, a little bit more than I wanted to spend. I was looking for the women's clothes when I passed by a row of washing machines in the back of store. Peering beyond the large white, red, and silvery boxes, I saw TVs blaring local news. Figuring that if they had TVs, they may have CD/cassette players, I wandered over. I looked everything over, passing iPod players without a thought (I don't own one) until I got to the CD/cassette only. Not only did I see the same Sony player for 10 dollars cheaper than Target, but they had a smaller Emerson model for $34. Perfect. Easy for me to carry home and simple to use.

I'm so glad to be able to play my cassettes again! I have an old favorite on now, Rod Stewart's Vagabond Heart. This is one of the first cassettes I had as a kid, and I was happy to find it again.

Oh, and I stopped at the Oaklyn Library on the way home to take out two more DVDs I wanted to see. I've wanted to check out the X-Men movies for a while, if only to ogle Hugh Jackman in tight leather, but all anyone seems to have is the third one. So...if I like the third one, I'll grab all three. And everyone's talked so much about Wall-E and given it such high marks, but this is the first time I've seen it at the libraries.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Early Bird Catches the Customers

Today was my early day. Really early. I was up at 4:30AM and at work by 6. It wouldn't be a big deal if it was something I did all the time, but I'm usually up between about 7 and 9AM and in bed between 11:30PM and 1AM. I was a zombie all through work, which proved to be a bad thing. We were short-handed, thanks to a cashier calling out, and we had lines even at 7:30 (an hour before any other cashiers were scheduled to arrive, of course). I didn't get my first break until well after 10...and got my last 40 minutes before I went home.

I didn't do much else today. Tried to take a nap after I got in, but opted to read Cream Puff Murder and work on editing stories instead.

And Mother Nature was weird again. It was gloomy and cloudy for most of the day, both when I went to work and when I came home. It supposedly rained in between, but it was actually fairly dry when I rode home. Somewhere around 7, we got another thunderstorm, but it vanished quickly and wasn't nearly as noisy as some of the storms we've had lately. Right now, it's just back to clouds and cold.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Balance and the Sunshine Surprise

Yes, I did Yogawood today. It was another small class, seven women with me and the teacher, Jill. It wasn't quite as difficult as last week, but there was a lot of balancing and standing on hands and shoulders. I wish was more flexible. I'm getting better at balancing, but I still feel so far behind the other people who come to these classes.

Maybe the weather scared people off. It was still cloudy and cool when I went out this morning. Not attractive at all. It must have scared people away from the thrift shop, too. Erica said she hadn't had much in the way of people this morning. I didn't buy anything, either. Didn't see anything I liked.

Had soup, applesauce, and an English muffin for lunch after I got in, then spent the rest of the afternoon doing my laundry. It was still cloudy when I went over to Dad's, but by the time the laundry was in the dryer and I was on a walk to WaWa for milk and the Oaklyn Library to see if they had a movie I wanted to catch, the clouds were gone and it was sunny and at least 70. By the time I got in with the milk, I'd dumped my light celery-green sweater and sneakers all together and climbed into old sandals.

I spent the rest of the afternoon dusting the rest of my bedroom (which finishes my spring cleaning for this month) and editing this month's Monkees main role play story. Don't expect to see it until tomorrow or later this week, though. I'm posting this early tonight because I work at 6AM tomorrow.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Where's That Rainbow?

I got up too late to get much of anything done today. Had pan-fried ham, applesauce, and Rosemary Potato Fries for breakfast while watching the last of Words and Music. Words is another MGM "biopic" in the vein of Till the Clouds Roll By, with some of the same stars. This time, 20s and 30s composer duo Lorenz Hart and Richard Rogers get the whitewashed treatment. Actually, as with Clouds, it's not QUITE as whitewashed as most people lament it is. Lorenz Hart was really short, witty, self-conscious about his height and lack of looks, and not particularly known for being reliable in his work habits. (And as melodramatic as it seems, that sad finale, with Mickey Rooney wandering around sick in the rain, is apparently painfully close to the way Hart really died.)

The numbers don't quite beat Clouds for pure excellence, but there's some stand-outs. Rooney and his long-time buddy Judy Garland shine in a hilarious "I Wish I Were In Love Again," and Garland takes on the odd "Johnny One Note." Lena Horne sizzles with two of my favorite Rogers and Hart songs, "Where Or When" and especially "The Lady Is a Tramp." Ann Southern has my favorite ensemble, the charming lament "Where's That Rainbow?" (cute costumes, too), while June Allyson and the Blackburn Twins have fun with "Thou Swell."

I didn't really get a chance to do much else today. Just as well. The weather was lousy. It was just cloudy and chilly when I got up this morning, but by the time I was getting ready for work, the rain was a steady shower. Yes, I got a ride to work from Dad. Work was surprisingly steady, given the weather, and not quite as long-feeling as it was over the weekend.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Sunday In the City

Slept in today, longer than I usual do. I didn't have breakfast until almost 11! I called Mom while making Banana-Chocolate Chip Pancakes. Mom was fine. She'd been sick for most of the week, but was now feeling much better. She apparently intended to spend the day quietly knitting.

While cooler than yesterday and cloudy, it was still relatively warm. I wanted to make a rare Sunday shopping trip, but couldn't decide whether to do the Deptford Mall area or Philadelphia. Mom suggested a walk in Philly, and I finally agreed. It was still too nice to spend the whole day wandering around a mall. I headed to Collingswood after today's Beatles show ended. ("Questions and Answers" was the theme of the day.)

The vending machines for the PATCO Speedline Trains only give you coin change...including dollar coins. Not the best thing to be carrying around Philly. Of course, it turned out that all I had was a twenty dollar bill. I was lucky the people at Cafe Antonio's pizzeria were nice enough to change them to paper money for me. Maybe they did it because I was really thirsty and bought a soda. (The kids and their families who were eating there were amused enough - they called it "pirate's gold.")

Took a surprisingly full PATCO into Philly. In addition to old women on a Sunday jaunt and military personnel on leave, there were large groups of sports fans in Phillies and Flyers jerseys and jackets. Yes, both teams played today. The Flyers, in fact, are in the playoffs but had been having a lot of trouble with the high-ranked Pittsburgh Penguins. (I later found out that both teams won their respective games.)

Today may be a holy day, but Philadelphia was bustling when I arrived. I briefly explored the Gallery Mall, but it was too nice to be inside for too long. Headed to big Macy's on Market Street next. That was a disappointment. Fashion still hasn't improved since my last attempt at spring shopping. There were a few mildly cute early 60's style dresses and button-down blouses and a few ruffled skirts, but it was mostly the same awful empire waists and gypsy blouses and bell bottoms I've seen for the past couple of years. I really hate this. I made no bones to the cashier that I didn't buy a blouse because I thought they were butt-ugly. Could we please, PLEASE drop the fussy ruffled collars, hippie-style Indian embroidery, and the loud, huge neon psychedelic print? I walked out with another pair of jeans like the ones I bought on New Year's Eve, only darker, and that was the only clothes I bought.

Crossed over to City Hall next and made my way to the Avenue of the Arts. The big FYE was a mob scene, and I didn't figure out why until I tried to go upstairs to the DVDs. Seems there was an autograph signing for some hard rock band called Silverback today, which explains the lines of eager teenagers. I took the elevator upstairs instead. Finally came downstairs with the MGM musical Words and Music and a DVD copy of National Lampoon's Vacation to add to the CD of the recent musical Curtains I picked up downstairs. (And I was able to take the stairs on the way out - by the time I finished browsing the DVDs, the kids were long gone.) Words and Vacation were both used and on sale, thanks to a 20% off all used DVD sale coupled with my Membership discount.

Made my way down Chestnut and Walnut next to the big Barnes and Noble in Rittenhouse Square. Alas, I still didn't have much luck with clothes shopping. Talbot and the Ann Taylor Loft had nice clothes but ridiculous prices. Express at the Liberty Place Mall was having a huge sale, but their clothes were more of the same junk I'd seen at Macy's. I have the feeling I'd probably have more luck clothes-shopping at the New Jersey malls.

Barnes and Noble was somewhat better. It was still busy, but not like it was at FYE. I made some decent finds, too. Used the last of my Christmas B&N gift card on a chai latte and a peanut butter cup cookie. The gift card I got from Keefe bought a hardback copy of the just-released new Hannah Swenson mystery, Cream Puff Murder. I also found another mystery series I love and haven't read in ages, Dorothy Cannell's Thin Woman series, along with the Entertainment Weekly Summer Movie Preview. I always buy the Summer Movie Preview, have since high school...especially when I get to ogle Hugh Jackman's amazing forearms.

I noticed as I was paying for my order that it had grown even cloudier since I'd arrived in Rittenhouse Square. Cloudier and much colder, as I discovered when I headed out the door and into the late spring afternoon. The wind was picking up, too. I was only wearing jean capris and a thin red sweater, not the best protection against fickle spring weather. I went straight home on a, for once, not full dinnertime PATCO.

The weather wasn't much better in Camden County. I was able to ride home without incident and make a lovely chicken bake with red potatoes, cherry tomatoes, and pesto.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Worn Out

Started today with Strawberry Shortcake as I ate a mushroom omelet and English muffin for breakast. Strawberry and her buddies Blueberry Muffin and Rainbow Sherbet are recruited to help beach-dweller Coco Calypso find out who's been stealing the Sea Berries she uses to make her Sea Berry Treats. Coco lives by herself and feels lonely...until the girls discover what's really living in the Sea Berry Ocean!

The Care Bears episode was a repeat, so I put on Sailor Moon instead while working on bills. When everything was ready, I popped my head out my front door...and realized that it was HOT out there. Not just warm. Hot. At least 70 degrees and sunny, with no wind. It was too warm for even a light sweater. I ran my errands in a t-shirt, work pants, and sandals.

Headed briefly to the post office first to drop off my bills, then to the dentist to deliver her bill. Went to the bank next to deposit my birthday money in my savings and checking account. (And forgot the rebate check I was going to cash. Oh well, I'll do it Monday.) Stopped at Doria's Deli for a Diet Wild Cherry Pepsi and to say "hi" to the owners before heading home.

I didn't have much time for lunch or getting everything together. I left early to check out two yard sales, but they were mostly clothes and baby items, nothing really of interest. Work was dead when I came in, steady when I left. It looked like many people opted to take advantage of the weather with impromptu barbecues, from the many packs of hot dogs and pre-made hamburgers and bottles of ketchup and mustard people bought this afternoon!

I wasn't one of those people. I was so tired when I got out of work, I barely made it behind the Acme to Tu Se Bella's. I just ordered a simple Cheeseburger and fries with lettuce, tomato, and onion. It wasn't bad when I came in, but the place was starting to fill by the time I finally got the burger, which is probably why it took so long. The waitress was really nice about it, though. I left her a good tip.

It was probably just as well that I didn't need much in the way of groceries today. Got applesauce, grapefruit, bananas, yogurt, brown sugar, canned white and black beans, Oatmeal Squares cereal, and red potatoes, tomatoes, and a jar of pesto to use in a recipe from Prevention I hope to make tomorrow.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Balance and the Spring Chicken

Today was Yogawood day. The class was one of the smallest I've ever attended, only six people counting the teacher Micki. I'm assuming it's for the same reason the Acme's been dead - a lot of people must still be on Easter vacation this week. We did a lot of work with doing splits and leg stretches. I definitely can't do splits. I just can't stretch my legs out all the way. I'm getting better on the Warrior poses and variations - at least, I don't bobble quite as much as I used to.

Headed to the thrift shop to browse after class let out. For the first time in ages, I found something really cool. Someone had donated a whole basket of Barbies from the 80s and 90s. One wore a two-piece gown with a red velvet bodice and a long white skirt and puffed sleeves trimmed with red velvet hearts...and I KNOW my sisters and I had that Barbie when we were little. That heart outfit was one of our favorites. There were several five-dollar Ziploc bags of vintage Barbie clothes as well. I bought the one with the most glamorous outfits...and the only one I recognized.

Went across the street to the Collingswood Variety Store next. Their large selection of WebKinz was still on sale, so I bought myself a chicken and took him to the counter, explaining to the owner that he was a birthday present to myself. She had a very sweet surprise for me as I was getting ready to leave. She was nice enough to give me a free Mylar birthday balloon! (The Variety Store is really mostly a party store, though they also sell dollar-store toys and snacks and the WebKinz items.)

Stopped briefly at the Collingswood Library next. No good records, but I did pick up a lovely picture book, Paddington's Garden, for me, and another item for a friend.

It was such an absolutely stunning day that I took the long way home across Newton River Park. It was the nicest day we'd had in ages, 60, sunny, and breezy. I had a great ride home and to and from work.

When I got in, I dressed my Sailor Moon dolls in the Barbie outfits. Most of them were in remarkably good condition for fashion doll clothes that had to be anywhere from 15 to 30 years old. Two huge coats, a blue cotton weave with a shawl collar and a brown fur coat, looked like they may have dated to the 70s. (I don't remember Barbie coats being that big when I was a kid, and they all had snaps instead of Velcro.) The others appeared to come from the 80s and early 90s. It was mostly skirts and dresses, but there was a pink tank top with silver dots, a mermaid outfit I remember Anny having as a kid, a black sequined bolero jacket, a couple of tutus, one of the ruffled wrap dresses from the Sweet Roses Barbie and PJ Rose and I had in the early 80s, and several figure skating costumes for the 50th Anniversary Ice Capades Barbie (including two tiny hats). The fur coat and some of the huge net ruffles on the larger skirts and gowns were stiff and the elastic on the tutus and two of the skirts were stretched beyond use, but most of it was still good. It even came with a drawstring purse that'll be great to keep the outfits and the Soldiers' uniforms in.

I spent the rest of the afternoon dusting the apartment. I didn't even get it all done. I'll have to finish my bedroom tomorrow. Work wasn't any more interesting. It was almost exactly the same as yesterday - steady during rush hour, otherwise dead for most of the night.

And my schedule next week is lousy. I have more hours...but they're all at once, including three 7 and 8 1/2 hour days, one of them at 6AM. Everyone's trying to take their vacation time before the cycle starts over May 1st. I hate it when they do this. All of a sudden, they need me so badly to work day hours...then when everyone comes back, they won't need me anymore. I wish someone needed me to do important things all the time.

Oh yes, and meet Alton, my chicken. Yes, named for Alton Brown (Lauren named her chicken Alton, so...why not?), he'll have his own high-end condo kitchen and bakery area, complete with a big table for his Egg Chair and lots of work space.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

"They've All Gone to Look For America..."

Spent this morning vacuuming, airing out rugs, and watching Feasting on Asphault. This is another Alton Brown/Food Network show, although it's really more like a mini-series. In this four-part special, Alton and a crew of bikers and trucks drive across the US, looking for fabulous, little-known road-side good eats. They visit all kinds of places, from diners to lunch counters, ice cream shops to high school gyms, and even people's homes and under their own vehicles.

I enjoyed this more than even Good Eats in some ways. I've always been fascinated with the history of America's tourism past, from the elaborate hotels of the 18th century to the roadside diners of the 20th. Probably comes from growing up in Cape May, America's oldest seaside resort. Here, they discussed the creation of Kentucky Fried Chicken (and the real Colonel Sanders), Duncan Hines (who started as a restaurant critic, not a cake mix guru), some of the now-well-known foods that first stepped into the limelight at the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair, the Harvey House restaurant chain, and authentic Navajo foods, among other things. It was well worth poor Alton's broken arm in the last part - a wonderful journey into the heart of American cuisine and culture.

Work wasn't nearly as interesting. In fact, it was steady-to-dead for most of the night, with no major problems.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

33 1/3 Revolution Per Chocolate Chip

Today was baking day. I spent the morning baking a loaf of Whole Wheat French Bread and working on editing the next Monkees role play. (I've been too busy lately to really work on it, so don't expect to see any Monkees stuff for a while.) I think I added too much water to the loaf. It was really sticky when I put it on the pan, too sticky to make into two loaves. I left it one big loaf...but it ended up being TOO big. I sliced it into three parts and put two parts in the freezer.

Ran the bizarre Monkees special 33 1/3 Revolutions Per Monkee while I had breakfast this morning. Revolutions was filmed in November 1968, shortly before Peter Tork quit the group for good (or at least until 1986). The theme is similar to the Monkees' equally bizarre movie Head - two villains capture the Monkees and use them to brainwash the masses, but the guys have their own ideas of how to escape.

It's a shame absolutely nothing makes sense, because there's some nice performances here. Mike Nesmith comes off best of the four solo Monkee efforts with his own "Naked Persimmon (The Only Thing I Believe Is True)," done in a nifty split-screen effect that lets Mike sing with himself. The "Listen to the Band" finale is fun, too, before the disjointed psychedelic climax. For my money, though, I agree with Micky Dolenz's commentary on the DVD - the best sequence is Brian Auger, Fats Domino, Little Richard, and Jerry Lee Lewis playing all together on stacked pianos. I wish that had lasted longer.

(33 1/3 is on Rhino Video and on the second season Monkee DVD set as an extra.)

While the bread rose, I went downstairs to get my mail...and came back up the last of my birthday presents. Linda Young sent me the cutest mini Beanie Baby bear with an American flag on his breast (I have an American-themed mini Beanie Baby bear, but not that one), two pale-blue wood signs in the shape of the words "wish" and "hope" with little wooden stars, moons, and suns on them, and one of the new KinzKlips, keychains with little WebKinz on them. (Linda sent me the penguin.)

Lauren's newest obsession is the Food Network TV show Good Eats. Goofy cook Alton Brown makes delectable treats while dishing out tidbits on food history, social studies, and science. She sent me two episodes where he's stalked by a slightly crazed fan who wants him to make use of her mountains of potatoes and grains and a "behind the scenes" special that introduces the show's crew, along with another Alton Brown show, "Feasting on Asphault," which has Alton and a crew filming their cross-country trips to find the best local restaurants.

By the time the bread was cooling on a rack and I had edited the second part of the role-play, the rain had returned in torrents. It still wasn't biking weather. I ended up calling Dad for a ride to work.

Work was fun. I mostly bagged the store's fresh chocolate chip cookies in the bakery. (Some of them were so fresh, they were literally hot out of the oven!) I also swept the floor, straightened the counters and baskets of bread, and helped AJ clear out the bread bins and tag the bags of leftover loose rolls. Gina and AJ, the people who were in the bakery with me, are also regularly cashiers. I wonder if most of the regular bakery people went on vacation? I did get called up front for about a half-hour before break when one of the cashiers went home sick, and it served to reinforce what I'd suspected for years. I hate cashiering. I would rather do anything else...and the bakery's a good start. I feel like I really DID something today. I bagged dozens of cookies people will buy in our big cookie sale next week. People will buy something I bagged. That's a good feeling.

Picked up two things I need really quick after work. My toaster is done for. It hasn't really been working right for ages. I've had my toaster since my third year of college, and it was really time I replaced it. I also bought a glass bottle of maple syrup. (I've long given up junky "pancake" syrup. I only use the good stuff nowadays. Tastes better, with fewer calories and chemicals.)

Jodie picked me up in Jessa's massive old Buick and invited me to a roast beef dinner at Dad's house. Fine by me. My only plan for dinner was soup. I had a lovely meal of roast beef, corn, green beans, mashed potatoes, and cheddar drop biscuits with Jodie, Jessa, Dad, Dolores, Dolores' grandson Blake, and Uncle Ken, with Spider Man 3 running in the background.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Happy Happy Birthday Baby

Happy birthday to me! Today is my 30th birthday. Alas, Mother Nature decided to pull in some April showers. It was gloomy and rainy all day. I cheered myself up with cereal and birthday-or-rained themed cartoons and TV show episodes. I ran the first 80s Strawberry Shortcake special, The World of Strawberry Shortcake (which is set during the title character's 6th birthday), during breakfast. Ran Perfect Strangers' first season finale Happy Birthday Baby and the Tiny Toon Adventure episode Rainy Daze, along with two Disney shorts, Mickey's Birthday Party and Pluto's Party, while waiting for Rose and Craig to pick me up for the 45-minute drive to Erma.

I got a call from the Acme while Tiny Toons was on. Sharon wanted to know if I could come in from 2-6 tomorrow and help bag cookies in the bakery. Did I ever! Steve and Roxanne (the latter is the head of the bakery) must have finally found something for me to do there. As Rose put it later, I just got my little toe in, but it's something. They couldn't have given me a better birthday present!

My little family party got really noisy. Skylar, hopped up on cake and excitement, was difficult to control. Rose and Craig couldn't find anyone to take care of their puppies Kelsey and Toby, who were equally loud and crazy. All three had to stay inside because of the lousy weather and couldn't get rid of as much energy as they normally would have if they'd had free reign of a dry yard. Skylar kept chasing the dogs. The dogs barked at noises and climbed over everything and everyone.

Adding to the problem, Skylar's mother and my younger sister Anny wasn't feeling well. She apparently has a nasty toothache...and to add to this, says she may be picking up a virus she got from her son. She couldn't eat the big dinner Mom made, slept for a good chunk of the afternoon, and was in the bathroom a lot.

On the other hand, I did get to meet my new baby nephew. Collyn is about four-five months old now, and he's SOOOO little and cute! He's a small, pudgy fellow with light brown hair and brown eyes like his daddy, Anny's boyfriend Mike. He's also extraordinarily quiet, especially compared to his brother. He barely made a sound all afternoon. He's grasping things now. He got my finger a couple of times. I even got to hold him.

It wasn't all bad. We had a great time playing Mario Kart Wii. The various versions of Mario Kart have always been family favorites, and this one is no exception. (I think Dad and Keefe got the Wii to get the new version of Mario Kart!) I first played with Rose, Anny, and Keefe. Rose and Keefe mostly competed against each other, followed by Anny. I really can't figure out the controls for Mario Kart Wii - it's a lot easier when you use the arrow pad on the controller to steer, not the controller itself! I always came in last. I did mildly better when I played against Skylar a bit later.

Mom's dinner was great, too. She made roast beef (actually, three roast beefs to feed all nine of us), honey-and-ginger-glazed carrots, spring greens salad, a sauteed asparagus-onion-mushroom dish, mashed potatoes, and her famous biscuits. (Now made with margarine and a bright yellow color.) I had a ton of everything except the mashed potatoes, which I'm not a big fan of. Got seconds on the asparagus. That was soooo good, slightly sweet and yet tender. I need to get Mom to send me the recipe.

Skylar refused to finish anything but his carrots and meat. I have no idea why. Everything else vanished. I don't think there were even many leftovers.

Rose brought the cake. Her "connections" turned out to be my old friends at Desserts By Designs, the wonderful bakery a block from Abbie Road in Audubon. Rose and Craig loved the desserts they provide for the restaurant they work at so much, they decided to get my cake from there. The cake was completely delicious, a deep, moist dark chocolate cake with fluffy cocoa icing and huge, bright icing flowers. (And I was right. Once again, I took half the cake home with me...and half of that is now in the freezer with the other cake.)

We opened the presents after the cake and ice cream. Rose gave me yoga/sports clothes. (She's been teasing me about doing yoga in t-shirts and work pants.) Keefe gave me a $25 gift card to Barnes and Noble. Anny and her family gave me a gorgeous velvet-covered journal and a much-needed new velor blanket, both a lovely wine color. Mom and Dad gave me $500 that they want me to use for clothes. Rose got the Spaceballs DVD from me, a basket of crochet items from Anny and her family, money from Mom and Dad, and an iTunes gift card from Keefe.

Skylar was obviously winding down, and Anny wasn't feeling any better. We just ended up leaving earlier than planned, about a half-hour after opening the presents. Dad gave us each a can of crab meat on the way out. wasn't a GREAT birthday, but as Lauren pointed out, it could have been worse. It least I have a nice, warm new blanket, some nice work-out clothes, and money. And it'll be a long, long time before I need to bake myself a cake!

Monday, April 13, 2009

A View to a Laundry Room

Yup, today was laundry day. I debated putting it off until Wednesday, but the weather reports say off-and-on showers for that day. Dad, Jessa, and Uncle Ken were all at home when I arrived. I joined Dad for the second half of the James Bond movie A View to a Kill (awesome Duran Duran theme Bond), then went upstairs to say "hi" to Jessa, who is on her spring break. She was just laying around in her pajamas, doing stuff online. I picked my way through the junk pile she calls a bedroom and had a nice chat with her about Easter, my birthday, and Pokemon.

Did a few things around the apartment after I tossed everything in the dryer. I sliced the leftover birthday cake from yesterday into four wedges. I put two wedges in the refrigerator and the other two in the freezer. Even half of that cake is too much for me to eat at once, and I'll probably be getting more cake tomorrow. After that, I put away the Easter decorations and organized some of the journals and scrapbooks I have in the back room.

I had a lot of laundry today, thanks to doing last month's towels...but I'd also gotten started earlier than usual, around quarter after 9 instead of between 10 and 11. For once, I was able to leave for work on time and actually arrive early.

Arriving early may not have been the best idea. There wasn't much to do. It was dead as a doornail for most of the day, except for one big jolt during the usual 4PM-6PM rush hour. There was even plenty of help, what with teenagers off of school for the week. The only problems was with a few items, mostly soda, that some people had forgotten to take down the 3-day sale signs for. Some folks were really upset about the 12-packs of Pepsi and Coke not being on sale anymore. One guy found signs they hadn't taken down and demanded he get the sale anyway. We had to give it to him...but I really wish people would be more careful.

It was sunny, windy, and chilly when I went into work. By the time it was done, the chill and wind remained, but they had been joined by clouds. I raced home right after I got off of work, hoping to beat the rain we were supposed to be getting tonight. I did by about four hours. It didn't start raining until 20 minutes ago, and then not hard.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Hoppy Easter!

I tried to sleep in this morning, but even though I knew the Easter Bunny wouldn't be visiting me, I was just too excited. I finally got dressed in my favorite peach skirt and white Swiss lace blouse. It was chilly and windy today...but that's the only really spring-appropriate good outfit I have. My summer dresses are both sleeveless.

Made simple Buttermilk Pancakes with egg whites and applesauce and half a grapefruit for breakfast, since I knew I was going to be having more fattening foods for lunch and dinner. Called Mom after breakfast while I ran Daffy Duck's Easter Egg-citement and It's the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown. Got Dad initially, but eventually talked to Mom as well. Both were fine. Mom was setting up the big basket of goodies she was going to give her grandsons later in the day.

I switched to the last hour of the Breakfast With the Beatles show on WOGL while I decorated the Hot Cross Buns with the last of the icing I used for the cupcakes. They were a little wobbly at first, but I finally got the hang of it. I think they really came out quite well.

Headed over to Dad's after that, passing a couple of families coming back from an Easter Egg hunt and roll at Veteran's Park on my way. I met Dad, Jodie, Jessa, Uncle Ken, and Dolores at the house. Dad, Jodie, Jessa, and I drove up to Washington Township on our own. Though we left later than Uncle Ken and Dolores (we had to go back because Jess forgot her driver's license), we arrived before they did.

Uncle Ken's daughter (and my cousin) Samantha had apparently organized this because of Uncle Ken's recent surgery. Karen and Jim, another set of grown cousins, have the biggest house, so we all opted to meet there for Easter dinner and an egg hunt for Samantha and David's 12-year-old son Matt, 10-year-old son Ethan, and 3-year-old daughter Faith, and Karen and Jim's 2-year-old son CJ.

I had a wonderful time. I played "shoot the monsters" with the boys and their plastic cap guns. I watched YouTube videos with Jessa and Jim's daughter from his first marriage, 19-year-old Taylere. I tossed balls with Faith and watched her hide in a colorful nylon tent she was really attached to (when her brothers weren't chasing monsters out of it). I watched the Masters golf tournament with Uncle Ken and Jim and chatted in the kitchen over crudites and tortilla chips with the ladies and Dad.

Dinner was delicious. Karen and Jim made the sweet ham and a key lime meringue pie. Jodie brought yummy seasoned asparagus wrapped in bacon. Dad brought corn. Dolores and Uncle Ken brought Uncle Ken's famous Apple Pie (made with real white wine). Samantha and David contributed au gratin potatoes and "pineapple bread," a yellow cake-like bread made with drained crushed pineapples. (Sam never has to worry about waste at her house. She told me asked her boys who wanted the leftover cup of drained pineapple juice after she finished making the bread. Matt apparently drank the whole thing in one gulp!)

After dinner, Taylere, Jessa, and I went outside to Karen and Jim's huge backyard to hide plastic eggs. Samantha and Karen had filled them with mini Reece's Peanut Butter Cups and Krackle Eggs earlier. We made sure to spread them around the yard and put them where both the toddlers and the older boys could find them. We then took the kids outside for their hunt...not an easy task on a slippery, wet green lawn on a very windy day!

There were several surprises when we came back inside with our hauls. We found out why Uncle Ken and Dolores were late when I saw a line of pre-wrapped Easter baskets sitting in the living room. The older boys got regulation-sized basketballs and soccer balls in their baskets. CJ got a mini golf-set. (He, like his father, is nuts about golf.) Faith received a pretty Barbie fashion-style doll dressed like a fairy and several dress-up jewelry sets.

But the biggest surprise of all had my name on it...literally. A small cake with bright neon-colored icing and mountains of sprinkles on the side sat on the table. Dad and Jodie had bought it for my birthday. I could have died from happiness and pure shock. That was sooo sweet of them! Though my birthday isn't until Tuesday, everyone sang "Happy Birthday," and I even got to blow the candles out. Uncle Ken and Dolores and Dad and Jodie gave me cards with money. Dad made his card himself! (He does that all the time. He loves playing with Paint Shop and similar programs.) We had the pie and Hot Cross Buns along with it.

The kids ran around a bit longer after that while the adults watched the Masters. Taylere left right after dessert to go back to Rutgers New Brunswick with her boyfriend. (She's a journalism and communications major there.) Uncle Ken and Dolores left after her so Uncle Ken could rest. Samantha and David left with their tribe about a half-hour later. The rest of us had a pleasant, cozy chat about golf terms and Jessa's possible college choices while watching the Masters and CJ's attempts to ape the master players in the Masters.

I think that was just about the best Easter I ever had. Certainly the most surprising! I hope all of you who celebrate it had an equally wonderful holiday!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

"In Spring, The Easter Bunny Never Sleeps"

Opened the day with Strawberry Shortcake and Care Bears while wrapping Lauren's groundhog. The Strawberry episode was a repeat of the one where Peppermint Fizz cheats at the kids' annual Games Day, but the first half of Care Bears wasn't familiar. The male Care Bears are upset when the female Bears opt to ask girl kid McKenna to help put up a swing instead of them, so they start their own "club" and build their own no-girls-allowed tree house. The boys-against-girls war escalates from there, until poor McKenna is ousted from both clubs and ends up making friends with Wing Nut the Robot. The second episode was a repeat, but an apt one, given my birthday is Tuesday. Love-a-Lot is upset when she thinks Cheer Bear forgot her birthday, but it turns out two of Grizzle's robots stole her present to make him feel better.

It rained on and off all morning, but that didn't stop me from running all the errands I had to do today! I first stopped briefly at Dad's to ask him and Jodie when we're going to our cousins Karen and Jim's tomorrow for Easter dinner. They told me 1PM. After that, I headed to the post office to ship Lauren's package, then to the bank and to Doria's Deli to buy eggs and to give the owners cupcakes for helping me with the bike last week.

I realized at this point that I'd forgotten to bring the DVDs and book that needed to go back to the Oaklyn Library today. Turned on Manor and headed home to store the eggs in the fridge and grab the books. The Oaklyn Library was having a Flower Sale today, rain or no rain, but alas, it was over and sold out by the time I arrived. They were just taking down the tent when I went in the door. I returned my items and went to WaWa for milk and Fat Free French Vanilla Cappuccino instead.

The rain was picking up by the time I finally made it home. I opted for a ride to work. Dad drove me to and from the Acme. I did a little bit of grocery shopping after my shift, mostly fruits and vegetables that needed to be stocked, yogurt, and oatmeal. Work was mobbed, not surprising between the weather, Easter tomorrow, and there being a 3-day sale this weekend, but there were no real problems.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Good Balance

Rose and I were supposed to go to Yogawood together this morning. I ended up going alone. She said she didn't have the money for it...and unlike the last time she opted out of yoga class, she didn't sound sick or upset, just annoyed that she was broke.

Class was surprisingly mid-sized, about 10 with me and the teacher Micki. With so many people having Good Friday off, I figured it would be packed. I guess a lot of people went away for the weekend instead or have to work. We did a lot of moves that involve twisting or stretching the legs. I wish I didn't have to lean on my hands and shoulders so much. I don't think they can really handle my weight.

After class, I headed first to the thrift shop to bring another bag of donations. They didn't have anything interesting today, so I moved on to the Collingswood Variety Store across the street. They're having a $9.95 sale on all WebKinz except for retired ones. I didn't get anything for myself (with Easter on Sunday and my birthday on Tuesday and all), but I did get Lauren a groundhog. She apparently can't find them at all in New England.

Headed home after that. I spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon working on cupcakes for Easter and continuing the spring cleaning. I just threw together a box of Duncan Hines Yellow Cake Mix with buttermilk in place of water and some of the oil and frosted them with Acme White Icing and pastel sprinkles. Washed the windows while the cupcakes were in the oven.

It was a little cloudy and cool this morning, but by the time I went to work, the sun had come out, and it was gorgeous, warm and breezy. It was supposed to rain all day today, but it didn't end up raining until around 9PM, by which time I was long out of work. Work was steady for most of the night, by the way, busier during rush hour, and with no major problems.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Spring Cleaning Day

Yes, that's what I spent most of today doing. It was a lovely day to do it, too, warm and sunny and breezy. I opened windows and doors to air out the apartment. The floors in the bathroom and hallway between the entertainment room and the bedroom got their annual scrubbing. (Neither the hall nor my bathroom are big. It took 20 minutes all together.) I watched elementary school children look for eggs in the park next door as I hung two rugs out to air.

I've been wanting to wash the window blinds for a while now, but I've never had the time or inclination to do it. I tried to wash the one from the bathroom in the kitchen sink, but it just isn't big enough. I ended up wiping them all while they were still hanging instead. (I'll take them outside and wash them when it gets warmer next month.)

Finished up with the kitchen. Scrubbed the outside of the refrigerator, the sink, the walls behind the sink, the stove, the counter, and the doors to the underside of the sink. Also wrapped my sister Rose's birthday present to give to her tomorrow (it was Tuesday), got Easter cards for the family together, and sent my best friend Lauren's Easter card.

Work was steady when I got in, and though it picked up during rush hour later, there were no real problems other than I thought I was working until 7:30 and I was really working until 8:30. Tomorrow is the 2:30 to 7:30 day.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

The Return of Indiana Jones

Got a late start again and didn't get to the library until around noon. The kids' DVDs were really looking bad, so I organized them and put away the large load of adult DVDs. Weeded out some more PG movies, too, The Ant Bully and several Yu-Gi-Oh collections. I made quick stops at AC Moore, Super Fresh, and Dollar Tree to find some sale items and items for Easter, then rode home.

Spent the rest of the afternoon baking Hot Cross Buns for Easter, cleaning the bathroom, and watching Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. The Hot Cross Buns came out really, really well. I wanted to make something for my cousins' Easter dinner besides cake after at least two other people besides me brought cake along last year. Actually, I'd wanted to make them some kind of Easter bread last year, but I ran out of time.

The bathroom came out pretty well, too. I did the bathroom itself this evening. I'll scrub the floor and wash the blinds tomorrow.

Kingdom of the Crystal Skull wasn't bad, either. I haven't the faintest notion of what everyone was complaining about last year or why this film received such mixed reviews. I think a lot of people may have been expecting way too much. I'm actually glad I didn't get to see this until now; distancing myself from the hype and expectations may have helped me enjoy it a bit more. Yes, the plot's goofy and doesn't make a lot of sense, the actors are hamming it up (and a few are underused), and some of the action sequences stretch the point of credibility just a tad, even for this series. (I thought the thing with Shia LaBouf and the monkeys was cute. It was the opening with Indy in the refrigerator that seemed like a bit too much for me.)

Honestly, who cares? It's still a fun ride, and Harrison Ford is still an awesome Indy. How can you hate a guy who was your first crush? I will add, however, that Spielburg and Lucas would be wise to stop here. This was fun, but let's not tempt the fates.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Easter Baking

Scrape! Scratch!

I never did find out what the scraping sound was that woke me up at 4AM. It sounded like mice in the walls behind my bed, but it could have been squirrels on the roof or raccoons playing with each other on the porch. I searched all over the house and found nothing out of order. I finally said "the heck with it" and passed out again until around 9:30.

Thanks to sleeping in again, I didn't get to doing the laundry until around 11:30. Dad was watching 50s and 60s sci-fi on the Fox Movie Channel. He made me a nice spaghetti-and-meatball lunch. After we ate and I put my clothes in the dryer, I went for a walk around the neighborhood. I stopped for a while at the Oaklyn Library and took out three DVDs I'd been wanting to see (Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Kit Kitteredge: An American Girl, and Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day) and the newest Hannah Swenson mystery, Carrot Cake Murder.

I finally got home with the laundry around 2:30. I was about to put on Disc 2 of the Pennies From Heaven soundtrack LPs when I jostled the music room coffee table and knocked over that big red vase with the daffodils. What a mess THAT was! The carpet got soaked. The Winnie the Pooh Easter book next to it got wet, though thankfully it's a hardback and there wasn't much damage done. One of the daffodils broke and is hanging on its stem. The vase itself never left the table and is perfectly fine. I soaked tons of paper towels and one terry cloth towel mopping up the mess. The terry cloth towel and the table cloth were hung to dry. The carpet, at this writing, is STILL wet.

Spent the rest of the afternoon baking after I finally got the laundry put away. In honor of the upcoming Easter holiday, I decided to try a recipe for Easter Cookies from one of my British baking cookbooks. I used Smart Balance Butter Blend and substituted the last of my bag of Craisins for hard-to-find currants. I rarely make roll-out cookies outside of Christmas. They take so long to do and are so messy! After my Molasses Roll-Outs were such a big success, I decided I'd try a roll-out recipe I'd actually get to eat. I over-browned a few, but most of the cookies came out very well, spicy and not-too-sweet.

I watched Kit Kitteredge and Miss Pettigrew while I baked and made a simple dinner of cole slaw, steamed asparagus, applesauce, and the last leftover baked chicken leg. I really loved both films. They actually made for a nice double-feature. The two movies are both female-centric comedies set in the 1930s and based after popular books, with wonderful sets and costumes and excellent casts. Abigail Breslin shines as spunky would-be reporter Kit in the former. Amy Adams and Frances McDormand are equally good as the title character and the flighty singer/actress who hires her as her social secretary in the latter.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Welcome to the Rain

Work called me first thing this morning, before I'd even gotten out of bed, and asked me if I wanted to come in from 12:30 to 6:30. That was fine. I badly need the extra hours. Frankly, I'm surprised I got lousy hours the week before Easter. Do they really think it's going to be dead this week? (Or next week, either.) Work was, indeed, steady, with no major problems.

The rain was pretty steady, too. It rained on and off all day, though thankfully the thunderstorms were limited to early this morning. (One really noisy one woke me up around 6:30! Thank goodness I was able to get back to sleep before the Acme called. I was up late last night.) I was able to ride by bike to work. The rain started again just as I arrived.

I wasn't as lucky later. It was pouring around 6:30. Instead of trying to go home and getting soaked, I opted to go to the mall behind the Acme and have pizza at Tu Se Bella's for dinner, then browse in FYE while waiting for the rain to stop.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Sunshine and Yellow Daffodils

Didn't sleep in quite as late this morning as on previous Sundays. Just as well; I worked earlier than on previous Sundays, at quarter after 12. Work was surprisingly steady-to-dead for such a gorgeous Sunday afternoon. Today is Palm Sunday, the Sunday before Easter. I assume most people were at Palm Sunday services or just enjoying the mid-60 degree temperatures, bright, sunny skies, and mild breezes.

Called Mom this morning after a breakfast of Banana Chocolate Chip Pancakes. I'd called her earlier and gotten a busy signal; she was apparently talking to Rose. Rose and Mom are both fine. Mom wanted to know what I wanted for my birthday dinner next Tuesday. I really want roast beef. I rarely buy beef. It's expensive, most steaks are too big for me, and it's not really all that good for you. When I do buy it, I buy the least-expensive packs of cubed or round cut steaks on sale.

It was such a lovely day, I went for a short walk after dinner. I'm glad I did. The whole neighborhood is in full bloom. Daffodils and hyacinths are blossoming in gardens. White petals float daintily from trees and shrubs. The dogwood blossoms are gorgeous shades of pink and white. I just walked around the neighborhood and down to Veteran's Park next-door, stopping to pick some daffodils from the plot next to the house for the big red vase in the music room.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Easter Egg Hunt and Other Spring Tales

The electrician came by this morning while Strawberry Shortcake was on. He was really sweet. He did install an electrical outlet in the bathroom. He tested the outlet next to the air conditioner while I was running errands in the neighborhood. Apparently, it does and can work, so he didn't do anything to it.

Today's Strawberry episode dealt with Angel Cake. She always wants everything to be "positively perfect"...even the games she plays. Trouble is, life doesn't always work like that, even in Strawberryland. When practicing until she becomes weary and throwing a fit doesn't make her a great player, she stomps out. It isn't until she learns a lesson from toddler Apple Dumplin' about having fun with sports that she can rejoin the other kids...and really enjoy the games.

The Care Bears also taught lessons about the importance of work and play...and separating the two. Their two little cloud friends wanted to play, but the Care Bears were busy cleaning. The two mischievous clouds speed up the Care-A-Lot Clock, but it only makes the bears work faster...and make more mistakes. It takes a little messing with time to show the clouds the virtue of work before play.

I saw Oaklyn's Easter Egg Hunt in the park as The Care Bears were finishing up, so I stopped there first. It was a windy, chilly, blustery day, mostly sunny, but with lots of big clouds in the sky. The wind was really whipping something fierce, which wasn't helping anyone with the search for plastic colored eggs. This year, the "Easter Bunny" was joined by a girl in a pink wig, tiara, multi-colored stockings, and tutu. I haven't the faintest idea of what she was supposed to be - some kind of weird spring fairy?

There were a whole bunch of signs on the old electrical post on the White Horse Pike advertising the first yard sales of the year. I headed to one after I did the bank. I bought a large, vintage-style Birthday Bear Care Bear at the one on Clinton Avenue. I wandered around looking for more, but finally went home instead.

I dropped Birthday Bear in my bedroom, grabbed my bag for groceries, and headed to the Audubon Crossings Shopping Center. Had debated going to Wal Mart to see if they had a splitter for my phone and internet (I broke the old one when I tripped over the phone cord), but Wal Mart is always a madhouse on Saturdays. I opted for a much quieter Staples instead. Stopped at FYE across the parking lot to buy a birthday present for my sister Rose and see if they had a WebKinz groundhog for my best friend Lauren, who can't find one in Pittsfield. No luck with the groundhog, but I did get Rose her birthday present and found a used copy of the original cast of the Broadway musical version of La Cage Aux Follies for me.

The Acme was steady but not really busy, and I was able to buy what I needed fairly quickly. Came home with fruit spread, peanut butter, granola bars, yogurt (plain and flavored), kiwi, bananas, celery, unbleached white flour, and grapefruit.

Though it was still a sunny, bright day when I finally got home around quarter after 2, and most of the clouds were gone by this point, it was also very, very windy. We got fifty-miles-an-hour gusts for most of the day. I briefly debated a long trip, or at least a long walk, but finally decided I'd done enough this week and just spent the rest of the afternoon at home, watching YouTube videos of vintage Strawberry Shortcake and Rainbow Brite specials.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Now You See Lightning, Now You Don't

The weather was pretty weird today. It would be sunny. Then the clouds would suddenly move in, and it would start pouring, sometimes heavily. Then the sun would return, while it was still raining! We even had a fairly nasty thunderstorm at one point. Good thing all I had planned for this morning was working on the budget and pulling out the spring and summer shoes.

I don't know why I thought I had work at 2:30 instead of 2 to 7:30. I can't believe I did that again! I even had it written down right on my wipe-off board on the fridge this time. I ended up staying an extra half-hour. It might have been just as well. We were busy all night, with more obnoxious beginning-of-the-month people (though thankfully there were no ugly incidents like yesterday).

No, the problems this time were with my schedule for next week. Not only did I have a mere 15.50 hours listed, but I didn't get Thursday off, which I did ask for. Sue, the head front end manager, did finally give me 2:30 to 7:30 next Friday, but said she couldn't give me Thursday because of the holiday weekend. First of all, Good Friday is the holiday. Second, they can give me three days off in a row early in the week, but can't switch Thursday? And I had to beg for Friday! This is ridiculous. I'm going to have to call Scott and reschedule AGAIN. And they'd BETTER give me my birthday off. I've asked twice, the first time over a month ago.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Spring Is In Full Bloom

Mr. and Mrs. Doria were able to help me with the bike. I brought it to the alley behind the Deli late this morning. They confirmed what I'd been told yesterday and earlier - the tire is bald as an egg, and the wheel really does need to be replaced when I can find one. Mr. Doria had to run some errands at Wal-Mart anyway, so I went with him. I bought a tire and an inner tube. Wal-Mart finally had the brake pads for the mountain bike, so I bought those, too. He showed me how to put the tire on when we got back.

(I kept the old inner tube. Turns out it just had a small tear, probably where the tire popped. Now that I think of it, I believe my stepfather may actually have replaced the inner tube shortly after I bought the bike. I don't think it's the original one. I should be able to patch it and use it in case the new one blows.)

It was such a gorgeous day, I dropped the inner tube off at my house and went for a quick bike ride to Newton River Park. Everything was so green! The grass was green. The new, tiny buds on the trees were green. Some of the trees were just starting to blossom. Daffodils and crocus turned their bright golden and purple blossoms to the warm sun.

After I got home, I went through my spring clothes. There were a few oversized things I could donate, but most of what I own is fine. I know it's still early for shorts, but I don't think I'll be needing turtlenecks and my corduroy pants and skirt again, either. I'll go through the shoes tomorrow.

Work was a pain in the rear. First of all, it's the beginning of the month, with all that entails. Second, today is the last day of our sales week. People were anxious to grab the 10 for $10 Canada Dry six-packs and $1.57 Post cereals before the sale tomorrow. Third, today is also the last day you can get your coupon for a free turkey breast, ham, or lasagna for Easter. (It's not the last day you can use the coupon, though. I think the coupon itself is good until Easter Day.)

One woman wanted to substitute the 12-packs of A&W Root Beer and Sunkist Orange Soda for the six-packs. She claimed she couldn't find any more of the six-packs. We're not supposed to allow substitutions. The manager tried calling the grocery manager, but he was already gone by then. We gave it to her just because there wasn't anyone around to tell us if we could or couldn't...and THEN she fussed that I'd run up one more than she had! I know I rang everything up right. AND she was rude to the cashier behind me!

A bit later, an older man who bought the 10 for $10 liter Pepsi sale actually forgot to pay for his order. He was nice about it and returned to pay, but I felt a bit embarrassed about not catching him sooner.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

No April Fools

Unfortunately, it turns out that the men at the auto shop were nice, but couldn't do much. One even drove me back to my apartment after I'd forgotten the kit with the tools to patch the bike wheel! In the end, the verdict was what I'd feared. The bike tire had been patched and taped with duct tape before. (Probably by my stepfather when Mom and Dad had it in North Cape May.) It was too worn out to be patched again. It had to be replaced.

That news coupled with the gloomy, gray, damp skies did not improve my mood. Since I was already on the White Horse Pike, I walked to WaWa to buy milk, then went down to Doria's Deli for eggs, lemon juice, and turkey. The owners noticed I was upset, and I explained about the bike. The owners of Doria's are both avid bikers and good friends of Uncle Ken's. They understood why I was frustrated. Mr. Doria said he had to go to the bank tomorrow to get change for the deli and offered to drive me to the Wal-Mart, since it's on the way, then show me how to change the tire. Apparently, they've had tires blow on them and ended up walking, too. It was nice of them, but I still felt a little embarrassed for having to ask.

Things didn't get better at home. I tripped over the cord for the Internet and yanked the splitter for my land line phone and Internet apart. I tried to fit it back together, but it wouldn't stay. A close inspection revealed that it had cracked along one side. I didn't have the time to fix it then, so I just hurried and got my lunch, changed my shirt, and rushed to work.

Of course, it had just started raining right before I left. Of course, the mountain bike was my only option, and it was acting weird. I don't know what Michael did, but it's not riding quite right. It won't go fast...and then it goes too fast going down hills and you can't control it. (Ironically, the brakes seem to be working somewhat better.) It probably shouldn't have been on the road, but I had no choice. I hadn't seen Dad's car in the driveway when I went by his and Uncle Ken's house this morning. He must have gone with Jessa on her senior trip to Walt Disney World as a chaperone. I don't want to call Uncle Ken or Dolores - he's still not feeling well.

Work was steady-to-busy all night, not surprising given the weather and this being the beginning of the month. I had some trouble with a bagger when I tried to call her to pick up some cold items, but she didn't hear me. I complained, and she said she got in trouble. I hadn't meant to get her in trouble! I knew she was doing item returns. Another bagger finally put the items away.

It was misting when I got out, but not raining heavily. It's sure coming down now, though. I tried to fix the splitter when I got home, but it just wouldn't work. I now just have the Internet plugged in.