Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Spring Is Here, I Hear

Sunlight was just filtering through the clouds as I awoke. It was still a little dark, but there was blue sky showing between the gray, and it was much warmer than yesterday. The rain was gone, too. If it rained at all today, it happened very early this morning. The wind, however, had not gone away. It's been windy all day, but I'll take that without the rain, thank you.

My early work day (9-2) was busy all day. Other than a lack of help, especially in the morning, there were no major problems. The only real problem I had was my relief being one of those teenage boys with a job that always makes him late.

Went straight home after I finally got off of work. I changed shirts, grabbed my books and DVDs that were due, and went right back out again. I wanted to get to the Haddon Township Library now that Mother Nature was in a more amiable frame of mind. I forgot, however, that it was quarter of 3 by that point, almost rush hour. Cuthbert Road was not only a pain to cross, but the sidewalks were a muddy mess. I had to walk around them at one point on somebody's hillside yard.

I did finally make it to the library. There were plenty of DVDs for me to return, including stacks of kids' DVDs. It was busy with kids, ranging in age from early primary to college, doing research and writing papers. I even saw one of the college students who works at the Acme finishing a term paper she was writing for a class. I didn't take anything out myself this time. I don't think I'll really have the time for anything besides the three remaining fiction books I have out this week.

Made quick stops at Super Fresh and Dollar Tree on the way home. I needed bunch carrots at Super Fresh. I haven't seen them at the Acme since that one week I bought them there. Bought Easter cards and a shower curtain at Dollar Tree.

I had chores to do around the house when I arrived at the apartment as well. I swept the porch, which needed it after yesterday's storm. (I'm hoping getting rid of some of the debris will help with the ants, too.) I signed all the Easter cards, including the ones that will be sent to my family in Cape May County. I prepared the rent to give to Miss Ellie tomorrow. I took out the trash, including the American Girls Today box and the old green velor blanket with the holes in it. Rose came by a bit later in the night with fish from my stepfather for me.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Cleaning In the Rain

It was already pouring when I headed to Dad's around 10AM to do the laundry. Pouring, cold as heck, and the water was rising again, to boot. I spent a lot of the morning finishing Done Gone Wrong, but I couldn't sit around all day. I had things I wanted to do. I just pulled on my new bright blue spring coat and got wet.

My first, quick stop was at the bank. I realized when I checked my account on Saturday that I deposited my last paycheck into my savings account, rather than my checking account, where it really needed to go. My rent's due on Friday, and I'm going to need some money for next week, since I don't get a paycheck this week.

Next stop was the Oaklyn Library. They were dead quiet again. I didn't have a lot of time to spend there. The weather was getting worse, and I had to retrieve my laundry and had lunch. I went through the DVDs and did about half the kids' picture books.

My original plan for today was to do the laundry and run errands in the neighborhood in the morning, then spend the afternoon at the Haddon Township Library. First of all, I didn't get home until quarter of 2, and I still hadn't had lunch. Second, it was STILL pouring and gale-force windy at that point. I've had enough of running around in bad weather lately.

I spent the rest of the afternoon doing what I'd planned for tomorrow - starting my spring cleaning. I scrubbed the tile walls of the bathroom, and the linoleum floors of the bathroom and the tiny hall that connects the entertainment area of the living room to my bedroom. Scrubbed the bathtub, toilet, and sink. I scrubbed the kitchen sink, counters, and cabinets as well, but I ran out of time before I could finish everything that I needed to do in there. I still need to wash and sweep out the area under the sink where the pots and pans are and scrub the inside and outside of the refrigerator.

Oh, and I confirmed what I'll be doing for Easter with Dad. Sounds like I'll be doing what I did last year and joining him and Jodie for Easter dinner at Karen and Jim's house in Washington Township. Last Easter was the best Easter I ever had, so I'm looking forward to that.

Monday, March 29, 2010

I Wanna Be a Dancin' Woman

I got up early this morning, since I had 10:30 work. Watched the Disney Sleeping Beauty and listened to the rain on my roof. I was hoping it would stop before work, but it didn't. I still rode to work. It was too late to call for I ride. I just got wet.

Work was, thankfully, not as bad as yesterday. Steady, but rarely overwhelming. There were a few cranky customers, but otherwise, no major problems. My relief was on time. I was able to grab milk and head home, this time just in clouds. The rain must have stopped sometime in the afternoon. To my knowledge, it hasn't started since.

I've been wanting to watch that Ballroom Dancing DVD I took out of the Haddon Township Library for two weeks now, but I never got around to it until this evening. Two dancers show off steps for six basic dancing steps to two classes. You - and they - learn the samba, the jive, the waltz, the foxtrot, the quick step, and the tango. I think I got the gist of everything except for the quick step and the tango. It's hard to know if you're holding your partner right when your partners are stuffed horses and dogs.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Party's Over

I slept in this morning and made Banana-Chocolate Chip Pancakes when I finally did get out of bed. Called Mom, too. She was just fine. Keefe was sleeping in; Dad was out riding his motorcycle. She was working on an afghan for my sister's baby. She says she's going to try to get up here to visit me soon, within the next couple of weeks.

After breakfast, I pulled out my spring clothes. I was actually going to do it last week, but it got cold. I'm tired of waiting. Even if we get colder temperatures again, I doubt it'll get cold enough to need corduroy pants and turtlenecks. I put away the heavy pants, turtlenecks, thick knit sweaters, and two of the remaining three long-sleeved t-shirts in my dresser. (I really need to look around for more of those online.)

Besides, I wanted to go through my spring clothes and get rid of anything I didn't need or wouldn't fit anymore. Ditched an acrylic sweater that itched, two blouses that didn't close to fit, and two old T-shirts. I bought one replacement last Monday. I'll get another for my birthday next month.

I really wished my vacation lasted longer. Like forever. Work was incredibly busy and a pain in the rear today, and likely will be all week. In addition to this being exactly a week before Easter, it's the beginning of the month, with all the nuts that pulls out of the woodwork.

The worst of it was this lady who made a fuss over the $10 for 10 sale on six-packs of Deer Park and Poland Spring water. First, she bought the six packs in two larger packs and complained when I asked her to open them. She ended up going after separate six-packs. Then, she fussed when her daughter bought the regular 24 packs of Deer Park and they didn't come up $10 for 10. She whined that they were in the $10 for 10 section...ignoring the fact that they ARE on sale, for $4.99 each. I had to take them off her order. Then the guy BEHIND them got angry and started complaining. Thank goodness the lady with him was able to get him to calm down, but still. I was ready to explode myself by that point; he wasn't helping.

By the time I got off work and had to do some shopping myself, the shelves looked like they were threatening another snowstorm. I was able to get buttermilk and cooking spray, but they were out of the regular Acme brown eggs (I bought Land O' Lakes), and the only Acme Light Yogurt they had left were Peach, Blueberry, and Strawberry Banana.

Nothing went well at home, either. It was windy and cloudy, which made my ride a bit of a pain. I burned the brown rice I had with cabbage, leftover steak, and applesauce with dried cranberries. The guys on The Dress Circle took forever to get to the point tonight on their second "MGM Musical Bio-pics" show. I think they could fit even more music in if they wouldn't blather about every little thing. Give us the info and one bit of trivia and move along to the song or performance piece, boys.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Last Day of Vacation

I slept in, then spent what remained of the morning working on crocheting and sewing projects. I'm making a big felt apple pot holder from the American Girl Molly's Craft Book. I sewed the leaves on this morning. It only required the whipstitch, which I can figure out. It came out pretty well; at least the leaves are on the apple now.

Had lunch at 1:30, then went for a ride around 2PM. It was a lovely day, cooler than it has been (51, according to the sign at Beneficial Bank on the White Horse Pike), but sunny and windless. I rode into Audubon. I haven't been around there in forever, not since I bought my WebKinz baby penguin back in January.

I had a really nice ride. I stopped at Abbie Road Used CDs to say hi to the owner, Bob. Got the greatest hits of John Cougar Melloncamp and a two-CD set The White Cliffs of Dover that I had on cassette, but the cassettes weren't in great shape. Bought macaroons from the nice lady at Dessert By Design. I even saw the little pastries my sister bought for the baby shower last week.

My next stop was Willie the Woodsman and Wife, the little gift shop on Pine Street in Audubon. The lady who owns and runs the shop, Gloria, told me they were having a buy one, get one free sale for WebKinz. Cool! I bought the Black Panther for me and something for my best friend Lauren for Easter. I had a nice chat with Gloria about my reluctance to go back to work next week, too. She's one of the only people around here who understand how I feel about my job. Yeah, it's great to make money, but the stress is driving me nuts.

I just rode around Audubon and Oaklyn for a bit after that. It was a great day for it. There were tons of people out. Kids rode scooters and did tricks on home-made ramps. Parents walked toddlers in strollers. Teenagers chatted together in small knots. People jogged, chatted on each other's porches, and worked in their yards.

Spent the rest of the evening quietly at home after I got in. I've had these vintage handkerchiefs I got for free from the thrift shop since I got them a few years ago. I was going to make them into clothes for the Sailor Soldiers, but I never got around to it. I used a pink and purple floral print and a tie that had been cut off of an old wrap and made...what I thought was going to be a skirt, but the hole was too wide. Sailor Neptune, my gracious model, is now wearing it as a poncho.

Watched The Incredible Hulk while crocheting and eating baked flounder with mushrooms, baked sweet potato, and sauteed cabbage and carrots for dinner. The second time seems to be the charm for one of my favorite Marvel superheroes. They'd apparently filmed the Hulk just a few years prior, but it didn't go over well at the box office. (Though I'd still like to see that one as well.) This version didn't light the world on fire, either, perhaps because it came out in the same summer as the massive hits Iron Man and The Dark Knight. That's a shame. Edward Norton's thoughtful take on Bruce Banner and the awesome action sequences (including that slam-bang finale) deserve a much wider audience. From what I gathered at the time, more people saw this for the cameo in the finale than for anything in the rest of the movie.

Oh, and meet George, the Black Panther, the last of my BeatleKinz! Like his mates, he now lives in the BeatleKinz' LondonKinz flat.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Down In New Jersey

Slept in today, which was just as well. This morning was damp, cloudy, and cold. Actually, it was in the mid-to-upper 40s, chilly for what it has been, but really more like what it should be at this time of year. It rained a little bit as I rode to work, but nothing like the crazy storm we had late last night! That storm almost blew the welcome mat off my porch!

Picked up my paycheck and got my schedule at the Acme. In good news, I have all early hours next week. I think the latest I work is 6:30. In annoying news, I work all week long again, with one day off, Tuesday. I know, I know. I should be happy I have a job. Nobody has a job. There are no jobs. Jobs have vanished, disappeared. Jobs don't exist anymore. You keep your job until it disappears. It shouldn't matter if you like your job. It's money, it's insurance, and that's all that matters. That's all that should matter to anyone. Stress doesn't matter. Being bored with the job doesn't matter. Not using your skills doesn't matter. Making money and having health insurance matters, because you're the only one who has a job that allows you to do that.

If it's so great to have a job, why do I feel trapped?

I made a few stops at the Audubon Crossings Center behind the mall after picking up my paycheck. Hit FYE for The Princess and the Frog. Got that and made use of the buy two items used, get the third for 20% off sale to replace my video copies of Grease and Hot Shots: Part Deux and the cassette copy of Sleepless In Seattle I've had since high school. (I think that movie's dumb, but I looove the soundtrack. It's been one of my favorites for over a decade.)

Looked around Wal Mart and Staples for more plastic baskets like the ones I bought at CVS yesterday, but didn't see anything I liked for a good price. I just bought a cheap shoe rack from Wal Mart and pens from Staples. Stopped at the Acme on my way back around for grocery shopping. Mostly just needed to restock my fruits and vegetables, but I also picked up ground turkey, cereal, low salt-and-low-fat beef broth, canned Italian-seasoned tomatoes, and sugar.

(And I really wish Acme would start putting the cereals that are good for you on their $1.88 and $1.79 sales, instead of all that sugary junk. The only cereal I'd eat on that $1.88 Kelogg's sale is Corn Flakes...if I were using it to coat baked chicken. I ended up with Kashi's Go Lean, which was on sale, though not quite as good of a sale as the Kellogg's.)

Went straight home after that. By that time, it was still windy and cold, but the clouds had broken and blue sky was showing through the clouds. When I went back out to the bank and CVS, the clouds were gone, though the wind remained fairly gusty.

My stop at the bank wasn't as quick as I'd hoped. It was quarter after 4 by then, rush hour on the White Horse Pike. There was a long line at the teller counters and at the drive-through window, and there was only two tellers handling everybody.

Went back to CVS next. I finally decided that, if I couldn't get more baskets from Wal Mart or Staples, I'd just return to the source. I also bought a small plastic dresser for my dolls' clothes. I thought I'd get rid of Jessa's old American Girl Today box. It's not nearly in as good of condition as Samantha's box. (Of course, Jessa kept the box shoved in her closet in that nuclear-disaster of a room for probably about fifteen years, too.)

Did more organizing in the back room when I got home. I couldn't find bins big enough for the large towels (maybe at the dollar store?), but everything else on the three shelves you see as you enter the back room - the dust rags, wash cloths, dish cloths, and face towels - went in baskets. Most of the remaining American Girl clothes and accessories fit in the dresser. The Sailor Soldiers' Christmas outfits and their accessories were also moved to the dresser. I left Little Jess' fur coat (from the Smithfield Collection, I think), Molly's rain coat and hat, and the small box with the girls' ribbons in Samantha's box. The American Girls' mermaid and Sugar Plum Fairy costumes and shoes and Dulcie and Carrie the Cabbage Patch Kids' Christmas outfits were relocated to baskets. Found a place between boxes to wedge Molly's bike until I can figure out how to fix it.

I've kept out-of-season shoes in a crate in my bedroom closet since I've moved here. It's not really good for the shoes. All of the out-of-season shoes but my winter boots were moved to the shoe rack. The crate went in the back room. It was a great place to finally put all the Christmas books I only pull out during the holiday season.

Watched The Princess and the Frog while making Skillet Chicken Cutlets with Italian Tomatoes, spinach salad, and the last of the home-made cole slaw for dinner. Tiana, a young woman living in New Orleans in what I assume to be the early 1920s, is hell-bent on securing her dream of owning her own restaurant. She works hard at two waitress jobs to earn the place of her dreams. Meanwhile, her ditzy best friend Charlotte is eyeing Prince Naveen, a lazy young man from a fictional country who has never worked a day in his life. His parents have cut him off, but he wants to keep living the high-life. He thinks he's found the easy way in voodoo practicing "Shadow Man" Dr. Facilier's promises...but his actions have costs, not only for himself, but for Tiana and Charlotte, too.

I've been looking forward to seeing this since it came out in December, and I wasn't disappointed. It was an absolute blast. Tiana's an awesome heroine, for one thing, one of the best Disney ever came up with. Determined, smart, and tough, she has absolutely no problem with working towards her goal. I wasn't as impressed with Naveen, maybe because I have no more use for lazy pretty boys than Tiana, no matter how royal they are. I'm glad to see he changed his mind about the high life later.

Along with Tiana, my favorite character was Ray, the lovesick firefly. His "girlfriend," Evangeline, provides not only a lovely ballad, but the theme of the entire movie. Not only that, but he provides a wonderful dramatic moment towards the end of the film that will leave many in tears. Also liked Charlotte, the sweet-natured socialite who is a parody of every girl who's ever been obsessed with finding her prince charming. (And is it me, or does she look a lot like Darla Dimple from Cats Don't Dance, even as an adult?)

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Organized Balance

Started off an initially sunny morning with my first yoga class in two weeks. It was a busy one, too, 14 people counting the teacher Karin. The large class made it a little difficult to practice stretches and standing balance poses, but we did what we could do. Still can't stand on my head, but other than that, I did well enough.

Went straight to the Collingswood Library next for my first volunteer session there in three weeks. I spent an hour returning books in the second-level non-fiction least, as well as I could. They're building new shelves on the narrow passageway between the adult non-fiction and the kids' section. I couldn't shelve three books on Collingswood that normally go in the reference section on New Jersey.

On the other hand, I saw some interesting historic photos in those books that explained a few things. For one thing, Haddon Avenue used to boast an A&P (then known by its full name of The Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company) and an Acme. Both are long gone. I'm assuming they moved to their current, much larger digs in Westmont in the 60s, from the design of those buildings. The A&P building now houses a convenience store. The Acme building is now home to two restaurants. One side is a 50s-style diner, the Pop Shop; the other, a just-opened South American steakhouse, El Sito.

The books also explained Haddon Avenue's eclectic building designs. Some look like they date from the town's founding in the 1880s, some from the early 20th century, some from the 30s, and some from the 60s and 70s. There was apparently a gigantic fire in 1915 that damaged a lot of the downtown area, including Haddon Avenue. That's probably why many of the stores on some parts of Haddon are made of stone, including the Woolworth's Building (The Painted Cottage Cafe and a karate studio) and Marlene's. The Library's been rebuilt, too. The current building replaced a far more elaborate stone library from the turn of the 20th century in the 70s.

Stopped at the thrift shop after volunteering to say "hi" to my friend Erica (who is one of the managers there) and to browse. I ended up buying another Effanbee doll. I only have two male Effanbee dolls, Prince Charming and the Scarecrow, so I bought a third. In his red velvet covering with its yellow fleur-di-lis trim and huge brown plumed hat with its (now yellowed) feather, he could be none other than one of the Three Musketeers! Unlike the Bo Peep I bought a while back, he even came with his sword. I also bought a book on making stuffed animals.

Lunch was next. Once again, I ate at GrooveGround, which is really the closest place to Genesis Counseling that I can afford. I had a huge Turkey Ciabatta Sandwich and half of the pasta salad that came with it - it came in two little cups. (I did, however, nix the potato chips that were also part of the meal. The pasta salad was more than enough.)

My monthly counseling session was next on the agenda. I had a LOT to tell Scott about. I'd had a rather busy month! We discussed Rose and Craig and the baby shower, my stress over my hours at work and all the weather and health issues I had in February, my decision to find hobbies after spending a lot of the winter bored, my anxiety with large groups, and my both my current vacation and the one I'm going to take in late May when Lauren visits. Scott basically said to try not to stress so much over the customer issues, to try to calm down and say positive things.

The Collingswood history book I'd read earlier had made me want to check out the larger of two parks in Collingswood, Knight Park. The land was apparently donated by a local millionaire in the 1880s and has been Collingswood's premiere recreational facility ever since. The small (and surprisingly modern) Picnic Pavilion and the Victorian park office building have been supplemented by a host of baseball and soccer fields for the park's across-the-street neighbor Collingswood High School. A colorful playground was added last year.

It wasn't a bad afternoon for a ride, either. By the time I was in Knight Park, it was on-and-off cloudy, but not cold, and yesterday's wind had died down to a breeze. It's remained so the rest of the day.

The last stop of the day was the CVS across from Newton River Park, on the border of Collingswood and Oaklyn. I was originally looking for ant spray, but while I didn't find what I was looking for, I found some other interesting things. I picked up three plastic baskets and made use of a 99 cent sale on bags of dried fruit to restock my dried cranberries and apricots. (That's the cheapest I've EVER seen dried fruit, and even the regular $1.99 price is much better than Craisins at the Acme.)

Got home around 3:30 and spent the rest of the day organizing the apartment. The shelves in the back room that I use for towels, dust rags, dish cloths, and items that don't fit in my tiny bathroom looked messy, and I could never find anything.

When my sisters and I were little, Mom controlled the clutter in our rooms by putting our smaller toys, games, and puzzles in plastic baskets. I decided to do that again. Bathroom items like foot salts, cough drops, and extra soap and Band Aids, went in one basket. All of the bottles of lotions, shower gels, and creams that everyone keeps giving me, along with extra toothpaste and deodorant, went in the second basket. The third holds the wrap stabilizers for my knee and wrist that I bought after my accidents in July 2006 and 2007.

Since I was in the back room, I organized the Prevention Magazines I got last year and early this year as well. As nice as they were, my only real interest in them were the wonderful recipes. I've really used some of those over the past year. My favorites are the Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe I've mentioned several times here and a few recipes for honey-glazed carrots. I pulled the recipes out, cut out the ones I wanted to keep, and recycled the rest.

(Though some of the articles on health and nutrition were interesting, I didn't think they were worth keeping. Our knowledge on those subjects have been changing so much, those articles may not be relevant even six months from now.)

Watched Once Upon a Mattress during my dinner of steak, sauteed carrots and onions, and a spinach and dried apricot salad. The third TV taping of the 1959 Broadway musical shows us a comic version of the Hans Christian Anderson story The Princess and the Pea. Meek Prince Dauntless the Drab wants to get married...but his decidedly not-meek mother Queen Agrivain will only allow her baby to marry a "real" princess. She devises a series of impossible tests that every would-be suitor fails. No one in the kingdom can marry until Dauntless does. This proves to be a problem for virtuous Sir Harry and his sweet girlfriend Lady Larkin. They got a little...intimate...and she's now expecting.

Harry figures he'll find a princess the queen can't turn down outside the borders of their kingdom. The woman he chooses is Princess Winnifred of the Swamps. Call her "Fred." She's certainly not your typical princess. Despite her introductory number, "Shy", she's noisy, athletic, intelligent, energetic, and could probably wrestle an alligator if she felt like it. Naturally, the queen hates her on sight and devises one last, impossible test for her. Just something simple, putting a pea under 20 mattresses...

Apparently, this sat on the shelves for several years before being one of the last movies shown as part of The Wonderful World of Disney. I don't know why they waited so long. It's really cute, especially if you're a fan of Broadway musicals. Lady Larkin and Sir Harry's little problem gives the story an edge that many of these shows lack. Tracy Ullman is a hilarious Winifred; Carol Burnett is delightfully nasty as the controlling Queen.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Make Our Garden Grow

Slept in and started a gorgeous spring day with volunteering at the Oaklyn Library. It was windy as I headed down Manor Avenue around 11, but otherwise sunny and warm. The library reflected the gorgeous weather; i.e, it was dead all morning. I did the usual organizing the kids' books and DVDs, then took out two books on woodworking and one on crocheting.

Walked back to my place after I got out for lunch. I decided I wanted something a little different than the usual apple-yogurt-granola bar thing I take to work every day. I tossed apple slices, dried cranberries, and sunflower seeds in a dressing made of white (cooking) wine, brown sugar, and lemon juice. I mixed berry jam with plain yogurt and added that to the top. It was delicious, the best salad I've had in a long time.

Miss Ellie called me yesterday and asked me to help her with the yard. It certainly needed it. A tree fell during the storms last month (which would explain some of the loud "thump" noises I heard then), and there were huge branches and sticks scattered around the front and sides yards. I've been meaning to clean them up for ages, but I haven't had the time.

Some of Miss Ellie's garden tools and pots were damaged in the storm, and some of them were just too old to be used anymore. I helped drag those out to the curb. (And that reminded me to take my own trash out - tomorrow is trash day.)

As I was finishing the sticks, Miss Ellie popped her head out and asked me to do another favor. There's a large plot of land between the side of the house and the park that she uses for a garden. Could I lightly rake the front of the garden? She was worried about her violets that might be sprouting and wouldn't be able to find the sun under all those leaves.

Sure! I like raking. I grabbed a rake and walked slowly down the rickety steps to the side yard. I hadn't even realized there was a garden in the side yard. When you look out of the side window of the music section of the living room, you can see a plot of land between the house and the park with logs that box sections into rectangles. There's a plot of daffodils there now, but little else. I did rake the leaves...and I found something wondrous. Miss Ellie was right. There WERE little pale white-green shoots coming out of the ground. The violets really were looking for the sun! It thrilled me to see those green, growing things...and know that I had helped them thrive.

After I finished in the side yard (and earned $20 from Miss Ellie for helping out), I did something else I haven't had the time for lately. I've been wanting to make bread for ages, but once again, I haven't had the time. I put together a huge round loaf of Broa, a Portuguese Corn Bread.

While it rose, I went for a short walk. By 5:30, the wind wasn't blowing quite as fiercely, and it was warmer, probably in the upper 60s. I hiked down Goff Avenue to the boat launch on Peter Creek, then back around the neighborhood next to the school, down West Clinton, and up Manor. Everyone was out and about. Kids played in their yards. People worked in their yards, or sat on their porches (or at one house on Kendall, their balcony) and chatted, or chased their kids around.

I let the loaf rise again when I got home, then had leftover beef stew for dinner. The loaf came out beautifully, a bit bigger than I thought, but wonderfully soft and chewy. I'll just separate it into two parts when I put it away.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Island Girls and Faithful Elephants

I spent a gray and dreary morning doing laundry. I'd stripped the sheets and pillowcases off my bed on Saturday, so I had a bit more to do than usual. I spent the morning chatting with Dad, Uncle Ken, and Dolores and reading Sweet Revenge, which I bought on New Year's Eve and never got around to looking at. After the laundry was done, I went home, put everything away, had a quick lunch of Cranberry-Orange Muffins, celery, and peanut butter, and headed for the Haddon Township Library.

It may have been a mistake to go later in the day. For one thing, it started raining lightly on my way to Westmont. It wasn't anything like yesterday, though, and I was lucky enough to get inside before I could get really wet. Also unlike yesterday, it didn't last. It was spitting a little bit around 4, but otherwise has just been windy.

The library was busy when I came in around 2. The kids were getting out of the many schools in the area, and there were plenty of DVDs to put away and books to return. I took out a fair share myself - more Holmes on the Range, a paperback cooking mystery, the Ballroom Dancing DVD I took out last week that I never had the time to look at, and four fiction DVDs - Barbie as the Island Princess, the 2008 computer animated Horton Hears A Who!, the recent Disney version of the Broadway musical Once Upon a Mattress, and the Edward Norton The Incredible Hulk (another one I took out but never got to watch).

I needed a few things at Super Fresh on my way home. The big one was whole wheat flour. I was completely out. Their prices aren't great, but I really wanted it. Also grabbed chicken cutlets and skinless, boneless chicken thighs on sale (the Acme doesn't carry either), eggs, and light bulbs.

Though the rain had slowed to spitting by 4:30, it was cold, windy, and still not a day to be lingering outside. I spent the rest of the evening at home, baking Cranberry-Pear Muffins (using the last of the Cranberry-Pear Butter from the farm market that's been around forever), crocheting, and watching DVDs.

Island Princess falls somewhere in the middle of the Barbie pack. It's more engaging than the earlier Rapunzel or the too-cutesy Diamond Castle, but still not quite as good, either in animation or writing, as the more recent stories. Like Mermaid Tale, it's an original story - a young girl, shipwrecked on a tropical island, grows up with the animals and can speak their language. She's discovered by a young prince who longs for the outdoor adventures she finds everyday, but he's being forced to marry a sweet but definitely indoor-type noblewoman.

There's a lot of overlap here with Rapunzel. The villainess is almost the same type, a scheming mother (or mother-figure) who wants the kingdom because she can't forgive past unhappiness. Once again, the girl is searching for her family with animals who love her but don't quite understand why she's leaving her comfort zone. In this case, it's the elephant, the shy Tiki, who steals the show. She's a real charmer. While not terribly memorable, the music is a mild step-up from some of the more treacly Barbie songs.

Horton Hears a Who! also involved a very faithful animated elephant from the jungle. This time, we move to an adaptation, of one of Dr. Seuss' most famous stories. Horton is a sweet pachyderm who spends his days teaching the kids in the Jungle of Nool about bugs. He discovers a strange speck on a clovernand learns that this speck contains a whole universe. The residents of Whoville go about their daily business, not realizing that their world is barely bigger than a pinprick. Only the Mayor can hear Horton, and thanks to his large ears, only Horton can hear the Mayor. Everyone around them thinks they have screws loose, including a very nasty kangaroo who seems to be the head of the jungle and the stern Whoville City Council, who are determined to let the good times roll, despite warnings that their world is about to be shaken down to its core.

I was quite impressed with this sweet, good-natured tale. Unlike the previous live-action Seuss adaptations, the story remained reasonably faithful to the book. Animation is a far better medium for Seuss-ian fables than live-action film, and it shows here, from brilliant colors of the Jungle of Nool to the very Seuss design of Whoville. My only mild complaints are a few out-of-place pop-culture references (including an odd but brief switch to 2-D Anime for a Horton dream sequence) and revised characters (JoJo now looks like he belongs in Coraline, not a Dr. Seuss story). And what was with that weird ending with everyone singing REO Speedwagon's "Can't Fight This Feeling Anymore"?

Monday, March 22, 2010

With a Little Help From My WebKinz

Oh, and meet my newest WebKinz, Ringo the Lil'Kinz Black and White Cheeky Dog! Yes, I decided to continue the Beatles theme. He moved in with his mates John the Ginger Cat and Paul the English Sheepdog and now inhabits one-third of their eclectic city flat based (somewhat) after their flat in Help!.
Mall Madness

I learned four important things from my very long mall trip on New Year's Eve. The first was "start early." I was up by 7:30 and out the door by 9:30. It wasn't a very attractive day. In fact, it was pouring when I headed to the Collingswood PATCO, and has continued to pour on and off for the entire day. I arrived at the train station dripping wet.

The second was "bring the bike unless you absolutely can't. You won't be up for walking home after spending three hours walking around a mall." Despite the rain, yes, I did ride the bike to the PATCO, and yes, I am glad I did. Got me home a lot quicker in the lousy weather.

The train and the buses were all on time, despite the weather. I heard Bob Kelly on WOGL mention this morning that the PATCO was delayed 10 minutes this morning due to track repairs, but they must have cleared that up by quarter of 10. I was going to walk down to the Haddonfield Bike Shop when I arrived there, but the rain was coming down so hard, I just sat in the train/bus terminal and read a book until the bus to Deptford appeared.

The third was "only cross the street if absolutely, totally necessary." I just stuck to the large Target and the Deptford Mall this time. Getting to Target had been my main objective, since I hadn't made it there at New Year's. I did very well, once I found my way around. They'd added a more extensive grocery section, with a small area for meat, produce, and dairy items, since last fall, and that whole side of the store had been completely rearranged. I ended up with trash bags, two bags of Target-brand dried cranberries (cheaper than Craisins), a bottle of lemon extract, and The First Easter Rabbit, the only Rankin-Bass Easter special I didn't have.

Had lunch at the Pizza Hut across from Target in the same parking lot area. I haven't eaten at a Pizza Hut since I lived in Wildwood (where it was one of the few restaurants opened year-round on the island). I love their lunch buffet. Pizza, pasta, salad, and those divine cinnamon breadsticks. What more could anyone want for in a meal?

Hiked over to the Deptford Mall after lunch. The rain had let up while I was in Target. It was spitting as I made my way down the highway...and just started pouring again as I ran the last yard or so across the parking lot to the Deptford Mall's main entrance.

It wasn't nearly as busy at the mall as it was on New Year's Eve. They still had those cute fuzzy mechanical animal rides and the train on the lower level, and I saw children greeting the Easter Bunny as I headed past his area. Still, I didn't hit anything like the lines I saw in December...which was the fourth thing I learned. "Try to hit the mall at off-hours...and not during holidays."

I arrived at the mall around 1PM...and was done shopping by quarter of 3. I picked up a cute Lil' Kinz Black and White Cheeky Dog from American Greetings for $6.99 from a sale basket. JC Penney had some great sales, too. I got a St. John Bay yellow t-shirt for $9.99, a pack of (much-needed) socks for $7.99, a work-out t-shirt for $8.99, a pair of sandals for $30, and a red turtleneck on clearance for $3.17. The girl who helped me find the sandals in JC Penney, Dawn, was really sweet and a great help. She found everything I needed, including a second pair when I decided I didn't like the backs on the first one.

Made my best find at Sears. I was browsing their Lands End section when I found the perfect spring jacket for me. It was lightweight, waterproof, and it had a hood! It would figure, though, that the only extra-large they had left was also the only one that had lost its tag. The salesgirl here was really nice, too, and handled it quite well. Lands End was having a 20% off sale, so I got the jacket for $39.60.

Good thing I did buy the jacket. The heavy rain had returned as I hopped on the bus back to Deptford. Thankfully, it slowed down after I arrived in Collingswood, but it still wasn't a day to linger around. I made a very quick stop at WaWa for milk, then hurried home.

I got incredibly lucky. It showered on the way home, but it wasn't as heavy as that morning, and I wasn't nearly as wet. However, thunder rumbled even as I pulled up at the apartment, and five minutes after I stepped in the door, the shower had stepped up to monsoon levels.

Needless to say, I spent the rest of the night inside, watching The First Easter Rabbit, crocheting, and baking a Cranberry-Spice Cake. It's continued to do the on-and-off rain and thunder. I'm glad I got to the mall...but even I have my limits.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Free As A Bird

The weather couldn't have been more perfect today. I threw my windows open to a bright, sunny spring morning that was already in the upper 60s at quarter after 9. I made Chocolate Chip-Peanut Butter Pancakes for breakfast and turned on the WOGL Brunch With the Beatles show. "Award-winning songs" was the them today. The last one played was the Beatles song released in the late 90s, "Free As A Bird," that I remember hearing on the radio a lot then.

Called Mom after breakfast. She was looking up other ways to get up here on Google Maps. She was fine. My brother slept in after helping with security at Lower Cape May Regional High's spring musical; my stepfather was (understandably) out riding on his motorcycle. We talked about the baby shower yesterday and her frustration with Craig's odd but well-meaning mother (who seems reluctant to cut the apron strings with her sons), and about my mixed feelings on being an aunt.

We also had a nice, long talk about sewing and crocheting doll clothes. I'd love to make simple shorts, skirts, sweaters, and pants for Molly and Jessa, modern tights for Jessa, and muffs, hats, and gloves for all of the girls. It'll probably be a long time before I can make elaborate Victorian and Colonial outfits for Samantha and Felicity, though I may crochet or sew them capes and cloaks. I have a pattern book for Samantha that I bought forever ago, but never really used. I may have to break that out again. I don't care if the clothes match the books. I've seen some wonderfully creative doll outfit designs online. As long as the clothes look even vaguely right for the time period and good on the dolls, that's what matters.

And they aren't the only ones who need clothes. While I've had no problem finding clothes for the fashion-doll sized Sailor Soldiers, the Cabbies are a somewhat tougher find. Carrie in particular needs a new outfit badly. The Velcro on her original yellow dress from 1984 no longer wants to close, and the green overalls I bought for her a few years ago don't really fit. Dulcie's missing her original tights, too.

Mom and I talked for so long, we were on the phone for over an hour! The Beatles show was more than half-over by the time she finally said she had to do some chores. I did the breakfast dishes, then started dinner. The slow-cooker beef stew I made a few Sundays ago was so tasty, I decided to do it again. I tossed beef chunks, a sliced red potato, a carrot, two stalks of celery, some onion, water, a can of fat-free, low-sodium beef broth, and some pepper and spices into the Crock Pot.

Rose called as I was slicing celery. She said yesterday that she'd like to come visit me and return a book on bread baking she'd borrowed a few weeks ago. Mom had said that she would probably be tired after the baby shower yesterday, and it turns out Mother really does know best. Rose said she badly wanted to take a nap, could she come later in the afternoon? Sure! I rarely make major plans on a Sunday, even on days when I work.

I finally left the the Crock Pot and my dinner simmering away and went for a nice, long walk around Newton River Park. There was never a nicer spring day. By the time I was swinging at the first, red-and-yellow playground across from the Parks of Collingswood condos, it was in the mid-to-upper 70s. A beautiful breeze drifted across the river, cooling the kids running around slides and riding their bikes. I hadn't seen so many boats on the river since the 4th of July! Men fished on the docks. Teenagers jogged with pals or threw Frisbees. People walked their dogs and pushed strollers with sleepy babies.

I walked a little longer this time than I did a few weeks ago. Though the snow is long gone, there's still some muddy spots in places that show the effects of last week's storms and flooding. I ducked around bikers, fishermen, and really big mud puddles as I headed to the narrow, steep stone steps that lead to East Oakland Avenue.

From there, I went back up to the White Horse Pike for lunch. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, pretty much my only lunch choices on the Pike on a Sunday are Taco Bell, WaWa, or a diner. I didn't feel like a big sit-down lunch, and I definitely didn't want Mexican fast-food. I opted for a 4-inch hoagie, a soda, and a bag of the new Coconut-flavored M&Ms from WaWa instead.

Headed home after that. Said "hi" to Miss Ellie, who was organizing recycling and various gardening tools on her front porch. Even she couldn't bring herself to sit inside all day when it was so nice outside! Waved to my neighbor Michael on the way in. He was blowing leaves in his backyard, and I don't know if he saw me.

After lunch, I went right back out again. It was still too nice to be inside! I tossed my red Frisbee around Veteran's Park next-door for about a half-hour. Alas, this wasn't as good of an idea as my walk. Half the park is still really muddy and swampy from the storms last weekend. I slipped and slid a lot. I was only out for about 20 minutes to a half-hour.

Decided when I got in that I needed a rest after all that running around, so I worked on crocheting for an hour and listened to some of my old rock cassettes from the 80s. Rose finally arrived around 4. I showed her the two chain stitch rows and one chain/single crochet row that I'd made into collars for some of my WebKinz. She enjoyed my home-brewed Raspberry Herbal Iced Tea. We discussed her delight over her impending child, our worries about our sister Anny and her ongoing troubles with her sons and being a single parent, how well the baby shower went yesterday, and her exasperation with her boyfriend's mother.

(And yes, she did finally bring that bread book back. Good. I need to make bread rather badly this week.)

My cookie tin was empty again, but I haven't had time to fill it. I finally made Lemon-Wine Sugar Cookies. Used the basic low-fat "Stir and Drop Sugar Cookie" recipe from the Betty Crocker Cookie Book and replaced some of the oil and the vanilla with lemon juice and white cooking wine. Alas, it still tasted more like sugar than lemon or wine; maybe I'll cut a little sugar next time.

I had a delicious dinner of Peppered Beef Stew, a banana, and a Cranberry-Orange Muffin while listening to Broadway cast albums. "The Dress Circle," the other radio show I listen to on Sundays, was on after dinner. The theme was "An All-Star 42nd Street." Most of the selections came from the 1980 original or 2007 revival casts, but they mixed in vintage recordings of Al Jolson singing "About a Quarter to Nine" (which was from his 1935 vehicle Go Into Your Dance) and Bing Crosby singing "You're Getting to Be A Habit With Me."

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Come Together

Thank goodness it remained absolutely gorgeous when I stepped out this morning to run a few errands on the White Horse Pike. The sun was bright and warm as I headed down to the bank to deposit money from my regular paycheck and vacation paycheck. Since I was in the neighborhood, I went a few blocks down to the Post Office to buy a book of stamps. The bank was dead, but there was a short line at the Post Office that was quickly dispatched when a second teller opened.

I headed home and tidied up around my apartment. I wasn't sure if Mom and Anny and Keefe would be coming over later or not. I vacuumed. I put books away. I found a basket for my sewing and crochet items. I made my bed. I straightened dolls and put up windows.

Went over to Uncle Ken and Dad's around 11 to help out with the party. As it turned out, Dad and Jodie were mostly done by the time I arrived. Jodie had almost all of the food done but the baked black bean dip and the yogurt dip for the fruit. I did get to help Dad bring three coolers to the porch and load them with ice. One had beer, one cans of soda, and one bottles of water. I got bored after that and went for a walk, stopping briefly at CVS to pick up something...and forgetting what it was. I didn't remember until just an hour ago! (It was Raid. I'm seeing ants in the kitchen again.)

The party was just starting when I arrived. There were so many people! Eventually, I saw Rose and Craig, Dolores and Uncle Ken, many of their friends from the restaurant in Haddon Heights where they work, Rose's long-time friend Sheila and her husband Jerome (she's pregnant, too - her baby shower was yesterday!), Craig's mother and stepfather, my cousin Samantha and her little daughter Faith, Mom, Keefe, Anny, her new boyfriend John, Skylar, Dad's friends Diane and Brian who have lived in West Cape May for as long as I can remember, and my friend Erica and her mother Miss Helen who live next-door to Jodie, Jodie's son TJ and his friend, and a few other friends of Uncle Ken's and Dad's.

Rose and Craig got lots and lots of beautiful baby items from everyone! Most people, not surprisingly, gave them clothes. Mom gave them beautiful blankets she'd sewn and crocheted. Diane and Brian gave them a child-sized stool they'd built and painted themselves! I gave them the just-retired 2-disc DVD for Disney's The Jungle Book, which I found a few weeks ago at the big FYE behind the Acme where I work. Rose was looking for it at the Best Buy in Cherry Hill when we were out shopping in late January, but they were out of it.

There was tons of food, too. I had a pulled pork sandwich, macaroni salad, green salad, tortilla chips, pretzels, and items from the fruit, cheese, and veggie trays. Rose and Craig brought platters of cute little pastries from Dessert By Design, the wonderful bakery that also did my birthday cake last year. I brought a Banana-French Vanilla Mousse Pie. Erica and one of Rose's friends brought plates of chocolate-covered pretzels. And there was the stuff I didn't eat - meatballs (they were gone before I could have some), potato salad, potato chips, a strawberry pudding pie.

I was really hoping Mom, Keefe, Anny, John, and Sky could visit me today too, but they all had things to do this evening. After we took tons of group shots on the front lawn next to the pool area, they had to leave. I was disappointed, even though Mom had said they would visit next month when Keefe is on spring break, now that they know how to get up here.

I guess I'm just a little overwhelmed. I never thought I'd see all (or close to all) of my relatives in one place! Rose said she has a book she borrowed from me that she wants to return. She'll come over tomorrow for a cup of tea.

Friday, March 19, 2010

"Repeat After Me - We Need a Vacation!"

I got up early enough this morning to work on the bike after breakfast. It was another gorgeous day, a little breezy but sunny and in the upper 50s at 8:30AM. I tightened the screws on the back wheel. I'm hoping that'll fix things. If the chain comes off again, I'm going to have to try to remove the whole darn wheel. That's a lot more complicated with the wheel I got last year. There's a piece you have to take off with a Phillips screwdriver.

At the very least, the bike got me to work and back. The ride was sensational. It was a perfect day for bike riding. I'm not the only one who was out and about today, either. We've had several classes of what appears to be first and second grade kids taking field trips to the store over the past few weeks. They're so cute! I love it when the managers let them use the scanners. They're too funny.

Other than that, this was a fairly quiet, off-and-on day. My relief was actually early, and there were no major problems. I was able to do my grocery shopping in peace. I had a lot to do, too, since I'm going to be eating at home a lot next week. Picked up steak, whole berry cranberry sauce, granola bars, yogurt (plain and flavored - Dannon was on sale), Skippy Natural Chunky Peanut Butter (tastes so much better than regular), the Favorit Swiss Preserves in Forest Berry (I wanted cherry, but they were out), and the usual restocking of vegetables and fruit.

My schedule this week schedule. I asked for tomorrow off for Rose's big baby shower, but after that, I'm taking the whole week for my second vacation. Boy, do I need it. I feel like I've been going non-stop since early February. Unlike my usual vacations, I intend to pass this one at home. I'm going to go to the Deptford Mall on Monday and I have counseling on Thursday (which is kind of why I asked for this week off anyway), and I'll do all the usual library volunteering and yoga class...but beyond that, I have no plans.

And I love it. I haven't had a whole week to myself since I lived in Wildwood. I'll get things done around the apartment, go for walks, and work on crocheting and that ballroom dancing DVD I took out of the Haddon Township Library.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Busiest Bee

Started a lovely day with volunteering at the Oaklyn Library. I figured this was the only other library I'd have the time to get to on this busy week! I spent an hour there organizing the kids' section and the DVDs. The DVDs in particular needed it. You can tell no one had done them in a long time. Kids' and adults' DVDs were mixed together, and everything was out of order.

I stepped out into a perfect early spring morning. Crocuses are popping up everywhere, including around the library's sign on their front lawn. The grass is so green after this weekend! All that rain we had was good for something. I quickly rode my bike home, changed into my work uniform, had lunch, and headed back out again to the Acme.

Work was a pain in the rear end today. Though we were on-and-off busy, we didn't have enough help. Almost the entire evening shift called out! I'm assuming all of the teenagers had spring sports they had to get ready for...or spring fever. I was asked to stay later tonight, but I said no. I felt bad, but I want to get ready for Rose and Craig's huge baby shower on Saturday.

Thankfully, it wasn't too crazy when I shut down to leave. I grabbed things for a pudding pie, then headed home...getting merely a few blocks before the chain came off my bike. Again. For the third time in less than two weeks. I got it back on, but I really need to figure out what's going on here, or at least try to tighten the damn thing.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Emerald Isle

First of all, top of the evenin' to 'ye! I hope all of you had a wonderful St. Patrick's Day, whether you're Irish or not.

Began an utterly gorgeous morning with chores around the house. I woke up with enough time to sweep the porch before work. I'm glad I did. It was a pleasant morning. The air was warm, the sun was shining, and the wind and clouds from the weekend had disappeared completely. The tides had gone down, too. What little snow was left from last month's storm vanished with the storms.

Work wasn't bad, either. It was pretty quiet all day. Steady enough that the time went fairly fast, but never really busy. My relief was on time, and there were no major problems.

When I came out it was...warm. Probably in the lower 60s. No wonder so many of my customers had been in their shirtsleeves. I peeled off my field hockey jacket, stuck it in my basket with my lunch bag, and rode home in my work uniform. It felt so light and cool.

Spent the rest of the afternoon finally getting the dusting in. It had to be done today. I won't have time the rest of the week. I'm hoping to get to the Oaklyn Library tomorrow before work, I was asked to come in early on Friday morning and need to go grocery shopping Friday evening, and Saturday is the baby shower. I wish I hadn't put it off as long as I did, but I keep getting called in or too many hours.

I also received two more American Girls outfits that I won off eBay in the mail. Molly's Christmas Dress is a really pretty green velvet outfit with a cute full skirt and ecru lace on the collar and cuffs, with tiny little buttons going down the front. I love it. Molly looks adorable in it; shame it's now too warm for her to wear it.

Samantha got a gorgeous hand-made recreation of one of her limited-edition outfits, an ice-blue dress with a square collar that was based after an outfit from one of her short stories. Though advertised as a "Winter Party" or "Skating Party" dress, the softer color and lighter fabric really say "spring" to me. It'll be Sam's Easter dress.

Listened to the soundtrack from the movie version of Finian's Rainbow while I dusted. As enjoyable as the original Broadway cast is, the movie has a cast that can't be matched - Fred Astaire as the title character, Petula Clark as his daughter, and Tommy Steele as the leprechaun who pursues the gold Astaire plans to bury near Fort Knox, hoping it'll sprout the way that famed bank's gold seems to have. Francis Ford Coppola directed the movie version in 1968. It's a little dated, but the cast and wonderful music makes it worth looking for.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Walking On Sunshine

Thank goodness, after three days of nasty weather, I awoke to nothing but sunshine. It was a little chilly when I stuck my head out at around quarter of 9AM and still windy, but the newly emerged sun felt nice on my nose. I listened to my radio and had Cranberry-Orange Muffins for breakfast. After I finished, I did a few chores around the apartment - took out the recycling, got my college payment bill and the Census envelope together. I stuck the bill and the Census in the mailbox in front of the house, then headed for the Haddon Township Library for this week's volunteering session there.

It was very busy when I came in. Today is Storybook Day at the Haddon Township Library, and kids were seeking their favorite books and DVDs. Not only that, but the DVD rack was overloaded with returns, too. A librarian also wanted me to find the Magic School Bus DVDs, one of which had gone missing. (They're still missing. I didn't see any of them on the racks.)

I took out two new girls' specials, Barbie In a Mermaid's Tale and Strawberry Shortcake: The Berryfest Princess, along with the Woody Allen/Diane Keaton comedy Manhattan Murder Mystery. I also took out the Felicity and Molly American Girls craft books, which had simple sewing crafts I wanted to try, a book on walking for fitness, and a crochet book from the 80s with easy instructions.

Headed over to the Westmont Plaza after work to run some errands. I really needed a small wooden crate for the home-made DVDs I've picked up from various sources at JoAnn's. I also bought some felt and thread for a project and more crochet yarn. I then headed to Dollar Tree for cards for Mom's and my friend Kelly's birthdays and Rose and Craig's baby shower. Had lunch at the Bagel Shop again, this time a Chicken Salad Club on a 5-Grain Bagel with just pickles on the side, no fries or chips.

When I got home, I put everything away, did some stuff around the apartment, and headed out to Dad and Uncle Ken's for this week's laundry session. Dad had stuff in the dryer when I arrived, so I had to wait a while. I read for a while, then went for a walk.

By 4PM, you couldn't have asked for a nicer spring day. It was now in the 60s, sunny, and though still a bit breezy, the wind was nothing like the other day. I went to CVS for shampoo for me and fabric softener for Dad and Uncle Ken, then hiked around the neighborhood. Not surprisingly after the weekend, everyone was out. People walked their dogs. They washed their cars. They chatted with their neighbors and weeded their yards. Kids played catch and chased their siblings and friends. That one orange crocus I saw in front of the big house across from the Oaklyn Library had been joined by a whole platoon of pretty little purple, white, and orange flowers, all blooming.

It was after 6 before I finally got home, put everything away, and started dinner. I just tossed a can of tuna and some vegetables into the tomato-beef broth leftover from the other night and steamed the last of the collard greens.

Ran Mermaid's Tale during dinner and Berryfest Princess directly afterwards. This time, Barbie came out the better of the two with a really fun story about a young girl from Malibu, California, who discovers she's half-mermaid after her hair turns pink during a surfing contest. I liked this funny parable about being different and accepting what we are. The references to real-life California surfing speak and actual mermaid mythology kept the story far more grounded than the pure-fantasy Diamond Castle. Also, no songs here, just one amusing rock-ish number "Queen of the Waves" and a reworking of "Walking On Sunshine."

Alas, Strawberry didn't come out nearly as well. Berryfest Princess is the second outing for the third revival of the famous American Greetings characters. Strawberry and her friends find themselves taking over the duties of the Berry Princess and having to run the Berryfest Festival and Parade by themselves...but Strawberry wonders if she's in over her head when the other girls won't listen to her. While I'm glad to see more of Strawberry's friends, they all come off as rather bratty, especially towards the middle of the program. It also feels rather fragmented, like three episodes of a series strung together (badly). Not to mention, the morals about working together and making choices are very sugary and shoved down viewers' throats. Little girls will enjoy it, but mothers may want to check YouTube if they're feeling nostalgic about Strawberry.

(BTW, the Acme tried to call me in today, but they wanted me in at 2 and I didn't get home until 2:30. I'm so glad they missed me. I've gotten plenty of extra hours in, and I really wanted to get some errands done today. I'm not going to get anything done on Saturday, my other day off this week - that's the day of the baby shower. They're going to need my help at Dad and Uncle Ken's that day.)

Monday, March 15, 2010

Rain's In Again

It wasn't raining when I got up this morning. It was just damp and gray. I took the bike to work and thought nothing of it, hoping it meant the rain was done. It had rained hard after I got in from work last night, but hadn't since then.

Work was on-and-off busy, not as crazy as yesterday but steady enough that time went by fairly quickly. There were no major problems, other than my relief took his sweet time getting in. I picked up a few things (spaghetti sauce, canned diced tomatoes, cider vinegar, plastic Easter eggs to put in my baskets, Smart Balance 50/50 sticks on sale), and headed out.

There were no problems...until I went outside. Yep, it was raining again. Hard. I waited a few minutes until the rain let up a little. I got wet going home, but not quite as dripping as the other night when I walked.

There were some surprises waiting for me in the mailbox. I've ordered some outfits off eBay for my four American Girls. The first of those outfits arrived today. The Felicity doll I got from my sister Jessa when she went to college last year is from the late 90s. At that point, Felicity was packaged in a gorgeous dress with orange-and-red roses on an ecru background and long ruffled sleeves. Sometime in the early 2000s, American Girl switched to a simpler lavender and white striped taffeta gown with embroidered flowers and short sleeves. It's not as pretty as the Rose Garden Dress, but but with the short sleeves and light fabric, I thought it would make a nice substitute for Felicity's now retired and rare summer outfit. It looks much nicer on the doll than it does online or in the catalog, very cute.

Since Felicity now wore her spring outfit, I decided to change three of the other girls to their spring costumes. Molly now wears her ruffled birthday pinafore over her white school blouse - it's still too chilly to run around in sleeveless dresses. Little Jess kept her corduroy pants, but replaced her yellow felt jacket and white and green Girl Scout turtleneck with a rainbow-striped short-sleeved turtleneck. I have a spring-y outfit coming for Samantha (hopefully) later this week or next week. I'll change her outfit then.

Next on the queue was doing the Census, which had also come today. That took all of one minute. I live alone, rent my apartment, and have no dependents. I don't have a whole lot to tell Uncle Sam. I'll send it out tomorrow.

I've been wanting to make tea bread or muffins for ages now, ever since the Banana-Coconut Muffins ran out, but I haven't had the time. I decided to try one of the Alton Brown recipes from I'm Just Here For More Food, Cranberry-Orange Muffins. I cut the sugar down to 2/3 cup instead of a full cup and replaced the orange extract (which I don't have) with a small squirt of honey. It's still too sweet, but otherwise quite tasty.

Spent the rest of a cozy, chilly evening trying crocheting again while watching the Disney Alice In Wonderland. (BTW, I know Disney just re-released this. My rule for Disney and their constant re-releases is...unless there's significant differences in the sets, what I have is just fine.)

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Rain Out, Tide In

Slept in this morning, longer than I'd planned to, thanks to losing an hour last night! I got up just in time for Brunch With the Beatles. "Songs That Debuted In the Spring" was the theme today; wish more had debuted in the spring from their later albums, but we did get "Penny Lane" and "Strawberry Fields Forever."

Had Banana-Peanut Butter Pancakes and half a grapefruit for breakfast, then called Mom. Mom was in a pretty decent mood herself. The weather down there had never gotten as bad as here. They hadn't had half the rain, or any of the flooding.

She's not terribly happy with my siblings at the moment, though. First of all, Anny was supposed to have taken Keefe to see the new Tim Burton Alice In Wonderland on Friday. She canceled him to go out with her boyfriend instead. Keefe was really upset, and Mom wasn't thrilled, either. Anny's always been like that. Give her a man, any man, and she'll drop everything to be with him, including prior engagements. Whatever she's into is more important than other people.

Not only that, but Anny was supposed to have driven Mom up here for the baby shower on Saturday...and now she says she'd rather take her boyfriend and her sons. Rose tried to offer Mom the use of her GPS to get up here, but Mom would rather use a map. She's always complaining that Rose is condescending to her. I think Rose just doesn't realize how computer-literate Mom is. (Mom knows computers pretty well - she's taken classes at the local high school. She just doesn't like using it that much.)

After I finished with Mom, I pulled out my Easter, St. Patrick's Day, and general spring decorations. I compromised with the St. Patrick's Day stuff - it won't be up for long, so I just put up the St. Patrick's Day cardboard hangings instead of the Easter ones and put out the rest of the Easter stuff now. The Easter hangings will go up later this week or early next week, after St. Patrick's Day.

It was still pouring when the Beatles show ended, so I called Dad for a ride. This became fairly embarrassing an hour later when the rain ended, and it was merely cloudy, damp, and a bit cold. It's not even windy anymore. Dad said he didn't mind. He had to take my sister Jessa back to school anyway.

Maybe it's just as well. Work was a madhouse today. I have no idea why. Maybe people are in panic mode over the flooding in the area. We had lines going out the door and not enough help to fill them. Not to mention, I had no relief. I just barely got out on time. Jodie drove me home.

(And speaking of embarrassing, I found my trash can half-way down the block. I should have brought it in on Thursday, but I forgot...and then the weather got bad. I did retrieve it after Jodie left.)

I was greeted by the most wonderful smell. I tossed together two large beef ribs, a can of diced tomato, a bit of barbecue sauce, a bit of brown sugar, a bit of mild salsa, and some water right before I left for work...and it was wonderful when I got home. The meat on the ribs was so juicy, it almost fell right off the bone. The tomato stock was flavorful and just spicy enough. I added sauteed collard greens and leftover mashed sweet potatoes to one of the best "fast" dinners I've had in a long time.

Felt so good after dinner, I went out for a quick walk to run some errands. One of the advantages of Daylight Savings is more daylight hours...and thus, I can run errands later. I headed to the bank first to deposit my paycheck in the ATM machine, then went to WaWa for milk.

I wanted to treat myself to an ice cream novelty at WaWa. Mom used to let us pick a frozen treat when my siblings and I would go to WaWa with her as kids. Thing is, most of those frozen treats are either too sweet for me or fattening as heck, and my old stand-by the Froz-Fruit Bars are either gone or not sold in this area. I settled for what seemed to be a Hispanic Nestle Strawberries and Cream Bar - the package was in Spanish. Tasted like a frozen yogurt bar with big chunks of strawberries.

I enjoyed my walk. The night was cool and cloudy, but the rain seems to be gone. It was great to see all the grass and flowers shooting up where there had been over a foot of snow a month ago! I even saw a few open daffodils.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Daylight Savings

And don't forget to set your clocks ahead an hour tonight! :)
The Tide Is VERY High

The weather was a mess when I got up this morning. It was pouring rain and lashing wind, the rain beating on my roof like it wanted to come in. I was going to try to get to the bank this morning. I never did. I worked on my DVD and video inventories instead.

Needless to say, I called Dad for a ride to work. When I got there, I found out that I was working until 5:30 instead of 5, like I'd originally thought. No problem. Dad had said to call him when I was done. I'd just be done a little later.

Work was on-and-off all day...but unlike the last week, it was more off than on. Even when we were busy, we were never overwhelming and we had plenty of help. I actually shut down a little early to finish putting candy away. Was even able to buy unbleached flour, rye flour, and chocolate chips (all on sale) on my break and had plenty of time left for my apple.

Called Dad when I finally finished, after seeing that he'd called me. I thought he'd come at 5 and was there waiting for me. He wasn't. I left him a message, then checked my voice mail. He had to run Uncle Ken to a doctor's appointment and didn't know when he'd be there. I didn't feel like waiting all day, and the rain had slowed, so I decided to walk.

That was not smart. The rain picked up again while I was on the White Horse Pike and wouldn't let up again until long after I arrived home dripping wet. I got quite a shock going home, too, when I was passing the creek going across the ramp to Oaklyn and noticed how close to the sidewalk the water was. My jaw nearly hit the ground when I saw that it was nearly overflowing the steps-like cliff-side on the end of Kendall Boulevard near the Pike...and was even more scared to see how far it had come up to our back yard when I finally got in. I've NEVER seen the water get this high in the five years I've lived here. It must be the rain we've had coupled with the last of the melting snow.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Spring Rain

Spent most of today working. It was raining a little when I went to work, but not hard enough to be a problem. I rode the bike. The chain held out, and I made it to the Acme on time and in one piece.

Work was pretty much steady the whole day, neither overwhelmingly busy nor really dead. I was a little tired and hard on myself early on, but I felt better after break. My last one was one of those Camden families who take forever bagging and pay for eighteen different orders, but at least they were pleasant about the whole thing. I just made it off in time.

Good thing, too. I had a lot of my own grocery shopping to do. Not only did I need to restock my fruits and vegetables, but I needed meat, too. I bought cabbage (which is on sale this week for St. Patrick's Day), brown sugar, oranges, granola bars, dried cranberries (the only thing I bought that wasn't on sale, but I like them in my cereal), yogurt (Acme and Yoplait were on sale this week), three packs of fish fillets, chicken legs, beef stew cubes, cubed steak, mushrooms, bananas, celery, red potatoes (also for St. Patrick's Day), grapefruit, and something the Acme's finally started carrying - bunches of carrots. I find them to be far more flavorful than bagged ones.

My schedule was quite nice, too. All morning and afternoon work this week - the latest I work is 6 on Thursday. In addition to Saturday off (which I asked for to help with my sister Rose's huge baby shower), I got Tuesday off again. The early hours will mean that I should be able to get yoga class in, but may have to skip the Collingswood Library again. Oh well. I should have vacation the week after next - I'll get it in then.

Riding home was a bit messier than riding to work. Not only was I overloaded, but the raindrops were a bit fatter and a little heavier. It still wasn't pouring at that point, though, which means that I was damp but not soaked when I finally made it home.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Bicycling Balance

Got up just in time this morning to make it to Yogawood. Good thing, too. It was a pretty big class this week, 12 counting the teacher Karin. We did a lot of work on twisting and stretching moves, many of them sitting down. Nothing too hard. In fact, the worst of it was when I had to take a yoga "p-lock" on my big toes (you grab your big toes between your thumbs and forefingers) and forgot that while the left big toe is no longer black and blue, it's still pretty sore. Ouch.

The thrift shop wasn't open when I made my way back around to Haddon Avenue. Instead of going to the Collingswood Library, I headed back towards Oaklyn and went to the library there instead. I didn't get them in last week, and I'm not going to have the time this weekend to volunteer anywhere. I'm glad I did. The childresn' books were in fair disarray when I arrived, especially the non-fiction. (Does anyone every bother putting things away when they've finished reading them? There were books stacked on top of books instead of put away neatly.)

After I finished at the library, I came home and edited the rest of this month's Monkees role play. It came out very well, considering the limited time at our disposal in the last few weeks, very action-packed. Look for it later tonight!

Had the last of the chicken stew and a banana for lunch, then changed into my uniform and headed for work. I ran into trouble just a block from the Acme. The blasted chain came off again! I was able to walk the remaining block and not be late, but it was frustrating.

Work, on the other hand, was generally fine. There were a few obnoxious holdovers from last week, especially later in the night. However, there were no really major problems, and my relief was on time.

I didn't have as much luck getting home. Some of the Acme employees were able to help me get the chain back on the bike, but it just came off again on my way home. After much crying and yelling, I pulled in on the blacktop next to the Audubon Park side of the river and pulled it back on again. This time, I made it home with no fuss. I even pumped my tires when I got in.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Sweeping the Winter Away

Got up late and had just enough time to make the bed, vacuum, and shake out my rag rug before I went to work. It was relatively warm again, probably in the upper 40s-lower 50s, but not quite as much as yesterday. It also wasn't as sunny. It started out partly cloudy and just kept getting cloudier as the day went on.

I really needed to vacuum. The kitchen in particular was really horrible, probably since I ate at home a lot last month. (And Miss Ellie has never told me why the kitchen floor is covered with a rug, anyway.)

Though it was cloudy and somewhat cooler, it still wasn't windy. I had no problems getting to and from work at all.

Work was on-and-off busy again, though not nearly as bad as over the weekend. I did have a few obnoxious customers. One huge guy refused to help me bag his groceries and kept giving me six hundred instructions on how to do it, even though he looked big enough to bag his groceries and the orders for the two women behind him. I was about ready to smack him silly when he finally left, and the remaining customers in the line even said he was being rude and lazy.

I also did something a little gross myself earlier in the day. I broke a nail while doing an order. I tried to pull the nail off, since it was getting caught on things, but I pulled too hard and too deep...and hit blood. I eventually got a bandage from one of the customer service managers.

My relief was on time, and after picking up a cheap bottle of on-sale Goya White Cooking Wine, I headed home. It was even cloudier than before, though it wasn't raining like some customers claimed it was. Wasn't even wet.

Spent the rest of the evening continuing the cleaning. I haven't washed the windows since November. They've had cardboard snowflakes taped to them for months. They really badly needed to be done, especially the windows on the sides overlooking the park and my neighbors' house.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Smile A Sunny Day

Started out a gorgeous day with my DVD of the first two Strawberry Shortcake 80s specials and cereal and dried cranberries for breakfast. It was so stunning, I was able to leave the windows wide open in my apartment all day with no problems. Also wore my demi capris and wasn't a bit cold.

I reversed the usual procedure for a day off and started with volunteering at the Haddon Township Library. The DVDs I had out were due, and I returned the just-finished Dial H For Hitchcock. Despite it being busy (the kids' story hour was beginning as I arrived), there wasn't a whole lot for me to do. I returned some DVDs and shelved a stack of kids' books.

Just as well that the library didn't have a whole lot going on. I had other things to do today. I stopped at JoAnn Fabric and bought a book on crocheting. It's intended for children; I thought the directions were clearer than most adult books. Went to Super Fresh next and bought vanilla, yeast, and bananas. Headed over to Dollar Tree for gel cleaner and sponges.

Had lunch at my favorite little bagel shop in the Westmont Plaza. It was 12:30 by then, and the place was mobbed to the gills. Between the nurses and secretaries on their lunch break and the kids from Haddon Township and Paul VI Catholic High School having their lunches, I just barely squeezed into a back booth next to the Flyers, golfing, and boxing memorabilia. Thankfully, the place had more-or-less cleared out by the time my vegetable quesadila arrived, and by the time I left, it was just me, the staff, and The Days of Our Lives on the TV.

It was such a nice day, I rode through Newton River Park, avoiding the perpetual traffic on Cuthbert Road. The park was pretty busy, too. I had to stop to allow two toddler girls to rush over to the playground with their mother. I'm glad I went that way, though. The snow is completely gone from the park now. Even the river has finally defrosted. It was a really lovely ride.

After I got home, I put away my groceries and book, grabbed my laundry, and headed right back out again. Uncle Ken was the only person home when I got into his and Dad's house, and he's recovering from surgery. I read On the Wrong Track and, after the laundry was in the dryer, went back home to clean the kitchen.

I was going to wait until tomorrow, but the kitchen really needed to be done. The ring around the sink was ugly. I accidentally spilled the last three Cranberry-Chocolate Chip Cookies while dusting the top of the fridge, which meant the end of my cookie stash. Needless to say, I wasn't happy.

The kitchen took longer than I thought to do...and when I got back to Dad and Uncle Ken's and got my laundry rounded up, Dad, Jodie, and my sister Rose and her boyfriend Craig were all there. Rose and Craig had dropped by to say "hi" and discuss details about their big baby shower on the 20th. Apparently, they're planning on having as many as 50 people there, though not all at once. Many of the guests are working that day or have kids who won't last for very long, so they'll probably only be in and out. I finally left when Rose and Craig did; Uncle Ken needs his rest.

Spent the rest of the evening at home. I was going to volunteer at the Oaklyn Library, but it was too late by the time I finally got in. I baked brownies to refill the cookie tin and made Spicy Chicken Cutlets with collard greens and mushrooms sauteed in tomato sauce and steamed broccoli for dinner. I was in an 80s mood after Strawberry Shortcake, so I watched The Goonies during baking and dinner.

(I think I'll move the Oaklyn Library volunteering to Thursday and cut the Collingswood Library this week all together. I only have so much time this week, and it makes sense to volunteer at the libraries closer to home that I actually have cards for.)

Monday, March 08, 2010

It Happened One Day

Started off the day by finishing It Happened One Night, a super-cute Frank Capra comedy from 1934. This was the first film to sweep all of the major Oscars, and the first comedy to win an Oscar...and I can understand why. Claudette Colbert is a spoiled heiress on the run from Miami to New York to meet her new playboy husband, whom her father disapproves of. Clark Gable is the out-of-work reporter who meets her on the night bus to Jacksonville. He smells a story and joins her for the ride. They both learn how the "other side of the tracks" lives as they make their way to the East Coast...and more than the Walls of Jerico come tumbling down during the wedding finale!

This was a heck of a lot of fun, and unlike a lot of Capra's movies, doesn't try to shove it's love and money don't mix message down your throat. In fact, as much as I liked Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, I enjoyed this one even more. I especially appreciated the scenes on the bus. As someone who's taken long bus trips since she was 12, I can relate to many of the things that happen to Ellie and Peter between Miami and New York, from lost tickets to getting stuck next to that annoying guy talking a mile a minute who won't leave you alone.

Work was on-and-off busy all day. Unlike yesterday, we had plenty of help, and other than some annoying customers, there were no problems. My relief was on-time, and I thankfully left just as the 4PM rush hour was getting heavy.

I came out to an utterly gorgeous day, the nicest we've had since at least October. It was in the upper 50s, breezy, and sunny as could be. It was so nice, I didn't need to wear my heavy coat to work for the first time in ages. I was fine in my high school field hockey jacket.

Went straight home after work. The first thing I did when I got in was throw open the windows. My apartment was actually too warm! I changed into a turquoise faux-layered shirt and capris, then pulled out the cleaning supplies and did the bathroom. I meant to do it last week, but I kept running out of time and getting called in!

I debated going out for a while, but I really wanted to get the bathroom done. I'll go out tomorrow. I need to get to the Haddon Township Library anyway, and it's supposed to stay gorgeous through Friday.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Busy Sunday

I was still in bed when I heard the phone ringing. I couldn't bring myself to pick it up, because I knew who it was. Yes, it was the Acme. Could I come in at 11:30? Two people had already called out, and it was really busy. No. I'd just opened my eyes at 9:30! I didn't feel like rushing on a Sunday.

Got dressed and switched on Brunch With the Beatles after I got out of bed. The theme today was "Just Good Ol' Rock and Roll," i.e, purely rock Beatles music. This covered a much broader spectrum than you might think. We heard everything from "Roll Over Beethoven" and "Dizzy Miss Lizzy" (and the original versions that inspired them) to one of my favorite Beatles songs, "Revolution."

Had Cranberry-Sunflower Seed-Oat Pancakes with home-made Cranberry Syrup, then chatted with Mom for a while. Poor Mom wasn't feeling well at all. She's apparently allergic to some of the natural oils on the plants at Michael's, accidentally touched them, and got a very nasty rash. Good thing Keefe was babysitting for my sister, Dad's out fishing, and she'd had no plans for the day anyway besides working on baby blankets for my sister Rose and her close friend Sheila, both of whom are pregnant and due within days of each other in May. (That seems to happen a lot in this family. Anny and her best friend Jenny got pregnant around the same time when they had their first children, too.)

Good thing all I planned on having for dinner was stock-pot chicken stew. I tossed cut-up chicken pieces, water, the last of the white cooking wine, canned low-salt, low-fat chicken broth, celery, carrots, and onion in the stock pot, grabbed my coat and my lunch, and headed to work around 12:30.

Work was a mob scene all day long, with lines going out the door. I can't figure out why for the life of me. Nothing's going on right now. It's too early for March Madness to really heat up. Baseball doesn't officially start until next month. The Olympics ended last week. The only major holidays in March are St. Patrick's Day and Passover. Not only are they not celebrated by everyone, but they're not until later in the month. We're not even supposed to have bad weather. Today was utterly gorgeous, in the lower 50s and sunny as can be. Even if we did get precipitation, it's too warm for it to be anything but rain or very slushy snow.

It wasn't helped by the fact that yes, we were very low on help. Two more people called out over the course of the day, in addition to the two who'd called out in the morning. I heard some managers complaining that no one wanted to come in or stay late, either. I guess everyone would rather enjoy the weather.

I didn't have that pleasure. I did stay a half-hour late. It was still busy at my original ending time of 5:30, but by 6, it was starting to slow down. I was able to shut down with no relief, grab a can of chicken broth to replace the one I just used on my dinner, and headed home.

I arrived to the delicious smell of chicken stew. I watched It Happened One Night for a while, then listened to The Dress Circle. "The Shows of March" was the theme tonight, and there were some good ones. My favorites were "The Sweetest Sounds," performed by Dianne Carroll and Richard Kiley in the original cast of the 1962 hit No Strings, the very funny "Suppertime" from the original Off-Broadway cast of You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown, and the creative bilingual version of "A Boy Like That" from the currently-on-Broadway revival of West Side Story. (And what on did the hosts have against the gorgeous ballad "A Step Too Far," from the 2000 Elton John version of Aida?)

Saturday, March 06, 2010

We're In the Money

I'm glad I got up with enough time to run to the bank today. It was absolutely gorgeous this morning, sunny and in the upper 40s, with no wind this time. Most of the snow is gone, too. The only snow I saw as I walked to the bank and the dentist's office were the few remaining piles of ice left in parking lots and on the side of the road.

I got quite a bit done on and after that little jaunt. I finally paid off the last of that dentist's bill - it only took me over a year to do so. I deposited money from the Union check in my checking account and most of my paycheck in my savings account. I swept the last of the broken sticks and winter sticker balls off my porch when I got home, now that I can SEE my porch.

Had a quick lunch after I got in, then changed into my work uniform and headed for work. I had another long shift, six hours. Thankfully, there were no problems whatsoever, not even missing people. The cashiers who were out yesterday were there, including the girl who was in a car accident. (She told me she's perfectly fine, just a little sore.) I had a relief, and he was right on time. I just needed milk before heading home.

Friday, March 05, 2010

All-Day Work

I can't believe I overslept this morning. I thought I set the alarm for 7:30, but when I woke up, the clock said quarter of 9...and I had work at 10! I rushed my breakfast of leftover brown rice pudding and half a grapefruit and just barely made it to work on time.

It's a good thing I did. Work was on-and-off busy again. It's the first Friday of the month. In addition to all the usual annoying beginning-of-the-month people, we're get people who reguarly get paid today or are looking for the great sales (Friday is the first day of this week's sales).

I don't really mind working eight hours, which is why I agreed to come in early. It's easier than working six hours. When you work eight hours, you get two breaks. Six hours only gets you one break. It can be a real pain in the rear. (I get to do six hours tomorrow. Oh joy.)

Got my vacation requests in this morning when I arrived. I asked for the week of March 19th-March 25th for the last of this year's vacation time. I had thought of asking for around April 14th which is my birthday, but everyone asks for April off. Besides, there's a lot going on that week. Rose's huge baby shower is the 20th, and I have counseling on the 25th.

Lauren wants to get together early this year, around Memorial Day week. She says it's the only time she can get. The head front-end manager seemed a little skeptical, but hey, they did give me not only Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, but a day earlier that week off (not to mention New Year's Eve, New Year's Day, and a day before that). Besides, I'd work the Fourth of July and Labor Day, and it's not like I haven't worked every Memorial Day since 1999 anyway.

Not only that, but Lauren is finally going to come visit here. She's put it off because she's (understandably) afraid to drive through the traffic in New York and Philadelphia. Last year, however, I found a way around the traffic in both cities...or more specifically, under and over it. My train trips to Albany and back were wonderful. The trains were large, clean, well-appointed, and generally on-time. The Albany train station was brand-new and gorgeous. The 30th Street Station in Philadelphia is a National Historic Landmark. Penn Station in (or under) New York isn't quite as nice, but it's at least clean and staffed with friendly people.

Most of the things I've planned - riding around the small towns, hitting the Deptford Mall, seeing Independence Hall and Market Street in Philadelphia, a stroll on the Boardwalk and the outlets in Atlantic City - should be open at any time of the year. They wouldn't even be effected by bad weather, not even the flooding we hit at Pittsfield on my second day there last year.

Today was also Employee Appreciation Day at the Acme. We didn't have an elaborate spread like last year, but one of the managers did give me a plate of goodies - donuts, candy, and a mini apple strudel from the bakery.

Most of work actually went pretty well...until it was time for me to leave. We were short on help all day. Two cashiers (including the one I replaced) called out to attend funerals. Another one was in a car accident. Her father actually called to say she wouldn't be in! (Poor kid. She's one of our best teenage workers, too. I seriously hope she's ok.) I still had a line when I shut down. A manager finally came in for me.

Stopped at FYE first after work. I wanted to see if they had the present I wanted for Rose's baby shower. They did, indeed. I grabbed that and renewed my membership card, too.

Went to Tu Se Bella Pizzeria for dinner. That may not have been a good idea. It was 6:30 by then, prime dinner time, and the place was packed to the gills. I finally took my slices of vegetable and mushroom pizza into the main dining room to get away from the crowds at the counter!

Headed back to the Acme to do grocery shopping next. I didn't have nearly as much as I did last week, but it was still a pretty good-sized order. I restocked my fruit and packs of fish, bought Smart Balance 50/50 butter on sale and with a coupon. Land o' Lakes Brown Eggs were on sale, too. The Oteker Mousse Mixes and Keebler Graham Cracker Crusts were also on sale. I grabbed the Acme Light Cool Whip and decided to make a pudding pie for dessert.

And good news/bad news on my schedule. Good news - lots of hours, and most of them are early. I think there's once again only one 7PM day. Bad news - only one day off, on a week where I have a LOT to do. I wish they'd load up my hours on weeks when I actually need the money.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Balancing Blues

Started out a lovely, sunny, windy day with this week's yoga class. I've been feeling a little down lately, and it carried over to the class and most of the day. I don't know if it's the weather, or if there's something wrong with me. I'm gaining weight like crazy - I'm back over 200 pounds again - and I just can't seem to get into anything. I normally don't have a problem getting into things, but nothing seems to have caught my interest.

Class helped a little. There were probably about 10 people, along with the teacher Karin. We worked on standing and twisting poses. I got confused with a lot of the standing poses, though I generally did better than I thought I would. I still can't hold bridge for very long or do shoulder stands, though.

I still felt glum after class. Browsing through the thrift shop didn't really help. I saw some records of mild interest, but nothing I absolutely needed to have. Volunteering at the Collingswood Library didn't really help, either. I once again shelved and put away DVDs, and the place was too busy for me to talk to anyone. (I also cleared out the book drop. I couldn't figure out how to open the one for the DVDs.)

Stopped at Doria's Deli on the way home from work for a Diet 7-Up, a roll for to make an Italian Cubed Beef Hoagie for lunch, and some chat with Mrs. Doria. I know she's right that I'm being negative about things, but I just can't help myself. It's hard to look on the bright side when nothing seems all that bright. I'm never going to lose weight. How could I have gained it all back? I'm so ashamed of and disappointed with myself.

I went online for a little while after I got home to try to cheer myself up, then made the Italian Beef Hoagie and celery sticks for lunch. It look longer than I thought to make, though, and I was almost late for work!

That wasn't a good thing. It wasn't too busy when I got in, but we had lines half-way across the aisles by the usual 4-6 rush hour. Not to mention, it's still the beginning of the month, and I had quite a few close encounters with grumpy old ladies who must have everything bagged EXACTLY the way they want it...or else. I'm really getting sick of that. They make such a fuss over nothing. Bag it the way you want, if you don't like what I'm doing. No one really wants my help, anyway.

On the other hand, I made a few interesting discoveries regarding work today. First of all, I got a call from the head front end manager Donna this morning. She wanted me to come in early tomorrow (which I can do)...and told me I have a second week of vacation that I haven't taken yet! I had no idea. Our vacation cycle ends in early May. I'm going to see if I can take the last full week of March off; that's when Rose's baby shower and my next counseling appointment is. If that's too soon for them to schedule it, I'll take it on the week of my birthday. This means I may be able to take two weeks this summer instead of the usual one, too.

The union was also giving out checks from the now-aborted strike fund. They'd finally made their peace with the company last night, so the extra money's no longer necessary. I figured it would be about $50 or so. It was $730. Wow! I'll do what I did at Christmas - put the check in my checking account and whatever I get from this week's paycheck in my saving's account.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Blowing In the Spring

I slept in this morning and ended up spending most of the day at work. It wasn't even really that exciting. It was on-and-off all day, sometimes busy but never overwhelming. The worst of it was some annoying beginning-of-the-month customers. I had one of those groups of people who buy cartloads of items (three cartloads, in this case) ...then realize, "oops, we don't have enough money to buy all of this, we have to put one cart-full back!" And a quarter of their order was very expensive items like bagged breaded chicken and seafood! Can't they add? Three cartloads of food isn't going to come out to $530! (I think they had more like $700.)

Went straight home after work. It was cloudy, damp, and very windy, the same as yesterday. My porch was wet this morning, but other than a few tiny drops, we never saw either rain or snow. While it was a little colder than yesterday, it's still a lot warmer than it was for most of last month...too warm for snow to stick anywhere but the ground, and maybe even too warm for that.

Watched an animated film I hadn't run in a while, Cats Don't Dance, while eating Poached Flounder with Onions and Mushrooms, broccoli, and brown rice pudding for dinner. Cats is an unusual entry in the "Disney imitation" race of the late 90s. We're in Hollywood in 1939, and talking animated animals face a problem similar to most minorities of the time...i.e, they're ignored, abused, and treated like, well, animals.

Enter Danny, an energetic song-and-dance cat from Indiana who wants to star in the movies. Fat chance, as he discovers the hard way. Most of the animals in town are currently reduced to doing walk-ons for Darla Dimple's newest picture. Darla, despite her reputation as "America's sweetheart, lover of children and animals," hates anything that will take the spotlight from her...animals included. When she sets Danny and the other animals up to tall a fall in front of studio chief LB Mammoth, Danny almost leaves Hollywood in despair...until he comes up with a plan to show off his and his friends' talents at the premiere of Darla's newest movie!

I'm not exactly sure whom Warners/Turner intended the audience for this to be. The music is pure 90s (Randy Newman wrote it), but the setting is 1939. The main villain is a kid...and so downright bizarre, she makes some adult animated villains look like marshmallows by comparison. (Heck, she makes some adult live-action villains look normal.) There's tons of references, to the era and to classic Hollywood films in general, that'll go right over the heads of all but devoted movie buffs.

On the other hand, this is one of my favorite "cult" animated films. Darla Dimple may be a weird character, but you sure as heck can't say she isn't original. She also gets the film's best song and best musical number, the must-be-seen-to-be-believed "Big and Loud." A name vocal cast (including Scott Bakula, Jasmine Guy, Kathy Najimy, and Don Knotts) has a lot of fun with the material. It's also nice to see an animated musical from this time period that tries to blaze it's own path. While there is music, the romance is really a side-plot, and there's no annoying comic sidekicks - all the characters handle the comedy equally, including Darla.