Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Into the Pool

I felt wonderful this morning when I awoke. I wasn't sticky. I wasn't really hot, even under my fairly thick blanket. When I poked my head out the door after getting out of bed, it was neither cold nor as hot and humid as the past few days. It was just right for late June-early July, probably in the lower-mid 80s.

My ride to work was great. Nice breeze, warm but not humid at all. It's the nicest it's felt in ages. Work was really busy; not surprising, given that it's both the beginning of the month and the 4th of July weekend. We had fairly long lines on and off. Other than the usual annoying old people and others you run into during the beginning of the month, there were no major problems.

My relief was on time. I was able to get out and buy the $1.99 Breyers Ice Cream sale (I went with peach this time) and Acme brown egg sale before they end tomorrow. I really didn't need the eggs, but that's such a good price for brown eggs (made even better by my store discount), I decided to stock the fridge.

After I got home and put my ice cream and eggs away, I debated whether I still wanted to go to Dad's and swim or not. That had been my original plan for this afternoon anyway when I still had today off. I finally decided "what the heck?", changed into my bathing suit, and headed to Dad and Uncle Ken's house.

I'm so glad I did. The water wasn't quite as warm as the other day, but it wasn't cold, either, into the lower 80s. In fact, the air was probably colder this time. Everyone was home, too. I got to say "welcome home" to Dad, who finally got back from taking a cruise ship to Florida the day before yesterday, and to Uncle Ken and Dolores, who were in Ocean City, Maryland over the weekend. I told all three my plans for the next month, including my planned vacation in early August.

Since it was such a nice day, I decided to catch up on my baking when I got home. I made Fudgy Chocolate Chip Brownies while watching summer-themed Donald Duck cartoons. They came out fabulous, just as fudgy as the recipe claimed, and tasted wonderful with the peach ice cream.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Doing Research

Since I got up late today, I spent the morning doing research for my day trip to New York next month. I've already narrowed down the area I'm interested in to Midtown, Times Square, and Fifth Avenue. I was up until 2:30 last night reading The Unofficial Guide to New York City.

Two attractions stood out - The Paley Center For Media and Radio City Music Hall. The Paley Center (formerly the Museum of Television & Radio) is what the original label says - a museum and research center for TV and radio. You can watch actual old radio and TV programs right at the museum, and they run shows all day long. And most people know what Radio City is, the gigantic Art Deco home of the Rocketts, the annual Christmas Spectacular, and many concerts and movie premiers.

(And while I'm in the Radio City area, checking out the rest of Rockerfeller Center might be cool, too. We did get to see part of it on our sightseeing tour in 2001, but not all of it.)

I finally went out for a walk around 2:30. While it was a little cooler than yesterday and that nice breeze had returned, the humidity lingered. I walked down Manor and over to the Oaklyn School. Now that it's out for the summer, I can go to the playground in the back of the school whenever I want. A grandmother was already there with several children when I passed through.

After I got home, I read Garfield comics for a little while (including the ones where Jon and Liz start going steady - how many decades did it take them?), then changed into my work uniform, grabbed dinner, and headed out.

Work was steady when I came in, dead when I came out. Other than a few annoying old ladies, there were no problems. In fact, I picked up some extra hours tomorrow, 11-4. Normally, I wouldn't take them on my only other day off this week besides Monday, but they aren't very long or late, my only plans for tomorrow was going swimming (which I can do after work), and I really, REALLY need the extra hours. This isn't like the winter, when they were giving me anywhere from 28 to 32 hours per week. I've been lucky to get 20 a week since at least April.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Sunshine and Storms

Ugh. It was STILL hot and humid when I headed out to the laundromat around 9:30-quarter after 9. The laundromat, however, was bustling. I guess a lot of people get out to do their clothes then. It took me a little longer than the past few weeks to get my clothes done, since I had towels in the mix this time, too. I was home around 11.

I put my clothes away and ran the Care Bears DVD again, then headed back out. I stopped at WaWa to use the ATM machine and get a soda fountain Coke Zero with vanilla syrup. I honestly wish I hadn't. I encountered a rather nasty exchange between a persnickety, obnoxious old man and a middle-aged man who may or may not have worked for WaWa. The old man kept bugging him about the Icee machine. Why didn't it have a particular flavor? Was he a WaWa employee? Why wasn't he refilling it? After a while, the guy just ignored him, and I couldn't blame him.

Went to lunch at the Bagel Shop in Westmont next. I haven't been there since I went with Lauren earlier this month. It was busy there when I arrived around 1:30, but by the time I'd finished my turkey wrap with Swiss cheese and avocado spread, the place had cleared out, and it was down to me and General Hospital

After a quick stop at Dollar Tree for sponges and Apple Newtons-style cookies (my go-to low fat cookie in the summer when it's too hot to bake), I went over to the Haddon Township Library for this week's volunteering session. I would have skipped it or done it on Wednesday, but I had DVDs due.

It was probably a good thing I didn't put it off or skip it. They were in the midst of their children's reading session when I arrived, and there were tons of books and DVDs to shelve. It took me the better part of an hour. I was so involved with shelving things, I didn't realize how dark the sky had gotten until I was looking for books for myself. I didn't even hear the thunder. I just happened to look up after picking a Phillip Pullman novel (The Tin Princess), and see that the previously-hazy sky was now cloudy and dark.

I signed out Tin Princess, the last book (to date) in the Beatrix Potter Cottage Tales mysteries The Tale of Applebeck Farm, The Unofficial Guide to New York City, the two newest Garfield comic books, and three DVDs - Barefoot in the Park, The Woman In White, and Lady In Cement - and was on my way out when I realized it was raining. Not as hard as last Thursday's monsoon, but enough that leaving probably wasn't a good idea. I went back in and read the guidebook for a little while. I finally headed out around 4:30 and wasn't home until well after 5, by which time the shower had ended and the clouds were starting to break apart.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Planning For Vacation

There's no way I can put a good spin on today's weather. It was just hot, hot, HOT! Really humid, too. Not even the breeze could help this time. I spent the day inside in the air conditioning.

Mom called while I was getting out of bed. She wanted to tell me that their house phone is out and to call her on her cell phone. She was on her way to Cape May to buy herself a nice outfit for my cousin Adam's wedding.

I made myself French Toast with the last of the Honey Whole Wheat Bread while listening to the Brunch With the Beatles show. Magical Mystery Tour was in the spotlight today. I haven't seen it, and from what everyone says about it, I'm not sure I want to. It sure has some great music, though - "Your Mother Should Know," "The Fool On the Hill," "Hello Goodbye," "All You Need Is Love," "Penny Lane," "Strawberry Fields Forever."

Went online for a while after breakfast. I wanted to do some research. I'm hoping to take my last week of vacation between August 1st and 7th. I want to do some traveling after spending my last two vacations in the Philly area, but I don't have the money to run up to New England. I decided to compromise with two smaller vacations. I'll spend a few days, probably Sunday through Tuesday or Wednesday, visiting Mom, Dad, and Keefe in Erma. Then I'll spend a day at home and get some chores done. On Thursday or Friday, I'll take a train for a day in New York City, my first visit there since June 2001.

My best bet for getting down to the shore would be to take the train from Cherry Hill to Atlantic City, like Lauren and I did a few weeks ago. Then I'd take a bus from AC to Rio Grande. Alas, no bus goes through the part of Erma where Mom and Dad live. Someone would probably have to pick me up at Rio Grande.

My first thought for getting to New York would be to just take the NJ Transit train from Cherry Hill to Penn Station. Doesn't look like that's going to work. It makes waaayyy too many stops. I wouldn't be in New York until late afternoon! I'll take the Transit train to the 30th Street Station, then just hop on an Amtrak train to Penn Station. At $35 for the round trip (plus an extra $10 for the round trip from Cherry Hill), it's surprisingly cheap, and certainly cheaper and quicker than a bus ride would be. (And no worries about getting stuck in traffic.)

I'm also looking into other, local options for amusing myself this summer. When I was checking bus schedules, I was surprised to see that the NJ Transit bus that passes through the White Horse Pike here in Oaklyn also goes through Clementon Park. Clementon Park is a local small amusement park, one of the oldest continually operated parks in the US. Uncle Ken used to take Rose and me there when we were really little, but I haven't been there in years. The adult one-day pass is $36.99, certainly cheaper than the other local amusement parks, Hershey Park and Sesame Place.

I read books and listened to my original cast album for Sail Away, a flop 1961 vehicle for Elaine Stritch, before heading to work. I left early and rode slow...and I still arrived sweating like crazy.

The heat must have scared off our customers. It was steady when I came in at 4:30, but by 8:30, it was so dead, I was just doing candy. I got out with no problems.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Of Bears and Pools

Today was farm market-yard sale day. It was the same as yesterday - hot, sunny, and breezy. The bank was busy, with a long line of people at the drive-in, probably on their way to the Shore. I had to wait a few minutes inside to deposit my (much-needed) paycheck.

The farm market was elbow-to-elbow busy, too. I really had to elbow my way around all the people stocking up for barbecues and graduation and birthday parties. I eventually grabbed honey, corn, cherries, blueberries, organic cucumbers (2 for $1.00 - they're 79 cents at the Acme!), 9-Grain Bread, mushrooms from the mushroom sellers, a soft pretzel from a donation booth, and the first New Jersey peaches and tomatoes of the year.

I rode around for a little while after that. I only found three yard sales. The first two had nothing of interest (even the huge multi-family one at the house with the big side yard on Linwood in Collingswood). The third on Kendall Boulevard near the school yielded a huge brown teddy bear with movable limbs and an untied red ribbon. The woman in charge of the sale said he was a mint-condition Gund bear. Her girls just aren't into stuffed animals. I bought him for 50 cents.

Once I got home, I put the bear on my bed, had lunch, and worked online for a while. Around 2, I jumped into my bathing suit and headed over to Dad's for a swim. No one was home, but that meant there was more pool for me. The water felt great. According to the thermometer, it was in the mid-80s, which meant it was neither bath water nor so cold you get shocked the moment you jump in. I spent a pleasant half-hour swimming, then another pleasant half-hour reading The Tale of Hawthorn House Beatrix Potter Cottage mystery on the pool patio.

Spent the rest of the afternoon at home. I really needed to get the dusting (and this month's cleaning) done. I didn't do a really thorough job like I did in the last two months, but I'm not planning on having any visitors right now, either.

After I finished cleaning, I made chicken drumsticks poached in white wine sauce, a cucumber-tomato salad, and honey-glazed carrots for dinner while watching The Golden Compass. A fantasy tale on the lines of Harry Potter, this asks the question...what if there was a parallel Earth in another dimension somewhere, where magic is commonplace and people's souls walk around next to them as companions and are called daemons? And what if a little girl was the only one who held the key to figuring out this world?

I ended up generally enjoying it, despite feeling a bit cold towards the characters (and not just because of the snowy settings) and getting lost in the complicated backstory. The steampunk terminology didn't really interest me. Plus, the whole thing lacked humor, and (in the opposite problem from the too-lengthy Star Wars movies) it felt too short. Plus, it ended with an assumption that there will be more...and since the movie didn't do that well at the box office, that doesn't look like that'll happen.

On the other hand, I can't resist a movie with bears as main characters. The polar bears' world is a side plot, but a wonderful one. The kid was sensational, tough and yet tender enough to take the cast-off polar bear into her heart. The cast was great, too. There wasn't enough of Daniel Craig as the girl's guardian, but Nicole Kidman was fine as the nasty Mrs. Coulter, and Sam Shepard was nice in the second half as what was essentially a flying cowboy.

Friday, June 25, 2010

In the Heat of the Morning

It was still hot when I got up this morning, but the stiffing humidity that made the last few days so unbearable had vanished. I watched summer themed Disney cartoons and Recess: School's Out during breakfast, then headed out for a walk and this week's volunteering session at the Oaklyn Library.

The Oaklyn Library was pretty busy when I arrived. It looked like they might have been setting up for a kids' program or movie session. I did get to organizing the picture books, including several that had somehow ended up there from the biography section.

Went for my walk next. I strolled across the newly-laid blacktop and sidewalks where the train tracks are, then down Landis Avenue and over to Kendall. It was actually quite nice under all those trees. I wasn't the only one out, either. Adults worked on yards, and kids sat under trees, enjoying their new-found freedom.

I had leftover Salisbury Steak and yellow squash for lunch, then did some things online. I continued my cleaning after that - made my bed and vacuumed the apartment. I'll do the dusting tomorrow evening.

Work was generally good. There were a few annoying customers. One woman insisted that she have a bagger for her $200 order, despite the fact that she had a teenager with her who could have been perfectly capable of helping out and she seemed to do a fine job herself. I hate it when people are obnoxious about the baggers. The only bagger on duty at that point was on break. A manager finally helped her. We had some of those annoying old ladies who give 600 orders on how to bag, and then don't help themselves later, too. Plus, one of the two night cashiers got sick and had to leave early, so people were grumbling about only having one register open.

Good thing I didn't need much after work. I was low on meat in all forms, so I grabbed the on-sale chicken breasts, packs of tilapia, ground chicken (better for you and less messy to cook than ground beef), and shaved beef to make a cheesesteak later in the week. Bryers Ice Cream was on sale for $1.99; I grabbed my favorite flavor, Cherry Vanilla. I also got almonds, skim milk, and powdered sugar.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Stormy Balance

Today's yoga class was really, really busy. With kids and teachers out of school and Fourth of July festivities having not yet kicked in, many people have more free time on their hands than usual, resulting in 21 people in the little Yogawood studio today, including the teacher Karin. We worked on "sun salutations" and heart-opening exercises. At one point, we did get to give the person behind us (I was in the very front of the studio facing Haddon Avenue and had no one in front of me) back massages.

The Collingswood Library was much busier than last week. I put DVDs away, then organized the DVD section. It really, really needed it. I probably should have done it last week. There were also lots of non-fiction books to shelve upstairs. Most of the local libraries should be busier now that all the kids are out of school and summer programs are starting.

My next stop was the CVS on the border of Collingswood and Oaklyn after riding through Newton River Park. It was still really, really hot, but the cooling breeze had become a raging wind. I ducked into CVS to avoid the wind and pick up conditioner and a card for my next-door neighbor who is sick. I tried to bring her the last of my Dark Chocolate-Black Raspberry Cake and the card when I got him, but there didn't appear to be anyone home.

I had lunch, then spent the next couple of hours cleaning the bathroom and the kitchen. It's a good thing I did. Clouds began to roll in around quarter after 3, and by 3:30, that huge wind had become a full-bore thunderstorm. There was lightening flashing, thunder noisy enough to be heard on Mars, monsoon rains, winds that could knock a moose over, the whole nine yards. It was kind of cool, and we desperately needed the rain. I don't care what Mother Nature does as long as I'm not out in it.

The storm was gone by 4:30, and I was finished in the kitchen by 5. Since it looked like my neighbors were home by then, I brought the cake and card over. Michael said Miss Nancy was feeling much better, and that the cake and card would be much-appreciated.

I ate salmon with leeks and mushrooms, delicious sweet corn, and a spinach salad for dinner while watching Pink Panther summer-themed cartoons and the bizarre musical On a Clear Day You Can See Forever. Barbara Streisand was at the height of her popularity as a movie star when she appeared in this very strange tale of a French psychologist who hypnotizes a chain-smoker and discovers she has lived multiple lives...and falls for one of them, a 19th-century English self-made lady who possibly had ESP.

This is one of the strangest musicals I've ever seen. It's really a two-person musical with flashes of a spoof period piece. Jack Nicholson and Bob Newhart have small roles; both are underused. (Nicholson supposedly had a duet with Streisand that landed on the cutting room floor.) French actor Yves Montand plays the psychologist who becomes obsessed with Streisand's "Melinda" persona. Really, he has all the personality of a dead fish, and I can understand why he and the equally diva-ish Streisand did not get along. They have zero chemistry, which may be why this is one of the few musicals I've seen where the leads don't get each other in the end and are perfectly happy with that.

Nicholson's not the only one who found himself cut out. Director Vincent Minellei wanted to make this a big, lavish period piece, like Hello Dolly!, Streisand's last musical before this one. Supposedly, it was three hours before studio execs got him to cut it down to two. That's ridiculous. The story is fluffy enough as it is. This is not Fiddler on the Roof. Not to mention, a lot of the modern story, with all the talk about ESP and past lives, comes off as dated. This is definitely for Streisand fans and fans of big and/or strange 60s and 70s musicals only. Others will want to proceed to Dolly or Funny Girl first.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Single Life For Me

I started off a hot, humid day with a walk. This time, I decided to bring along some music. I pulled out my old portable CD player and put on a collection of summer-themed songs I bought from the thrift shop a few years ago.

Though it was nice to walk to the music, I don't know if I'll do that all the time. Just a few years ago, I wouldn't have been able to go on a walk or work out without music. Now, I think I just enjoy the silence. I like hearing the breeze rustle in the trees, birds singing, and children laughing in the distance.

I was going to clean the bathroom when I got in, but I got caught up reading one of the books I took out on being single. I'd Rather Be Single Than Settle is a British take on "being single's a good thing." I enjoy being single most of the time, but as regular readers of this blog know, I also get frequently lonely and bored. I've recently been working on more ideas to keep my mind occupied. I've done some of it already - get a hobby, look around for events to attend, try to be more positive about yourself.

If nothing else, it makes me realize how lucky I am that most of both sides of the family support my singlehood. No one is pushing eligible men in my face and saying "you have to date, or you won't be happy." Right now, I think a man is the last thing I need. I want to learn to love and be comfortable with myself before I can love anyone else.

Work was dead for most of the afternoon. It was steady during rush hour, but otherwise, there were no problems. I spent a lot of the afternoon putting candy away. In fact, I devoted the last 20 minutes to doing returns.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Hide and Seek

I was going to do my bills this morning, then go for a morning walk before work at noon. The bill for my phone and internet was right on the top of the antique junk dresser in the music section of the living room, but the one for my college payments wasn't. I spent the next hour in a tizzy looking for that thing. I just could NOT find it anywhere in the apartment, and it's due the 24th! I finally gave up looking and just went for a walk instead.

I've decided that, until I can afford to join a gym, I'll just walk three or four times a week and swim two or three times a week. I'd really rather do something with people, but that just isn't possible. I don't know anyone else who is trying to lose weight.

It was very hot and humid this morning, but there was a nice breeze that made it tolerable. I made sure to bring a big container of water with me. I thought about where the college payment bill might be. I knew I'd brought it inside, but I couldn't for the life of me remember where I put it. I just decided to pay it online, which I did when I got home.

(I never did send out my phone/internet bill, but that's not due until next week anyway. I'll send it tomorrow or later this week.)

Work was a pain in the rear. The hot weather had made lots of people cranky...and some employees, too. All anyone did was whine about how hot it was. I got very tired of hearing about it, especially since I'd enjoyed the lovely wind this morning.

One of the boys who is always late coming from work (supposedly) got stuck in traffic and took over an hour to get in...when he was supposed to be in at 2. The woman he was relieving shut down and went home. Managers had to fill in for her. I stayed an extra hour to make up for it. It wasn't a big deal. I wanted to put some candy away, and I really, really need extra hours right now.

Monday, June 21, 2010

"We're Havin' A Heat Wave..."

First of all, welcome to summer! And boy, did it feel like summer, with temperatures into the upper-80s, lower-90s.

Started a hot, humid, but breezy day with a run to the laundromat. I really like doing my laundry at a laundromat. I can do it when I want to without having to call my dad and ask him if the dryer and washer's free. If one washer or dryer's taken or broken, I can use another. If I have to wait, it's no big deal, either. And it only takes an hour for everything to wash and dry, rather than the hour and a half to two hours it often took at Dad's. (He really should have replaced that dryer ages ago.) Not to mention, I usually only have one load of laundry a week that costs me $3 to 4 dollars, tops, if I don't buy a can of soda for 75 cents. I got to the laundromat by quarter of 11 and was out by almost noon.

I finished North By Northwest as I folded laundry and had a simple lunch of celery sticks, peanut butter, yogurt, and a granola bar. Northwest is the tangled tale of a New York ad executive (Cary Grant) who gets mixed up with spies (Eva Marie Saint and James Mason) who think he's a fictional man. While I enjoyed Grant and Marie Saint's wonderful performances (including some surprisingly adult banter for the squeaky-clean 50s), like Rear Window, this is another iconic Hitchcock classic that's been imitated so much (such as the famous scene where Grant is chased by a crop duster) that a little of the magic is lost.

After lunch, I grabbed the DVDs and headed back out again. I made quick stops at Rite Aid and Super Fresh, then went to the Haddon Township Library for this week's volunteering session. The library was busy, but the librarians were trying to catch up on signing items in, and there were few DVDs to put away. I shelved what there was, along with some kids' books. I eventually took out two books on the joys of being single, another Beatrix Potter Cottage Mystery (The Tale of Briar Bank), and four DVDs - The Golden Compass, Alexander's Ragtime Band, On A Clear Day You Can See Forever, and a set of Adventures In Care-A-Lot Care Bear cartoons, Cheer, There, and Everywhere.

Watched Alexander's Ragtime Band after I got home and started to make Salisbury Steaks and steamed spring peas and yellow squash for dinner. Band is one of the best known vehicles of Fox star Alice Faye, and her second appearance with Don Ameche and Tyrone Power in 1938 (after In Old Chicago).

Like most of the non-Rogers-and-Hammerstein Fox musicals, Band is an enjoyably corny and melodramatic romantic drama. The lead singer (Faye) and the band's leader (Power) spar and break up and get together again in the years from 1914 to 1938, all while never aging a day. Ameche is the band's pianist and Faye's other suitor, Jack Haley is Power's comic pal, and an energetic Ethel Merman is the band's second singer.

The attraction here, besides the able cast belting Irving Berlin songs, is the intimate numbers. Unlike the cast-of-thousands MGM spectacles, here you often just have people singing one-on-one or a solo performance. Not that Fox couldn't get big with the best of them, but the quieter approach works better with the soap opera story. You really get to know these characters well. Helps that they have some great music to sing, too. Among the standards heard (along with the title song) are "Ragtime Violin," the real-life army number "Gee, How I Hate To Get Up In the Morning," "Heat Wave," and the Oscar-nominated "Now It Can Be Told."

Sunday, June 20, 2010

In the Good Old Summertime

First of all, Happy Father's Day to all dads, including new dads and dads whose children are feathered or four-legged.

Second, I hope all of you had as lovely of a Father's Day as I did, with or without your father. As it turned out, neither of mine were available. I called Mom this morning and chatted with her for about a half-hour. Bill-Dad was out on his motorcycle, and had been in Atlantic City the day before with Grandma Ann and Aunt Mary, his mother and younger sister, respectively. He, Mom, Keefe, and Anny and her boys were going to have a special Father's Day dinner that evening...that Dad had just told Mom about. Dad gets these spontaneous ideas, but it's often Mom who has to deal with them.

I accidentally called Bruce-Dad while I was looking up the number for the Cape May County side of the family on my cell phone. It turned out to be a really good thing I did. Dad is in Ft. Lauderdale, working for a cruise ship company, and won't be back for a couple of days. I did get to wish him a happy Father's Day.

I ate blueberry pancakes while the Beatles show was on. ("Past Masters; Or, Songs That Didn't Make the British Albums" was the theme today.) After the show ended, I looked up a few things online, then decided I'd stick to my original plans for today and go swimming in Dad and Uncle Ken's pool. I'd bring over the Chocolate Mocha Mousse Pie I made for Father's Day and just leave it at Dad's house in case anyone hanging around wanted some.

Jessa was at Dad and Uncle Ken's house when I arrived. She was the only one. Uncle Ken and Dolores had left to visit his daughter Samantha and her family on their trip to Ocean City, Maryland. No matter. I had a nice chat with Jess for a while, then went for my first real swim of the year. The water was a little chilly going in, but wonderful once you got used to it. After I got out of the pool, Jess and I honored our father by sharing slices of his pie.

After I finally got home (I had to turn back around the moment I got on the porch when I realized I'd left my keys at Dad's), I headed inside and changed. It was quarter of 3, and I was starving for a real lunch. I was also feeling a little lonely. I couldn't make a father appear at will, but I could still share a nice picnic lunch with friends.

I took my four American Girls dolls on my little picnic with me. Samantha, Molly, Little Jessa, Felicity, and I settled under a tree near the back of Veteran's Park next door. I set up an old Muppet Babies baby blanket that Mom used for Anny in the 80s, and then for Keefe. I had an apple, a peanut butter and peach butter sandwich on honey whole wheat bread, and a granola bar for a late lunch and took pictures of the girls sitting around the blanket and "climbing" the tree. It was the first time I ever took them outside.

After I finished the Beatrix Potter Cottage Tales mystery The Tale of Cuckoo Brow Wood, we all just lay back on the blanket and leaned into each other. It was hot and humid, but there was a really nice breeze, and it felt great under the tree. It was a wonderful feeling. Just me and the dolls, bees buzzing in the clover behind us, planes and birds above us, wind rustling in the fat green leaves. Samantha lay on my stomach. The other three just cuddled next to me.

I didn't really want to break up the nice moment, but it was getting late. I finally gathered the girls, the blanket, the camera, and the trash, and headed back to my place. The ground chicken I took out for tonight's dinner wasn't defrosted yet, so I decided to treat myself to a nice dinner after a little North By Northwest and some crocheting.

I ended up at Newton Diner on the White Horse Pike, across from the WaWa and the Ritz Theater. It was quieter than I thought it would be on Father's Day, but I was there around quarter of 6, still a little early for many diners. I had a Cheeseburger Deluxe platter with cole slaw and sweet potato fries that were way too greasy.

There's a crane machine in the Newton Diner's narrow lobby. It was a bit expensive at two dollars, but I thought I'd give it a try. My luck from Atlantic City held. I got a velvety, dark-blue horse with large amber eyes and odd, stubby legs. I named her Hydrangia, or Gia for short, after the hydrangia bushes in the pool area that were the same brilliant shade of blue.

When I got home, I went online and listened to the Dress Circle. "Dance Numbers and Extended Underscoring Music" was the theme today. Among the famous dance music heard was "The Small House of Uncle Thomas Ballet" from the 1997 revival of The King and I and the "Sunday By the Sea" number from High Button Shoes (although their version was the one performed in Jerome Robbins' Broadway.
This Month's Monkees Role-Play Posted

I just posted this month's Monkees Role-Play story, Rescue From Demon's Castle. Enjoy!

Rescue From Demon's Castle

Saturday, June 19, 2010

I'm All Right

I'm glad I got out early for my weekly farm market/yard sale run. Today was a hot one. While still not humid, the breeze that had made the last few days so tolerable had died down. It wasn't so bad this morning when I started out. Made a quick stop at the bank to deposit this week's (much-needed) paycheck. The bank was dead, but they'd just opened.

The farm market, on the other hand, was bustling with people buying food for their Father's Day barbecues and graduation parties. I didn't need nearly as much as last week. I restocked my celery and bought blueberries, radishes, cherries, an ear of the first New Jersey corn of the season, and grapefruit and apples from the wholesaler. I also stopped and bought a bottle of water and a soft pretzel from a booth raising funds for a local marathon.

I'm glad I bought the water. I spent the next hour riding around, looking for yard sales. There weren't any in Collingswood this week (they were all out last week), but I did encounter a few near-by in Oaklyn. I found two of the Disney 80s Cartoon Classics tapes, Mickey and the Gang and the "Special Edition" Happy Summer Days, and Maroon 5 and Three Doors Down CDs at one yard sale on Landis. Picked up the soundtracks for the first two Shrek films at a sale on Kendall. I also checked out one on the end of Manor near the hill that goes into Audubon, but I had no luck there.

After I got home, I watched the Disney videos and ate tuna salad, blueberries, peas, and cherries for lunch. When lunch and the videos were over, I rounded up a stack of books I wanted to get rid of and headed to the Oaklyn Library for their Spring Book Swap Party.

(Among the books I got rid of were the Ethan Mordden history of musicals series. I'm tired of my inner critics...and I've kind of had my fill of ones outside of me, too. Many of the people who write about musicals often come off as pretentious snobs, and I've had enough of that. I've learned all I can from those books. If nothing else, I freed up enough room in one of the crates in the music section to move some of the records that were overflowing in the dark brown crates to under the lamp next to the big chair with all the WebKinz.)

I was late getting to the Book Swap Party. It seems to have mostly been set up for Oaklyn's, families with young children and old people. There were raffles for cakes and home-made blankets and Father's Day baskets and arts-and-crafts and face painting tables for the kids. There was also food, but everything but the bread and the banana pudding was gone by the time I got to the Library.

I spent an hour digging around the boxes and piles of books everyone had brought and that had been brought in from the library's book sales. I ended up with two videos of rarely seen operettas, the 1938 bio-pic The Great Waltz and the 1952 version of the 20s hit The Desert Song. I also grabbed the kids' book The Phantom Tollbooth, which many older friends have often recommended.

When I got home, I debated going back out for a swim, but I really didn't feel like hiking around in the heat again. I puttered around online and finished editing our Monkees role-play for a while (it'll be up later tonight), then spent the rest of the afternoon watching my finds and crocheting.

The Desert Song is Warner's third adaptation of the wildly popular 1926 operetta. It's about as prototypical of an operetta as you can get. A dashing desert chieftain who leads the Riffs of the Sahara Desert to victory against the French and an evil sultan is in reality a gentle young anthropologist who loves the people of the deserts and abhors fighting. He's trying to get the new General in command of the French to listen to his views on the hypocritical sultan, who has stolen the French army's guns and blames it on the Riffs, but he can't get through...until the General's beautiful, willful daughter arrives from Paris. She wants adventure, and El Khovar is ready to give it to her, and more...

It's The Scarlet Pimpernel in the desert, and as such, isn't bad. To be honest, the hoary melodrama was dated in the 50s, much less now. Kathryn Grayson does fine with the spirited Margot, but Gordon MacRae is too stiff for the passionate desert leader. If you love Superman/Scarlet Pimpernel stories as much as I do, you'll probably get a kick out of it if you ever run into it on TCM. (Alas, to my knowledge, neither it nor the previous 1929 and 1943 versions of The Desert Song are on DVD at press time.)

Caddyshack is just as typical of an 80s comedy as Desert Song is a 20's operetta. Stop me if this sounds familiar - a group of awkward misfits and a couple of loony adults (lead by the obnoxious but almost sort of lovable Rodney Dangerfield) raid an elite country club owned by a very snobby Judge Smalls (Ted Knight). One of the caddies at the club is hoping to win a scholarship and cozies up to the judge and his very attractive niece. Meanwhile, the insane assistant groundskeeper wages an ongoing war with an intelligent groundhog that comes to a literally explosive conclusion at a golf tournament in the finale.

It's as dated as Desert Song, but in a different way. Nothing makes any sense, Chevy Chase's playboy character is laid-back to the point of non-existence (especially in the second half), and the plot is mostly just a series of skits vaguely related to the "snobs vs slobs" theme of so many 80s comedies.

On the other hand, there is still some comic gold to be mined here. Chase has some funny moments on the field early on. Dangerfield and Knight's various attempts to get to each other's goats are hysterical. And then there's Bill Murray's loony groundskeeper, who seems to belong to another movie entirely. And of course, the infamous dancing groundhog. Not my favorite 80s comedy, but it's enjoyable if you're a fan of any of the comedians involved. There's also some great music that includes the smash hit Kenny Loggins song "I'm All Right."

Friday, June 18, 2010

Sunshine On My Shoulders

Today was once again utterly gorgeous. It was a little warmer than yesterday, but other than that, it was wonderfully sunny and breezy. I started off my day with volunteering at the Oaklyn Library. They were setting up for tomorrow's Spring Book Swap Party for volunteers. I've debated all week whether or not I'd attend it, but since I'm off tomorrow, I might as well. It could be fun, and I could clear out some books.

I next headed around the neighborhood and over to the post office to deliver my stepdad's Father's Day card. This took a little longer than I thought it would. First of all, it was noon, and the traffic on the White Horse Pike was a pain. Second, cops were diverting traffic to Newton Avenue even as I walked down the block from the library. (I never did find out what happened there. I didn't see any smoke or accidents.)

When I got in, I made Pineapple Tuna Salad and Persian Cucumber Salad for lunch, then worked on editing the Monkees Role Play for a while. (It's not very long, but it took us a while to write. Lauren and I were on vacation when we wrote it. Look for it by the end of this weekend.)

I left for work early. It was too nice to sit inside for another hour. Besides, I've been trying to get my contacts for the last few days, but I've worked late all this week and haven't been in the Audubon area on days when I've been off. I also took a quick peek at FYE to see if they had any new WebKinz (nope) and picked up my paycheck.

Work was relatively quiet, especially for the beginning of the first weekend of many local kids' summer vacations. I'm assuming a lot of people took advantage of the nice weather to take the family down to the Shore. There were a few annoying old women, but otherwise no major problems. I was in early and able to do my own shopping quickly.

My schedule next week is not great. Only three days, 4-9 on Friday again. (Though I do have 12-5 on Tuesday.)

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Serene Balance

Started today with yoga class. It was full for the first time in weeks. I counted 19 people with me, my friend Pattie, and the teacher Karin. We worked on stretching, knee bends, and hip openers. I did as well as I could with my sore arms and hip leftover from my fall off the bike earlier this week.

Next stop was the Collingswood Library. As it turned out, there really wasn't much for me to do there. They already had a woman working on the DVDs. I went upstairs to shelve nonfiction, but there was only one of those. I ended up spending the next hour-and-a-half reading a coffee-table book on Broadway musicals that were adapted to film (from My Fair Lady to Hairspray) and a few self-help books.

Next, I went out to lunch at GrooveGround. It's expensive, but I figured it would be one of the few places in town that I could afford to eat at and not kill my diet. I had an omelet souffle with tomatoes, onion, Canadian bacon, and Swiss cheese and an iced tea. I ate inside, then enjoyed a pleasant half-hour reading and sipping my iced tea outside in their patio area between the GrooveGround building and the potted plants lining the blacktop in front of the landscaping company next-door.

It was a really beautiful day. The sky was one of the brightest shades of robin's egg blue I've ever seen. The few clouds were lacy white. It was warm without being humid, and windy enough that the heat wasn't overwhelming. (In fact, it might have been too windy, but on a hot day, that's probably a good thing.) I enjoyed my rare moment of peace. I'm usually running from one place to another, or worrying about not doing SOMETHING. At that moment, I realized that I was sitting on a patio, just reading a book about being positive and drinking iced tea...and I was ok with that. Even as I read about feeling serene, I found myself feeling it, and realizing it felt very nice.

My counseling session today was my last. One of the many things I've realized over the past couple of weeks is that it's time to let go of parts of my life that really weren't working anymore...especially ones that were costing me money for services I no longer really needed. I like Scott and he's done a lot for me, but I don't think it's been working as well for at least a year. I told him this after we discussed my very busy past month - the incident with that guy and being pushed too far, Lauren and Jen's visits, my decisions to finally make some changes in my life. Yes, I still feel anxious about being in groups. I'm hoping that joining a gym and taking classes there will help me with that.

Scott even tried playing matchmaker with me and one of his other clients whom he said was in a similar position to me, being shy and inexperienced in love. I said it was very sweet of him, but I don't think I can try actively dating again until I can love myself enough for a guy to love me, too. I added, though, that it was nice of him to try, and just him telling me that there's a guy out there who is going through some of the same things I am made me feel better. I've spent so much of my life feeling isolated that just knowing one other person is struggling the way I am makes me feel like I'm not as alone.

I have mixed feelings on leaving counseling. I like Scott a lot. It's nice to have someone to talk to. But in addition to everything I've mentioned, I've been going to counseling in some way or another since I was probably about six or seven years old. Maybe it's about time I counseled myself for a while.

I went straight home after counseling. I'd literally spent my last physical money at GrooveGround, and I don't have a lot in the bank, either. I spent the rest of the afternoon taking advantage of the nice weather to feed my baked good craving and make a cake. I added egg whites, black raspberries, buttermilk, and a little applesauce to the Duncan Hines Dark Chocolate Cake Mix and frosted it with Dark Chocolate Mousse with added powdered sugar and buttermilk. It came out quite nice and tangy, with a lovely tart sweetness from the berries.

I watched two of the Bowery Boys movies Lauren gave me on video a while back during the cake-baking and dinner. Crazy Over Horses got the Boys involved in a horse-racing scam. It was cute, but nothing dozens of sitcoms haven't done since then.

Loose In London is better. Horace "Sach" Jones is named the heir to a British lord. He, his best friend Terrance "Slip" Mahoney, two of their buddies, and soda shop owner Louie Dumbrowski take a trip across the pond to try to claim Sach's inheritance, before the Lord's scheming relatives do. This is the closest thing the low-rent Bowery Boys get to swashbuckling. Huntz Hall in particular has a lot of fun here as he tries to play the part of a British nobleman.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Berry Sweet Baking

Since today was cooler and on-and-off cloudy, I decided to spend the morning baking cookies. The first crop of blueberries of the year inspired me to make Fourth of July Blueberry Softbakes from my cookie baking book. I've wanted to try them since I got the baking book, but it's usually not cool enough when blueberries are in season to make them! I used mixed dried berries in place of dried cranberries, plain yogurt in place of sour cream (which I don't like), whole wheat and regular flour, and Smart Balance 50/50 Butter in place of regular butter. They came out quite well, nice and nutty and just sweet enough.

Speaking of "nutty," I enjoyed the last of Night Court. I can understand why Billie didn't last out this season. She was kind of fun, but didn't really have much of a personality. On the other hand, Selma the old-lady bailiff was cool and, as much as I liked her replacements, would be missed.

Worked on editing the role-play before having leftover beef stir-fry for lunch. I was late getting out after lunch, and almost late to work! It was windy, cloudy and cool. It rained very briefly this morning, but to my knowledge, it's otherwise been dry.

Other than being late, work was on-and-off steady with no major problems, even missing people this time.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Lost In Suburbland

Started out a sunny, breezy day with this week's laundry run after a late breakfast. I didn't have nearly as much laundry to wash as the past few weeks, so it only took me about an hour all-told. Good thing, too. First of all, the laundromat was really busy. I was lucky to get a dryer! Second, my change got stuck in the dryer after about the 28-minute mark. I was able to get at least one quarter back...but it turns out I didn't need the full hour anyway. My laundry was quite dry when I pulled it out.

I folded and put away my laundry right after I got home. I ran my Steel Pier cast album while eating a fried egg with farm market Cheddar cheese and spinach salad for lunch. Steel Pier debuted on Broadway in 1997 as an attempt to resurrect the "original" Broadway musical - that is, one that didn't rely on a previously-written property for its plot and structure. Though some of John Kander and Fred Ebb's music is lovely and leading lady Karen Ziemba tries her best (and Kristen Chenowith turns up in one number), they really can't get past the awkward blending of a ghost story, a love story, and a Depression era marathon in Atlantic City. I'm from the Jersey Shore area and went to college near the Atlantic City area, so I know the references. (Frailinger's, for instance, is a real candy store that still exists in Atlantic City and a few other Shore towns to this day.) Those of you who aren't Kander and Ebb fans or who don't know about Atlantic City or 30s history may want to pass this one up unless you collect Broadway flop cast albums.

Headed out to the Haddon Township Library after lunch, making quick stops at Dollar Tree for Father's Day cards and Super Fresh for plum tomatoes on my way over. There were plenty of DVDs to put away this week, and I ended up taking out four myself. I haven't seen Caddyshack since I was in college, so I grabbed that along with the new special edition of North By Northwest. I've heard good things about the new Bert and Ernie claymation shorts on Sesame Street, so I grabbed that as well. I also snagged Abby In Wonderland, Sesame Street's recent take on Alice In Wonderland. I'd never seen newcomer fairy Abby Cadabba in action, and I kind of miss Sesame Street.

After I left the library, I went in the other direction, towards Crystal Lake Road. I wanted to find the Audubon Recreation Center, but I rarely ride around on the Westmont/Haddonfield side of the White Horse Pike...and I was reminded of why today. I spent two hours wandering around. I accidentally doubled back to Crystal Lake Road twice before I got away from there. The trouble is, the area is mostly nice modern houses (with a few older ones sprinkled in) and trees, with the occasional small shopping center, school, or city building mixed in. It's hard to tell exactly where one is! I overshot Audubon by a mile and finally ended up crossing the highway into Lawndale.

I ended up at the section of the White Horse Pike where the Lawndale Heritage Shopping Center is at rush hour. Not the best time to be at a place I swore I wouldn't go back to on my bike. I finally found a crosswalk to get to the other side on. I ultimately did what I did last year when I got lost in Lawndale. I followed the railroad tracks back to Audubon and went home the usual way over the bridge and down Newton Road from there.

And I never DID find the rec center. Oh well, maybe I'll try again on Saturday...and stick to the White Horse Pike this time, the heck with the traffic.

Monday, June 14, 2010

You're A Grand Old Flag

I celebrated Flag Day by putting up the rest of the Fourth of July and summer decorations. Taped the small cardboard stars to the windows and the big ones on the wall in the kitchen. Hung the "God Bless America" banner around the window overlooking the park in the living room. Two flags now flank either side of the baker's rack. I dressed the Sailor Moon dolls in their summer clothes. (I held off on that because I wanted Jen and Lauren to see them in their original outfits.)

Spent the rest of the morning hanging out online and starting the editing for this month's Monkees Role Play. It took us longer than expected to finish it due to vacation, but it is done. Look for it by the end of this week or beginning of next week!

It was cloudy when I rode to work, but it never rained. It was just hot, humid, and muggy. Maybe that's why we were so busy today! People were making up for yesterday's lost time. Of course, some of it simply was we'd had someone go home sick and weren't up to the crowds. We were very short on help all day, and people being grouchy didn't help. It did slow down enough by 8 that I was able to leave with no problems.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Storms Roll In

It was sunny, muggy, and hot when I awoke this morning. I made Banana-Blueberry Pancakes and called Mom. I didn't get her until half-way through the 10-12 Brunch With the Beatles radio show. She was doing things around the apartment, avoiding the heat and enjoying the relative peace. Keefe was babysitting for my sister Anny and Dad's out fishing. (Keefe did show up later.)

Mom was happy to hear about everything I got done this week, and my plans for the future. I'm going to concentrate on finding ways to lose weight and improve my focus. As badly as I want to get out of the Acme, I think one of the reasons I haven't been able to find a job is I can't believe in myself enough to sell my skills to anyone. Until I feel better about myself, I don't think I really can look for another job.

Mom and I chatted for almost 45 minutes. Most of the second hour of Brunch With the Beatles went by without me even knowing it! (By the way, Paul McCartney, whose birthday is this week, was in the spotlight.) I spent the rest of the afternoon listening to my new Harry Connick Jr. Pajama Game CD and puttering around online.

I had just gotten offline and was eating a peanut butter and peach butter sandwich for lunch when I noticed that it had gotten considerably darker. I leaned out of the apartment, and it definitely smelled like rain. It wasn't raining hard, so I packed lunch, changed, and headed for work on the bike.

Mistake! I was half-way down Kendall Boulevard when it started pouring. Good thing I left really early. I stopped under a couple of trees to wait out the rain. It did slow down enough for me to get to work just short of completely sopping.

The rain must have scared the usual Sunday customers off. It was steady, but not nearly as busy at it typically is on a Sunday afternoon. It cleared out even more when another big thunderstorm rolled in around quarter of 6.

Thankfully, by the time I shut down and headed out, it was down to a sprinkle. I was rounding the corner of Goff and Manor and a block from my apartment when the sun broke through the clouds. To my knowledge, it hasn't rained since.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Farm Market Is Now In Session

Started out a hot but breezy day with this week's Farm Market run. Today was also the day of Collingswood's City-Wide Yard Sale event. I passed by three yard sales alone heading for the farm market, though I didn't buy anything at that point.

Good thing, too, because I bought a ton at the Farm Market. The Farm Market was really busy when I got in around 9:30-10ish, though I could get around well enough. Strawberries and asparagus were gone, but I saw the first blueberries, cucumbers, summer squash, zucchini, and black and red raspberries of the season. In addition to the blueberries, yellow squash, black raspberries, and two cucumbers, I bought cherries, leeks, an onion, spinach, and two grapefruit.

I rode up and down the streets of Collingswood, checking out all the yard sales. Most of them turned out to be not that interesting, but I did find a few big ones with some good items. I picked up a large Playful Heart Monkey Care Bear Cousin stuffed animal and two CDs (Elton John's Greatest Hits Vol III and the first WOGL Ultimate Christmas Album) from one large multi-family yard sale in Collingswood. Another multi-family sale around the corner from me on Kendall Boulevard yielded two classic Winnie the Pooh golden books, Winnie the Pooh Meets Gopher (based after Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree), and Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too.

I was so tired after riding around all morning, I spent most of the afternoon inside. I added my new DVD finds to the inventory, messed around online, and watched Night Court episodes.

I was a little young for Night Court during it's 80s-early 90s heyday (and we didn't watch a lot of NBC anyway), but I got into it when it re-ran on A&E during my college years and early years in Wildwood. Judge Harry Stone is the unorthodox, joke-loving judge in New York's wee-hours courtrooms who tries a wide variety of wacky oddballs. Bull Shannon is his huge, hulking baliff. Selma's the older one who makes wisecracks about her age. Mac's his assistant. Dan Fielding is the defending lawyer, and he's 80s stereotype #4 - the slick sleazeball, this one with a heart of very tarnished gold somewhere under the fancy suit. Billie Young is the other attorney in season two, but she was gone by season three, replaced by Christine Sullivan (who turns up in one episode early in this season).

The show's first full season isn't quite as wacky as the show would be later, but there's some fun episodes. I loved the one about Harry and the madam holding lots of secrets of New York's wealthy and powerful.

By around 3:30, I was bored. I decided to ride out to the Haddon Lake Dell amphitheater and take a look at that concert that was advertised there yesterday. After a few wrong turns, I finally heard country-esque music and made my way back to the hill where the small stadium-style theater is found.

Turns out the concert was JerseyJam 4. Local bands, singers, and songwriters show off their wares to support Multiple Scoleosis charities. The concert was free to enter, but they had a booth with food, JerseyJam t-shirts, and CDs from the groups and singers involved. I'd spent a lot of money at the Farm Market this morning and just ended up buying a bottle of water.

I'm glad I went to the concert. The crowd was mostly families, the relatives of the musicians, and people who happened to be walking through the park anyway, but it was still nice to be outside, hearing live, local music. The ampitheater is pretty nice, too. The red wood and stone seats aren't the most comfortable, but they're nice and sturdy, and most of them have a great view of the stage. I don't really remember any of the bands' names. The one I caught when I came in was playing country music. The second was a woman who apparently hadn't been writing music for very long - she'd trained as a nurse of some kind - but she had some nice, dark Sarah McLaughlin-esque ballads. The third band played long jazz jams. Another young woman sang one nice rock ballad before I headed out.

The hills around Haddon Lake Park are a bit steeper than the ones in Newton River Park. I was trying to ride up a very steep hill, but I wasn't getting far. I stopped to get off...but the bike just kept going! I tried to jump off, but the bike and I ended up tumbling on my left side into the grass.

My first thought (after I got over the shock of falling), was to check my knees. Thankfully, other than some minor scrapes on the side of my left knee, they and my legs were moving just fine. They were a little shaky, but besides my left thigh feeling a bit sore, nothing was really hurt. I think I pulled a muscle on and under my left shoulder and re-aggravated my sore elbow, but it's moving fine, and nothing appears to be broken. The bike didn't even get that hurt. I walked through the rest of the park, but once I hit Haddon Heights, I was able to ride home with no more trouble.

I had dinner when I got home and watched more Night Court. My beef stir fry came out very well, thanks to all those summer veggies I bought today.

Friday, June 11, 2010

All In the Golden Afternoon

Decided to sleep in on what turned out to be a gorgeous, sunny, breezy June day. After breakfast, I headed to the Audubon Crossings Shopping Center behind the Acme. I don't get a paycheck this week (got my vacation paycheck last week), but I did want to get my grocery shopping done. I also dropped by FYE briefly to see if they had any new WebKinz (nope). I spent a little more time at the Shoe Depot. I need new cheap sneakers to run errands in, but I didn't see anything I liked.

Headed home after that to put away my groceries. I had the last of the leftover ground chicken chili for lunch while watching Mannequin 2: On the Move. This cute semi-sequel is pretty much a rehash of the first movie. In this case, however, the lady in question is a 1,000-year-old peasant maiden who is cursed by a wicked sorcerer. Only her true love can undo the spell...and her true love, naturally, turns out to be a new employee at the very same department store in Philadelphia where the first one took place, under the tutelage of the very same flamboyant Hollywood.

It's not as good as the first time around (which isn't that great to begin with), but if you can get around some plot holes and awkward lines, it's pretty cute. Kristy Swanson does as well as she can with the pretty maiden who suddenly finds herself in a whole different era. Trouble is, she has no chemistry with the wooden William Ragsdale, and some of Mesatch Taylor's gags are over-the-top, even for this type of broad romantic comedy. Not the worst way to spend and hour and a half if you run into it on cable, but I wouldn't seek it out unless you really, really like Swanson, Taylor, or the first movie.

I grabbed the bike after the movie ended and went for a ride. I wanted to find the Audubon and Haddon Heights rec centers. I never did find the rec centers, but I made other great finds.

I stopped at Willie the Woodsman and Wife's in Audubon to check out their WebKinz collection, since I didn't get a chance to last week. Maybe it's just as well that I wasn't able to get there until now. They just got the June WebKinz in this week. I was able to buy the gorgeous Golden Pegasus, a very large, fluffy horse with beautiful, large blue eyes with embroidered lashes and gilt-edged, fuzzy wings. I also met the mother and sweet Autistic son of Gloria, the store's proprietor.

It was such a lovely day, I just opted to ride around Haddon Heights next after I couldn't find the rec center. I found myself at the end of Station Avenue and the beginning of yet another huge park centered around water, Haddon Lake Park. I rode down the path for a while, passing large, lovely old and new homes and grass that still managed to be green despite the recent heat waves. The path came to a stop at a point. The blacktop path went up to the street...but an unpaved path went into the woods. Despite the unpaved path being riddled with roots and bumps, I made my way gingerly into the woods.

It was really beautiful in there. Once the unpaved path got away from the roots, it followed a lovely little brown brook through a thick forest of trees and logs. It was green and cool in the forest. If it hadn't been for the occasional sound of a car or glimpse of a house, I would have felt like I was in an enchanted glen. The brook bubbled and glimmered merrily. The birds swooped through the tree-tops. The wind played tag with the dark green leaves.

I came out at what appeared to be an amphitheater built into the side of a hill, under the trees. I noticed a sign for a free concert series tomorrow evening, from 3-7, at Haddon Lake Dell. I may see if I'm up for going tomorrow if the weather cooperates and I'm up to it after my farm market errands run.

I rode around Audubon for a while after that, just enjoying the day. It was hot, but not so hot I was roasting. I stopped at the TreeHouse Cafe for a Strawberry Italian Soda before riding over the Audubon bridge and into Oaklyn.

Spent the rest of the evening working on a crochet hat for Molly and watching "Thousands Cheer," which is basically a MGM World War II "morale-boosting" revue. Kathryn Grayson plays the daughter of a general who wants to put on a show for soldiers; Gene Kelly is the former circus star who loves her. A long line of MGM talent appears in skits and numbers in the last 20 minutes or so, including Judy Garland, Mickey Rooney, Frank Morgan, Virginia O'Brian, Lena Horne, bandleader Kay Kyser, Gloria DeHaven, June Allyson, future TV stars Ann Southern and Lucile Ball, Red Skeleton, Margaret O'Brien, and in what would be her last appearance at MGM, tap dancer Eleanor Powell.

As with DuBarry Was a Lady, this is very much a product of it's "win one for Uncle Sam, rah-rah" times. As I mentioned, this is more-or-less a revue with a storyline, and the tale of Kelly learning about teamwork can come off as corny today. Grayson's attempt to pull her parents back together is only slightly less forced. It's fun if you're a fan of the stars involved, World War II, Grayson, or Kelly, but otherwise not a must-see.

Oh, and meet the very handsome Helios, my Golden Pegasus! Named for the unicorn-Pegasus character in the fourth season of Sailor Moon, he will move into the new World Cup Soccer-themed room.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Closing Balance

It was still cloudy and a little cool when I headed to Yogawood for this week's class. By the time I got out, it was sunny, hotter, and a little humid again. Once again, it was a quiet class, 8 students counting the teacher Karin. We worked on balancing and stretching. I'm getting much better at balancing. I haven't made handstands yet, but I can walk up the wall and do a pretty decent Tree Pose.

Headed to the thrift shop next to drop off a video I no longer needed. Erica told me something very disappointing there. They're shutting down on July 31st. The AIDS charity that owns the store is going out of business, and despite the store being very profitable, they can't afford to keep it open anymore. They're hoping to find a buyer for it.

I did end up getting some things for myself. I found another Efframbee doll, this one dressed in a pretty blue-and-yellow Dutch-style gown and hat, and the rare MGM wartime musical Thousands Cheer, with Kathryn Grayson and Gene Kelly.

Next stop was the Collingswood Library for volunteering. I put away DVDs, but there wasn't much else to do. I heard FA turn away three other volunteers because there was so little going on. I left there early. Ran errands at Rite Aid and CVS instead.

After I got in, I had a leftover turkey burger, cherries, chocolate chip muffins, and a spinach salad for lunch while watching Looney Tunes cartoons. The last disc of the Vol 6 set concentrates on popular one-shot cartoons that don't often turn up elsewhere. Chief among these are Warners' first foray in the Dr. Seuss canon, Horton Hatches the Egg. It's a colorful and cute version of the first Horton story. Lazy Maisie the Bird asks Horton to hatch her egg. Horton does...and he, Maisie, and a whole circus learn the value of patience and sticking to your guns, no matter what. "An elephant's faithful, one hundred percent!"

A major theme of these cartoons is thwarted justice. Most of these non-series Toons just can't seem to catch a break, whether it's the cat of Fresh Airedale who constantly sees a spoiled canine snatch his thunder or the harried mother of Wild Wife who just wants a little respect from her husband.

Like I said, this set isn't for the little guys, but those of you who are Toons completists or major cartoon fans or history buffs like me may find them fascinating.

Work was pretty much the same as yesterday. It was busy during rush hour, quiet later. This time, thank goodness, we had more than enough help. I was in and out with no problems.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Welcoming the Rain

I awoke to a cloudy, gray, cool day...and I was ok with that. We badly need the rain. The grass is looking very brown, and everything is getting crackly. I had oatmeal for breakfast, then headed down to the Oaklyn Library for this week's volunteering session there.

The Library was surprisingly quiet for such a nasty day. There weren't even any kids. I worked on organizing the kids' books, then took a quick glance at the DVDs. The kids' section took me a while, since I didn't do it last week.

It was just starting to spit a little as I walked back to my apartment. It didn't turn into a shower until an hour later, when I was eating lunch and working on the budget. By that point, I didn't really have the time to call for a ride. I rode my bike to work and got wet.

Work wasn't too bad. We had several call-outs in the morning and were busy during rush-hour, but once the Flyers game started, everyone cleared out. I spent the last half-hour shelving candy. There were a few annoying people, otherwise no problems.

It was just misting a little when I got out of the Acme. The rain thankfully waited to increase until I was two blocks from home.

And the Flyers are down 3-2 in the second period as of this writing, but it's still anyone's game...

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Smile, Darn Ya Smile!

Started out an utterly gorgeous late-spring day with a trip to the laundromat. It was a bit busy, but other than that, there were no problems. Not even bad weather this time. It was sunny, warm, dry, and breezy, probably in the mid-to-upper 70s. I went straight home with my laundry this time, with no thunderstorm interruptions.

After I got in, I folded my laundry and watched one of the two Looney Tunes specials included with the Golden Collection Vol. 6 set, Bugs Bunny In King Arthur's Court. It's one of the few Looney Tunes specials that doesn't rely on bits and pieces of the older shorts, and one of the very few that tells a linear story. In a spoof of the famous Mark Twain story, Bugs takes one of his famous wrong turns at Albuquerque (via advice from Ray Bradbury) and somehow ends up in Camelot! Daffy is the bored king. Porky is his page. (They really played up the stuttering jokes here.) Perpetual bad-guys Yosemite Sam and Elmer Fudd are Merlin the magician and a knight, respectively. Not great by any accounts, but cute enough.

After an Fried Egg Sandwich lunch, I headed back out again. My first stop was the Westmont Plaza. I made a quick stop at Super Fresh to see if I could find something. After that, I went behind the Super Fresh to Super Fitness, one of two health clubs in the immediate area.

Super Fitness turned out to be a large, well-stocked area behind the main mall. (The entrance is on the side of the mall building behind The Music Place, which is probably why Lauren and I didn't see it there last week.) They have all the usual machines, plus an aerobic studio...which is my real interest. I'd really like to take some more exercise classes. I enjoy my yoga classes at Yogawood, but I'd like to take some that do more for my heart and muscles, not to mention meet other people who also want to lose weight. The price seemed pretty reasonable, too.

The Westmont Plaza is across the street from the Haddon Township Library, so that was my next stop. I was there much longer than I had anticipated. Though they didn't have many DVDs to put away today, they had plenty of children's books, and the kids' DVDs needed badly to be reorganized. I took another look over the self-help books on my way out, hoping to find more on leaving comfort zones or life coaching, but I didn't see anything I liked.

Headed down Cuthbert Road and over to Haddon Avenue next. Made a very brief stop at the Cuthbert Road 7-11, but they were out of soft pretzels. The Philly Pretzel Company on Haddon Avenue took care of that craving. After that, I rode down Haddon to Vitality Fitness, a few blocks from the Collingswood PATCO Station. They were a much smaller, more cramped gym housed in an older, Art Deco-esque building. Turns out they have no real classes. Their emphasis is on personal training and one-on-one sessions...which is really the opposite of what I'm interested in at the moment. I spend enough time alone or with one or two people. I want to be a part of a group.

Rode home after that via Newton River Park and West Clinton Avenue. I'd gotten an idea for cookies while I was on my ride. I rolled the Betty Crocker Stir-and-Drop Sugar Cookie recipe into pretzel shapes and sprinkled them with salt, making Lemon Salty-Sweet Cookie Pretzels. I burned the first batch a bit, but the second came out pretty well. I even got the hang of making the pretzel shape.

I ran more Looney Tunes during my baking session and dinner. The last Looney Tunes Gold Collection set is really made more for adult collectors than kids who dig the Tunes...but with that in mind, there's still some fun to be had. Some of the World War II and 50s propaganda cartoons on Disc 2 that go into detail about the era are fascinating for history buffs. (Loved the lady mechanic who fixed a huge machine with a bobby pin!)

As a fan of the black-and-white cartoons of the early 30s in general, I quite enjoyed the Bosko/Foxy/Buddy cartoons on Disc 3. I have fond memories of some of the Bosko and Buddy shorts appearing as part of Nickelodeon's evening "Looney Tunes" show in the 80s. While not quite as inspired as the Disney cartoons from the same era (and Foxy and Buddy are a bit bland, even compared to the slightly jazzier Bosko), they're still full of energy and crazy gags, even while being quite different from later Warners efforts.

Monday, June 07, 2010

June Is (Finally) Bustin' Out All Over

I got up around 8:30-9ish this morning. First thing I did was stick my head out the front door. I was expecting it to still be mega-hot, but instead, I was greeted with a blast of cold air. Not just cool, but cold! I turned off the no-longer needed air conditioner and fans right away.

Spent the rest of this now-cool day doing things online and in the kitchen. I looked up local recreation centers. Every town in Cape May County has a rec center, a place where people can take free or inexpensive aerobics, gymnastics, dance, or swim class, or learn what's going on in town, or see a free movie or hear a speaker. Only two towns in this area seem to have one of these, Audubon and Haddon Heights. I was greatly disappointed. I took swimming, gymnastics, and aerobics classes at the Rec Center in Cape May as a kid. Most of the "community centers" in this area are for seniors only. What about all the families that can't afford health club fares or fancy studios like Yogawood?

I'm still going to check out the two rec centers on Friday, after I go grocery shopping and run some errands in the mall behind the Acme. Maybe they'll have something.

I also took advantage of the cooler day to get some baking in. I finally finished the Banana Honey Muffins yesterday. I didn't have a whole lot of time, so I just made Chocolate Chip Muffins, using Alton Brown's "Old School Muffins" recipe from his I'm Just Here For More Food cookbook. They came out pretty well, soft, sweet, and almost biscuit-like.

Work was pretty much the same as last night - off and on busy, no problems other than a few obnoxious old people leftover from the beginning of the month.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Avoiding the Heat

Started off this morning fairly early. Jen wanted to leave at 9. She was headed to Maryland to visit Rodney Walker, a friend of ours from the WENN chats. I couldn't let her leave on an empty stomach. I made her Whole Wheat Pancakes topped with peach butter. She also had maple syrup. I had raspberry-flavored honey.

After Jen left, I really just spent the rest of the day hanging around the apartment, enjoying the quiet and the air conditioning after spending most of the week running around. I listened to the Brunch With the Beatles radio show. (Ironically, Let It Be, which I just bought on CD on Friday, was in the spotlight today.) I called Mom and talked about my vacation, my friends, and everything that I've done to get out of the rut I've been in for years...and all the things I have planned.

Work was busy most of the day. The Phillies and the Flyers both played tonight (neither won, darn it), and this is a big shopping day for many people who work during the week anyway. There were a few really obnoxious old ladies who kept repeating orders and telling me how to bag, but otherwise, I was in and out with no problems.
Update on Last Post

I'm now chatting with Lauren. She got into Albany just fine, with no more delays or problems after New York. According to her, her parents had missed her and were glad to see her. They went out to Denny's near the Albany-Rennsselaur Train Station before returning to Pittsfield.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Goodbye Friend, Hello Friend

Lauren and I started off the morning of her last day here with a walk to the Collingswood Farm Market. It was hot again, but there was a nice breeze, and it was much drier than earlier in the week. The Farm Market was packed when we got in, including another demonstration next to the first booth. I bought strawberries, cheddar cheese, celery, carrots, and asparagus for me. Lauren and I bought snap peas and first-of-the-season cherries to split when we got home.

We strolled across Collingswood and down Newton River Park. Took in three yard sales, but didn't find anything we liked. After we left the park, we stopped at CVS to get a drink, then went home. We made a quick stop at Dad's to tell him we wanted to leave around 1:15. Turns out he had other errands to run today and wanted to leave even earlier, at 1, which was fine too.

We spent Lauren's last few hours here inside, watching cartoons and eating leftovers out of the fridge for lunch. Dad did pick us up on-time; we were at Cherry Hill by quarter after 1.

The train ride to Philadelphia went fine. The train was ten minutes late, but Lauren had an hour-long layover at the 30th Street Station. We saw traffic going into the city and I figured my friend Jen would be stuck in that, poor dear. Lauren ran into trouble when we saw the departure/arrival board and saw that her train was delayed more than a half-hour! She only had a half-hour to get to her train in Penn Station! I left her in line at the Amtrak customer service booth, trying to find out if she could transfer to the next train to New York.

Turned out I was right. Poor Jen DID run into traffic. She finally picked me up in front of the 30th Street Station around quarter of 3. Jen Payne is an online friend of mine from Seattle who is touring the eastern US, seeing Revolutionary War sites and Naval stations. Her goal is to eventually see all 50 states.

We had no better luck with traffic going to Valley Forge in eastern Pennsylvania. We didn't get into Valley Forge State Park until almost 4. Valley Forge State Park is a gorgeous park, with recreated cabins and real Revolutionary War-era buildings set against the green rolling hills of Pennsylvania. This was George Washington and the Continental Army's winter encampment in 1777, and the place where the Continental Army was whipped into shape to become real soldiers.

Alas, many of the long, winding trails weren't really marked properly. We had a hard time finding our way around. We never did get into the visitor's center, though we did see George Washington's house, the currently-being-remodeled Valley Forge Railroad Station, and one of the re-built iron forges that gave Valley Forge its name. George Washington's House was probably busier than it's been since the days of the Army's occupation. In addition to random tourists like us, a large troop of schoolboys and their teachers were on a tour at the same time. (I keep running into school kids at historical sites this week.) We all squeezed into the house to see the offices, bedrooms, and kitchen. (I liked George Washington's bedroom. The blue canopy bed reminded me of a blue version of Felicity's bed and bedding from the American Girls series.)

We didn't have much luck with traffic getting home, either. We hit a few rather nasty patches going over several rivers and into Northern Philadelphia. Thankfully, by the time we were passing Citizen's Bank Park, where the Phillies play (and getting a better view of the stadium than many people watching the game), the traffic had thinned out considerably.

Ironically, we came out right on the Black Horse Pike, across from the Acme where I Jen got to see the outside of where I work and the mall it's in front of. We ate at the Arby's next to the Acme for dinner. I had the All-American Roast Beef Burger. Jen had a Roast Beef Gyro. (I thought of getting a gyro, but I more-or-less had one in Philly on Thursday.)

After we arrived at my place, we strolled through Veteran's Park next door. Jen was ooh-ing and ahh-ing over the gorgeous scenery in the park when we saw something I'd never seen on the tree at the edge of the park, near the river - a huge black turtle! We stood back and got some pictures of him before he turned chicken and waddled off. We also took pictures of each other with the river in back of us.

Spent the rest of the night at my house. We watched That's Entertainment together. Jen had never seen it, and she loved watching all those fabulous, huge MGM musical numbers! Jen enjoyed some of the magnificent cherries and strawberries I picked up at the Farm Market this morning. I had Banana French Vanilla Mousse Pie.

As for Lauren, she called while we were stuck in traffic on our way back from Valley Forge. She had arrived in New York 15 minutes before her train was due to depart and barely managed to catch it...but catch it she did! She was just on her way home when she called, and is probably at home with her parents now or on her way there.

Alas, that's the end of my vacation. I go back to work tomorrow. Jen moves on to Baltimore to visit another online friend of ours, Rodney Walker.

Here's Jen's perspective on this afternoon...

Jen's Trip Blog

Friday, June 04, 2010

The Two of Us

We both slept in today. I got up around 9 and puttered around online. Lauren wasn't out of bed until almost 11:30! I made us smoothies for breakfast. I had Strawberry-Banana-Peanut Butter. (My bananas were ripe to the point of falling apart.) Lauren had the last of the blackberries and strawberries. They were both quite good.

We walked over to the Audubon Crossings Shopping Center next. I picked up my paycheck, and we hit the FYE and Game Stop. I found the 80s romantic fantasy/comedy Mannequin, a childhood favorite of mine, and the second season of Night Court at FYE. Lauren asked about a game she wanted at Game Stop. We also made a quick run across the parking lot to America's Best so I could order new contacts.

One of the first things Lauren said she wanted to do when we discussed her visiting me this year was visit Sonic. Apparently, she and her parents visited one in Texas several years ago that she loved. Sonic is a fast-food franchise with a twist - there's no indoor seating. Waitresses roller-blade to your cars or the outdoor patio. I've been wanting to try them for ages, but either it was too late, the place was too crowded, or the weather was bad.

It was worth the wait. Lauren and I had Chicken Ranch Wraps with Diet Cherry Limeades. The Wrap came in a real flour tortilla and was made with real grilled chicken. The limeade was yummy, all bubbly and cherry-sweet, even without the actual sugar. The waitress was nice, too. She had a few problems stopping, but in her words, she was "trying out new wheels" (i.e, a brand-new pair of roller blades with hot-pink laces).

Next was a quick stop back at the Acme for grocery shopping. I needed a few things, but not quite as much as last week. Mostly, it was restocking the stuff I ate this week - tomato sauce (which I used on the beef ribs we had for dinner Wednesday night), those sweetened Blue Almond Diamonds that are on clearance (I treated Lauren to a canister for the ride home tomorrow), dried fruit, not-as-ripe bananas, and things to make a pudding pie. (I figured they'd be easier to carry home than ice cream.)

We ran into a very unpleasant visitor on my porch when we arrived back at the apartment. That guy I spent a day with last month has called me four times since then, including Wednesday. I've told him each time that no, I'm not interested in going anywhere near him again, please stop calling. This time, I screamed at him to get lost, or I'll call the cops. I don't care about his sob stories. I'm not going to be a toy or a piggy bank for him. He tried to sweet-talk Lauren, but she just said to leave, too.

I'm still a little shaken. I don't know why that guy can't get the message. What part of "no, I'm not interested, go away or there will be legal recourse" doesn't he understand? If a guy said no to me, I'd shrug and say "oh well, that's the end of it." One day - a day I now consider to be one of the biggest mistakes of my life - and he thinks we can be buddies? I've been used too often in my life. I'm sick of it. It stops now. I'm worried that he might show up again or try something nastier, but I just don't feel what he thinks he feels.

We didn't really talk much about it when we finally got inside. Lauren got the full brunt of my ranting and tears the day it happened and several days after. I made the pudding pie, and we decided to head out again and see what stores in Audubon were open.

Though we missed Willie the Woodsman and Wife and Act Two Collectibles, we did make it to Abbie Road and Desserts By Design. Bob at Abbie Road was great with Lauren. They chatted about the Boston Celtics losing last night and the Flyers' prospects tonight and visiting the Grand Old Opry years ago (Lauren actually went to Opryland before it shut down). I ended up with a set of Harry Connick Jr's two Broadway shows, the 2007 limited-run hit revival of The Pajama Game (another one of the few Broadway favorites I didn't own in any form) and the 2002 flop Thout Shall Not and the Beatles' last record, Let It Be. Lauren got two Herman's Hermits CDs. (She's a big fan of Peter Noone.)

Lauren insisted on trying an Almond-Coconut-Marzipan Cookie. I'm glad she did. It was very sweet, soft, and tasty. We split it in half, since it was so rich. (She got the bigger half.)

It was sweltering hot and humid when we were at the Audubon Crossings Shopping Center. By the time we were heading home at quarter after 5, clouds had covered the sun and a nice breeze was blowing in. Even so, when we got home, we cranked up the AC and watched Mannequin and more Bowery Boys.

Lauren's going home tomorrow and I'm going to meet another online friend, Jen Payne, in Philly...but before that, we're going to the Collingswood Farm Market together.

(Oh, and congratulations to the Flyers and the Phillies, both of whom won tonight. The Flyers are now 2-2 in the Stanley Cup Finals with the Blackhawks; the Phillies finally ended a rather nasty losing skid.)

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Balance and the City

We walked over to Dad's for a drive to yoga class. He'd just pulled out his beloved classic red Ford Mustang for the season and wanted to check it out. Lauren was thrilled. She adores cars, especially classic cars.

Class was surprisingly quiet, especially given how busy it's been over the past few weeks. I guess a lot of people didn't want to brave the heat. There were only 8 people, including Lauren, me, my friend Pattie, and the teacher Karin. Since there were several newcomers, we concentrated on basic balancing and standing poses. I'm getting better at balancing, and I'm already pretty good at standing poses. Lauren didn't do bad for her first try.

My arm was still feeling sore. It was better for a while, then hurt again. Pattie, a licensed massage therapist, did some pulls and massaging to make it feel better. It did help a bit.

We strolled Collingswood for about an hour after class. We bought drinks at the WaWa down the block from Yogawood. We stopped at the thrift shop and said "hi" to Erica. We chatted with the nice lady who owns Collingswood Used Books and we both bought books from there. I found the script from the play Brighton Beach Memoirs (one of my favorite Neil Simon shows) in book form and a candy-shop based mystery series I'd never heard of before. (I'm a sucker for mystery series with recipes.) Lauren bought a bookmark and a huge book called The Bankers for her dad, a retired bank manager.

We headed to the PATCO next for our trip into Philadelphia. After making a quick bathroom break at the Gallery Mall, we headed for Independence Hall to taken in the tour...or so we thought.

It was very hot and sunny, though not as sticky as Tuesday. The relatively nice day must have brought everyone out of the woodwork. There were three times as many school groups in the Independence Mall State Park than there were when Linda, James, and I visited here in November...and there were a lot of kids then! We literally could not fit in the gift shop at the Visitor's Center, the line to see the Liberty Bell went half-way around the building, and they were out of tickets for the Independence Hall tour until well into tomorrow.

Oh, well. We did stroll around the grounds, and Lauren was able to see enough of the Liberty Bell through a window to get a picture. She said she was happy just being able to see the outsides up close. (Apparently, the last time she was in Philadelphia was on a bus tour with her parents, and the bus wouldn't or couldn't stop.) I did see the tour with Linda and James, so it was no great loss for me, either.

We headed in the other direction down Market Street, passing more groups of children (with very annoying duck whistles). I wanted to take Lauren to my favorite place in Philadelphia for lunch, Reading Terminal Market. It was very busy, but we were able to find two seats together at, ironically, the very same Middle Eastern counter I ate at on my birthday. I had a chicken gyro. She had a chicken shish-kabob sandwich. Either way, they were delicious...and messy, too. We ended up eating half of both with forks.

Next stop was the big historic Macy's a few blocks down from Reading Terminal Market that used to be Wanamaker's. We browsed the ground floor, and I got to show her the organ and where the light show is at Christmas. I ended up buying a Flyers' t-shirt. Like I told the cashier in the men's department, it's necessary right now.

We made our way around City Hall (the entrance to Broad Street was blocked by construction) to my favorite FYE and Borders. We both did very well at FYE. I picked up Volume 6 of the Looney Tunes Golden Collection for about $29 with my Membership Card. Lauren found Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume 3 and the complete series for Hong Kong Phooey and Danger Mouse, the latter for $40.

Our stop at Borders was briefer. For one thing, both theirs and FYE's air conditioning didn't seem to be working. It was a bit cooler on Borders' third floor, but both stores were hotter than they should have been. We both had drinks at Borders' cafe. I had a Mint Italian soda; Lauren had iced tea. I found more of the candy-recipe mystery series I'd bought earlier at the used book store.

We had a lovely stroll down Broad Street, passing the theaters, the University of the Arts (where my sister Jessa goes to school), and the Sounds of Philadelphia building. We turned on Pine Street, passing Antique Row and ending up in Washington Square. I wanted to show Lauren my favorite used book and record store, Russakoff's on 10th Street.

We spent almost an hour browsing in there. I picked up the American Girls book Very Funny, Elizabeth! and two Broadway original cast LPs for the 60s flop with Elaine Stritch Sail Away and the mid-80s hit based after Huckleberry Finn, Big River.

(And thank goodness they had no problems with air conditioning!)

The 10th Street PATCO entrance is more steps from Russakoff's. We picked up a fairly full train there around 5. Dad picked us up at the station soon after we arrived. We spent the rest of the evening enjoying slow-cooked beef ribs and watching Looney Tunes cartoons.

Oh, and good luck to the Boston Celtics in the basketball finals! Lauren's watching the game on ABC's streaming video as I type this.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

It's Very Unusual

The day began well. Dad drove us to the train station amid a gorgeous, dry 85-degree day. We got our tickets just fine, and the train arrived on time. Everything progressed first.

We were between Lindenwauld and Atco in Burlington County when we just stopped. There had been an accident on the track. The train coming in the opposite direction had hit a pedestrian! Lauren tried to find out more on her cell phone, but even listening to Burlington's police radios didn't net us more info.

Ultimately, after almost an hour's wait, the train was canceled. We ended up having to spend nearly two more hours on a bus to Atlantic City. This wasn't bad at first, either, despite my initially being upset to the point of tears. In fact, it kind of beat the train. Much of Burlington and Atlantic counties is farmland and woods, and it was really gorgeous.

It was nice until we hit the Atlantic City suburbs. Not only did the scenery get a lot less attractive, but people kept getting off on every single block! I don't know why everyone couldn't have gotten off in one place. Like it would have killed them to walk a few blocks?

We didn't get into Atlantic City until quarter of 3. We had a quick, late lunch at Ruby Tuesday's. (I had the Salmon Sliders. Lauren had Chicken Quesildilas. We both had the salad bar.) After lunch, we finally headed past Caeser's and Bally's Wild Wild West and onto the Boardwalk.

We mostly just strolled on the Boardwalk. Lauren had never been in Atlantic City before, so even that was a new experience. We rummaged through a dollar store/candy store/junk shop called Peanut World. We hit the cranes at Central Pier. Lauren didn't win anything, but I won a vinyl ball. (Accidentally, actually. I wanted to win the teddy bears in the next crane, but I put my money in the wrong machine.) We took pictures outside of Wild Wild West.

As we headed towards Trump's Taj Mahal, our vision got a lot dimmer...and not just because of the shadows of the casinos. A fine white mist had started swirling around, obscuring the tops of buildings and most of the beach. As the mist grew thicker, the crowds on the Boardwalk got thicker, too, chased off the sand by the mist and the lateness of the day. We finally decided we'd be better off away from the beach, where we could see where we were going.

The Outlets were our next stop. In an attempt to bring people to Atlantic City for a reason other than gambling (and clean up the entrance area around the AC Expressway), the city started building a series of outlet stores for high-end chain shops and restaraunts. The last time I saw them was in the winter of 2005, right before I moved. The IHOP and the Borders Outlet were gone, but there were plenty of other stores. We browsed in Lane Bryant, Old Navy, and Bath and Body Works, though we never did buy anything.

Lauren saw a monitor with schedules for the trains and buses at the bus station when we arrived in Atlantic City. We returned to the bus terminal to take a look at that monitor and check to see if they'd fixed everything. They apparently had; there were no more alerts. We walked over to the Sheridan Hotel behind the outlets where the train terminal is, bought our tickets, and hopped the train back to Cherry Hill.

There were no problems at all this time. We had to wait a few minutes when we got home for Dad, who got stuck in traffic, but we passed the time playing catch with my new purple ball.

When we finally got home, I made us Scrambled Eggs with Spring Vegetables, and we had ice cream for dessert while watching more Bowery Boys movies. Tomorrow, we'll hopefully be going into Philadelphia to see Independence Hall and my favorite downtown stores.

(And here's an article about the train accident from the Courier-Post. It doesn't say a whole lot more than what we found out, but it's there.)

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

A Very Long Walk

We started off today with a pleasant breakfast of oatmeal with cinnamon and brown sugar while I ran cartoons. Unfortunately, we ran into a problem when we tried to saddle up the bikes to head to the laundromat. Both bikes were just too tall for Lauren (who is 5'0), even set as low as they could go. We decided that the laundry had to get done, and we didn't want to sit around. We walked to the laundromat on the White Horse Pike after making a brief stop at the Oaklyn Library, where I introduced Lauren to three of the librarians.

The laundromat was a bit busy when we arrived around 11:30. There were a few older ladies doing their linens, and college students were in and out. An older lady had trouble with one of the super-size laundry machines and called in the owners. We didn't have nearly that much trouble. Since Lauren only had a little laundry, we washed and dried our clothes together.

Dark clouds had begun to gather on the White Horse Pike as the dryer ended its run. We were a block away when we saw lightning and heard noisy thunder! We ducked into the little Italian food store to let the storm pass, which only took a few minutes. It spit for a few moments, then stopped. We had a few rumbles of thunder as we walked home.

I dropped my laundry in my room, and she dropped hers in her backpack. After a quick bathroom break, we headed out again. I wanted to catch the Bagel Shop at the Westmont Plaza before it closed. We got in there around quarter after 2, which proved to be absolutely perfect timing. They were just closing up the back dining area where the Flyers, golf, and boxing memorabilia is. We both had Grilled Chicken Ranch Panninis with bacon and cheese, along with fries and very big pickles. We loved it...and Lauren loved the posters of baseball greats on the walls. (She had to get a picture of the Ted Williams soda poster on her cell phone.)

Our next stops were all short ones. We were in and out of Super Fresh - I needed yeast, and their 49 cent packs of Hodegson Mill yeast are a lot cheaper than the three-packs of Fleischman's at the Acme. I had several books to drop off at the Haddon Township Library, one of them overdue. We browsed through the used books for sale at the Library and in Dollar General next to the Westmont Acme.

It was past 4 by then. I suggested taking the PATCO to Haddonfield, since most of the stores in Collingswood were probably shutting down or already closed for the day. We hiked down Cuthbert Road and over to Collingswood, where we ended up waiting almost 15 minutes for a train. One left so fast, we didn't have the time to get on it, even though we were right on the other side of the platform! (I later figured out it was an Express train.)

We didn't spend a lot of time in Haddonfield when we finally arrived. King's Highway was busy with rush-hour communters, and many of the stores there were also close to closing. I did get to show her the Happy Hippo Toy Store (no good WebKinz this time), and we had iced teas and Chai Lattes at Starbucks. (Lauren had never been to a Starbucks before!)

After that, we took the train back to Collingswood and walked straight home. I was tired, sore, and bone-weary. Lauren, despite being as hot as me, was still full of pep. I felt like a fat pig and told her so. She said I was being too hard on myself. It's just been ages since I'd had such a long walk. In fact, the last time I had a walk that long would have been New Year's Eve, and I felt just as sore and tired coming home from the Deptford Mall that day.

I feel so huge. Lauren pointed out that there doesn't seem to be many work-out options here. The few gyms in the area are in the "suburban" towns - Deptford, Cherry Hill, Marlton - that I can't get to easily. Lauren's been going to an inexpensive gym in her town that really seems to be working for her. Everyone says I look great, but all I've been doing is gaining and gaining weight. I can't seem to drop under 200 pounds. I fully expected to be at least 160 by now.

The weather didn't help. It felt breezy after the storm left, but once it was out of the area, it was hazy, hot, and humid all day long. We switched the air conditioning back on when we finally arrived at my apartment. I cheered myself up by making Chicken Stir-Fry with Spring Vegetables and brown rice for us for dinner. Lauren absolutely loved it, and I have to admit, it came out well for just being something I threw together. It was just chicken cutlets, carrots, celery, leeks, and mushrooms cooked in olive oil with a sauce made of Marsala cooking wine, soy sauce, cider vinegar, and a little sugar.

Tomorrow, we're hopping on a train to explore the Outlets and the Boardwalk in Atlantic City!