Sunday, January 31, 2010

No Business Like Snow Business

We got lucky. The northern Camden County area only received about six inches of snow all together. A lot of that was already melting by the time I was up and about, thanks to the sunny skies and mid-30s temperatures. I put on the Brunch With the Beatles show (the US-only album "Hey Jude: The Beatles Again" was the theme today) and made French Toast with the last of the whole wheat baguette and half a grapefruit for breakfast.

I had time for a nice, long call with Mom after I ate. Cape May County got a LOT more snow than we did, at least 9 to 10 inches in some places. Dad was out shoveling snow when we were on the phone. Keefe, Anny, and Skylar had come up here to visit Rose and deliver baby things that Anny no longer needed. Mom was working on the computer. We talked about crocheting, and she recommended some yarn sites with good crochet patterns.

Called Rose after I finally finished with Mom. I was hoping I could join them at the Camden Aquarium today. Alas, I worked too early. I told her to tell everyone I said "hi." Sigh. Someday, I'll have a real job where I get to have weekends off and actually do fun things with people.

The pair of pants I bought from Fashion Bug for work proved to be as much of a pain in the rear as the other pair. They were still way too tight, and the flares on the cuffs were ridiculous. Didn't they retire bell bottoms after about 1971 or so? They were dangerous, too. I got my big toe caught in one of the cuffs and pulled it so hard, it's still sore. I think I may have strained it or sprained it.

And of course, the chain on my bike came off about half-way to work. I was very close to being late. This wasn't a good thing at all. It was even busier today than yesterday, with long lines snaking around the store. Thankfully, once again, there were no problems (other than standing on a sore toe), and my relief was on time. One of the teenage boy stock clerks was even nice enough to help me get the chain back on my bike so I wouldn't have to walk on my darn toe going home. My steps were a little icy when I finally got in, but not too bad.

My toe is now elevated on a pillow and a crate. I had it on ice a while ago, so it's a bit numb. I was able to walk on it, but it is still pretty sore.

Oh, and Lauren and I are starting our next Monkees role-play story, a quiet vacation tale. Look for it by Valentine's Day!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Winter Weather Surprise

It was merely cloudy when I rode to work at 9:30, but you'd never know it from how busy the Acme was. We were mobbed all day long, with half-way-across-the-store lines. Good thing everyone mostly behaved, and there were no real problems other than the lack of help. In fact, some of the employees were holding an "ugly sweater" contest. The winner was the customer service manager, who wore a black sweater with a pattern of what I believe were supposed to be koalas, though they may also have been fat goats. The second and third prize winners, a seafood worker and a cashier respectively. sported multi-colored Cliff Huxtable 80s sweaters. I forget what they won, other than their picture on the front bulletin board. The store even made a little party out of it and served popcorn, pretzels, and Entermann's donuts in the back room.

The crowds had begun to thin somewhat by the time my relief arrived at 3:30. I didn't realize why until I looked out the windows leading to the main entrance...and saw snow coming down. Hard. That was a shock. I'd heard that we really weren't supposed to get anything at all, and if we did, it would be a dusting. Someone needs to wipe the weather map radar lens.

I did get in little bit of shopping that I wasn't able to do yesterday, including peanut butter and I Can't Believe It's Not Butter baking spread, which were on a $2 for 2 with coupon in ad sale.

I also found the 5th season of the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles TV show in the cheap DVD bin. My memories of the show are more vague the further they got into the 90s, so it'll be nice to see these again. (And Lionsgate wins the award for creative packaging. The 5th season looks like a mini-pizza box, with the discs as the pies. Even the menus on the discs continue the theme - they look like typical pizza joint menus.)

I really got lucky. It must not have been snowing for very long when I looked out the window. The ground just barely had a dusting of snow when I finally headed home. I was able to ride my bike normally, except for on Goff Avenue. I wasn't taking the chance of another spill on the ice, especially when I couldn't see the road, so I walked up and down the hill there.

The snow was falling more thickly as I arrived home, and the ground was getting more and more covered. Not surprisingly, I spent my evening at home, doing pilates, watching Turtles episodes, and eating leftover Chinese food for dinner.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Miss Redmer Goes Shopping

It turned out to be a good thing I'd planned on that excursion to Bed, Bath, and Beyond with Rose today. The high in South Jersey was 20, too cold to be running anywhere on bikes. She also had to go to Wegman's (a fancy, high-end grocery store in Cherry Hill) and to her vet's, so we went to the Bed, Bath that was there instead of the one in Deptford after I quickly picked up my paycheck from work.

Bed, Bath, and Beyond was our first stop after the vet's. I did get a new 1-quart saucepan. I made sure it was a good non-stick brand this time, so there would be no repeats of the incident with the caked-on grits that lead to breaking the handle on my old one. Rose bought a new rug for her entryway so she, her boyfriend Craig, and their dogs don't track mud into their apartment.

We were in and out of Best Buy next. Rose had mentioned that three Disney animated movies, Sleeping Beauty, The Jungle Book, 101 Dalmatians, and the direct-to-video sequels for the latter two, are going out of print tomorrow. She wanted to get Jungle Book for her new baby before it goes "back in the vaults," but Best Buy didn't have it. I already have it myself; maybe I'll check FYE for her next time I'm there.

It took a while for us to get around in the shopping center. The shopping area where these stores are is one of those fancy new "lifestyle center" things that has lots of stores and condos in one place. While I can certainly understand wanting to live behind a Best Buy, the whole things seems A) a noisy place to live, and B) in the middle of nowhere. Yeah, while it's nice to have a grocery store and 800 restaurants literally at your front door...what about other services, like fire stations and libraries and police stations and city halls? It feels...cold. Not at all like a real community. Even the Lumberyard is more integrated into Collingswood.

(In fact, that's what I don't like about Cherry Hill. Most of it is on major highways. While I appreciate the historic significance of the Cherry Hill Mall, it's not only far from my favorite mall, but there doesn't seem to be much else in Cherry Hill besides malls and highways. It's not a pedestrian-oriented area.)

Wegman's is the local version of Lauren's Price Chopper in New England, the South Jersey area's premiere huge, fancy, has-everything grocery store. I wasn't surprised it was very busy today. Like Price Chopper, Wegman's has a huge deli-cafe area, a giant seasonal section, and a huge section dedicated to organic foods. Truth be told, while some of their prices were good and they carried some items that the Acme doesn't (like the Kashi Pumpkin Pie and Raspberry Chocolate granola bars - yum!), other prices (especially for meat) weren't that impressive. And they didn't have the Smart Balance 50/50 Stick Butter I like, a bit of a surprise since they seemed to have every other Smart Balance butter/spread product.

I was even less impressed with the cashier. The elderly woman took forever bagging and didn't load the bags the way Rose wanted them. (I bought cloth bags and bagged my own order.) Not to mention, I had to tell her some of the fruit codes, and she still got the codes for my apples wrong.

We went out to lunch at one of those 800 chain restaurants in the shopping center area after finally squeezing out of the busy Wegman's. Rose had a hankering for Chinese, so we ended up at Pei Wei's Chinese Cafe, a small, swanky chain Chinese eatery. It was busy, but the line moved fast and we ate faster. I had my favorite spring rolls and my go-to Oriental dish, Teriyaki (in this case, a shrimp Teriyaki brown rice bowl). Rose had a spicy chicken-broccoli dish with brown rice and lettuce wraps.

Rose had to go home and walk her puppies, so she drove me back to my place after lunch. I quickly put my groceries away, then went for a short walk to the bank to deposit what was left of my paycheck after today's shopping. It was windy and the cold was bracing, but the walk felt nice after stuffing myself at Pei Wei.

Spent the rest of the afternoon at the apartment, doing exactly what I did yesterday - crocheting, baking, and watching movies (after briefly looking up the weather online...and it doesn't look like we'll be getting any of that snow coming up from the south). I finished Lawrence of Arabia and watched Mr. Deeds Goes to Town and Yolanda and the Thief while my Whole Wheat-Oat-Molasses Bread was rising and baking.

Mr. Deeds is the charming tale of a simple but sensible man who inherits a fortune from his playboy uncle. He comes to New York to talk to his uncle's lawyers, but his plain-talking common sense makes him a target for every con-artist and scammer in town. The lawyers were scamming his uncle and would like to go on doing so. A newspaper picks up the story, too, sending its best female reporter out to find out about the crazy doings of this simple man. The reporter at first tries to make him sound foolish...until she not only falls hard for him, but begins to understand why he kicks an opera company out of his home and feeds donuts to street horses. When he decides to give his money to the homeless Depression masses, the lawyers try to have him declared insane. But who's really insane here, the man who is trying to do something good...or the people who can't understand that being different makes us special, not crazy?

This is a definitely a Frank Capra film of the 30s, from its sensible everyman hero to the theme of a common man who wants to help those in need, but is rebuffed by supposedly intelligent people who turn out to be just snobby. It also reminds me a great deal of Miracle On 34th Street, with it's discussions of the things that make us individuals vs. other people's conceptions of normal.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Counseling Balance

Began a sunny, windy day with this week's yoga class. There were 10 people in the class this week, including the teacher Karin. Yogawood did a special workshop in their branch at Riverton a few days ago to earn money for Haiti earthquake relief. Apparently, they did very well, making almost $850, half of it coming from a teacher who donated his month's salary. Karin wanted to continue the theme of giving and sacrifice with "heart-warmers" and back and leg stretches. Not bad, but I bobbled on some of the tougher leg-stretches. We worked with partners again, too. That was kind of fun; my partner this time around was a dainty-seeming college student who reminded me a lot of my delicate friend Amanda.

My next stop after class was the thrift shop to donate the big bag of stuffed animals. I actually made a pretty cool video find - the rare 1946 MGM musical Yolanda and the Thief, which isn't on DVD yet. It's the odd tale of a con-artist (Fred Astaire) who tries to bilk a naive heiress (Lucile Bremer) out of her wealth by pretending to be her guardian angel. Not great, but definitely unique, and features Bremer and Astaire's genuinely nifty dance number "Coffee Time." I also picked up two cute Valentine's Day cardboard hangings, one a teddy bear holding pink roses, the other depicting a Holly Hobbie-esque child holding a cat against a pink heart background.

The Collingswood Library was comparatively quiet. I shelved non-fiction books for an hour. I did see some cool books, including two of Norman Rockwell paintings. Mom was and is a big fan of Rockwell and bought calenders of his work for years. I remember one that wasn't featured in either book, of a couple squabbling over differing political opinions while their young son and his dog find themselves stuck in the middle. My sisters always found that one hilarious - the couple looked a great deal like our own parents arguing politics over dinner.

Another one we loved did make it into both books. Prom Dress, from 1949, depicts a hopeful teenage girl holding up her new gown to a mirror, probably dreaming of herself dancing in it. None of us could blame her. We all would have loved to go dancing in the ruffly white confection she showed off in the mirror, too.

Stopped for lunch at Texas Wieners after I finished at the Library. Texas Wieners is a branch of a hot-dog stand in South Philly that recently opened in the Lumberyard, the luxury condos in Collingswood a block from WaWa. (And it's an interesting irony that two of the three cheapest lunch options in town - Texas Wieners and Primo Hoagies - are housed in the same buildings as some of the most expensive real estate in town.) I had the same thing I had last time, the "Fish-N-Rob" (fish cake, provolone cheese, and broccoli rabe on a roll) and a cup of hot chocolate. All together, my lunch came to $3.96, which is hard to find even at diners. The brownie I bought across the street at GrooveGround alone cost $2.50.

Counseling went pretty well. I told Scott about my fun Christmas and how I've had a hard time getting things back in gear since then. We discussed my difficulty in job-hunting. One of my biggest problems is talking to people. When I'm on the spot, I freeze up and can't think of what to say. It happens at the Acme all the time when I try to tell customers something, get nervous, and forget or lose track of what I'm saying. I end up stammering and feeling foolish, or not saying anything at all.

He suggested informally "interviewing" the librarians at the three libraries where I volunteer. Ask them how they became interested in library work, where they went to school, things like that. See, the other thing I haven't been good at developing is a network, a chain of people I can talk to and ask for help and advice in my job hunt. Until recently, I never met anyone with the same job interests as me!

I had debated going for a long bike ride after counseling earlier in the day, but by the time I left Genesis, the wind and cold had gotten much worse. It was too windy to really try to do anything else on the bike. I stopped briefly for milk at WaWa and rode home.

Spent the rest of the day doing things around the apartment. I put up the Valentine's Day decorations, including the two cardboard figures, two tinsel garlands, and the piles of paper hearts I have. I baked Banana Chocolate Chip Bread from the Prevention cookbook. Alas, it came out a bit stickier and a bit overcooked, but still edible. While the bread baked, I crocheted and watched Lawrence of Arabia.

A classic Oscar-winning story of the real-life T.E Lawrence, Arabia is a sweeping, epic saga of the man who lead several Arabian tribes to help conquor the Turks during World War I, then tried to unite the squabbling clans. Peter O'Toole gives an amazing performance as Lawrence, especially given this was his on-screen debut. He's back by a fantastic cast, including Omar Sharif and Anthony Quinn as two of the Arabian chieftains, Claude Rains as a British politician, Alec Guiness as the Prince of the Arabian tribes, and Arthur Kennedy as an American photographer who immortalizes Lawrence as a hero. The cinematography almost steals the show from all of them, from the famous jump-cut from the match to the desert to the spectacular train derailment near the beginning of the first half.

And yes, I did finally figure out how to crochet. Good thing I took out two books on crocheting Tuesday; I just used the other one. It took me a while, but I got a foundation chain done that looked so nice, I left it alone and after tying it off, made it into a collar for my WebKinz Black Frisian King. I think I'll start off making simple things like that for me and my various collections - collars and ribbons for the stuffed animals, ribbons, headbands, scarves, shawls, and belts for the American Girls dolls, ribbons and headbands for the Sailor Moon dolls, and headbands for me. (I could use some new headbands - my old ones are really stretched.)

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Not a Fashionata

Spent the morning at work. We were actually pretty busy between noon and about 2:30, enough to call stockers for help, but other than that, it was dead. The only thing I don't like about morning work is getting a lot of obnoxious older people who demand you do this, that, and the other thing, and can never seem to be satisfied. You'll bag one way, and they'll want it another. You keep the bags light...and they just fill them, because there's too many! Other than that, and my relief was called in early, there were no real problems.

I ran to Fashion Bug behind the Acme after work. I can't get through the week with only one pair of work pants. I wasn't crazy about most of the spring fashions there at all. On one hand, I'm glad to see the disappearance of too-big psychedelic prints and huge bell bottoms. This is not 1969. (As I told Mom last week, just because I listen to the Beatles and the Monkees doesn't mean I want to DRESS like them.) Some of the layered tops with normal v-necks were actually cute.

On the other hand, I'd also like to see the disappearance of gypsy blouses, ruffles anywhere but on skirts, waiters, and Carmen Miranda, empire waists, oversized buttons, and gathers on necklines. None of this looks particularly good; at lot of it looks dumb and wastes fabric. Not everyone has no bust and can go around sporting gathers and buttons the size of small dinner plates.

I did finally buy a simple pair of khaki work pants (with a good metal zipper), and a white bra like the tan front-clasp bra I bought in the fall. The white lace bra I picked up last month was itchy, tended to ride up in the front, and never really fit right. I wanted to pick up a white front-clasp bra last month, but they were out of them at the time. I made a very brief stop at FYE after Fashion Bug, but I didn't see anything I wanted, so I just went home.

When I got in, I did something I've been meaning to do for a long time. I finally went through my stuffed animal collection and cleared out some of the many WebKinz I've accumulated. I really don't need to keep 80 stuffed animals. I'm getting rid of about 20, which means I still have a lot, but not as many as before. Anything that I don't love or have doubles for is going to go. I have them all online, anyway. I also cleared out a few cassettes and books, but I'm generally better about thinning out stuff that I don't want than I used to be.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


Started today with laundry. It was pretty quiet at Dad and Uncle Ken's. Dad had to go get a new Mac laptop. He'd accidentally spilled coffee on the laptop he uses every day and wrecked the battery, which he wasn't happy about. He's on that thing constantly. Uncle Ken and Dolores were in and out all morning, running errands.

I finished Crazy Little Thing Called Death, then ran to the Oaklyn Library after the laundry was in the dryer. It was quiet there, too. I mostly just organized the kids' books, but I stopped early to look for books of crochet patterns. I could only find one from the 70s, but it featured a very familiar afghan pattern. Mom made the Color Wheel afghan - squares featuring multi-colored circles on a black background - in the mid-80s, and it was on our living room couch for years. She always claimed she was going to add more squares to it someday, and I did see some additional squares in her work room, but I don't know if she ever did.

There wasn't nearly as much laundry today as there has been in previous weeks, and I got it started a bit earlier than usual. I was home by 12:30. I put the laundry away, had lunch, and went back out again, this time heading to Westmont and the Haddon Township Library.

Haddon Township was a bit busier than the Oaklyn Library had been. I mostly returned adult and kids' DVDs. Once again, I stopped a bit early to be able to take out a few items. I found two books with supposedly easy crocheting instructions, the next Blackbird Sisters novel Murder Melts In Your Mouth, and two more DVDs, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town and the 2008 Incredible Hulk.

Next stopped at JoAnn's to check out their crocheting section. I bought plastic hooks - I really couldn't afford the metal or bamboo ones - and two skeins of yarn that were on sale. I also bought a cute Wilton cookie cutter in the shape of a house that I thought was on sale, but turned out to not be. I still took it, since I thought it was different. Also made a very quick stop at Super Fresh for jam, but they were out of the sale item.

My cookie jar was empty, so I made that Prevention Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe after I got home. After the cookies finished baking, I thought I'd try crocheting...but it didn't go well at ALL. I couldn't understand anything in the directions. I couldn't even make a beginning loop right, and forget the foundation stitch. I couldn't figure out the under-over-twist thing. I'm just not coordinated enough for crafts. Those were supposed to be simple directions. I get all these big, huge, wonderful ideas on how oh, I'll be able to do so many things and make so many things...and it always comes crashing down when the reality reveals I can't do it after all. I'll try again Thursday after counseling.

At least dinner went well - roasted broccoli and cauliflower, romaine salad with Asian dressing, pan-fried cube steak in red wine and Worcestershire sauce, and brown rice with mushrooms.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Raging Storm

All of Camden County awoke to a massive storm this morning. Lashing rain and 50-mile-an-hour winds flooded low-lying areas and downed branches all over the area. My porch was already covered with small and large branches at quarter of 8. It was very, very warm and humid, too, probably in the 60s, too warm and too humid for this time of year.

I was originally going to do the laundry today, but I ended up staying inside and messing around online. I just didn't trust the weather. It remained bad through about noon. At one point, the lights flickered and the internet went down briefly. Twenty minutes later, a small but very thick and heavy branch hit the roof over my head and sounded like an atomic bomb, scaring me half to death!

I got some pilates in, but even after the actual rain stopped around 1, I still didn't trust the wind, the debris, or the rising tide. I called Dad for a ride to work.

Work was, at it turned out, dead for most of the night. It was steady around the usual 4-6 rush hour time, but that was it, and even that could have been worse.

I did a few things in the yard when I got home. I cleared out the larger branches that had fallen (and that I could see in the dark), righted my bike and pulled the sodden bike cover back on it, and chased after my trash cans.

I also remembered I needed to take out the recycling tonight. Miss Ellie was coming home just as I was heading for the curb with the blue recycling canister. I wonder what she was doing out late? She's usually home by now. Maybe she was visiting relatives, or she had late work.
How To Keep Life Simple

I read this article at Yahoo!Finance...and nearly fell over laughing. I've been doing some of these things for years, and I can't believe people are only figuring this out now:

Daily Commute - I ride my bike to work here and walked to work when I lived in Wildwood. Why take a car when you live less than 10 minutes from your job?

No Cable - When I moved out on my own in 2002, I knew I wasn't going to have the money to pay both the cable bills and the Internet bills. Guess which one gives you more options...and has a lot more fun and useful stuff to do?

Fancy Coffee - Yuck! I don't even like coffee, much less the huge ones from Starbucks. Yes, I sometimes treat myself to a large tea from a coffee shop, but not all the time, and certainly not one for $5. Got a coffee habit? Make your own or buy it from a much cheaper convenience store like WaWa.

Privacy - The only reason I live alone is I can't find anyone willing to move in with me, or I would have taken on a roommate years ago. My three closest girlfriends all live with their parents. Two of them are close to their families and very content with that arrangement; the third doesn't have the money to move on her own.

Prepared Food - The only prepared foods I buy for myself are granola bars and yogurt, and I've been seriously considering getting a yogurt maker. I do eat out from time to time, but it's usually at the cheapest local restaurant I can find, like Tu Se Bella's, and maybe once a week. Twice, if I'm out on a long errands and can't get home in time for a meal. It's not only cheaper, but better for you.

Cigarettes - Don't smoke. Never have. I got enough smoke from my own family growing up, and it didn't make sense to spend what amounted to anything from $5 to $8 per pack on something that could kill me.

Clutter - Ok, so I'm a bit of pack rat...but I've been better about it in the past few years. I still have more junk than I should, but I tend to weed things out more often than I used to.

Bells and Whistles - I am not a computer geek. I buy whatever's simple and works. I wouldn't even own a cell phone if Dad hadn't insist I keep it on me in case I needed a ride. I don't own a microwave, either. What's wrong with an ordinary stove?

Comfort - Miss Ellie asked me to turn the thermostat down to 68 this winter...and I actually turned it to 67. What's wrong with piling on a few extra blankets? I like the coziness.

Debt - I neither like nor trust credit cards. I don't own a credit card that isn't attached to a debit card. If you don't have the money for something and really don't need it, don't buy it. This is related to monthly payments. I hate doing them. I'm doing it with my dental care right now, but that's it. My monthly bills consist of Weight Watchers Online, college payments, phone/internet payments, and my rent.

Health Care - Ok, this probably isn't a good thing. In fact, holding off on eye and dental exams for seven years was likely stupid...but I just didn't have the money to cover them when I lived in Wildwood.

Extra Calories - While I still need to work on buying the right things, I know how to buy the cheap things. I rarely eat dinner out (in fact, the only time I do is after work when I'm too tired to cook, like tonight). And even better than skipping appetizers, you can make them your meal, which is especially useful at a place like Olive Garden that fills your plate. And I love restaurant food the day after. Olive Garden pasta can make a great breakfast.

New Cars - I don't own a car at all. Considering how close everything is here, I don't see the point. But if you must have a new car, what's wrong with used? My parents bought great used cars for years in the 80s and 90s.

Dates - I haven't gone on one of these in five years, but when I was dating, we mostly walked around malls or bookstores, the campus when we were both still in school, and on the boardwalk when I lived in Wildwood.

Window Shopping - Sure, I still do it...but I often don't walk out with anything, like the other day when I was at FYE. I'll sometimes just walk around a store and not end up buying anything. It's probably leftover from my childhood, when that 20 bucks I earned babysitting or clearing weeds would be the only money of my own I'd have for several weeks, and I'd need to spend it wisely.

While I'm not going to give up magazines and newspapers just because teenagers don't think they're cool, I do know cheaper ways to get your local library.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Too Late Now

My morning did not begin well. I tried to squeeze myself into those Gloria Vanderbilt pants I bought for work on New Year's Even and just ended up breaking the zipper. I had to force them apart to get out of them! This means I'm down to one pair of work pants. Good thing I don't really have that many hours this week, anyway.

I tried calling Mom while the Beatles show was on, but no luck. It was nice to get to hear the whole Brunch With the Beatles show, for a change. Today's theme was "Beatles B-Sides." While most of the songs were throw-aways, some of the B-sides matched or were even better than the featured numbers, including "If I Fell," "Strawberry Fields Forever," "Revolution," and "Day Tripper."

Tried Mom again around 1, about twenty minutes before leaving work; got her this time. She said she was at home earlier, but had been busy working on things on her sewing machine. We had a very nice talk about my boredom and winter blues. She suggested taking up crocheting. We'll see. I get into things, but I always lose interest before I can finish them. I've never been very good at crafts, either.

She suggested that I need to work on my self-discipline, and she's very right. That's why I can't lose weight, either. I'm not good at making myself do things. I start stories and projects, but I'll get bored half-way through and never finish them. I get these huge ideas, but I never know how to get them on paper or onscreen.

It was cloudy and relatively warm, probably in the upper 40s-lower 50, when I headed to work. Work was the same as yesterday, very, very busy, and like yesterday, there were no major problems and my relief was on time.

I went to Tu Se Bella's behind the Acme after work for pizza. It was spitting a little when I left, but by the time I got out, the rain was gone again, and it was just back to being blah. I was going to go to Fashion Bug and look for work pants, but they close at 6 on Sundays, so I just rode home after dinner.

Hit the shower and listened to The Dress Circle when I got in. "Songs Nominated for an Oscar in the 50s But Lost" was the them tonight. I came in half-way to hear the lovely "Too Late Now" from the 1951 MGM musical Royal Wedding. We also got the title song of April Love, performed by it's stars Shirley Jones and Pat Boone, and the famous title song of Tammy sung by Debbie Reynolds.

I called my sister Rose this morning and asked her if she wanted to go to Bed, Bath, and Beyond. I really need to replace the saucepan with the broken handle with something nicer than you can get at Target or Wal-Mart. She finally called back this evening. She was, as usual, busy, in the middle of making a cheese ball for a birthday party she was having for her boyfriend Craig, studying for school, and trying to get her puppies Kelsey and Toby to behave. She's really excited about having a boy. She said she and Craig are already getting the baby's room together, and my mom and Craig's mom have given them a lot things for the baby already.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Winter Doldrums

I'm bored. I'm so bored. I can't get into anything - not work, not movies, not writing, not anything. Nothing's any fun. Nothing's going on. I'm gaining weight, no matter how hard I try. I don't know how to shake myself out of this funk. There has to be something wrong. I just don't know what yet.

Work was busy all day, not helped by a mix-up with two cashiers who had switched their times and left earlier than they were supposed to. I can't even figure out why we were so busy. I guess it was the sales. There's no major sports games this weekend, the next big holiday is in mid-February, and there's really nothing else going on.

After leaving work, I headed over to America's Best for my contacts. I ended up doing my follow-up exam to check the new prescription. Turns out that yes, my eyes have gotten slightly worse (despite my mother's claim that they should have stabilized by now). I'll go back at the end of next week for the rest of them if I like how the new prescription works.

Made a brief stop at FYE after America's Best, but I didn't see anything I wanted, so I just headed home. Thank goodness it was a lovely January day, sunny and in the lower 40s. My rides to and from work were quite pleasant.

Like I mentioned above, I've been gaining weight again. All the overeating I've done over the holidays and in the last few weeks hasn't helped. I thought I'd try stepping up my work-outs again. I did pilates for the first time in years this evening, using the DVD Rose gave me in 2007. I found out that I can't breathe right, have poor control over my body, and can't raise myself for stomach crunches of any kind. I'm just too fat.

After I finished my workout, I had dinner and put on Sweet Smell of Success. Like The Misfits and Asphalt Jungle, this isn't the kind of movie that I'd buy, but is said to be worth seeing at least once...and it is. Slick press agent Sidney Falco (Tony Curtis) moves through New York's seamy underbelly, trying to get under the skin of powerful, equally immoral newspaper columnist J.J Huntsinger (Burt Lancaster)...but their lies and deceitfulness eventually leads both to tragedy. Not the most fun movie to watch, but a suburb cast and Elmer Bernstein's jazz score make the most of a taught, tough script and Elmer Bernstein's nervous jazz score.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Tax Woman

Started out a partly cloudy, grayish morning with breakfast and The Mary Tyler Moore Show, then a run to the Acme and the Audubon Shopping Center. I picked up my paycheck and headed to Wal-Mart after a brief stop at Staples. On one hand, I didn't get one of the things I went in for, which was underwear. I didn't like the selection or the prices. On the other hand, I did get a spare inner tube. I like to keep one around for incidents like a few months ago where my tire blows out suddenly.

I also found that Mattel must have had a huge response to the series of decade-related Barbies they released last year. There were three more decade-related doll sets on the shelves. The 1964 Swirl Pony Tail Barbie looks like one my mom might have played with (she says she had the original 1959 doll as a child) and comes with the most adorable gingham dress with embroidered flower collar. I have very fond memories of the gorgeous 1985 Peaches and Cream Barbie. We never had her...but oh, did we wish we had! Her peach gown is still awesome. Not only that, but the front cover of her reproduction booklet helped me identify one of the vintage Barbie gowns I got from the thrift shop last year. My Princess Serena doll wears the 1985 Crystal Barbie gown (though not the ruffled stole that came with her). There was also a Black Barbie from 1980 that I don't remember, though she did have some pretty nifty outfits.

Ran back to the Acme after I bought the bike inner tube. Like last week, I didn't really need much. I was mostly stocking up on fruit and vegetables, thanks to this week's "buck a bag" sale. Bought apples, oranges, bananas, grapefruit, a bag of broccoli and cauliflower, celery, chuck beef steaks, ground chicken, Dannon yogurt that was on sale, and canola oil (also on sale).

I'd debated a train/bus trip to Deptford after finishing at the Acme, but I didn't really feel like doing a lot of running around. I decided to stick to the neighborhood and do some local chores instead. Some of them, like delivering bills to the post office and the dentist's office, were errands I've put off for longer than I should have. I also ran to CVS (got pot scrubbers) and the bank. Took a long, pleasant walk around Oaklyn after I finished at the bank, enjoying the relatively warm-ish 40 degree temperatures and the fact that it wasn't raining or sleeting, which was the original forecast for today.

After I got home, I spent the rest of the evening doing my taxes. I got my W-2s today and figured there was no beating around the bush. It's not like it takes me more than an hour to do them, anyway. I live alone, rent my apartment, have no dependents, only have one part-time job, and don't have to report on anything but the tax from my college payments. At any rate, I got them done and e-filed, and they were accepted by the IRS an hour ago. I should be getting my check by mid-February.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Cops and Balance

Started a gorgeous, mid-30s January morning with yoga class. It was far smaller than last Thursday's morning class, only seven people counting the teacher Karin. We worked on core focusing - standing poses and back-bends. I'm still having a hard time with balance. I can do certain poses, but not for very long, and I can't get my leg all the way out when I lift it for Tree Pose.

I did, however, meet a newcomer to the class and had a nice chat with her. I think she said her name was Maria or Moira. She lives in Haddon Township and is a massage therapist...and is the only person I've met in the entire South Jersey area who is close to my own age and lives alone. She seemed very friendly, and I hope to encounter her again sometime soon.

Headed to the Collingswood Library after leaving class. For once, they had plenty for me to do. Their CD racks are very old and badly flaking paint. Not to mention, the way they're set up makes it impossible to actually get CDs out of the rack. I removed CDs, loaded them onto a cart, and brought them to the shelves in one of the offices where they're being kept until the shelves arrive.

I stopped briefly at the thrift shop first. Bought four records, all featuring the old-time radio shows Fibber McGee and Molly or Texaco Star Theatre With Fred Allen. Went to WaWa next for milk, then headed home. I took the long way down Collings Avenue and past Knight Park, since it was such a nice day.

Volunteering took me longer than I thought it would today. I had just enough time when I got home to have chili for lunch, change into my work clothes, and head back out. Good thing the weather continued to cooperate, making for an easy commute both ways.

Wish work was that easy. It wasn't really that busy, steady more than anything, but some of the customers I did have today were real pains. One lady had what were obviously starter checks, blank checks without addresses, though she kept claiming they weren't. We can't accept checks without addreses; it's the rules of the company that cashes our checks. She had to leave behind her whole order because she hadn't brought any other means of payment.

(And let me add a tip here - whenever you're out shopping anywhere, always bring two methods of payment. You don't always have the right amount of cash on you, checks can bounce or not be accepted, and cards don't always go through.)

I thought I was fine riding home. I don't know what happened, but about 20 minutes after I got in, a cop showed up at my door. He asked me about my bike and said someone had seen me riding near Woodland Terrace and thought I looked suspicious! Apparently, someone had stolen a bike around there. I gave the police officer the information he asked for, but I wasn't happy about it. I've had my bikes for years. I ride around this neighborhood all the time, and my neighbors know it. Many of my customers at the Acme often comment on seeing me on the bikes. It's more likely one of the kids in the neighborhood decided to be cute and took the bike. The person who thought I looked suspicious must be a newcomer. At least the cop seemed to know who Uncle Ken was; he asked me if I knew Ken Redmer after I told him my last name.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Mid-Winter Madness

Started a sunny, if somewhat colder, day with the 80s French cartoon Moon Madness and a breakfast of fried eggs and sauteed greens and onions. Though it's not as well-known as the Don Bluth films of the early 80s or the TV show-based animated movies like The Chipmunk Adventure, I consider Moon Madness to be the quintessial 80s animated film. It has everything - an odd, bright-but-limited herky-jerky animation style, goofy characters based after famous literature (in this case, the German folk tales of Baron Munchhausen), a wacky sci-fi/fantasy plot, and a synthesizer score that is totally at odds with the fantastic subject matter (and includes the memorable song "The Secret of the Selenites" that I remembered well even 20 years later).

Headed to the Haddon Township Library after finishing breakfast and the movie. I'm glad I opted to do it today instead of Friday this time. They were overloaded with books and DVDs that needed to be returned, thanks to the busy holiday weekend. I spent an hour and a half just returning DVDs. I also helped a mother and her child find a Backyardigans' DVD after I commented on the stuffed Pablo the Penguin the little girl was toting, mentioning that I love that show.

Took out three DVDs after I was done - Laurence of Arabia, Sweet Smell of Success, and Barbie and the Diamond Castle. Also took out the last two Rebecca American Girls books I hadn't read, Rebecca to the Rescue and Rebecca and Ana, and a Kingdom Hearts II manga.

Made two quick stops at JoAnn's Fabrics and the Dollar Tree next. I didn't see any Valentine's decorations I liked at JoAnn's. I did buy a new brush and comb at Dollar Tree, along with soap (I ran out last week), but I couldn't find what I'd gone in there for, which was a notebook for my food journal.

Had lunch at the little bagel shop in the mall, next to GameStop. I love that bagel shop. They're a little pricy, but they make excellent food. I had a tuna salad on a toasted sourdough bagel with huge, fat steak fries and enormous kosher pickle slices. Unlike the last time I ate there, the place was empty today except for one lady reading the paper. I was able to peruse the walls of Eagles, Flyers, and Phillies memorabilia in peace.

Made a quick stop at the Rite Aid across Cuthbert Road from the mall after lunch. I was still looking for notebooks, but they were out of the cheap ones. I did pick up some toothpaste that was on sale, though. I like the Crest Sensitivity or Pro-Health. I'm using the latter now, and it's 3/4 done. They were on sale for $2.99 - got the Pro-Health again.

Though it was a bit windier and colder than yesterday, it was still nicer than it has been. I took advantage of the nice weather to take a long bike ride home across Newton River Park. I wasn't the only one, either. I dodged many people walking their dogs or pushing strollers.

Spent the rest of the afternoon finally dusting the apartment, which badly needed it, and putting up the rest of the general winter decorations. I've been meaning to do both for weeks now, but I just haven't been able to get to it. I taped up the cardboard snowman-playing-winter-sports cutouts and set up the display with the velvet-dressed winter doll (whom I've dubbed Velvet) and the little crystal tree and her penguin-and-polar bear stuffed menagerie.

Watched Barbie and the Diamond Castle while making Good Morning Muffins from the Prevention cookbook. I wasn't nearly as crazy about this one as I was about Christmas Carol and Three Musketeers. The original story, about a pair of best friends who save the castle of the title from an evil sorceress, seemed a bit cornier and more sugary than the literature-based tales. I had more fun with the two dopey British-accented guys who accompany the ladies. The opening and closing segments with Barbie's sister Stacey being angry at a friend wasn't as well-integrated into the story as similar sequences with Kelly in Christmas Carol was, either. The music had a surprising country twang, but most of it seemed all the same...and none of it was very good.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Getting Chores Done

I got up early to do the laundry today after running out of time last week...which turned out to not be necessary. Uncle Ken and Dolores still had laundry running when I came in. I did get theirs out in time to get mine in the washer, and then the dryer. I have no idea where Uncle Ken was. Dolores and Dad were vacuuming and dusting the house.

Volunteered at the Oaklyn Library while the laundry was drying. It was quiet at the library. Not surprising, given it was a warm, party sunny day, in the 40s and only a little windy. I organized and put away the kids' books, then did the DVDs. The librarian says she really appreciates what I do in the kids' section. She told me that the other girls who volunteer in the library are less afraid to tackle the job now that the books are better-organized.

Headed back to my place after picking up the laundry. Spent the rest of the afternoon having leftover chili for lunch and posting this month's role play. I got the entire story, including the new Arc index, up tonight.

The Monkees and the Great Race

Work was on-and-off busy, still steady but not as bad as over the weekend. I was slightly late arriving, but my relief was on time, and there were no major problems.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Uncivil Mornings

My morning did not go well. First of all, the grits I made burned and got stuck to the pot. When I tried to get them unstuck, I pulled too hard at the pot handle and broke it. I love that saucepan. I bought it in the ARC thrift shop in Rio Grande before college, and I've had it ever since. I'll have to try to get to Bed, Bath, and Beyond and buy a new one - I'm not buying cheap cookware from Wal-Mart again. And then I lost my last pair of contacts down the sink right before going to work. I spent so much time looking for them, I was almost late getting out!

At the very least, it was a gorgeous day, sunny and in the upper 40s-lower 50s. Work, once I finally made it there, was pretty much the same as the weekend, very busy. We were shorter on help this time, too, probably because it's a holiday, and my relief was almost late. Also didn't help that my stomach's felt funny all day long. I wonder if the grits somehow gave me heartburn.

Hope everyone else's Martin Luther King Jr. Day was a lot more pleasant!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Vikings Storm In

Though I didn't sleep as long as I did last week, it was still fairly late when I finally got up for breakfast - not a good thing, as I had 11:30 work today. I made Apple-Cinnamon Pancakes and listened to Monkees records. It was raining then, a nice, steady shower. It was also too late to call for a ride. I took the bike to work and got wet.

Work could have been worse. It was pretty much the same as yesterday - busy, with long lines, but this time, we had more help and people were generally in a good mood. I was in and out with no problems. Rode home and got wet again.

I had debated going to Uncle Ken's to see if anyone was around, but I finally decided I just didn't want to go back out in the weather. I hung around in the apartment and called Mom instead. I'd called her earlier, but she was busy. Turns out she was busy with my brother, arguing over his not-terrific grades.

Mom was happier about my sisters. She finally told me what Rose and Craig are having - a boy. I'm going to have another nephew in May! Anny seems to have a new boyfriend whose parents own a farm 45 minutes from Erma, which apparently was where she, Keefe, and the little boys had been the day before.

She also told me that the Minnesota Vikings killed the Cowboys in a major blow-out, 34-3, much to the delight of everyone in the Philly area, I'm sure, including my Vikings-loving cousins Karen and Jim. New Yorkers have a reason to be happy, too - the Jets got past the Chargers. Also moving on - the Saints and the Colts. (Is anyone surprised with the latter two? They've been kicking rear ends all season.)

I worked on editing this month's Monkees role-play after finishing with Mom. Ate chili and a romaine salad while listening to The Dress Circle, which I haven't done in a couple of weeks. The theme today was "All-Women Chorus Numbers." I'm wondering if they raided my CD and LP collection, because there were quite a few numbers I actually have. I recognized "Playing Croquet" from Little Mary Sunshine, "The Cell Block Tango" from the original cast of Chicago, "Big Spender" from the original cast of Sweet Charity, "Put 'Em Back the Way They Was" from the 1956 Broadway Lil' Abner, and "Turkey Lurkey Time" from Promises, Promises (though I really like the jazzier version I have of the last-named on my Broadway Christmas CD, rather than the original cast version heard here).

Saturday, January 16, 2010

All In A Day's Work

Which is what I did all day - work. Today was my long day. I was originally supposed to work from 12 to 5, but was asked earlier in the week to come in at 9:30. Unlike Tuesday, this wasn't a problem. I had no real plans for this morning, other than dusting, which I can do next week.

And also unlike Tuesday, we really needed the help. It wasn't bad when I came in or when I left, but between 10:30 and 3:30, we were swamped. There were very long lines all day, and we kept having to call stock people and bakery people up front to help. Thank goodness, other than a few cranky people and some trouble with those annoying free pot-and-pan promotional stickers, there were no real problems and the day went very quickly.

I debated eating out, but I finally decided I'd spent enough time around people today. I bought Daisy-Go-Rounds from some Girl Scouts outside the Acme, then headed home. I had leftover Beef and Sausage Stir Fry on brown rice and romaine salad for dinner, then made frosting for the Peanut Butter Cake I baked yesterday. The Prevention cookbook I got the cake recipe from also had a chocolate frosting recipe. My frosting tends to come out too runny or grainy, but this one suggested using a food processor to make it. This time, it came out beautifully, nice and smooth. The cake tastes absolutely amazing.

Friday, January 15, 2010

As We Go Along

I did manage to get to the Haddon Township Library late this morning. There were plenty of DVDs to put away, adult and kids', and I organized the rock and vocal CDs, too. Found quite a few CDs to take out as well - Five For Fighting, The Very Best of Burt Bacharach, Diana Krall, Frank Sinatra, and Rod Stewart's second The Great American Songbook collection. (I've heard his duet with Cher on "Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered" at the Acme and loved it.) Also took out two books on job-hunting. It's time to start doing that again.

Stopped at Super Fresh on the way home. They were having 2 for $3 a sale on Asian Green Tea. I needed fresh bunched carrots again, too. They also have better prices on leeks. They were having a sale on Brussels sprouts as well, so I picked up those there.

Rode home in gorgeous weather. This was the nicest day we've had since New Year's Day, into the mid-upper 40s, partly sunny, and breezy but not gale-force winds. It at least melted some of the remaining ice piles from the pre-Christmas blizzard and made that icy spot around Goff Avenue a lot easier to get around.

I did, indeed, take the bike to the Acme after I finished my peanut-butter-and-cranberry-pear-butter sandwich lunch. I needed to pick up my paycheck before I headed behind the front building to the Audubon Crossings Shopping Center and America's Best for my eye exam. The Acme was, thankfully, steady but not really all that busy. (Not that different from yesterday, actually.)

The eye exam went pretty well. It was the same as last time. I sat in the plain but clean waiting area while the doctor finished with the previous exam. It was the same as 2008 - white walls, metal seats, no signs or pictures - with the exception of the TV showing advertisements for some fancy new type of lenses.

After all the usual tests, the doctor discerned that my eyes had changed a little bit since the last time I was there, and I needed a slight different prescription than last time. It should take me about a week to get my new contacts. They were really nice about everything, including the payment.

Made a quick stop back at the Acme next to go grocery shopping. I didn't really need much this time around. I just picked up apples (Galas were on sale), bananas, oranges, yogurt, fish, grits, cooking spray, and baking cocoa. It all came to exactly $19.99 - the first time that had apparently ever happened to Patrice, my cashier (who is normally a stocker, but they must have needed extra help up front). She noted it on my receipt and everything.

I rode home. I was just going to dust the apartment after I put my groceries away, but it was such a nice day, I couldn't bring myself to hang out inside. I made a quick sunset run to the bank instead and deposited what was left of my paycheck after paying for the eye exam. It was a nice walk, too, the (comparatively) warm day illuminated by the warm purple-and-gold glow of the oncoming twilight.

Spent the rest of the evening baking a Peanut Butter Cake from that Prevention cookbook and watching Monkees concerts and other related items. I like that series of music videos the four made for their 1997 CD JustUs. They were really cute, and in some ways, better than the hour-long special they did that same year.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Improved Balance

Started a lovely January day with a fairly full yoga class. There were 13 students, not counting the teacher Karin and two student teachers who were just taking notes. We did a lot of back stretching and head and shoulder stands today. For the first time ever, I actually managed to get my legs onto the wall and go most of the way up! I still can't do an actual handstand, but that's definitely better. In fact, I did it twice, once on my own, and once when we did hand stands with a partner. (My partner could do an actual handstand, but not for very long, and the woman next to me couldn't really do one at all.)

I wasn't originally going to go to the thrift shop for very long. I just wanted to say "hi" to my friend Erica...until I saw a collection of what looked like mint-condition Effanbee dolls in the window. I've collected Effanbee dolls since the mid-80s, when I was little and would actually play with them. That more-or-less ended by the early 90s. I got rid of a few of the older ones when I moved from Wildwood, but I still have most of the dolls that were in good shape.

Of the dolls in the window, my favorite was a pretty miss in a pink rosebud-print ruffled dress with ribbon trim, lacy pantalettes, and a cute ruffled hat. I ended up buying her for ten dollars, along with the Rupert Holmes mystery Swing! in hardback and two paperback kids' books, Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator and Paddington at Large.

Next stop was the Collingswood Library a block down the street. This time, the librarian in charge of the volunteers was there. I spent an hour organizing the T through Z shelves.

Went straight home after finishing. I wanted to have lunch and look up information on my new doll find. She was in mint condition, but came with no box or tag. I found out on eBay that she's supposed to be Little Bo Peep, but is missing her shepherd's crook.

Had some nice rides today, too. The weather was absolutely gorgeous for this time of year, mid-30s, sunny, and windless. I managed to navigate around the thick ice patches on the bottom of Goff Avenue easily this time.

Work was dead for most of the night. It was steady during the usual 4-6 rush hour, but I ended up spending a lot of the night cleaning my register out of sheer boredom.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Changing Plans

Today didn't go at all like I'd hoped. I got to Uncle Ken's around 10:30 to do the laundry, but Uncle Ken and Dolores already had laundry in the dryer. I had to wait at least an hour and a half before I could get mine in. I spent that time reading the new Daisy Dalyrumple mystery, Sheer Folly. (Very intriguing description of the architectural "folly" itself, a grotto, but a lot of the regular characters are missed, and some of the ones here seem like 20s stereotypes plucked from an Agatha Christie mystery.)

I went to the library after finally getting the laundry in the dryer. I had a LOT of laundry today. All of my socks were in the laundry, along with towels pulled after I cleaned the bathroom. (My last pair of unused socks had holes in them and had to be tossed. I ended up wearing heavy fur-lined clogs today that I can get away with going sock-less in.)

The kids were leaving their Story Hour just as I was arriving. They were so cute. Some even waved to me. I spent the rest of my hour after they left organizing the DVD's. Worked on the children's books for a while as well.

Alas, the laundry still wasn't anywhere close to dry when I got home around 1:30...and it wasn't all the way dry by almost 2, either. I was getting impatient. My original plans were to eventually get to the Haddon Township Library and volunteer there today, so I just grabbed the laundry, some of it still damp, and hurried home.

However, by the time I'd put away the dry laundry, hung up the damp laundry, and had lunch, I just wasn't up for the rush. I spent another twenty minutes debating whether or not to ride to the library before deciding that quarter of 3 was just too late to be running anywhere on the bike. I did go for a walk to WaWa later for milk and a chai tea (tasted faintly of lemon, but it was way too sweet) as the sun was setting, but I spent the majority of the rest of the evening making the bed, shaking out rugs, and vacuuming the apartment.

Watched a Monkees concert from 2001 that Lauren sent me years ago while throwing together a stir-fry made of all the of the leftovers in my fridge (and that Hickory Farms-esque stick of sort-of sausage I got for Christmas). Alas, Mike Nesmith had abandoned the show by then (something about him not wanting to tour), but Micky Dolenz, Peter Tork, and Davy Jones were still very much in evidence. Micky in particular had fun - loved his "Goin' Down" - and the three are as amusingly hammy as ever. Shame I heard Peter Tork, too, dropped out not long after this, and the Monkees haven't really gotten along since. When they're together, something magic happens...when they aren't realizing that their opposite personalities don't really gel too well without the calming effect of a major backer.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Slip Sliding Away

I was just finishing breakfast around 11AM when the Acme called. Someone went home early, could I come in? No. I'd just finished eating! I did eventually come in at quarter of 2. I wanted to do some stuff at home this morning, including sweep the piles of sticker balls off my porch. (At least, as many of them as I could. It's still very cold, despite the sunshine, and some of them are frozen fast to the porch!)

As it turned out, work was on-and-off busy anyway, not nearly as crazy as it was over the weekend. There were no really huge problems, and my relief was on time.

My ride to work was fine. The weather remains cold, but sunny and windless. I didn't have as much luck riding home. There's a thick patch of ice on the bottom of the hill that is Goff Avenue. I tried to ride around it, but the bike slid out from under me, and I ended up on the pavement.

Thank God it wasn't nearly as horrible as the last time I fell off my bike. All I did was smack my right elbow really hard, leaving a very nasty bruise. The bike itself is fine, other than the basket's dented again. It rode fine, and I made it the remaining two blocks home with no more trouble.

Monday, January 11, 2010

You're Gonna Make It After All

I slept in a little this morning (thought not nearly as much as yesterday), and did some reading in bed before finally having cereal for breakfast and running some errands. Went to CVS to buy conditioner. Turns out they were having a sale on Herbal Essences, one of my favorite brands (yes, the curl formula too). I then walked a couple of blocks down to the bank and deposited my paycheck. I debated getting milk, but it was quarter of 12 by that point, and I had work at 1. I'll get it tomorrow.

Started the first season of The Mary Tyler Moore Show while eating a quick lunch of a pumpkin muffin, an orange, and Yoplait's newest light flavor, Pineapple Upside-Down Cake. (Which was really good, by the way. Tasted like pineapple custard.) Other than the dubious fashions (even sensible Mary wears some rather scary outfits), Mary Tyler Moore was a fun series from the get-go. I loved Lou showing up at Mary's apartment drunk and missing his wife in the first episode. Mary was right; it was kind of sweet.

Work was steady, but not quite as busy as over the weekend, and other than some obnoxious customers, not a problem. My relief was on time. While it's still cold, the wind is gone and the cold isn't quite as biting as last week. I had a rather pleasant ride to and from work.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Chill of Winter

Overslept big-time this morning - I didn't get up until almost quarter of 11! I did get to hear the second half of the WOGL Brunch With the Beatles show ("songs of January" was the theme today) and eat Sweet Potato Pancakes for breakfast. Called Mom, too. She was really busy. Keefe, Anny, and Anny's boys were all at home, so there wasn't much time to talk. They were all ok; she was in a good mood, at least.

Did last month's budget after I finished breakfast and the Beatles' show ended. December is always so out-of-whack, it barely counts. Not only do I tend to spend more that month (because of extra baking and Christmas shopping), but I have the Christmas money I get at the end of the month.

Headed to work after I finished my financial chores. Had a really nice ride to and from work today. It's still cold, but the wind has diminished considerably, and the sun's out. It's supposed to get warmer here by mid-week. I'm just glad the wind's gone. It makes it a lot easier for me to get around.

Work was almost exactly a repeat of yesterday, with long lines all day. About 20 minutes before I was finished my shift, a woman's debit/credit card wouldn't run through. Her magnetic strip was too worn. I typed her number in...but I hadn't realized I forgot to tell her that you can only do credit when you type the number in, not debit. She threw a fit! She'd been behaving rather badly, anyway. Kept fussing to her daughter about how she wasn't bagging perfectly, but refused to help the kid herself. I got another woman a few minutes later with the same problem, but I explained about the credit thing, and she was fine.

My relief was right on time. I was able to go straight home, change my shirt, grab my purse, and head over to Dad and Uncle Ken's for dinner. Jodie invited me over for some roast beef, and she did have that there, along with spinach salad, succotash, roasted red potatoes, and pop-can biscuits. It was all delicious. Dad was watching the Cardinals-Packers game, which was much better than most of the other games this weekend - they were tied 38-38 when I was there.

(Alas, though the Packers did make a huge comeback, it wasn't enough to make it past a very "on" Kurt Warner. The Cards won in overtime, 51-45, in what turned out to be the highest-scoring playoff game in NFL history.)

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Not For the Life Of Me

Spent the morning watching Feasting On Asphalt. Alton and his crew are now in the Midwest, honoring Popeye's creator by eating canned spinach and digging around St. Louis for the best donuts. I also updated my finances; I'm hoping to put more of a dent in that dentist's bill soon.

Work was, thankfully, busy but not a problem. Everyone was in a pretty decent mood, and the day went incredibly fast. I had no relief, but it was slowing down a little by the end of my shift at 5. I was able to get off, grab mushrooms and canned beans, and head out.

I need new contacts, but it's been over a year since I started wearing them, and America's Best wanted to give me an exam before I got another pair. That's fine. I rode over to the America's Best next to Staples after work and agreed to come in at 2:45 on Friday, which is one of my two days off this week.

FYE was having a $9.99 sale on CDs. I don't care that everyone says "download everything" and "don't buy anything hard copy anymore." How impractical and silly can you get? What if all that downloaded stuff is infected with viruses? Or you accidentally delete it? Or your computer crashes? I've had all that happen at one time or another. I don't believe in putting all your eggs in one basket...or all your faith in imperfect technology. I bought the cast album to the 2002 Broadway Thoroughly Modern Millie. I figured this was a great opportunity to buy some of those pricy Broadway cast albums I've always wanted, but could never afford.

Had dinner at Fat Jack's Barbecue. I overheard them mention that collard greens and green beans are still on the menu, just not the printed one. I ordered collard greens and a pulled pork sandwich while watching the Jets-Bengals game. (Which the Jets won, incidentally, 24-14.) The sandwich was excellent...but the collards were waaaayyyy too spicy! I didn't remember them turning on the heat before! One of the boys behind the counter told me they'd changed their recipe. Not for the better; I couldn't finish even half, and my mouth was on fire, even after drinking a whole bottle of water.

The Eagles-Cowboys game is tonight, too. I hope they do well, if only to hush everyone around here after last week's game went so badly.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Balancing On Asphalt

I was right about the snow. We only got an inch or two. Though it did stick, it wasn't nearly as much of a problem as the past two weeks. I was able to ride my bike to Collingswood for my first Yogawood session since before Christmas with no trouble at all, not even traffic. There was a little snow on Manor, but the main roads were perfectly clear.

The state of the roads were indicated by the fact that the class was fairly full, 12 people counting the teacher, Micki. Working on balance was the order of the day. We concentrated on one-footed poses and twists, the kind of thing my stepfather would describe as "pretzel" poses. Naturally, I couldn't really do most of this. My knee isn't up to pretzels, and my balance is terrible. I just could not stay on one foot.

Ran a few errands in Collingswood that I've been putting off after class. Stopped at Genesis Counseling to try to get a hold of Scott; left him a message. Dropped donations off at the thrift shop. Did this week's Collingswood Library volunteering. I just organized DVDs there. The young man who is in charge of the volunteers wasn't around, and I don't think the librarian who was there really knew what to do with me.

I got home around noon, just in time to watch the last few Get Smart episodes, have lunch, and head back out. Picked up my paycheck at the Acme and did this week's grocery shopping. Needed fruit, greens, sugar (brown and white), butter, Acme's generic Cheerios (which were on a really good sale), oats, two containers of the Yoplait yogurt on sale, and ground turkey.

Headed straight home after my shopping was done. It was still incredibly windy, but not nearly as cold as it has been. In fact, most of the snow had disappeared by the time I arrived at the apartment and started this month's cleaning. I got the bathroom and the kitchen in. The kitchen in particular needed it, after all the baking I did last month.

After I finished cleaning, I made pumpkin muffins to get rid of the pumpkin leftover from last month's Christmas baking. Ran Feasting On Asphalt: The River Run while eating steak, honey-glazed carrots, pumpkin muffins, and applesauce for dinner. This time, instead of going from east to west, Alton Brown and company go from south to north, following the Mississippi River from the Louisiana bayous to the lakes of Minnesota in search of some back-roads Good Eats. My favorite by far was the Mississippi woman who made those mile-high pies; I think she's my new hero.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

More Snow On the Way

Today was my early work day. While it wasn't bad when I came in, by noon, the store was buzzing. Apparently, we were supposed to get snow again. This would have been a lot more scary if someone hadn't told me the weather reports were calling for 1-3 inches. It'll probably end up being the same kind of storm we got last week. We'll get a few inches that are around for a day, or maybe two, and then will disappear.

Thanks to the weather reports, we had a lot of panic-y old people who were demanding and just plain rude. This fussing over the weather made more sense in Cape May County, where a lot of people really do live more than 10 or 20 minutes from a grocery store. Here, most people are at least five minutes from a grocery store, and few are any more than 10. Even if we get snowed in, it's not likely people wouldn't be able to get the essentials. (And it's not like where my friends Linda and James Young live in Georgia, either. We do get some snow in January.)

Thankfully, it had slowed down enough by the time I finished work that I was even able to shut down a little early and put a few things away. Good thing, too; I had no relief. I went straight home. It was a nice ride, the nicest I've had in a while. Today was sunny, and while it was still a little windy, it wasn't as bad as it has been this week. Wasn't as cold, either. It was probably in the mid-30s, normal for early January in Southern New Jersey.

There was a package waiting for me when I got home. Lauren sent me the two seasons of the Alton Brown mini-series Feasting on Asphault, about his cross-country motorcycle tours. I'll check the second one, which I haven't seen, out this weekend after I finish Get Smart.

Speaking of Get Smart, while the last batch of episodes weren't all-time greats, some of them were kind of fun. I liked the one with The Patty Duke Show's William Schallert as a killer called "The Exterminator." They got a lot of mileage out of mild-mannered criminals on this show. One of the villains of the episodes where 99 has her babies is "Simon the Likeable," played by baby-faced comedian Jack Gilford, a killer so sweet-seeming, everyone automatically assumes his innocent.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Sometime In the Morning

Given today is the Epiphany, the last day of the Christmas holiday season, it's rather appropriate that I spent the morning and early afternoon taking down the last of the Christmas decorations. Took me almost two hours to get the tree down. Heck, it took me a good ten minutes just to figure out how to get all the boxes with the ornaments into the plastic container! Maybe I should get rid of a few next year.

The remaining decorations took another hour. It's a lot easier to take the garlands down than it is to put them up, especially since at least one was twist-tied to the unused curtain rods. I re-dressed the Cabbage Patch Kid girls and put all the miscellaneous items that belonged in the Santa Bag away last, since they're the ones that come out first after Thanksgiving - the mistletoe, the tin with the fabric I use on the dining area table and the coasters, the box with the New Year's hats and noisemakers, the big plastic Ferrro Rocher bell (now in it's own bag, so the little bells inside won't fall out), the wreath, and the poinsettia placemats.

I had a quick lunch of Peanut Butter and Cranberry-Pear Butter sandwiches while watching Get Smart episodes. The decline in quality is a bit more noticeable in these episodes, but they still aren't bad - I especially liked the one where a gangster with a gunshot wound mistakes Max and 99 for doctors...and Max was the one who shot him. (The gangster was played by Henry Cordon, best known by Monkees fans as their blustering landlord Mr. Babbitt and by animation nerds as the second voice of Fred Flinstone.)

Work was more-or-less the same deal as Monday - busy as heck when I came in, dead to the point where I spent the last 20 minutes doing returns when I left.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

And Baby Makes Smart

Started a cold, blustery, sunny day with a late-morning run to the Haddon Township Library (after dropping the rent at Miss Ellie's side of the house). I arrived just as the kids' story time was ending. Helped some kids find DVDs and recommended the online catalog to one fellow who was looking for Tuesdays at Morrie's. Returned adult and children's DVDs and put away some children's books. After I finished, I took out three books of my own - the next Blackbird Sisters mystery, A Crazy Little Thing Called Death, the newest Daisy Dalyrumple mystery, Sheer Folly, and the first book in a new historical mystery series about two cowboys who love Sherlock Holmes mysteries and fancy themselves detectives, The Black Dove.

Made a quick run to Super Fresh next. I needed carrots and bananas. Debated getting jelly, but I didn't see anything I liked that was on sale.

I rode straight over to Audubon after leaving Super Fresh. Now that Willie the Woodsman and Wife is the sole WebKinz retailer in the northeastern Camden County area besides FYE, I was hoping they'd have some of the recently-released Webbies I couldn't find anywhere else over the holidays, including the Deptford Mall. They did - the first WebKinz I saw on the spinning rack was the one I wanted, their last Baby Penguin. They are just so adorable, and they come with the cutest pet item - a frozen playpen!

Went out to lunch at the little soup restaurant next door after I bought my penguin. I'm so glad this place is still there. Similar little hole-in-the-wall places in Cape May and Wildwood would come and go in the blink of an eye during my childhood. I ordered the same meal I did the last time I ate there, the Italian Wedding Soup with a little loaf-shaped piece of cornbread and a can of Diet Coke. I love Italian Wedding Soup, and theirs is the best, with lots of huge meatballs and chunks of greens. The place was actually hopping when I was there. An elderly couple chatted at one table, while countless others were in and out, ordering soup, sandwiches, and salads for their offices.

I was going to go to Act Two Collectibles, but finally decided to save my money and rode home instead, over the train bridge and into Oaklyn. Not to mention, it was getting colder and windier by the second, and clouds moved in not long after I got home, too.

Spent the rest of the afternoon taking down Christmas decorations, listening to Disney soundtracks, and watching the last season of Get Smart. Ironically, my mother had finally sent me a Christmas/New Year's card, even as I was piling the others onto the table. It was really cute, too, with a "parade" of cartoon-y reindeer in bright reds and greens.

I was able to get all of the displays packed away but the Christmas tree and garlands and redressed the Sailor Moon and American Girls dolls in their regular clothes. Sam and Felicity wear their regular dresses; they don't have anything else. Molly wears her argyle sweater and the matching navy skirt that, for some strange reason, is much too small for her and had to be tied to her waist with a ribbon. Jess now wears her original corduroy pants and yellow felt jacket with the turtleneck that came with the Girl Scout uniform. I also took the stuffed animals out from under the tree. The ones that stay out year-round went back in my room; the others were put in bags, which were shoved in a plastic container, along with the stockings and my Santa hat.

Watched Get Smart as I made Tuscan Tuna Bean Salad and sauteed collard greens for dinner. Honestly, I don't know why fans are so down on this last season. Other than the revised opening (probably due to the change in networks, from NBC to CBS), nothing seems to be all that different in the episodes on the first disc. 99's pregnancy is worked into the scripts quite well. I especially enjoyed the hilarious spoof of The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. Max does a great Humphery Bogart impression.

Oh, and meet my Baby Penguin, Priscilla! I have no idea what to do with her. Maybe I'll just make her a little ice nursery. She's an awfully big "baby," though. I really wish they'd made these Lil'Kinz - Prissy is twice the size of her Lil'Kinz Penguin brother Elvis!

Monday, January 04, 2010

No Time

I slept later than I thought I would and subsequently had to rush my chores for today, including the laundry. Good thing Dad and Dolores were doing things at home and Uncle Ken was passed out in front of the TV in the Eagles' Den. I had a lot of errands to run while the laundry was in the dryer, too - had to go to the bank, volunteer at the Oaklyn Library, and get milk from WaWa. Good thing no one was busy.

It was 10 after 1 by the time I finally got home...not a good thing, given I had work at 2. I changed, ate a hasty lunch of a leftover chicken leg and collard greens, threw together dinner for work, and hurried out. Good thing today was sunny and cold, but not nearly as cold or windy as over the weekend. I made it to work just in time.

Work was really busy again when I first got in. The employees who worked this morning said it was crazy earlier. This lasted through the usual 4-6 rush hour. It died very quickly after about 6. I spent the last hour more-or-less working on candy.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

The Harder They Fall...

Started the day with Banana Whole Wheat Pancakes and a call to Mom. She was fine. She was in a very good mood. She didn't really do much for New Year's besides watch football, and apparently neither did anyone else in Cape May County.

I left for work shortly after getting off with Mom. Riding to work was not easy. It was even windier than yesterday, and bitterly cold, especially on the treeless White Horse Pike. I didn't think I'd be able to get a ride, though. I figured everyone would be busy with parties.

Work wasn't too busy when I came in at 11, but it started picking up by 12:30. By the time I finally went on my break at 1:30, the lines were snaking across the store. We didn't even lack help. It was just that busy. Not only is it still the beginning of the month, but people are stocking up for football and hockey parties and just restocking their shelves after the holidays and all the relatives go home.

For once, not only did I have a relief, but I had my choice of them - there were two boys coming in at 3. The taller boy took over promptly at 3, but I wasn't done yet. I still needed buttermilk, peanut butter, and contact lens solution, and the lines were still long. I didn't get out until quarter after 3.

When I did get home, I got the Chocolate Banana Mousse Pie together, grabbed a sweater, and headed out to Uncle Ken and Dad's. (I made the mistake of just going to work in my Eagles t-shirt and froze my rear off in the express line...which is the closest to the constantly opening exit.)

There were plenty of people there when I arrived - Dad, Jodie, Uncle Ken, Dolores, Jessa, Samantha and David and their kids, Dolores' grandchildren Blake and Mercedes, and a couple of Uncle Ken's neighborhood buddies. Lots of good food, too - cheese and crackers, Uncle Ken's cheese steaks with fried onions, chocolate chip cookies, brownies, and bananas and strawberries to dip into melted chocolate.

I'm glad the food was good...because the game was AWFUL. The Eagles barely played at all and lost to Dallas 24-0. I finally caught a ride home with Jessa early in the second half, shortly after Sam and David and their crew left. I figured a good, hot shower and some online time would be a lot more fun.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Windy New Year

The wind blew something fierce today, all over the Delaware Valley. I spent the morning inside, avoiding it. It was really cold, too, barely in the lower 30s. It's supposed to be windy and cold tomorrow as well, and they're talking flurries for Monday. I just hung out and did things on the laptop.

Work wasn't much more fun once I finally got past the wind. This is the beginning of the month, with all the fun people that implies. Didn't help that it was crazy-busy, too, with long lines all day. We weren't even lacking in help. It was just busy. I had no relief and was almost late getting out!

It was still busy when I went grocery shopping after work. I needed a lot - collard greens, grapefruit, apples, yogurt (there was a really good sale on Dannon yogurt), eggs, granola bars, tuna (also on sale), leeks, small steaks to make stir-fries and fajitas, and things for a pudding pie for Uncle Ken's football party tomorrow.

I made the pie when I got home, then made a nice, warm Asian Salmon with leeks and mushrooms and steamed collard greens. Greens like collards and mustard are another kind of vegetable I love but isn't a favorite with most people. The collards were delicious steamed, nice and sweet, with only a hint of the bite that most people find too bitter.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Doin' the Mummers' Strut

Started off 2010 with...noise. I awoke to the sounds of very loud string instruments blasting "When the Saints Go Marching In" at the VFW parking lot across the street. I know Mummers need to practice, but I'm sure the neighborhood LOVED hearing THAT at quarter of 9 in the morning.

Since I was up anyway, I got dressed and grabbed my bike for what's become a New Year's Day tradition for me. I've gone out to breakfast on New Year's Day for the past couple of years. It's something different to do on a holiday, since I'm not a party person and never eat breakfast out at any other time of the year.

This year, I took the bike a little further afield than usual. I rode over the train bridge into Audubon and down to the White Horse Pike to try the Legacy Diner. The Legacy was called the Colonial Diner when I first moved here in 2006, but it was remodeled and renamed shortly after. It's a really beautiful diner, with cool brown-and-rust wave-esque booths and really nice wooden seats and tables. The waitress was nice, too, and even apologized for not being prompt. (I understand - it's not easy to see someone dining alone.) It was busy but not full, and I got my waffles, tea, and ham quickly. The waffles were tasty, golden and soft; the ham was really nice and crispy. Tasted kind of like round bacon.

The first day of the year was really a nice one, something I appreciated after all the crazy weather we've had in the past few weeks. There was still a little bit of snow left when I got up this morning, but by the time I finished breakfast, it was in the 40s and almost all of it was gone. I had debated on and off whether to go to the Mummers' Parade, but I saw a little of it on the Legacy's TVs and thought it looked like fun. Besides, it would be something to do on a nice day I had no other plans for. I rode over to Collingswood and hopped a mostly-full PATCO train to 13th Street in Philadelphia, which let me off two blocks from the parade.

The Mummers' Parade is a Philadelphia tradition in which lavishly decorated local string bands and organizations strut their stuff...literally. Some have large floats and wear costumes related to whatever's cool this year. (I saw Star Wars and Jetsons-themed floats at the Legacy Diner.) Some are large groups dressed in ruffled and sequins and carrying cute little parasols. These guys dance, shake hands, give kids high-fives, and hand out colorful beads, like at Mardi Gras. The type most people are familiar with are the Fancy Groups, the ones wearing the costumes with tons of sequins and the huge feathers on their backs.

(My favorite "Fancy" Bridgade was the cute Eskimos with the rolling snow house. My favorites of the comic strutters were the enthusiastic orange-and-black Flyers-themed group and the jungle-animal-themed group that blasted "Hey Hey, We're the Monkees," among other animal-themed tunes.)

I walked up and down Broad Street, enjoying the carnival atmosphere. People chatted, laughed, danced, and waved at the performers. People pushed soft pretzels sold soft pretzels from grocery store carts. There were vendors for wacky fuzzy hats, huge "2010!" glasses, stuffed animals, plastic blow-up toys, New Year's hats, and more of the Mardi Gras beads. Feather Boas were so popular, they had their own vendors.

I finally ended up at the same Starbucks I went to on New Year's Day 2008, the last time I saw the parade. The Starbucks is in Philly's theater district, near the Merriam and the Wilma, among others. I pushed my way past the crowd, got a Caramel Spice Apple Cider, and pushed my way back out to gawk at the Fancy Brigades and the massive theaters. (Ten of the Ritz could probably fit in the Merriam alone.) The crowd by the theaters were really into it. At one point, one guy jumped out with the Fancy Brigades and broke into an amazing snake-like dance move!

I could have stayed longer if I wanted to, but my legs are still a bit sore from all the running around I did yesterday. I just ended up winding my way back through the crowd (getting stuck again by the massive knot of people at the entrance of the Double Tree Hotel) and over to 13th Street. I caught a somewhat full PATCO back to Collingswood.

(There was only one fly in the ointment today - the return of my allergies for the first time in weeks. I'm still sneezing and sniffling like crazy as I write this. I don't know where it came from - it was a gorgeous day today.)

Spent the rest of my first day of 2010 quietly working on various projects on the computer and online. I hope all of you spent your first day of the New Year doing something just as fun!