Monday, August 31, 2009

River of No Return

I slept until 10:30 today. Had a very fast brunch of chocolate chip muffins and two Italian plums, then headed to the bank. I was quickly able to transfer $260 from my savings account to my checking account. This will be just enough to pay my rent tomorrow.

It was so nice, not even 70 degrees, sunny, and breezy, and I was feeling so good about saving my rent, I decided to get myself a treat at WaWa. I debated a chilled cappucino, but finally decided to save my diet and opted for a Coke Zero with cherry and chocolate syrup instead.

I got home with enough time before work to try to get a hold of Mom again after lunch. Yes, I did get her this time, and I found out why I couldn't get her yesterday. She and Dad decided yesterday that they're getting a divorce.

Mom seemed pretty cool about it. I'm not sure how I feel. I'm not upset or throwing a fit or crying or anything, which is probably what Mom though I would be. I've known for over a decade that they haven't really been in love with each other. Mom's threatened to leave Dad at least once a month since I was six. I guess I'm more...numb. I'm not sure if it's even shock, since I've been expecting this for a while. I thought Mom was going to hold out until Keefe graduated, but I guess she decided she'd just had enough of Dad.

Odd as it may seem, maybe this will be for the best, not only for Mom and Dad, but for me. Mom will need to seek college training and a job. She hasn't had a job in at least five or six years besides that cashier job at Micheal's that she hated and just quit. She never went to college, either. Her family couldn't afford it in the mid-late 70s. We can help each other look for jobs and find tutors and tips for getting into college and grad school.

Mom says Keefe is staying with her. Just as well - he doesn't get along too well with Dad anyway. They're selling the house. I think this is a little odd, since they just built the darn house at considerable expense last year, but neither of them could probably handle taking care of it or paying for it alone.

It's probably just as well that work was steady-to-dead with no major problems. I was kind of doing the motions. I was in and out, and my relief was right on time.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Back to the Dress Circle

I slept in on what turned out to be a gorgeous Sunday morning. It was sunny and warm, with not a bit of humidity. I turned the air conditioner and fan off and made Alton Brown's Whole Wheat Pancake recipe for breakfast, along with an Italian plum from the farm market. Tried calling Mom twice. Got the dial tone the first time. I tried calling her an hour later; got a quick "busy; gotta go." I'll try again later tonight. She must have been dealing with Skylar and Collyn.

Work was busy, thanks to several call-outs. There were some mild customer problems as well. A man took advantage of a big 2 for $10 sale on 12 packs of Snapple to buy 32 cases for his employees ("keeps them from going to 7-11 for two hours," he said). Alas, you're only allowed one coupon per I had to do each order eight times, two cartons per coupon! Everyone in the line took it well or moved, but it was annoying.

I decided to cheer myself up when I got home by reviving an old favorite Sunday night ritual. I discovered The Dress Circle on Mercer County College's WWFM: The Classical Network in the late 90s. Two teachers from the college introduce a wide variety of songs from musicals, with a different theme every week. One week, you'll hear the songs from Broadway shows that opened in that month; the next, you might hear famous comedy teams of the 50s and 60s. The week after that, they'll play music from famous TV musicals, or songs from famous stage flops, or songs from European stage shows. I loved the variety of music one couldn't hear anywhere else.

From the late 90s until I got out of college in 2001, I never missed "The Dress Circle." I even used to skip out of dinner early when I still lived with Mom and Dad and listen to the second half of it while everyone else finished. I forgot about it for the first year or so of living in Wildwood...until I heard it while looking for something else on the radio, and once again, I never missed it (unless I was working late).

I was a regular listener until early 2006, when I moved to Oaklyn. I had a hard time picking up WWFM in Wildwood, and once I moved away from the Shore, I couldn't get it at all...until tonight. I found it online on it's website and listened to it tonight. It's the same as ever; the theme was one of my favorites, "Back to School." Songs ranged from a very good number from a very bad movie, "Question Me an Answer" from the 1970s Lost Horizon, to "Back to School Again" from Grease 2, to the Bing Crosby standard "An Apple For the Teacher," to "The Book Report" from the original cast of You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown and a gentle lullaby from a British kids' TV show called Charlie Chalk, "I'm Not Asleep, I'm Just Resting My Eyes." (The hosts are both college professors; they make a lot of jokes about students sleeping in class before that one.)

There's even an archive of this year's shows on their site. I'm currently listening to "The Shows of March." Richard Kiley and Diahnne Carrol sing the title song of one of those shows, No Strings.

Here's that archive, so you can catch up on this fun showcase for showtunes, too:

The Dress Circle's 2009 Archive

Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Eternal Chase

Overslept and got out to the farm market a little later than I'd planned. Good thing I went to the bank yesterday. Blueberries are gone, but I did get blackberries, peaches, cute little apples, mushrooms, two tomatoes, pumpkin butter, and beets. I rushed home, put everything away, changed, grabbed lunch, and headed back out again for work.

Work was on-and-off busy, nothing out of line for a Saturday in late August. A lot of beginning-of-the-month people, but most folks seemed to be in decent moods. My relief was on time, and I was in and out with no problems.

At least, until I got outside. One of the cashiers warned me when I came up to her line with skim milk and buttermilk that it looked like it was going to rain. Indeed, a huge, very dark cloud was forming over Camden County, even after I hurried outside with my milk, buttermilk, and bike. I was half-way home on Kendall Boulevard when it began to rain...and rain hard. I debated stopping under a tree, but rumbles of thunder in the distance nixed that idea. Besides, I saw two very happy little girls playing in the rain as I turned the corner onto Goff Avenue. If they could do it, so could I.

I was literally soaked to the skin when I finally got in. I didn't avoid the rain, but I did get in before the thunderstorm got worse. I spent the rest of the evening eating leftovers for dinner and watching more Looney Tunes. The focus this time was on Road Runner, Wil. E Coyote, and their creator Chuck Jones. I have fond memories of seeing bits and pieces of most of the Coyote/Road Runner shorts as the finale of the compilation film The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Movie. Mom and Dad taped that off HBO sometime in the late 80s, and we watched it for years whenever we wanted to get our Looney Tunes fix.

In fact...I kinda think they work better in the movie than they do as a collection of shorts. They're fun to watch just randomly, or one or two or even three at a time...but any more than that, and it gets a little monotonous.

Of the remaining Chuck Jones shorts on the set, the most famous may be The Dover Boys, best known as one of the few Tunes to not feature animals. It's a very cute spoof of 19th/early 20th century melodrama. It might work best for people who do know a little about the entertainment of the time period, but even for non-history buffs, you gotta love the bad guy trying to dislodge Dora from that tree.

Oh, and my schedule for next week is pretty much the same as last week with slightly less hours and the same days off, Tuesday and Friday.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Rainy Day Balance

It rained overnight, but it was merely cloudy when I headed to Yogawood for this week's class. It was a big one, too, 16 people including the teacher Micki. Good thing she just concentrated on squats, stretches, and Warrior type poses. I can do most of that except for the squats. I just can't lift myself. I'm too big.

There were two boxes waiting for me when I got in. Lauren sent me two small presents. The first is a cord that'll allow me to connect my old printer to my new laptop until I can afford a new printer. (The printer was Mom's for many years and has to be at least four or five years old.) The other is Alton Brown's baking book, I'm Just Here For More Food. Lauren's a big Good Eats fan. She knew I was looking for More Food after I found his first, cooking-oriented book at the thrift shop earlier this year.

The weather behaved long enough for me to head over to the Acme to pick up this week's paycheck and browse at FYE. I was going to get the new Pete's Dragon 2-disc set, but I found something even better. I've seen the Looney Tunes Golden Collection Vol. 2 on sale for weeks now, but I never got around to buying it until today. (This means I now have the original 3 Golden Collection sets. The next three don't have quite as many cartoons I really want beyond old favorite Ali Baba Bunny and a couple of specials. I probably won't pick them up until their prices come down, the way the earlier ones have.)

That Sonic that was being built behind the Chick Fil 'A looked like it had finally opened. I considered going there...but then I saw the long lines and full outdoor tables after I got out of FYE. I decided pizza would probably be cheaper and a lot faster. I ended up with slices of pineapple-canadian bacon and tomato-basil.

I was finishing up the pineapple when it started showering. Hard. It was light at first, but it came down faster and faster, until it was pouring heavily. I waited out the shower under an awning next to FYE, watching all the cars pass through Sonic and the waitresses in yellow raincoats bring orders to customers. I felt sorry for the waitresses and was suddenly glad I hadn't opted for Sonic.

The moment the weather looked like it was letting up, I hurried over to the Acme to do this week's grocery shopping. I didn't really need much. I bought chicken breasts, two packs of ground turkey that were on sale, small eye round beef steaks, Acme and Breyers light yogurt, whole wheat flour, and peanut butter (I ended up with Acme's Wild Harvest Organic Chunky).

Went home, put everything away, and headed out to the PNC Bank branch at the White Horse Pike on foot. I received a nasty shock there. I don't have as much money in the bank as I thought I did. I must have mixed up the amount in my savings account with the amount in my checking account. I'll have to take some out of my savings account. My rent will be late, but not as much as it would be if I just waited for my next paycheck.

It started pouring again as I walked home from the bank. This time, I did get wet, despite bringing an umbrella. I could take a hint. I spent the rest of the afternoon watching Looney Tunes and baking chocolate chip "Old School Muffins" from Alton's book. (They came out very well, BTW, chewy but not too sweet.)

While not quite as good as the first or third Golden Collections, there were a couple of bona-fide classics in Volume 2, notably One Froggy Evening and What's Opera, Doc? Other favorites of mine in this set include the live-action/animation You Ought to Be In Pictures in it's original black-and-white, the Bugs vs. rodent classic Rhapsody Rabbit, and a personal favorite from Mom and Dad's old yellow public domain tapes from the North Cape May Acme, A Corny Concerto. (How many times are you gonna see Bugs Bunny in a bra and tutu today?)

(And the rain ended sometime around dinner. It's not raining now, but it's supposed to do the on-off thing for the rest of the weekend.)

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Down for the Internet

I spent early this morning cleaning the kitchen. It wasn't quite as bad as the bathroom, but I was hoping to prevent more ant invasions like the fridge incident on Tuesday. (Which reminds me, I've seen one or two ants in the fridge since then, but nothing like Tuesday morning.) To that end, I also swept the porch. I was going to wait until after I got that rotten tree limb cut down, but I have no idea when that's going to happen, and the porch was a mess. Squirrels and birds have left a trail of early nuts and acorns all over the place, and I haven't swept it since before I went on vacation.

I tried posting the Monkees Role Play later this afternoon, but the internet went down. I just spell-checked it and ended up sweeping instead. I did post it tonight. Look for our newest main story, "Return of the Planet of the Monkees," at our Dream World role play web site.

Work was off-and-on dead again, as it was yesterday, but there were a surprising number of huge orders. A lot of people must have used today to stock up after returning from vacation or heading for college. Some of the orders numbered into the $300-$400 dollar range.

The last customer was an annoying elderly woman who bought two 24 packs of Pepsi and even used the coupon for them...then whined because she thought they would come up $10 all together instead of $12.96 for two with the coupon. No, the 12 packs were 4 for $10. She just stormed off without buying anything. I couldn't understand half of what she was saying, anyway. Not only did the woman behind me take it well, but she claimed to have had the woman at the Golden Corral next to Pep Boys where she works and caught her taking food from the buffet in a bag...and the woman got mad when they caught her!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Doing Nothing

Boring morning. I mostly just messed around online. I didn't think until later that I should have started job-hunting again. I know I've said I need to find a job that I want to do, look forward to doing...but it's a matter of making myself look. None of my job hunts ever seem to work out. I want to see some real results for once. An interview would be nice, or at least for someone to acknowledge my presence. I haven't been to a job interview since 2005.

It was relatively cool in the morning, so I baked a Blueberry Confetti Cake. By the time it was in the oven, it was getting hotter (but not really humid).

The Acme called me in around quarter of 11. Could I come in a half-hour early? Sure, no problem. I wasn't doing anything big (or that I was supposed to do). I got the cake out of the oven with just enough time to make it to work at 1:30.

The customers were fine today, but I did something dumb. I thought I was done at 7PM. I even signed out then. I thought my relief was late...but I was too early. I wasn't done until 7:30. I signed a slip that explained the mishap and went back to work until my relief did arrive (on time), but I still feel embarrassed with all the fuss I caused. If there's one thing I hate, it's causing trouble.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Sniffles

And yuck. I'm glad I didn't have work today. My allergies have been horrible. I've spent most of today sniffling and sneezing. I wish I knew why they've been so bad this summer. Maybe it's all the mold from this rain we've had.
It's Finally Sunny In Philadelphia

I was up late this morning and didn't really get going on today's laundry until around 11:30. I ran into Jessa watching the indie movie Everything Is Illuminated as I came in. I had to wait a while (Uncle Ken's laundry was still in the dryer), so I watched the tail end of the movie with her. We briefly visited my apartment and walked to CVS when I got my laundry in the dryer.

I'm glad Jess and I had that little walk today. She'll be moving into her apartment at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia on Thursday, and this is probably the last time we'll get to spend with just the two of us until after she starts school. She bought a cork-board for school at CVS. I bought Palmolive Dish Washing Liquid on sale for $.98, the soft tooth-brushing picks for between my teeth (I ran out yesterday), and an Entertainment Weekly. (I always buy their Summer Movie Preview, Fall Movie Preview, and the end-of-the-year issue.)

It was quarter of 3 by the time I finished doing the laundry. I didn't eat lunch until quarter after 3...and it wasn't until around 4 that I made it to the library for this week's session. I debated doing it on Friday, but I'm glad I went today anyway. They just got a third DVD/CD rack for the children's media, and I organized everything that was checked in into three racks, instead of the two they were originally in. The children's CDs especially needed it. I haven't organized them in forever, and they were a mess. I never even got to returning any of the other DVDs, and they were back to stacks of them.

It was after 6:30 after I left the Super Fresh (looked for sales on peanut butter and english muffins - saw neither) and headed home to make leftover Corn-Meal Battered Turkey Cutlets with eggplant Parmesan and romaine salad.

And ugh. I really need to find more effective ant spray. I actually had ants in my refrigerator today. I have no idea how they got in there. They must have been after the candy canes I keep for stirring my tea. Needless to say, I dumped those in a hurry and wiped the whole side of the fridge down with bleach.

Monday, August 24, 2009

In the Summertime

First of all, the weather finally broke today. It was mid-80s, sunny, and NOT humid, for the first time since before I came back from vacation. Perfect day to start this month's apartment cleaning. The bathroom desperately needed to be done. The sink was disgusting. I also sprayed for ants.

I tried to pull down that rotten tree limb that's leaning over my porch, but it's just too big. It's too thick for clippers, too. Whether she likes it or not, Miss Ellie's going to have to either get a saw or an axe or hire a professional to take it down. I can see where it's breaking. I just can't reach it without falling off my porch and breaking my neck.

Between the weather and this being close to the end of the month, it was dead at work all day. I'm glad I got off when I did. Not only was it just starting to get busier, but the store computer system went down and was wrecking havoc with debit card orders.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Summertime, and the Livin's Easy

Other than it remained hot and humid, today was pretty decent. Yesterday's clouds had vanished by the time I headed for work. I spent a quiet morning making Peach Whole Wheat Pancakes with two bruised Acme peaches and listening to the WOGL Beatles show. (Brian Epstein, the Beatles' most famous manager who pushed them into the limelight, was the subject of today's program.) I tried calling Mom, but she was busy getting ready for Anny and Skylar to arrive. I'd call her back later.

Work was steady today, with plenty of help and no major problems. I had no relief, and was able to get in and out with no fuss. Went home and did some stuff on the computer for a little bit, then made Crispy Pan-Fried Turkey Cutlets (with a corn meal coating) and Sauteed Zucchini, Onions, and Cheese Peppers for dinner.

I did finally get a hold of Mom. Keefe was on his way out; Dad was sleeping. Not much going on there. She's been playing games with Keefe. He's killing her at Parcheesi; she's killing him at Uno.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Dodging the Weather Bullets

Awoke to heavy rain this morning. Not a good sign. I really, really needed to go to the Farm Market. It let up around 10:30, long enough for me to head out to Collingswood. Despite the weather and the late hour, the Farm Market was hopping. I'm assuming the weather must have kept people away earlier. The farmers were so eager to get rid of their wares, they were literally giving them away. People kept handing me freebies and the last of their samples. It was very nice of them...but now I have to figure out what to do with it all.

I ended up with carrots, blackberries, gigantic peaches, Gala apples, romaine lettuce, a cucumber, a green pepper, a Vidalia onion, a green pepper from the organic booth, small red potatoes, three tomatoes, two small Gingergold apples that the farmer let me have free because they were the last ones in the sample bucket, blueberries (last of the season, according to a farmer), a jar of honey, a large purple eggplant, a smaller, rounder, lighter purple eggplant that the farmer gave me free so I could compare them, and two free peppers, one a cheese pepper, one a long, dark green pepper that I have no idea what it is, but I hope it's not hot. I don't like hot peppers.

I rode home and spent the rest of the afternoon eating lunch and watching Wonder Woman. (Needless to say, thanks to the weather, I saw no yard sales today.) It was still dry when I headed out to work; the clouds even looked like they were trying to break up. Alas, it was still hot and humid. I left early and took it slow on my bike.

The other reason I left early was for my paycheck. Not that it was a big one, seeing how I only worked Sunday last week, but any money is better than none. Got a good schedule for next week, too, 24.50 hours, two days off, and nothing later than 7:30. Good. I want to clean the kitchen and the bathroom, and I'd like to start seriously job-hunting again.

Work was busy up through 4:30, when dark clouds started gathering. They were getting darker by the minute when my relief arrived early, allowing me to grab the three items I'd bought earlier (granola bars and the clearance Cream of Rice and Oat Bran) and my bike and rush home as fast as my legs could work the pedals.

Light rain started falling in big, fat drops as I rounded the Black Horse Pike onto Kendall Boulevard. (Which, BTW, has finally been repaved.) I got lucky for the second time today. Though thunder rumbled as I sped down the road, the storm waited to hit in full-force until about 20 minutes after I got in.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Balanced Heat

Started today with my first Yogawood class in over two weeks. As always on Fridays, it was fairly full, too, 14 people with the teacher Micki. We worked on heart-openers - stretches, balancing, handstands. I don't think I'll ever be able to stand on my hands or do a full wheel. I just am not coordinated or flexible at all.

I ran the usual day-off errands after class. Stopped very briefly at the thrift shop, but they weren't open yet. I just left my small bag of donations at the door. I stopped at the Collingswood Library next to take a look at a book they had. Had a pretzel and water at the 7-11 on Cuthbert Road, then went down to the Haddon Township Library.

I spent a few hours in there, but I was mostly browsing. For the first time in months, there wasn't much for me to do. They must have really gotten caught up on book and DVD returns last week. I eventually took out four non-fiction books. One was on writing and publishing children's books, one on general job-hunting, one on copywriting, and one on how to get a job after completing college. (I want to figure out what I did wrong after I got out of college.)

Stopped at Super Fresh (they were having a $1.99 for 12 packs of English muffins sale, but they didn't have the whole wheat) and at WaWa (for a Junior roast beef hoagie and Coke Cherry Zero) before heading home. I spent the rest of the evening working on editing this month's Monkees role play main story and making Tex-Mex scrambled eggs for dinner.

It's just as well that I got home when I did. It was sunny when I went out this morning, but dark clouds had been gathering all day, and it was still really hot and humid. They'd reached critical mass around 4:30, and by the time I was editing, it was thundering and lightning and pouring in droves. It didn't last long, but it did make everything very wet (again).

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Heat Is Really On

Ugh. It was slightly cooler this morning when I headed out to the bank to deposit my paycheck, but still very humid. Good thing the bank was dead and I wasn't out for very long. I spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon at home, fooling around with my new laptop. I eventually intend to try to download the photos from my digital camera onto here. Hopefully, it'll go MUCH faster than with my old ones.

Continued the third season of Wonder Woman. The first three episodes on Disc 1 weren't too bad, but by the time I got to the shows about the psychic who uses a disco to lure top Washington brass into his clutches and a woman who controls ants, I started to understand why most people consider this to be the worst of Wonder Woman's three seasons. The ant thing in particular was just too weird for words, and saddled with a dated moral about the use of chemicals on insects to boot.

Work was a bit busier than yesterday, not helped by several annoying customers. Two middle-aged men fussed and grumbled all through their orders. (From what they were saying, it sounds like their wives roused them from air-conditioned TV viewing to do chores.) Another woman squawked at me when I told her I could help her bag the last of her groceries. I don't know why she got so upset. It was during the 4-6 rush hour. I guess she was just tired after work.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Getting Back On Track

I spent the morning doing the laundry. Just as well. It was still hot and humid, too hot to be running around. I saw my cousin Amber, and we talked about our respective vacations. (She went to Wisconsin with her boyfriend and their little girl last week.) I talked to Mom on the phone, too. She was glad I had a good time, and was especially excited to hear that I liked Jeff Dunham. (She and Keefe are fans.)

After I got in, I had a peanut butter and blueberry butter sandwich and a salad, then went to work. I might as well have still be on vacation. Work was dead for most of the night, picking up slightly during the usual 4-6 rush hour.

I did get my paycheck from last week and the rest of this week's schedule. I work 3-7 tomorrow and 2-6 Saturday and am off Friday. If it's like this for the rest of the week, it'll be nothing.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Goin' Home Train

Today was the last day of my vacation. Lauren and her parents saw me off at the Albany-Rensslaer Train Station. I didn't see much of it last week, but the building is new (2002, from what one plaque said) and gorgeous, with high, vaulted ceilings and beautiful wood-paneled walls.

Once again, my train rides all went smoothly. There were no problems anywhere and no delays. This time, I opted to avoid downtown Philly traffic and take the NJ Transit train to Cherry Hill. The Cherry Hill "station" is a platform behind a mall, but it did its purpose. Dad picked me up 10 minutes after I arrived. (He said he would have been faster, but he missed the turn-off for the shopping center the platform's behind.) Only problem I had anywhere was forgetting to pull out my ticket at the New York station and holding up the line, which was a little embarrassing, but I did get on the train.

It took me a mere 20 minutes to unpack, put the new items away, and unload my dirty laundry into the laundry basket after I got in. I called Mom to tell her I was home, then called the Acme. Alas, I'm working at 2:30 tomorrow, but maybe that's just as well. I could use the money. I debated going out to Taco Bell for dinner, but finally decided I've eaten out enough in the past week and opted for an omelet and an English muffin at home instead, watching third season Wonder Woman episodes.

It was gorgeous this morning in Albany, but dark clouds had begun to gather as early as the New York suburbs. By the time I arrived in Cherry Hill, it definitely looked like a storm. The storm roared to life as I unplugged my old upright computer and set up the Compaq laptop Lauren gave me. She bought herself a Mac a few months ago and asked me if I wanted the laptop she was using. She has two others in addition to the Mac (one is a very old one she uses exclusively for playing music). The one she gave me is about a year or two old, and works like a charm. It's much faster than my old upright. The upright computer is in the back room until I can figure out what to do with it.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Lasagna Monday

We both stayed up very late last night and slept very late this morning, too late to do anything big on my last day. It was just as well. It was a very hot day today for Pittsfield, into the upper 80s-lower 90s, and more humid than it has been here. Lauren wasn't up until almost 11.

We hung around and did stuff online for a while before Mrs. Miller called us upstairs to ask if we wanted to help make lasagna. Heck yeah! I love Italian food, and Lauren loves lasagna. (And there's no big orange cats around here to steal them.) Mrs. Miller made the ricotta mixture. Lauren made the ground beef-tomato mixture and did the layering. I "supervised" and did the dishes after they'd finished.

Lauren and I went for a walk in her neighborhood while the lasagna baked. Lauren lives in a typical residential neighborhood about a five-minute drive from Pittsfield's downtown. It was quiet for a Monday in August. The only sounds were the droning of lawn mowers and the squeals of children playing in backyard pools or sprinklers. A few people sat on porches, but for the most part, the streets were empty. The heat must have caused most people to retreat.

We got home just in time for lunch. Lauren and I took our lasagna out to her back patio. She and her parents have a nice, big patio and a huge yard with a nice view of Mount Greylock in the distance. I sat in a wooden rocking chair and she sat in a lawn chair, and we traded stories about high school teachers and the differences between our high schools. The lasagna turned out beautifully, heavy with beef, herbed ricotta, tomato, and mozzarella cheese.

I needed to buy something for dinner tomorrow, so we headed down to the shopping centers a few minutes from her. Our first stop was Barnes and Noble to just browse. It was the one store we never got around to hitting on Wednesday or Friday that I wanted to check out. I just bought a new journal (the one my sister gave me on my birthday is a little more than half-done). Lauren bought two books of math games, two about geekdom, and one of humorous "tickets" for annoying things people do on the road and with cars that should be illegal but aren't.

We wandered around Price Chopper, Lauren's local grocery store, next. Price Chopper is HUGE, with a big liquor store, an elaborate deli with cheeses from around the world and a hot foods bar to rival Old Country Buffet across the street, and a separate section for organic foods. There was plenty to see, from random toys and games in the seasonal section to comparing produce prices to the Acme. (They have better banana prices, but we have better peach and strawberry prices.) She didn't get anything, but I picked up a turkey hoagie on a whole wheat roll and a bag of Pretzel Chips for lunch on the train tomorrow.

We're spending my last night here quietly, chatting and eating the yummy cake Lauren's dad bought from Price Chopper yesterday. Tomorrow, I head home.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

I Can See For Miles

We spent most of today at Jiminy Peak Mountain Resort in Hancock, about 10-15 minutes from Lauren's house. Jiminy Peak is a generally a ski resort, but in the summer, they have several small rides. The one we rode the most was the slide. You control how fast or slow you go on the yellow sleds. We must have whooshed down the slide at least six or seven times between 11:30 and quarter of 4. We rode the slide so often, the operators of the chair lift that took guests to the slide and the guy in charge of the slide knew us on sight. (The young man who operated the slide, or at least told people when they can start, was nice. We had some good chats with him.)

We had lunch in Christien's Tavern, a round, dark bar-restaurant near the slide ride. Lauren had a quesedilla and fresh salsa. I had the Asian (Teriyaki) Chicken Sandwich, sweet potato fries, and a pickle. Both were tasty; even Lauren finished hers.

After lunch, Lauren and I took another chair lift, this one a scenic ride up the mountain. It was really gorgeous, hot, sunny, and breezy. The wind coming down the mountain felt really great. There's a small cabin/cafeteria at the top of the mountain where we paused for photo opportunities and to admire the magnificent view of the valleys, towns, and ski resorts below us. The bright sun was hot on top of the mountain. It wasn't much cooler in the cabin. The air conditioning must not have been on long. My legs felt cool, but the air in the cabin was hot as heck.

Went for another run on the slide after returning to Earth, then went for a short walk to the Country Store, the grocery store/convienece store/gift shop for Jiminy Peak. There were some stuffed animals, postcards, and t-shirts, but it was mostly food. Lauren bought a locally bottled root beer that she said was pretty good; I bought water.

Made two more rounds on the slide after that. It was about quarter of 4. We were sweaty and tired, but not quite ready for dinner or to go home yet. We opted for a round of the mini-golf course by the Berkshire Mall entrance. We had a family in front of us who were really funny. The little boy, who couldn't have been more than 5 years old, kept raising his club too high. As his mother said, he might have been better off on driving range.

Had dinner at one of Lauren's favorite local restaurants, Bob's Country Kitchen. It's a small, rustic little place about 10 minutes outside of Pittsfield. She had barely beef soup and a salad. I thought of having soup, but I was too hot. I had two blueberry pancakes. Unlike the pancakes I had a few days ago, these were just the right size, and not bigger than the plate.

We were still hot and sweaty, so we went straight home after that and had Friendly's Sorbet in Lauren's room. We've spent the rest of the night chatting and watching Good Eats dessert episodes.

No major plans for my last day here. We'll sleep in and do some more mini golf, maybe go for a hike on the mountains. We'll see.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Green Mountains Majesty

We headed for Vermont about 10 minutes after I finished this morning's entry. We loved our trip to the Mary Meyer Big Black Bear Shop and the Vermont Country Store last year so much, we decided to repeat it. It was a perfect day for a drive into the country, too, 85, dry, and sunny. Vermont was beautiful, with its babbling brooks, rolling emerald hills, and endless miles of fields, farms, and Inns.

Our first stop was the Big Black Bear Shop in Townsend, Vermont. The store is an outlet and museum for Lauren's favorite stuffed animal company, Mary Meyer. In addition to selling Mary Meyer stuffed animals, they also have toys and children's books.

We found something interesting the moment we walked in the door. One of the first shelves held a display of "Quarter Bears" that were on sale. They represented each state and the quarter released for that state between 1999 and 2009. Lauren bought the Massachusetts bear; I, of course, bought the New Jersey bear. I don't have the room (in my apartment or my luggage) to buy large stuffed animals, but Lauren picked up a big red lobster, a cute teddy bear made from recycled bottles, and a soft, floppy giraffe in addition to the MassBear.

Our next stop was a little diner about a mile or so back from the shop. The Townsend Dam Diner is about as typical of a small-town diner as you can get. Mismatched thrift shop tables and a big Formica counter-top dominated the room. A dry-erase board with colorful writing announced the specials of the day. The small kitchen was perfectly visible from the dining area, allowing everyone to see the waitresses hard at work pouring salad dressing and chocolate syrup from huge jugs.

Lauren had the chicken fajita. I had the salmon burger. Both were excellent. The salmon burger was real salmon, not a patty like I figured it would be, and it was on a huge bun with fresh lettuce, tomatoes, and onion. My fries were home-made with their skins still on. Lauren's fajita was filled with real chicken, cheese, and vegetables, and for once, she ate the whole thing.

We hit the road again after lunch and made our way up the mountain to the Vermont Country Store. Alas, once again, we didn't have as much time there as we hoped we would. The store was not only incredibly busy, it was closing an hour and a half early for a funeral across the street honoring the adjacent Bryant House Restaurant's late manager.

Despite the crowd, Lauren and I found what we wanted in record time anyway. Lauren bought a bottle of orange soap her dad really liked and some magnetic rocks to use in her room. I bought a small bottle of real Vermont Maple Syrup, a box of tasty Vermont "Buttons" small cookies (maple flavor), and a bear-shaped glass jar that's supposed to be used for cinnamon. I love that bear jar. I've almost bought it online a hundred times. I also bought a bottle of water. I'd forgotten to bring some from home and was feeling a bit dry.

Since we left the store earlier than we thought we would, we made a few short stops on the way home. Lauren stopped by another country-style store called The Apple Barn Country Store. This one was attached to a pick-your-own farm and specialized in toys, gift items, real farm-fresh fruit, and things made from said fruit, like jams and jellies, fudge, pancake mix, and syrups. Lauren bought fudge for her dad. I just bought a small maple sugar candy. I have a fondness for flavored sugar.

We drove into Berrington next, stopping at a small Stewart's Shops. Stewart's in New Jersey is a novelty brand of very sweet soda in glass bottles. In New England, its the equivalent of the Tri-State area's WaWa. The Stewart's was actually pretty cool. WaWa needs to start putting tables in. Their stores are big enough.

By this point, it was after 6. Most of the small, local stores we wanted to explore would be shutting down, so we just drove down the mountains and back to Pittsfield. Our last stop was Lauren's favorite sub shop right next door to the bank where she works, Angelina's Subs. It's a local chain specializing in what New Englanders call "grinders" and what we in Southern New Jersey refer to as the hoagie. Lauren had her favorite Taco Wrap. I opted for a simple turkey sandwich.

We're back at Lauren's house now, chatting, blogging, and watching Good Eats episodes. Tomorrow, we hit Jiminy Peak, a small family amusement park in the Greylock Mountains.
Puppet Mania

Sorry I wasn't able to get online last night. We didn't get in from Mohegan Sun until 3:30AM!

Thankfully, after the deluge on Wednesday and the slightly iffy weather on Thursday, Friday was drop-dead gorgeous, 85 degrees, sunny, no humidity. It was too nice to hang around inside as we originally planned, so we made up for the mess on Wednesday and went for a walk in historic downtown Pittsfield instead. We browsed in a bookstore and a junk shop not unlike the big antique store in Barrington. Lauren bought a cookbook and an RL Stine novel from the junk shop. I found two 70s vintage books, a hardback adaptation of the 1977 Annie musical and a Buck Rogers novel from two years later.

We bought fat pannini sandwiches at one of Lauren's favorite coffee shops, Juice and Java, and ate them on her patio. She has a huge backyard and a lovely view of the mountain overlooking Pittsfield, Mount Greylock.

After lunch, we picked up her friend Heather from the bank where they work and headed off to Mohegan Sun. I had no idea Mohegan Sun is a huge Indian casino in Connecticut, just outside New York City. The only casinos I've ever been to were in Atlantic City. It was gorgeous and elaborate, with lots of rock "waterfalls" and fancy restaurants and shops.

We met Lauren's manager Tony and his wife there. (Actually, they passed us on the Interstate just as we arrived.) We'd hit mega traffic around Springfield and New London, allowing us just enough time to eat a very quick dinner at the Summer Shack before rushing to the show.

I'd only heard of Jeff Dunham through his Broadway show, but everyone I'd talked to who have seen his show (including Mom and Keefe, who saw it on cable) said he's a riot. They're right. He's a hilarious ventriloquist and stand-up comedian with a stable of weird, wacky puppet characters. The skeleton terrorist seemed to get the most laughs (maybe it was those eyebrows), but my favorite was the old man. I think I've had him in line at the Acme.

After the show, Heather played the slot machines a little, but Lauren and I were just bored. We wanted to save our money for our Vermont trip and weren't up to gambling. It was 10:30 before the show let out, and we were all tired. We had a quick meal at a deli near the Casino of the Sky, then picked up Lauren's van from valet parking and made the long (and traffic-free this time) ride home.

After sleeping in, we're going to head into Vermont to hit the Vermont Country Store. Look for more on our trip later tonight!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Definitely a Six Flags Day

We were up early this morning, around 7AM, and out of the house by 9. We made a couple of stops in Pittsfield that turned out to be big helps later. Our first stop was Price Chopper, her local supermarket, for sandwiches and snack food. She got ham and cheese and low-salt Kettle Chips. I went with roast beef on wheat and Honey Nut Chex Mix. We stopped for gas at Sunoco after leaving Price Chopper, then hit the road.

It was cloudy as we drove to Six Flags Great Escape in Lake George, NY, but by the time we were on the Interstate, the sun was starting to peep through big, fat clouds. The clouds were almost gone as we drove around, looking for a parking lot. Lauren had "preferred" parking, but even by quarter of 11, the "preferred" parking was full. We ended up in an ordinary parking lot that wasn't too far from the pedestrian bridge leading to the main gate.

(We were parked in the Lot 4, the Starburst lot. The parking lots were all named after candies. I also saw Skittles, Snickers, and M&Ms.)

Much had changed in Great Escape since July 2007, the last time we were there. Several new rides had been added and a couple removed, the big Arcade rotunda was closed, and a new area for the littlest guests, Wiggles World, had opened near the Fest Area. To be honest, few of these newcomers interested us. The big new ride in Great Escape is the Sasquatch, which lifts you at least 60 feet in the air before dropping you several times. Uh, not for us, sorry. We're not roller coaster/drop rides types of girls. Lauren gets motion sickness pretty bad, too.

Lauren's favorite ride at Great Escape is the Raging Rapids. It was the only ride we rode twice. The Raging Rapids is your basic rapids ride. You climb in, you click your belt over you and anyone sitting next to you, and you hang on as the ride bangs across foaming waters. They've added more sprays and fountains and one last shower spray before you go back to the turning dock at the entrance/exit. Helped that we rode with fun groups. Two college-age boys joined us on our late morning ride. A trio of late-teen girls got wet with us in the afternoon. They were all hilarious and surprisingly well-behaved for their ages (no hands out of the car or trying to lean out).

Most of the other rides we hit were smaller, more kids-oriented. We rode the bumper cars (the longest line we hit today). That may have been the worst ride of the day. The college-age boy in charge of the ride kept letting kids that were probably too young to be riding on their own in single cars, and they held up everyone else while they went in circles, trying to figure out how to get moving.

Having lunch at the car was a really smart idea. Lauren parked right next to a grassy area. I sat in the back of her parents' van and had my (gristly) roast beef sandwich, an apple, my Chex Mix, and a blueberry muffin from yesterday. She sat in a camp chair she'd had in her car while enjoying her ham and cheese, chips, and Vitamin Water. We had a relaxing, inexpensive meal with a great view of the surrounding mountains and the Great Escape Lodge and Indoor Water Park and no need for standing in line for food that wasn't all that great anyway.

(We did end up buying drinks in the park later in the afternoon, but we never bought food.)

Our other excursions were more relaxing. We took in three rides meant strictly for observation in the late morning and right after lunch in the mid-afternoon. We admired the park by air on the "Magic Carpet Ride" sky ride. (Daffy Duck waved to me at the Looney Tunes meet and greet under us!) The Swan Boats took us around the Storybook and Looney Tunes areas by water, and the Great Escape Railroad took a similar route by land.

Thunder Alley was noisier and a bit more exciting. It's Great Escape's version of Disney's Tomorrowland Raceway in a smaller, 50s-themed form. I got some pictures of Lauren driving our little pale-blue coupe - my favorite was the one with her against the backdrop of the huge Technicolor tulips.

One "ride" wasn't even a real ride in the traditional sense. The Looney Tunes National Park kids section has a "Rabbit Season Walk Through" that's apparently Great Escape's adaptation of an older jungle-themed walk-through attraction that had been in the park since it was known as Storybook USA in the 50s. The walk-through is mostly resin Looney Tunes figures interspersed amid trees and greenery. You walk across wobbly "rope bridges." The last one's so wobbly, I was still wobbling when we finally left the ride!

We were both getting pretty tired by around 4PM, so we decided to hit the games and win us some stuffed animals. The games at the Fest Area were a bit too busy, so we hiked past cute little fairy tale character houses and the western "Ghost Town" (both holdovers from the 50s Storyland USA) to the Ghost Town Games. Lauren hit the jackpot at a ball toss game. They had a buy one game, get a second free sale, so Lauren got two baskets of balls for $10. She won two big tigers in sunglasses (one orange, one bright neon yellow), two neon fish with teeth, and a pig in a shirt that says "Sweet and Sour." I didn't have nearly the luck she did. I played the ball toss, the ring toss, and the skee ball, and all I won was a big green fish.

We briefly stopped in the small gift shops around the International Village. Lauren found three more big stuffed animals, Marvin the Martian, his green dog friend K-9, and Gossamer, the red monster in the sneakers. I just bought two much smaller versions of Foghorn Leghorn and Pepe Le Pew.

We were dead tired and hauling a bag of huge stuffed animals. Time to find somewhere to eat. Unlike previous years, when we ate at an expensive Uno about five minutes from Great Escape, we wanted to eat somewhere small, cheap, and well away from the Lake George area.

We found a nice truck stop about a half-hour from Lake George, just off the I-87 ramps in Wilton, NY. Scotty's Restaurant was really a diner with a fancy name. It was a great place. It was big, clean, the waitresses were really nice, and the place is open 24/7. My pancakes were huge, and the sliced tomatoes and green lettuce I had was fresh and probably local. Lauren said her fried clam strips were really good, and the French fries were home-made and fried.

We went straight home after that, driving past Albany and Troy and into Massachusetts as the sun went down, looking like purple-peach fire in the summer evening sky. I jumped in a much-needed shower as soon as we'd shown our purchases and the menu for Scotty's to Lauren's folks.

We're now sitting in her room, watching Good Eats episodes and chatting with each other, on and offline. Tomorrow, we're going to relax in the morning, then pick up a co-worker of Lauren and head to Connecticut for the Jeff Dunham show at Mohegan Sun.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Swimming to Pittsfield

It was merely cloudy when we started out around 10AM for the Berkshire Mall and the Berkshire Farm Market. Lauren says the farm market is held every Wednesday and Saturday mornings in the summer. She didn't get anything. (She'd wanted snap peas, which she'd loved for a snack a few months ago, but their season would appear to be over.) I bought apples for $.99 a pound and carrots (which I haven't seen at the Collingswood Farm Market in New Jersey in weeks).

We browsed in the mall after that. It was busy, with groups of children from a local day camp milling around, but they behaved themselves. (Lauren says they're better-behaved than the usual teens she sees around the Mall.) We both made good use of the 10%-off coupons for JC Penney we received in our respective mails. She got a pair of dress pants for work. (Lauren works at a local bank, the Pittsfield Co-Op.) I bought two pairs of shorts that were already on a 70% off clearance. With the 10% off coupon, they came to $17. Sweet.

Hit several stores after that, including Target and Sears, but the only one either of us bought anything from was a little toy/gift shop called the Earth Store. They sold WebKinz; had a very nice selection, too. I've searched all over the Philadelphia area for a Tawny Pup, but this store was the first place I've been able to find one. Between the cool picnic table pet item and the fact that they're just darn cute, I imagine they're pretty scarce.

It was sprinkling when we got out of the mall. We timed it just right. By the time we were ordering sandwiches in Lauren's favorite restaurant in downtown Pittsfield, the Highland, it was cats-and-dogs pouring. Lauren's Hot Veal Parmesan Sandwich came on two thick slices of sourdough bread. My Grilled Chicken Breast Sandwich was so big, I just ate it and the veggies that came on it off the fat bun.

The rain had stopped by the time we were finished with lunch. Lauren wanted to check out a kitchen supply store, Different Drummers, in Lennox. Alas, our luck ran out here. The rain started coming down in sheets as we drove to Different Drummers. We sat in the car for at least ten minutes before deciding it wasn't going to let up, then dashed for the store.

The store sold beautiful kitchen items - enameled bowls, seasoned cast-iron cookware, fancy appliances like bamboo steamers and coffee percolators, and new cookbooks. I was hoping the weather would let up while we were inside, but it just got worse. Even as Lauren bought a small spout that could be attached to the top of a soda can to let you drink it like a bottle, the rain was coming down in torrents, turning the highway we'd taken to Lennox into a small river.

Lauren had enough sense to pull into the parking lot of a small hotel and wait there for the flood waters to recede. The puddles on the highway were so bad, cops had to block them off and turn a long line of early rush-hour travelers away. It was over at least 20 minutes to a half-hour or longer before we could get around both the cops and the traffic. (We still had to drive around the flood in the parking lot of a local restaurant.)

We were going to do more browsing in Lennox and Pittsfield, but after all that mess, we both finally decided we didn't want to chance the weather and just went back to Lauren's house. Lauren's parents had spent the morning staining the treatments for their new windows and had barely noticed the rain.

Lauren said her parents had a bowl of blueberries that had been around for a while, and we could make blueberry muffins to eat with our home-made pizza dinner. We had a good time. Lauren mixed the dry ingredients and added the blueberries. (She made sure to make two plain muffins for her father.) I mixed the wet ingredients and topped them with cinnamon sugar, like my mom's blueberry muffins that she used to make us in the summer.

Lauren checked the weather for Lake George tomorrow, and it looks like smooth sailing for our trip to Six Flags Great Escape. As for tonight, the sun did come out briefly, but we've both decided we didn't want to encounter the possibility of more floods and are just staying home.

Oh, and meet Marley, my Tawny Pup! Goofy and mischevious, Marley is named for another famous mischief-making dog, whom Lauren said he resembled. Marley moved into the Sky Room, the former home of Chicka the Chickadee before she moved in with Grayson the Robin when the Treetop Room furniture came in. Marley's in charge of the Mount GrayKinz Picnic Grounds, which made use of some of those cool new outdoor trees and items.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Last Train to Albany

I was too excited to sleep until even 7:30 today. I still had to pack small odds and ends that I needed in the morning (like my cell phone and toothbrush), take out the trash, and put the bills in the mailbox. Dad and I were finally off to 30th Street Station around quarter of 10. It was a beautiful, sunny day, hot but not as much as yesterday, and not humid at all. There was no traffic going into the city, and I got there on time.

Unlike last year, I had no problems anywhere. 30th Street Station in Philadelphia is a gorgeous old barn of a building, looking more like an elegant hotel with wood seats and a departure sign than a transportation terminal. I felt so out-of-place in sneakers and Bermuda shorts! Thanks to the wide-open main lobby, it was easy to figure out where I was going, too.

It would seem the Mid-Atlantic states were the only places on the east coast to have decent weather today. Almost everywhere else, from Vermont to Miami, posted delays as long as 2 1/2 hours.

Penn Station wasn't nearly as impressive. It was mostly an underground metal-and-neon maze, like Port Authority. Unlike Port Authority, there was a huge departure sign that told you what track every train was leaving from. The customer service people were very helpful, too. The Albany train had changed times; I only had to ask one person if I was going to the right train, and they knew right away. The only problem I had at Penn Station was the line for the bathroom! (That's what I get for needing to use the restroom during lunch hour.)

Both train rides were smooth sailing all the way. Though the coach cars generally looked like the buses, with two seats on each side, the seats were wider and in better shape, there was more legroom, each seat had a pocket with a safety brochure and an Amtrak magazine in the back and a tray, and none of them appeared to have been written on with marker on recently. The scenery going to New York consisted of mostly suburbs and graffiti, but the view going to Albany was gorgeous. I saw lots of shining lakes, sparkling rivers, and gorgeous mansions, old and new.

The train was actually early arriving at the Albany station. Thankfully, I'd called Lauren earlier to warn her and she was there when I arrived. Her first choice restaurant was closed, so we ended up having dinner at a chain eatery called Cracker Barrel. I'd only recently heard of this chain. They have a country theme, with country music playing in the background, and old-time tin signs, cowboy hats, and guitars hanging on the walls. I had lemon-grilled trout, turnip greens, and roasted red potatoes. She had a pineapple-pecan salad that was HUGE. It was all very tasty. We browsed in the adjoining store after dinner, but neither of us bought anything.

We drove to Lauren's house after dinner, put my stuff in her room, greeted her parents, and went back out again. It was too nice a day to hang around in her room, so we drove over to FYE and Micheal's and browsed. (I bought the third season of Wonder Woman on sale for $9 at FYE; she didn't get anything.)

So yes, I'm now in Lauren's room, typing this on the Compaq laptop Lauren's giving me. (She just bought a Mac laptop a few months ago that she likes much better.) Lauren's looking up addresses to add to her GPS. Tomorrow, we're going to go to a farm market in the parking lot of her local mall, then wander around downtown Pittsfield.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Swimmin' USA

I awoke to the hottest day of the year yet. It was 95 degrees here in South Jersey, and not really so much humid as it was just plain killer hot. Good thing I'd planned to mostly spend today inside or in the pool anyway. (I'm just glad they never called me in to work. It was definitely not a bike-riding day.)

Brought the laundry over to Dad's after breakfast. There was a lot of laundry to do today. I wanted to get as much clean as I could so I could pack this afternoon. I had plenty of time to play lots of Super Smash Brothers Brawl with Jessa (our Samus/Ness combo kicked rear) late this morning.

After tossing the laundry back in the dryer for a second go-around (it was still damp after the first), I hit the pool. Though the water was a mere 82 degrees, it still felt wonderful on such a hot day. I mostly just swam back and forth, enjoying the relief from the sizzling weather and the fact that I didn't have anywhere else I had to run to today.

I was reluctant to climb out, but I really did need to get home to put my clothes away and start packing. When I came back to the pool with my clean (and dry) laundry, my cousins Amber and Brian, their daughter Ella, and another kid, Keisha, were in the pool. It would seem they're going on vacation tomorrow, too. Amber said they're visiting relatives in Wisconsin, the only place Brian ever seems to want to visit.

(I also talked to Dad. We'll be heading for the 30th Street Station in Philadelphia at quarter of 10 tomorrow. The train leaves at 10:55.)

Not surprisingly, I spent the rest of the afternoon packing and watching cartoons and National Lampoon's Vacation, avoiding the heat. Just about everything's packed that can be packed now. (I can't really pack my cell phone or contact lens case until tomorrow, for instance.)

Oh, Lauren's not only letting me use one of her laptops again this year, she's giving me one. She bought herself a Mac laptop back in the spring and said I could have one of her older models. I'll still be able to update this blog and my Facebook page while I'm on vacation.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Between the Storms

It was pouring when I first got up this morning. The rain was gone by the time I was making Blueberry Buttermilk Corn Pancakes, but it was still heavy, humid, and damp. I called Mom while watching the 1965 Beatles movie Help!. Mom's fine. She was alone this morning. Dad and Keefe had gone to work on the fishing boat. She's a little annoyed with Dad for not helping more with household chores, but he works a very labor-intensive job and probably just wants to relax when he gets home.

I spent the rest of the morning editing this month's Monkees Role Play story, which we finished last night. I don't know when this one is going to show up, since I'm not sure if I'll be able to finish the editing or not before I go on vacation Tuesday. We'll see.

It was cloudy but not raining when I left for work. My last day of work before vacation was busy and, thankfully, flew by. Those dark clouds were beginning to gather as I headed out of the Acme and rode home. They were nice enough to wait until twenty minutes after I got in to start thundering and showering, though.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

A Beautiful Day In the Neighborhood

Got up early for my last Farm Market/bank run before vacation and to go to the first day of the Collingswood Craft Show. The farm market was back in it's regular place on the last two blocks of the parking lot behind Haddon Avenue, and a good thing, too, because it was packed. Naturally, since I'm going away in four days, I didn't buy much. I got blueberries, garlic (which I meant to buy last week), mushrooms, a tomato, and bananas.

The Craft Show is on several blocks of Haddon Avenue between Genesis Counseling and the PNC and Bank of America. There's booths for food and local services (like a breast cancer walk-a-thon and the PATCO), but it's mostly crafts - painting, photography, puppet-makers, handbag-makers, jewelry-makers, lawn-ornament makers, potters, toy makers, wood carvers. I've been seeing craft shows since I was little in Cape May and later in Wildwood. I never have the money to buy anything from them (one of those handbags cost $50!), but it's still fun to look around.

I rode around a little, but there was only one yard sale way down on Manor Avenue and it wasn't interesting. I spent most of the late morning and early afternoon at home, watching vacation-related Disney cartoons.

Work was busy, but there was plenty of help and my relief was actually early for a change. Other than a few obnoxious customers, there were no major problems.

Friday, August 07, 2009

The Warmth of the Sun

Awoke to a gorgeous 85 degree day...and a stuffy nose. My allergies were off and on all day. Other than that, today actually went very well. It was so nice, I left for work over an hour early after spending most of the morning inside. I rode over to The Tree House Cafe and treated myself to a Blueberry Mocha Freeze, then rode my bike down to Haddon Lake Park and across Mt. Ephram to the Black Horse Pike. I made a brief stop at FYE to browse before going to work.

Work was steady, much better than it has been this week. The nice weather must have put everyone in good moods. There were no major problems, and I was in and out quickly.

And yes, today's schedule and double vacation paycheck(s) confirm that I am going on vacation next week. I'm working 2:15 to 6:15 on Sunday, which is no big deal, and am off Monday and on vacation as of Tuesday.

Did a little bit of grocery shopping. Bought some things on clearance (Quaker Oat Bran, Cream of Rice, and Caribou Coffee Granola Bars) and others on sale (Yoplait Light Yogurt, Crest Pro-Health Toothpaste,) along with a quart of milk for the weekend.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

A Gentle Summer Rain

It was raining and downright cold this morning when I had Cheerios and blueberries for breakfast. I grabbed a sweater and turned off the air-conditioning. By the time I headed to work around quarter after 10, the rain had slowed to the point where I wasn't wet at all when I made it to work.

Work was annoying. There were a lot of obnoxious or just plain cranky customers today, including that woman who always gives everyone a hard time about bagging and how her order comes out. Thank goodness the weather wasn't exactly the type that encourages people to become delinquent. There were no call-outs and, other than grouchy customers, no major problems. In fact, it went very quickly for a middle-of-the-week morning. There were probably still a lot of beginning of the month people.

Though my relief claimed it had rained earlier, when I finished at 3:30, I walked into a cool, cloudy day. Even the clouds were starting to break up as I rode down the still-unpaved Kendall Boulevard over to West Clinton. My original plan was to get some water ice as a treat after my fairly frustrating morning, but Leo's Yum Yums was closed for some reason. (Maybe the weather?) I went next-door to Doria's Deli for a Diet Wild Cherry Pepsi instead and chatted about my vacation with Mrs. Doria.

The sun finally came out this evening as I did this month's budget and made leftover steak and vegetables and a Peach-Banana Crisp for dinner. I hope it stays out. Collingswood is having a big Craft Show this weekend, and it would be nice if it was dry when I went to see it.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Balance On a Summer Day

Started today with yoga class. Eric, formerly one of Yogawood's best students and it's handyman, has taken over Jill's Wednesday class while she's on maternity leave. For once, I did pretty well. We mostly ran through stretches, Warrior variations, and sitting flexibility poses (yes Dad, the ones that make you look like a pretzel), nothing I can't handle. Eric's technically a good teacher, though his voice is a bit nasal and lacks the soothing quality of Jill's.

I ran quickly to the Collingswood Variety Store after class. They already had their Halloween and Christmas items out, but no new WebKinz.

It was still windy and somewhat cooler than yesterday...but also more humid. If another storm's on it's way, it didn't happen today. It was sunny to partly cloudy all day.

I stopped at CVS on the way home. Finally found inexpensive contact lens cases; also bought water, which I needed riding a bike on a hot day. Went straight home after that for lunch and to finish off the movie I'd watched this morning, Captain Ron.

I rode over to the Audubon Crossings Mall (the one behind the Acme) when I finished lunch. I needed new bras (some of mine were really stretched, and the wire is poking out of one), and Fashion Bug has nicer ones than Wal-Mart. They were having a 60% off their summer clothes sale...and a 15% off all items in the store sale. I ended up with two bras (another sale, 2 for 30), an apple-green t-shirt, and a new summer purse. All together, it cost exactly $40.

I took the long way home down Market Street in Audubon, over the bridge, and past the train tracks and the library in Oaklyn. I didn't want to mess with the road construction on Kendall again. (Not that they were doing anything, anyway. It's too hot to work on roads.)

Didn't really do anything for the rest of the evening. I watched more movies What's Up Doc? with Ryan O'Neal and Barbara Streisand and Big Business with Bette Midler and Lilly Tomlin), and went for a short swim in Dad and Uncle Ken's pool late in the afternoon. Had a nice chat about my family and my vacation with their neighbor Sandy, who was sunning by the pool when I was there.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

It's So Hot, It's Cool

It was a surprisingly nice day today. Very hot, into the 90s, but with a nice wind and no humidity. I did make my library run this morning. I organized the children's DVDs and shelved the adult ones. Also returned How to Murder a Millionaire and X-Men: The Legacy Virus, both of which I did get to finish. I didn't take anything out; I doubt I'll have the time to read much of anything before vacation.

Made quick stops at Rite Aid (their contact lens case was $6.99 - I've seen them cheaper elsewhere) and at WaWa (for a Cherry-Vanilla Coke Zero from their soda fountain) before heading home. Spent the rest of the afternoon adding more music to my MP3 Player and sweeping the porch. (This should do it for the MP3 Player. I left a lot of music on there from last year, so I won't need to spend quite as much time adding albums to it now.)

Work was steady-to-dead, no major problems beyond some obnoxious beginning-of-the-month customers and a lack of help. A frazzled manager told me when I came in that five people called out today, which explains why another manager actually tried to call me in this morning around 11. (No one told her about tonight, apparently.)

Monday, August 03, 2009

Hot Summer Nights

I finally awakened to a gorgeous, 88-degree day, sunny with no humidity, just about what it should be in early August in New Jersey. Today was also my laundry day. It's a good thing I did it on one of my days off. Dolores was already running her laundry when I came over; apparently, there was a snafu with Uncle Ken. I finished How to Murder a Millionaire while waiting for Dolores' laundry to come out of the dryer, then went for a walk with Dolores and her year-old granddaughter May. We went over to the Oaklyn Library to deliver mail in the mailbox in front of the building.

On our way home, as we passed a church, Dolores suggested my looking into church groups, like crafts or singles groups. I didn't have the heart to tell her I'm not too sure about that. First of all, most of the people I've ever seen go to church have been elderly folks or mothers dragging their children for a religious education. Most of the singles would probably be too old for me...and if they live in this area, why haven't I seen them? Don't they go to the library or grocery shopping?

When we got home, I played with May for a while in Uncle Ken's den. After I finally shoved the laundry in the dryer, I hit the pool. It was chilly, about 80 degrees, but it still felt nice in the hot day. I was joined a bit later by Blake, Mercedes, and Brian and Amber with their little girl Ella. Two-year-old Ella is a real daredevil. She'll jump in the deep end all by herself (with someone there to catch her, of course)! She swims incredibly well for her age, too.

I got out, changed, grabbed my laundry, and headed home. I spent the rest of the afternoon doing the dusting. I got a call about half-way through. Yes, it was the Acme. Could I come in from 5 to 9 on Tuesday or 6 to 10 on Wednesday? I finally opted for Tuesday. I could still get a library run in, and 10PM is just too late for me.

After I finished the dusting, I went back to Dad and Uncle Ken's. Dad invited me over tonight for a small barbecue Rose was having for a friend of hers. The food was just about ready when I arrived. One of Rose's guy buddies from work, Jimmy, was doing the barbecuing. He made two amazingly tender pork chops for Jodie and Dad. The rest of us had nicely crisped hot dogs and cheeseburgers. I listened to Jodie, Dad, TJ, Rose, Craig, Jessa, and the birthday girl of honor, Kimmy chat about various hot-button topics as we ate. (Dolores and Uncle Ken did not join us. I don't know exactly what happened, but Dolores got into some kind of a snit over there not being enough pork chops for everybody and took off.)

Dessert was more pleasant. Craig and Rose revealed a gorgeous cake covered with white chocolate frosting and huge shavings of white chocolate from everybody's favorite local dessert shop, Desserts By Design. (Yes, the same place that made my divine chocolate birthday cake.) Kimmy adored it, and it vanished quickly. Even Jodie had some, despite claiming she doesn't like sweets.

And speaking of sweets, I seem to have picked up some more fans of my pudding pies. I finally found out what happened to the Peaches and Cream Pie I made for Dad's birthday last week. I didn't see it in the fridge on Saturday. Rose and her buddies apparently demolished most of it and had nothing but high praise and requests to be around the next time I make pie. ;)

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Rainy Days of Summer

I guess I really was tired after yesterday. I slept longer than I thought I would. I had enough time this morning to make Blueberry Buttermilk Pancakes for breakfast, get my lunch together, and run for work. (Got to listen to the first half-hour or so of the Beatles WOGL Sunday morning show, too. "Beatles On Film" was the theme today.)

It had been cloudy and humid all morning. I heard a rumble of thunder as I headed down the Black Horse Pike and into the Acme, but it didn't rain. At least, not until 40 minutes later, when all of a sudden, we had a repeat of Friday's thunderstorm and torrential the midst of huge Sunday crowds. The lights flickered, and we even lost the computers briefly. (I was just happy there was no mess in the aisles again like on Friday evening; only the puddles in the storage area where the roof leaks returned.)

Other than the weather, work was steady-to-dead, with no major problems beyond some obnoxious beginning-of-the-month customers and a late relief. Traffic had slowed enough by then for me to just shut down instead of waiting all day for the teenage boy to appear. By the time I bought a light umbrella to take on vacation for me (my orange-and-brown umbrella has a metal tip and is too big to haul on long trips) and a box of Betty Crocker Spice Cake Mix for $1.00, the sun was coming out.

The sun remained out when I made a quick trip over to CVS to pick up the things I forgot at work - batteries intended for energy-eating digital devices and desperately-needed ant baits. I've been seeing ants in the bathroom and really badly in the kitchen again. I suspect the weather may have chased them in here; it wasn't bad for a while.

After CVS, I came home, set up the ant bait, and listened to records while making a simple dinner of pan-fried tilapia, a salad with New Jersey romaine lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, and mushrooms, a light English muffin with blueberry butter, and applesauce.

I called Mom this afternoon as well. She was fine. Dad had just gotten up from a nap; Keefe was still taking his. She's quitting the cashier job at Micheal's. She hates it, and unlike the Acme, it has no union to back up her complaints. Like me, she really doesn't like standing behind a register doing nothing.

Oh, and my little nephew's birthday apparently went well. Mom said his birthday was very Transformer-themed, and he loved the one I gave him.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Pool Party Doll

I've had a very long day and am dead tired, so I'm going to keep this brief. Got up very early this morning, early enough to do the bank and the farm market with plenty of time before leaving for Dad's. The bank was empty; the farm market was wall-to-wall people. The arrival of gorgeous, non-humid, sunny, 85-degree weather must have brought people out of the woodwork. Carrots were gone, but I bought a cucumber, tomatoes, bananas, peaches, blueberries, lettuce, blackberries, and cherry tomatoes. There were two yard sales in Oaklyn; nothing interesting at either.

I got home around 10AM and spent most of the rest of the morning reading, listening to the American Graffiti soundtrack, and taking advantage of the somewhat cooler day to bake a quick Peach Spice Snack Cake (Betty Crocker Spice Cake Mix, peach that was getting soft, buttermilk, applesauce, canola oil, egg whites).

Headed for Dad's around 12:30, armed with my bathing suit and a pudding pie. We left for Karen and Jim's at about 2, Dad, Jodie, Jodie's law-school son TJ, and me. (Jessa had work.) The party was for my little cousin CJ, who is 3 years old today. It was a pool party. I had some vegetable and fruit crudites, then changed into my bathing suit and joined most of the kids and their parents in the pool. The water was sooooooo warm! It was almost 90 degrees, practically bath water. It felt so good, it was almost two hours before I dragged myself out.

I had a grilled cheeseburger for lunch, then briefly went back in the pool before Karen announced that we were going to have cake and open presents. CJ had a Go Diego Go! themed cake from their local Wegmans that was really cute....but actually rather small for a fairly big party. I'm glad I brought the Black Forest Pudding Pie I made the other night. Cake and pie were big hits; my other grown cousin Samantha's son Ethan must have had at least three slices and many snitches of the pie.

We opened presents with CJ next. He received a Buzz Lightyear-themed remote control car that operates via a laser from Uncle Ken and Dolores, clothes and kid's golf supplies from Dad and Jodie, a Hot Wheels car and a little whale bath/pool toy from me, board games from Karen and Jim's relatives, and a Stormtrooper-shaped Star Wars interactive computer game from his parents and older sister.

The kids went back in the pool after we ate; some of the moms went with them. I'd changed by then. Jodie, Dad, Jim, David (Sam's husband), and TJ discussed various political debates. I'm not into politics and I'm not much of a debater. I watched the kids and moms play a game they called "Sharks and Minnows" in the pool for a while. The person who was it (the "shark") would turn around and call out a chant while the "minnows" (everyone else) would try to sneak up from behind. The "shark" (or sharks) would try to tag the minnows. The kids were so funny playing that game.

As the sun set and the political debate continued, I kept one ear on the adults and one on the kids (who had mostly abandoned the pool for a Slip and Slide) while watching a beautiful sunset behind the hills surrounding Karen and Jim's house. The sun was almost gone when everyone finally declared it was getting late. Time for the little kids to get in bed and all other guests to head home.

We had trouble avoiding traffic heading for the Jersey Shore going to Karen and Jim's, though thankfully we were only on Route 55 for about ten minutes and it wasn't as bad as it could have been. There was no traffic at all going home. I even invited TJ, Jodie, and Dad to look at my apartment. TJ had never seen it before.

This was a fun end to a week that went surprisingly well; even Lauren going away this weekend worked out fine. (We didn't pull into Oaklyn until well after 9PM, and I needed a shower before getting online.) I just hope I can keep this "time management" stuff going - I have a lot to do next week, too.