Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Oh Christmas Tree

I had quite a bit to do today. Thank goodness Mother Nature cooperated. It was cloudy, windy, and unseasonably warm for most of the day, but it never rained worse than mild spitting. I had no problems getting to the laundromat for this week's laundry session...and no problems in the laundromat, either. There were two old ladies and a college student, but it was mostly pretty quiet. I was in and out in less than an hour.

Got home and put everything away. I made lunch and watched Christmas cartoons, then headed back out again to the Haddon Township Library. I had debated holding off until tomorrow, but I never did get there last week.

As it turned out, there wasn't much to do there, anyway. I put away the small stack of DVDs. Spent most of the hour I was there organizing the kids' DVDs. I was tired of seeing them such a mess, with series out of order and on the wrong shelves entirely.

I took out a book on the creation of many holiday traditions, Inventing Christmas, along with the only American Girl holiday stories I don't own, Josefina's Las Posadas story and Rebecca's Hanukkah story. Also grabbed two new Scooby Doo DVDs, Scooby Doo's Camp Scare and the second volume of Laugh-a-Lympics.

Made quick runs to Super Fresh and Dollar Tree next. The Acme was out of wheat germ in a bag, so I got a box at Super Fresh. I needed toothbrushes, scrub gel, and sponges at Dollar Tree. I also bought a tile grout cleaning brush (it'll make cleaning the tile in the bathroom a LOT easier) and an extra roll of Christmas wrapping paper. Who am I to resist wrapping paper with a sugar cookie theme?

Went straight home after that. I wanted to get a walk in before I started the tree, so I went for a stroll in Veteran's Park next-door. Mother Nature is pretty much shutting down for the season. Most of the leaves are gone from the trees here, although some trees still have a healthy growth. The grass is still fairly green, thanks to all the rain we had this fall, but it's starting to look brown in spots. Most of the shrubs are looking brown, too.

I was going to walk through the paths and over the train tracks, but I saw a cop leading teenagers out of the path and thought this was a very bad time to chance it. I went back to my place and swept my porch instead. Hopefully, today will be the last time I'll really need to sweep the porch for a while. Most of the leaves are gone from the trees directly around the apartment.

When I got back inside, I put everything away from earlier, and finally headed to the back room for today's best chore of all - putting up the tree! It's one of my favorite parts of the holiday season, despite taking me forever to do alone.

Every part of my tree means something to me. The tree itself is on the skimpy side, but it's a six-footer, the perfect size for me to be able to reach up and put the star on top with no struggling. Mom gave it and the wreath to me as early Christmas presents the year I moved into the Wildwood apartment.

The silver tinsel-sequins-and-cardboard star is admittedly chintzy-looking, but I like it. I got it from Family Dollar in the mid-90s, before I even had a Christmas tree. I used to set it up in my room when I lived with my parents.

The lights I bought to decorate my window at college for Christmas. They also decorated the living room window in my Wildwood apartment. I used to have a second string I got from Mom one year, but they burned out and I couldn't figure out how to fix them, so I ditched them. It took me a while to get the lights right...and I still had too much on the end.

I forget where the garlands come from - Mom may have bought them for me. Two of the bead garlands were old necklaces. Another was a necklace my grandmother gave me from a yard sale. A beautiful ribbon garland was a ribbon that came on a package that was too pretty to throw away. One bead garland was used in my room in North Cape May for years.

My ornaments come from everywhere. Friends gave me Scooby Doo and Shaggy on a sled, Rudolph and the Misfit Toys, Pooh the Angel and his Christmas honey, a Zangoz and a Google, Yogi and his picnic basket filled with candy canes, and the New Year's Bears. Mom gave many of them to me as annual presents, usually from Winterwood in Rio Grande or the Whale's Tale in Cape May. Mom and I used to go to Winterwood to shop for the family's ornament presents every Thanksgiving weekend - I miss that.

There's the movie clapper and the pink and green glitter flip-flops from last year. There's the gingerbread man with the dangling legs and the big bell-shaped red glass bear with the resin head. There's the bear shopping and carrying full bags, and the porcelain bear with the dangling red and white stripped scarf. There's more traditional round balls, too. Some came in boxes bought from Family Dollar. Others are fancier. One's one of those old-fashioned tear-drop shaped ones with the indentation, like the ones Mom had when we were little. There's the gorgeous white ball with the hand-painted holly, and the Santa and Mrs. Claus scene. There's the simple, heavy magenta ball with the white bow tied on top.

Mom made some of the soft ornaments when I was a teenager. My favorite is Holly Hobbie, made in red and green calico. She looks like my beloved childhood Holly Hobbie quilt. I literally used that quilt until it fell apart! There's the big felt Santa face, and the plaid tree with the buttons. I was so happy to see it all again.

It took me much longer to do the tree than I thought it would! It was quarter after 7 before I finally ordered dinner from Capitol Pizza. I ran Scooby Doo Laugh-A-Lympics while I waited, and later while I ate my chicken and spinach wrap and thimble-sized cole slaw. Although the episodes are shorter, there's still some inspired gags here. I always vote for the Yogi Yahooeys (gotta stay loyal to one of my favorite bears), but I have to admit, the Really Rottens are some of the most creative cheaters I've ever seen...and there was at least one race (the scooter trip through the Italian countryside) that they actually won legitimately.

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Christmas Season Begins

Started off a clear, cold day at the Acme for early work. Work was dead for most of the day. It's too early for people to spend beginning-of-the-month money or start stocking up for Hanukkah later this week, and much too early to start preparing for Christmas meals and baking.

There was one incident this morning, but for once, it was fun. We had a group of kindergartners come through on a school trip. They were utterly adorable, and so well-behaved! They each got to say "Merry Christmas" on the intercom. One boy said "Feliz Navidad!" It was just precious.

After I came home, I changed into a warm pine-green turtleneck and pulled out the crate with the Christmas garlands. Mom made most of the garlands for our old house in North Cape May, but by the time I moved to Wildwood, she'd gotten fed up with putting them up on every window and gave some of them to me.

I can kind of see Mom's point. I got so fed up with trying to tack the heavy garlands into the wood-paneled walls of my apartment, I've started twist-tying most of them to unused curtain rods. (The exception is the one over the window overlooking Veteran's Park. That's where I put the tree, and I don't want the garland falling on it.)

The effect is worth it. The windows look so festive, covered with white and red fake greenery garlands. The one over the windows in the bedroom and and kitchen have gold bows and are wrapped with red beads. The one on the window overlooking the path going to my apartment has a red and green velvet book dangling from the center - it was the garland for the windows in my room when I lived with my parents. The tree window garland is wrapped in gold foil ribbons. The one over the windows in the dining area overlooking the porch is long and thick. It used to hang on the banister at North Cape May, and then was used for the downstairs windows.

Had honey-glazed carrots, spinach and cherry tomato salad, a slice of whole-wheat baguette bread, and the last of the leftover chicken fingers for dinner while watching two documentaries on holiday history. Linda Young sent me both for Christmas presents in November 2007, and I've watched them every late November since as a way to inaugurate my Christmas season by learning more about the history of its customs.

Christmas Past covers English Christmas history, especially older Pagan customs, customs that came from the Victorian and World War I holidays, and how Scotland didn't really catch onto Christmas until the 20th Century. (I had no idea about the last-named until I saw this special.) My favorite part of the special are the wonderful stories told by older ladies and gentlemen who recall their own Christmases or tales their parents and grandparents told them of holidays of old. I love the Earl who talked about Christmas for the British gentry, the woman who had been evacuated from London during World War II and spoke of how different Christmas was for her in the country, and the female Santa Claus.

The History Channel's Christmas Unwrapped moves across the pond to discuss American Christmas traditions. Alas, there's fewer genuine reminiscences than I'd like, although we do get some nice tales of the mid-20th Century American holidays from Christmas Story author Jean Sheopard. We do, however, get more details on early Christmas celebrations, including how the Puritans banned Christmas in England...and the British citizens fought to get it back.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

"But the Prettiest Sight To See Is the Holly That'll Be On Your Own Front Door..."

Today dawned cold and clear again, but without the wind that made yesterday's chill so bitter. I wanted to stay under my warm blankets and read the Candy Shop Mystery Peppermint Twisted, but breakfast beckoned.

Finally got going at about 10, just in time for Brunch With the Beatles. They were honoring George Harrison today, who died around this time in late November 2001. My favorite of George's Beatles-era songs are his contributions to The White Album and Abbey Road, especially "Something" and "While My Guitar Gently Weeps." By far my favorite of his solo efforts of the 70s and 80s is his bouncy tribute to John Lennon after the latter's tragic death in 1981, "All Those Years Ago." I grabbed two of my Beatles WebKinz, John the Ginger Cat and George the Black Panther, and just danced 'round and 'round the music area.

I made Pumpkin Pancakes for breakfast. Called Mom around 11. She sounded tired, and I'm not surprised. She works at the Michael's in Rio Grande, and they were a heck of a lot busier this weekend than the Acme was! She really loved my Cranberry-Orange Bread and said she ate most of it herself.

After breakfast and the Beatles ended, I inaugurated the 2010-2011 Holiday Season by bringing the Santa Bag and nativity out of the back room. The Santa Bag is a bright red felt bag I use to store items that are either too large or awkward to fit in the containers with the decorations, or things I want to put up right away. It's always the first thing I pull out and the last thing to be put away.

I hung my big green wreath with the red bow jauntily on the side and the glittery gold stars. I put my gritty, realistic old Nativity scene on the top of the white plastic stackable shelves. The Ferreo Rocher plastic bell filled with real jingling bells went next to the TV. (I got the bell filled with chocolates from a cousin one Christmas. It was too cool to get rid of, so I put real bells from Dollar General in it and used it as a decoration.) Hung the mistletoe over the front door and put the green and red poinsettia placemats on the table. The old red, white, and green pot holder coasters my sisters and I made for Mom years ago were scattered around the living area, wherever people can put drinks.

I went online for a little while and just messed around, then went to work. Work was steady all day, but never really busy, and not quite as busy as usual on a football Sunday. A lot of people are probably still recovering from Thanksgiving. I was in and out, and there were no major problems.

Went straight home after work. I parked the bike next to the steps up to my apartment, then headed right for Uncle Ken's. Alas, I missed most of the guests. Samantha and David and their kids and Dolores' children and their kids were all just leaving as I arrived. I did get to talk to Uncle Ken, Dad, Jodie, Dolores, and a few of their friends from the neighborhood, though. Had sausage roll and potato-bacon soup for dinner, along with slices of apple, pumpkin, and coconut cream pie.

The food was better than the game. The Eagles played badly throughout most of it. I got so tired of listening to the menfolk complain that the game was over right after half-time, I left towards the end of the 3rd quarter. I didn't miss much. The Eagles ultimately lost to the Bears, 31-26.

Had a nice, warm shower when I got in. I'll be doing more decorating throughout the week. Should be able to do the garlands after work tomorrow.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Christmas On Parade

I awoke to a feeling of deja-vu. The sun was shining, the wind was blowing fiercely, and it was only about 40 out, normal for this time of year but warmer than it has been. It was exactly the same weather we had for last year's Collingswood Christmas Parade. I found myself hoping it wouldn't be exactly the same day...one that tired me out!

Headed for the bank first. They were quiet, and I was in and out. Since I was in Collingswood anyway, I parked my bike by the Library and volunteered there next. I'm glad I did. They had a huge stack of DVDs to put away.

I finished with the DVDs and ducked out the door just in time. Less than five minutes after I stepped outside, teenagers carrying the "Collingswood - It's Where You Want To Be" banner heralding the beginning of the parade marched by.

I stood with a mother and her two children, a boy about six and a girl about four. They were so cute. The boy in particular was incredibly excited. He kept literally jumping up and down and shouting "This is my favorite parade!" I loved their reactions to everything. They were hugged by Frosty and his "snow wife" Crystal, the Grinch, and Rudolph the Red Nosed-Reindeer. The little miss waved to Supergirl. The boy high-fived Spider Man and one of the three stilts-walkers. He begged the other two to juggle for the crowd...and they both came through.

There were other attractions in the parade, too. Like all Philadelphia-area parades, there were several Mummers bands. My favorite was the one with the farm theme, including two cows, a very yellow chicken, and sequin-trimmed overalls.

There were at least four classic car groups, including one that featured General Lee (of the 70s TV show The Dukes of Hazard) and Herbie the Love Bug. There was a motorcycle group and a bike group, the latter representing Collingswood's Bikeshare program. The motorcycle group did tricks. The bike group nearly had a collision, but they laughed it off.

The little girl was especially excited by all of the various beauty pageant winners in the parade. Her mother and brother kept pointing out all of the "princesses" to her. I counted at least 8 "princesses," including the last one who came with a "prince" (I believe they were the King and Queen of the Parade).

As with last year, lots of Collingswood and Haddon Township-area schools had floats and bands. I liked the elementary school with the hippie/peace on Earth theme, and the one with the baker's theme, including a little baker and gingerbread people walking among the crowds. Felt sorry for the high school bands, though. The wind was brutal on them, especially the flag dancers. More than one flag dancer lost her flag and her place before they passed us by.

There were the three stilt walkers, two of whom were also jugglers. The Ritz Theater and a studio in Audubon had dancers. There was an African dance troupe from Camden and several non-spangled string bands. The glass company's float sprayed fake snow on the crowd. Another float representing a company that sells inflatable outdoor decorations sent showers of bubbles into the air.

Unlike last year, I stayed outside for the entire parade. By the time Santa arrived via Collingswood Fire Company ladder truck, the little girl was asleep, my toes were numb, and I was ready to move on to Cafe Antonio's for lunch and to the Haddon Township Library.

I never made it to the Haddon Township Library. I discovered when I unlocked my bike that the back tire was low...again. For the second time in a little less than two months. The front tire hasn't gone flat in ages, but the back one keeps dying. I have no idea how that happened. It was fine when I left the apartment this morning, or at least, I thought it was.

I did have lunch at Cafe Antonio's a few blocks from the library. That may not have been a smart idea, either. They were busy as heck. I bought a slice of mushroom pizza and a Diet Pepsi and got out as quickly as I could.

Ended up just walking home. That wasn't so bad. The air felt brisk and crisp as I headed across Newton River Park. The sun had disappeared behind clouds during the parade, but it emerged again while I was on my walk. The wind whipped across the pewter-gray river, ruffling the feathers on a group of ducks swimming near the path.

Stopped at CVS on my way home. I wanted toothpaste, but they didn't have what I was looking for. I did end up getting three DVDs, though. They had Charlie Brown's Christmas Tales and Go Diego Go: The Great Jaguar Rescue for five dollars cheaper than FYE had them. (Diego is for my nephew Khai.) They also had the western comedy Maverick in a regular DVD case. I've only seen it in a flimsy snap case. I've been wanting to clear out my decade-old video copy of Maverick for a while now.

I was lucky to find two teenagers and an older man doing yard work for my neighbors when I got home. I talked the boys into helping me change the tire. Actually, it's not changing the tire I have trouble with. I can do that just fine. It's getting the chain on that's a problem, especially with my loose chain. The boys were able to fix it (one had apparently worked for a bike shop on Haddon Avenue for a time), but they forgot to put the chain guard and the tire holders back on...and I got the nails for those mixed-up and it took me a while to do it.

After spending all that time outside in the chilly wind, I spent the rest of the day indoors finishing the Christmas cleaning. Got the windows done, then did some major dusting and re-arranging. I've been wanting to clear out the old metal and plastic CD holders that are rather awkward-looking and don't really fit in the space they were in. I remembered the small rectangular crate I bought at JoAnn's a while back for my computer desk, then exiled to the back room when I got the roll-top and didn't need it in the bedroom anymore. I moved it to the living room. All of my home-made CDs and most of the Monkees CDs fit perfectly. It leaves plenty of room for other CDs or books and looks much better than the plastic/metal CD holders. Those will be donated to the thrift shop or left for scavengers.

I'm not quite as tired-out as I was last year after my parade day. I did get a full dinner in - flounder topped with Parmesan cheese, roasted Brussels sprouts, and a spinach and cherry tomato salad. Watched Charlie Brown Christmas during dinner.

I never did get to pulling out the Christmas decorations, though. Oh well. There's plenty of time. I'll see what I can get done tomorrow. (And I'm now glad I did skip the Haddon Township Library. I'll go there Tuesday. At least I got the Collingswood Library in.)

Friday, November 26, 2010

Gray Friday

I spent most of my Black Friday in the safest possible place - a grocery store. Who wants to go grocery shopping the day after Thanksgiving? I worked from 9AM to 4:30PM, and we were dead all day. It got mildly busy around noon and again around 2-3ish, but other than that, I spent most of the morning and afternoon standing around, reading magazines with Christmas cookie recipes. Needless to say, there were no major problems, and my relief was on time.

The weather was no help. It didn't rain again, but it was cold, gloomy, and damp for pretty much the whole day.

I did go to FYE after work to find some DVD requests. I picked up presents for Lauren and Keefe. Didn't find the DVDs I wanted for Khai or Amanda - I'll keep looking. They were busy, but not so much that I was tripping over people. There was a line, but it moved fast.

Went to an early dinner at Arby's next. I just had the All American Burger meal. I wasn't really hungry enough for anything else.

Next on the list was grocery shopping. In addition to stocking up on anything I ran out of this week (pumpkin, yogurt), I'm back to buying fruit and vegetables at the Acme now that the Collingswood Farm Market has ended until early May. I also grabbed some things for Christmas - a bag of the red, green, and Candy Cane Lifesaves they have out this year, candy canes for when I put the tree up next week, and this year's cheap Advent Calender with the terrible chocolates.

Speaking of Christmas, when I got home, I took down the Thanksgiving and general fall decorations. I'm going to finish the cleaning tomorrow and start the Christmas decorating by Monday.

My schedule next week should give me plenty of time to get things done. I have three days off again (Tuesday, Wednesday, and Saturday), with two late days and one early day. I even get off on Sunday in time for the second half of the Eagles-Bears game - thank goodness it was bumped to 4:15.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Long and Winding Road

Rose called about twenty minutes after I posted this morning's entry. For once, she'd gotten out early and would be on her way to pick me up soon with her 7-month-old son Khai. No problem. I was glad to see her making an effort to break her bad habit of always being late for everything.

She did, indeed, pick me up around quarter of 12. She wanted to get a fruit tart from a local bakery...but they were closed for Thanksgiving, of course. So we had to drive over to Cherry Hill to Wegman's to get it. I went in and picked it up for her her. They were busy, but I thankfully found an Express register with a short line.

Next, we went back to Rose and Craig's apartment. She wanted to feed Khai and take care of their dogs Kelsey and Toby and cat Bob. I haven't been to their apartment since before they had Khai. I had a wonderful time playing with Khai and the dogs while Rose prepared his bottle. Khai is just so plump and adorable! He's can mostly sit up on his own now, and he's learning to turn over on his stomach.

We finally got moving around 1. By this point, the snow had become sleet...and that had become plain old rain. It continued raining hard while we were on the highway, but it vanished rather quickly long before we hit Cape May County, and was just cloudy, damp, and cold for the rest of the day.

Mom, Dad, my 6-year-old nephew Skylar, my 18-year-old brother Keefe, and his girlfriend Vicki were all at home when we arrived. Sky was pestering Mom about the turkey; his uncle wasn't helping. I played with Khai and Skylar while Rose and the kids chatted with Mom and Mom cooked.

Dad was watching the Patriots-Lions game. The Lions had apparently been winning throughout the first half of the game. Shortly after we arrived, the Patriots got several touchdowns, and would go on to make a comeback and win it 45-24.

We all sat down for dinner around 4. Mom is one of the best cooks around, and her Thanksgiving meals are always fabulous. We had turkey, real (not boxed) stuffing, cranberry sauce, sweet potato casserole, mashed potatoes, honey-glazed carrots, green bean casserole, and pearl onions with white sauce. (There was a vegetable and ranch dip and cheese ball and crackers spread when Rose, Khai, and I came in, too.) It was all divine. I had everything but the mashed potatoes. I'm not a big fan of white potatoes. I had two helpings of rolls, cranberry sauce, and sweet potato casserole. (Mashed sweet potatoes topped with marshmallow? That's practically dessert at dinner! Of course I'm going to have two helpings. ;) )

After dinner, Rose took Khai out for a while to visit her old high school friends who still live in the area. Keefe and Vicki went to visit my sister Anny, who was working her job at Big Lots in North Cape May tonight. Mom did the dishes while Dad, Skylar, and I watched SpongeBob Square Pants (a favorite of Sky's), then a TV movie, Turtles Forever, which is a crossover between the 1987 and 2003 animated versions of the Turtles. Skylar fell asleep towards the end of Turtles, and Dad switched to a mid-80s Tom Hanks vehicle, Nothing In Common, and then to the Dallas-Saints game.

Rose and Khai and Keefe and Vicki came home just as Mom was pulling out dessert. We had pumpkin pie, apple pie, and Mom's famous chocolate chip bar cookies. (I really need to get her recipe for the cookies. She's made them for school functions for literally 30 years. I had kids I went to school with coming up to me when I worked at the North Cape May Acme saying how much they used to love those.) Rose changed Khai into the cutest polar bear-themed PJs, and the rest of us had a nice chat about Looney Tunes and holiday traditions. It would seem that Vicki is a huge Looney Tunes fan - I thought she seemed like a smart girl. She and Keefe were really cute together.

Mom also gave me two American Girl catalogs she got in the mail. I haven't had one of those since Bruce gave me one around the time Samantha retired, and I had a great time paging through them and looking at all the clothes and the neat new stuff they have for the dolls. I hope this means I might be getting some American Girls clothes for my girls for Christmas. I doubt Mom gets things from AG regularly.

Rose fed Khai, and we finally headed home. He slept the whole way, and we talked about our family, about my work, the dinner she and her boyfriend held for his wacky family a few days ago, and the upcoming holidays. I got in much earlier than we'd planned, around quarter of 10.

(Oh, and though Dallas made a few spectacular runs later in the game, the Saints eventually pulled off a 30-27 win.)

Once again, I hope everyone had a great holiday!
White Thanksgiving

Hi, everyone! Happy Thanksgiving! Everything here is ready to head down to Erma in Cape May County at noon. I packed a basket with the two bread loaves, a card, and the blueberry butter from the farm market. I'm dressed and ready to go...and since I am ready to go, I had some extra time on my hands before Rose picks me up at noon and decided to drop a line here and get my WebKinz World Thanksgiving prize.

(If you're a WebKinz customer, don't forget to drop in there today to get your virtual "basket" for your pets!)

I awoke to a pearly-gray morning. We're supposed to get light rain, I thought as I read Plum Pudding Murder and wrote in my journal, but it really looks more like snow. But it never snows in Southern New Jersey in November!

After I finished with my daily journal writing, I got dressed and headed into the kitchen for breakfast. I ran Garfield's Thanksgiving, A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, and The Mayflower Voyagers as I made oatmeal with apples, peanut butter, and cinnamon for a nice, filling meal. I noticed that I was almost out of milk. I wanted to get a walk in anyway, so I figured I'd just go to WaWa and pick up some.

I pulled on my big black winter coat and headed out when The Mayflower Voyagers ended. As I made my way across the leaf-strewn front lawn, I felt something soft and feathery brushing my cheeks and coat. It's finally raining, I decided. That was when I realized something rather important.

Rain doesn't feel feathery! It feels...wet!

Nope, it wasn't rain. It was snow. Not even flurries. Big, fat snowflakes were falling all around Manor Avenue. It was really pretty against the red, yellow, and gold leaves and the bright Thanksgiving banners hanging on poles outside of many houses.

Surprisingly, despite the weather (or maybe because of it), I saw many people out and about this morning. WaWa was bustling as I picked up the milk and a Pumpkin Spice Cappuchino. Kids strolled in groups, avoiding their parents. An older woman waited for her family under an umbrella at the apartment buildings a few doors down from WaWa. An older man raked his yard, ignoring the snow. A father taught his sons how to properly throw and aim a football.

The snow was just starting to change to rain as I rounded the corner to Hillcrest Avenue. Since I was in the neighborhood, I thought I'd say "Happy Thanksgiving" to Dad, Jodie, Uncle Ken, and Dolores. Dad was cooking. Jodie was playing solitare on her laptop. Dolores was watching Jaws on Encore!Mystery. Uncle Ken was in the shower. Dad, Jodie, and Jessa are having Jodie's family over for dinner. Uncle Ken and Dolores are going to Dolores' daughter's house for their meal.

I realized there was something funny about the "rain" as I strolled down to the train tracks. It sounded kind of...noisy. Not at all like rain. It was beading on my porch, too, and looked crunchy. Nope, the weather man was wrong again. It wasn't rain. It was sleet...and at this writing, it's still coming down.

I hope your Thanksgiving is equally filled with wonderful surprises!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Sugar and Spice and Cinnamon's Nice

Started a lovely, chilly fall day with baking. I always make the Pilsbury Cinnamon Swirl Bread mix for Thanksgiving. It's a tradition that dates back to college, when it was the only thing I had the time or the money to make that I could bring to my family's Thanksgiving dinner. Not to mention, my brother Keefe loves it and could probably eat the whole loaf himself. Unlike the cranberry bread I made yesterday, it came out perfectly, all swirled and spicy, and it made the apartment smell wonderful.

Ran Planes, Trains, and Automobiles while making and baking the bread. Ad executive Neil (Steve Martin) just wants to get home to Chicago for Thanksgiving. However, he keeps running into mishap after mishap on the road, including encountering an overly friendly shower curtain ring salesman named Del (John Candy) who proves to be both a hindrance and a help.

As someone who's been using public transportation for long trips as far back as her early childhood, I've probably been through more than half of what happens here. Thankfully, I've never had to share a hotel room with a stranger. I don't drive, either, so I can safely say I've never made a car go up in flames. I have, however, been in very, very full buses and planes with the most annoying people snoring on your shoulder or yakking in your ear. I've also had planes and buses cancel or not show up at all due to weather.

Went for a walk after the bread came out. It was a fine day for a walk, all blustery blue and gold. It was probably in the lower 50s, cooler than it has been but more like what it should be at this time of year. I encountered quite a few people getting leaves off their lawns as I headed down the streets. Passed kids getting out of the Oaklyn School early for the Thanksgiving holidays, too.

I also went by the Oaklyn Library on my way around the neighborhood. They're still closed...but there was some road work going on near the library. It still seems strange that they would close for that, and I keep thinking that the police receptionist made it sound like a police matter shut the library down. I'll keep you posted on developments there.

After I got home, I edited the last part of the Bowery Boys role-play story Lauren and I just finished - look for it this weekend. I had chicken fingers and greens for lunch while watching holiday-themed cartoon shorts, then headed for work.

Not surprisingly on the day before the biggest food holiday of the year, work was packed all night. There were some fairly cranky customers, too. One woman complained about the lack of turkeys and Bell Poultry Seasoning on the shelves. (Um, it's the day before Thanksgiving. We're probably lucky people left the shelves.)

A man threw a fit when I marked his 20 dollar bills to check for counterfeits. I tried to explain that I got a couple of counterfeit 20s a few weeks ago and got into trouble for it, but he walked off, muttering profanity and slurs on my parentage, before I could tell him.

Later in the evening, a woman made a big fuss over every single item on sale and complained that the sales weren't right and I had a bad attitude and why did she come there? She was being obnoxious to everyone, including her own son. She didn't buy the right things. If people would just learn to read the sales signs, there would be no reason for fussing and anger. Even the lady behind her said she was being a pain.

For all of my American readers who won't be online tomorrow, I hope that you remember the real reason for Thanksgiving. It's not just a time for turkey and cranberries and football, but to remember to be grateful for the people we love and the things we have...and to share our love and our talents with others.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Holidays are Coming

And in view of that, I began today by continuing this month's cleaning. I did the vacuuming this morning right after I finished breakfast. Vacuuming the apartment never takes me very long. Even though this is a pretty good-sized apartment, it isn't huge. I finished just in time to grab lunch and head to work.

I still wish I'd had today off, but I can understand why they asked me to come in. It was very busy all day long, not surprising two days before the biggest food holiday of the year in the US. In fact, a manager asked me to stay an extra hour...but this time, I said "no." I was dead tired by that point, and I still had baking to do. They were lucky I came in today.

I went straight home after work. The weather got kind of strange. It was sunny when I was cleaning this morning, but the clouds were slowly rolling in even as I headed to work. By the time I was going home, it was almost dark and cloudy, with a little sunset showing.

I did finally get home and bake the Cranberry Bread for my family's Thanksgiving feast. Ran Winnie the Pooh: Seasons of Giving and two TV show episodes while I baked, and later while I had salmon sauteed with orange peppers, mushrooms, and onions for dinner.

Although Remember WENN technically didn't do a Thanksgiving episode, they did do a show that concerned food and Native American relations, "And How," that I usually watch in November. Perfect Strangers ran long enough to get an actual Thanksgiving episode in during their 7th (and last full) season, "Wild Turkey."

Seasons of Giving is a collection of two vaguely winter-related New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh episodes and the Thanksgiving Special. I have it mainly for the surprisingly sweet Thanksgiving story. The 100 Acres Woods crew gathers to have a fun Thanksgiving filled with haycorns, honey, and gallons of lemonade...until Rabbit fusses and claims that this isn't what Thanksgiving is all about. He insists that the others gather the ingredients for a "real" Thanksgiving. It's Pooh himself who finally reminds the frantic bunny what the holiday is really all about - sharing what you have with friends and family.

And I'm not at all happy with how the bread came out. It fell apart when I took it out of the pan. Oh well. My brother and father will eat anything. They probably won't even notice the pieces.

Monday, November 22, 2010

No Time Blues

Started today off with a run to the laundromat. I wanted to get it done early and avoid the crowds. It had been foggy this morning and was still a bit misty when I started my laundry. By the time I finished, the sun was out and it was in the mid-60s, with a clear, blue sky and mild wind.

That "mild wind" was more of a problem when I got home. I put my laundry away and decided to tackle the piles of leaves on the porch. I did what I could, but the wind was blowing in the direction I was sweeping. They kept coming right back on the porch! I did what I could. It doesn't look great, but there are no huge piles of leaves there anymore.

Decided to take advantage of the nice weather next and went for a walk. I hiked down to the boat launch on the end of Goff Avenue, then back around to West Clinton and up to Woodlawn Terrace. I wasn't the only one making use of the lovely day, either. I saw many people out raking lawns or blowing leaves, preparing for guests later in the week.

When I got home, I decided to try a recipe for Pumpkin Spice Bars. I was almost done with them when my sister Rose called. She said we would be going to Mom and Dad's for Thanksgiving dinner around noon on Thursday...and coming home around 11 or midnight. She wants to visit friends and show them her 8-month-old son Khai. It'll just be a longer day than I anticipated.

Thursday isn't going to be the only day this week that'll be longer than planned. I had a call from the Acme not long after I got off with Rose. Could I come in from 10:30 to 4:30 tomorrow? They were desperate! I wanted to say "no." I'd had a lot of things planned for tomorrow, including library volunteering, yoga, and baking. I didn't think that was a good enough excuse, though, so I agreed.

Sigh. I know I should be more grateful, but I already had a lot on my plate this week. I wanted to start Christmas decorating by Sunday, at least! I'll just scotch yoga and the Collingswood Library all together (yoga will probably be full all this week anyway) and wait to do the Haddon Township Library until after I go to the Collingswood Christmas Parade on Saturday. (I'm not doing both in the same day and the parade and cleaning, too. I did that last year and was dead tired by the end of the day.)

I had lunch while the bars were baking, then worked on editing that Bowery Boys NaNoWrite story Lauren and I are doing it. Tonight will be the final part - look for the story by the end of this week!

Headed to work right after I finished the editing. Work was pretty much the same as yesterday...which is to say it was very busy until the last hour, thankfully with no turkey complaints this time. I was in and out with no problems.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Happy Time

I slept in today and turned on the radio just in time for Brunch With the Beatles. Enjoyed Beatles live performances as I had Whole Wheat-Sweet Potato Pancakes and a half of a grapefruit for breakfast.

Called Mom around 11:30. Got Keefe first. Finally got to wish him a happy birthday. (It was Thursday.) He had a nice dinner with Mom and his girlfriend Vicki, and he did like the iTunes card I gave him. Mom was a bit more rushed. She had my sister Anny and her son Skylar there was handling them as well.

After I got off with Mom, I tried calling Rose to find out when we're going down to Cape May County for Thanksgiving. Got her answering machine.

I worked on editing the Bowery Boys story Lauren and I are writing for a while after the Beatles ended, then headed to work. Work was the same as yesterday - very busy. There were a couple of folks who were cranky because we didn't have really big turkeys and Butterball's delivery never showed. Otherwise, everything was fine. I got out a little late, but I had to pick up a few things I forgot on Friday anyway - butter, peanuts, whole wheat flour, aluminum foil, and oranges for the Cranberry-Orange Bread I'm going to make for Thanksgiving.

Headed home and hopped right in the shower. I grabbed leftover chicken fingers and broccoli for dinner after I got out and turned on The Dress Circle. "Being Happy For Thanksgiving" was the theme tonight - songs about happiness, being happy, and what makes a person happy? We heard songs from the Ethel Merman vehicle Happy Hunting, the 60s show Do Re Mi, the British show The Boy Friend, the classic 1971 revival of No, No, Nannette, Grand Hotel, Into the Woods, The Happy Time, Once Upon a Mattress, and the off-Broadway original cast of You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown, among others.

Oh, and the Eagles play the 8:20 game tonight. At press time, they're 10-3 over rivals and co-NFC-North-first-place-holders the New York Giants.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Last Harvest

It was sunny and windy when I awoke this morning. I listened to American Top 40 re runs as I ate breakfast and planned my day. (It was a good one, too, from 1975. Hits from mid-November '75 include Elton John's "Island Girl," KC and the Sunshine Band's "That's the Way I Like It," and my favorite John Denver song, "Calypso.")

The bank was my first stop. Depositing my paycheck was only part of the reason I wanted to get there today. Thanks to their location on the White Horse Pike, across from Oaklyn's City Hall, the tellers at the PNC Bank I frequent are a rich source of information about goings-on in town.

According to the tellers, a man had come in earlier in the week saying that he was laying carpet for the Oaklyn Library. Apparently, that's why it had closed, not anything to do with any police investigation.

On one hand, that does make sense. The Oaklyn Library has been in the midst of remodeling lately. They were painting the interior a few weeks ago. I couldn't organize the kids' books one week because of the painting.

When I talked to the police receptionist on Thursday, though, she called it an "ongoing investigation" and made it sound like the Library would be closed until the investigation closed, too. And I didn't see anyone laying anything when I went over there on Wednesday or Thursday. The building was just dark.

Headed for the Collingswood Farm Market after leaving the bank. Today was the last day of the Farm Market. They always end on the Saturday before Thanksgiving. Once again, there were more craft booths than food booths, but I still found plenty of good things to eat. I picked up Brussels sprouts, mushrooms, an organic onion, sweet potatoes, apples, green peppers, cheddar cheese from the dairy farm, a small jar of blueberry butter for a present, broccoli, and bananas and grapefruit from the wholesalers.

Try though I might, I couldn't find a single yard sale today. I rode around Collingswood and Oaklyn for a while before finally giving up and heading home around quarter of 11.

I hadn't planned on being home so early. I was at loose ends until I came up with an idea. I've been wanting to figure out what to do with those recipes I cut out of Prevention Magazine during my vacation in March for ages...and stuffing them in a recipe box just made a disorganized mess. I borrowed an idea from the previous owner of that Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book and pasted the recipes on paper, then hole-punched them and put them in the Sailor Moon binder I found a few years ago. It took me almost two hours to get it all done, but it looked much better when I did.

I ran more Bowery Boys while I worked on my recipe project. Jungle Gents is one of the goofy, slightly bizarre movies they made in the later 50s. As you can guess from the title, it's a spoof of the African adventure stories that were popular in the 40s and 50s. Sach's new sinus pills give him the ability to smell diamonds. Slip once again takes advantage of his friend's new talents and takes him, their friends Chuck and Butch, and Louie the soda shop owner to the African jungles. There, they encounter lions, both friendly and unfriendly natives, a doctor with designs on Sach's "super sniffer"...and a jungle wild woman who has a crush on Sach and isn't taking "no" for an answer!

Headed out for a walk after the Boys ended. It was a nice day for a walk, too, mid-50s, sunny, and windy but not too bad. I hiked down Manor Avenue and over the train tracks to WaWa. Picked up a hot chocolate there, then continued down the White Horse Pike and over to Uncle Ken's. Didn't look like there was anyone at home at their house, so I moved on. Said "hi" to Dolores' granddaughter Mercedes and a friend of hers, then went home.

I spent the rest of the evening inside, cleaning the kitchen and the bathroom. My rule is I don't pull out the Christmas decorations until after Thanksgiving and the entire house is spotless. Since I didn't have anything else planned today, I decided to get some of the cleaning done early. As usual, the bathroom was particularly bad...but I really wanted to get the kitchen spotless, too, in time for holiday baking.

Doing all that scrubbing really tired me out. I made a quick dinner of home-made chicken fingers with cornmeal and whole wheat coating, steamed broccoli, baked sweet potato fries with rosemary, and a baguette slice with farm-market fresh honey.

Ran The Naked Gun during dinner. This classic 1988 comedy is my favorite of the three movies that came in the Laugh Or I'll Shoot! set. Lieutenant Frank Drebin (Leslie Nielson) finds himself investigating a plot to assassinate the visiting Queen of England that his partner (O.J Simpson...yes, that O.J Simpson) uncovered. He's thrown a curveball by the owner of the pier where his partner was found (Ricardo Montalban) and his gorgeous, yet klutzy secretary (Priscilla Prestley) who want him off the mystery for good.

The plot is just a skeleton to hang some great jokes on. Running gags abound, from Drebin's inability to keep a car in working order to people spending more time on their faces than on their feet. This is what my mother used to call an "ouch" movie - slapstick, in its purest form, is all over the place. If you're not a fan of slapstick or the Abrahams/Zucker style of madness, you probably won't get into this. For the rest of us, we can enjoy every moment of that "I Love LA" baseball montage and every explosion, not to mention O.J Simpson getting harmed in various ways long before half the country wanted to do the same.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Woman At Work

Yes, I spent the majority of today at work. Not surprisingly, given that we're less than a week from Thanksgiving, it was very busy for most of the day. Lots of people were buying their turkeys and canned goods, or getting ready for the late Eagles game on Sunday. There were quite a few big orders, people hoping to dodge the crowds next week.

A man came in to fix the register I was in shortly after I finished my break and I had to move to the next one, but other than that, there were no major problems. I was in early to pick up my paycheck, and my relief was on time.

Good thing, too. I had quite a bit of shopping to do. I don't make a huge Thanksgiving dinner, but I do make bread for after dinner and the next morning. I stocked up on white and brown sugar, pumpkin, Marsala cooking wine, Fiber One granola bars (my favorites!), chicken tenders, stew meat, Acme's generic light yogurt, and Red Star Yeast.

I was going to go to the bank tonight after I got home from work, but by the time I finally got home, it was too late. I put my groceries away, then decided to change the American Girls and Sailor Soldiers into their holiday outfits.

The American Girls came first. Samantha got her deep red Cranberry Christmas Dress with the stockings that came with them, a huge white ribbon, and a shiny pair of Springfield Collection black slip-ons. Molly has her Evergreen Velvet Dress, white Springfield Collection tights, and black velvet slip-ons. I debated putting Jessa in the red Springfield Collection bolero dress Mom gave me for my birthday, but I finally opted for the AG Chinese New Year outfit with socks and the other pair of shiny slip ons. Felicity is the only one who doesn't really have a Christmas outfit. She's wearing a long yellow hand-made gown I originally bought for Samantha several years ago. It's not really very Colonial, but the only other dress I have for her is the green floral hand-made, and I think that one's a bit ugly.

I experimented a bit with the Sailor Soldiers. The ruffled collar on Sailor Moon's pink polka-dot gown is ripping off the bodice. I pulled out one of the short Ice Capades Barbie skating outfits and paired it with a white ruffled skirt with a pink petticoat and a white sequin-trimmed fur stole. From a distance, it looks like a full gown, and the stole hides the fact that the skating outfit is a bit low-cut. Sailor Mars and Sailor Venus got vintage Barbie gowns from yard sales. Sailor Neptune got a very tight, sparkly backless royal blue gown. Chibi-Moon wears her shimmering pink Barbie tutu. (On her, it's a short gown - she's about the size of a Skipper.) Villainess Wicked Lady gets a metalic silver-and-gray sheath dress with a big rose in front and her own pink stole. Queen Serenity wears what I believe to be an early 90s Happy Birthday Barbie gown. Uranus wears a short black-and-silver "mushroom skirt" dress with a velvet bodice and a black sequined bolero jacket. Only Mercury and Jupiter kept their dollar-store gowns this year.

Tuxedo Mask is the only one I don't have any holiday clothes for, but he kind of comes dressed for the holiday anyway. I don't often see Ken clothes around. I'll have to see what I can come up with.

Oh, and I got a surprisingly good schedule next week, especially compared to what I worked at this time last year. Three days off, including Thanksgiving. One late day, Wednesday, and one long day, Black Friday. That doesn't bother me. I always work early and long on Black Friday. Most of the mothers and grandmothers who work in the mornings on weekdays probably take that day off to do their Christmas shopping. The extra time off will be nice, too. I'll get the bread done and be able to do my cleaning and get started on the Christmas decorating next weekend.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Happy Birthday to an Awesome Guy

Oh, and a big Happy Birthday shout-out to my brother Keefe, who turns 18 today. I feel a little embarrassed; I forgot to call him, though I did send his card and present yesterday. I'll call him tomorrow morning.
Balance Is a Mystery

Began a sunny, windy morning with this week's yoga class. With far fewer people in the class this week than last week, we had plenty of room to work on balancing poses and flexibility. I'm still trying to do a full wheel. Karin helped a lot.

Next stop was the Collingswood Library for this week's volunteering session there. Collingswood's Storybook Hour ended about ten minutes after I arrived, and I found myself swamped with kids looking for Go Diego Go! and Shark's Tale. After they left, I organized the DVDs. There wasn't much there, so I spent some time upstairs after that.

Instead of going straight home after I left the Library, I rode to Oaklyn's City Hall. I figured the best way to find out information on what was going on with the Oaklyn Library was to go right to the top. A secretary in the front of City Hall told me the Library closing was a police matter and to talk to them.

I went downstairs and under City Hall to Oaklyn's only police station. The operator in the front room wasn't much more helpful. All she could tell me was that the police had closed the Library and that it would be closed while they conducted their investigation.

Made a brief stop at Dad and Uncle Ken's next. First of all, I did want to see Dad, who just got home from a long work trip last week. He was blowing leaves out of the driveway when I passed by.

Second, yes, I wanted to ask Uncle Ken about the library. He knows everyone and everything in Oaklyn. Alas, he's been busy with his roof and hadn't been paying attention to much else. I didn't get anything new from him.

Finally headed home after that. Dad wasn't the only one who wanted to get the leaves out of his yard today. I had a turkey sandwich for lunch, then went outside and did the raking. The wild wind we had over the weekend had left ankle-deep piles of leaves in the front yard and side path. It was still windy, but not as bad as earlier in the week. The wind was only a problem when I was doing the side path, as that's when I was raking into it.

I rested for about 40 minutes or so after I finished the yard. Watched the Bowery Boys movie Hard Boiled Mahoney and looked through the vintage Better Homes and Gardens cookbook I found the other day.

Hard Boiled Mahoney is the first of two Bowery Boys film noir spoofs, and is an oddity in their cannon for several reasons. First of all, it's the only time Gabriel Dell is seen as part of the gang in the Bowery Boys series, and he's a glasses-wearing nerd that's a far cry from his usual smooth, job-changing charmer. I believe this may be one of the first times we see Louie, the little sweet shop owner, as well. It's also the first of two times the boys tangle with phony mediums.

Work was on-and-off busy for most of the night, though it did die down a bit later. Other than some annoying customers, there were no major problems.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

This Library Is Closed

The morning began quite normally. By the time I got up, last night's storm had passed...though gale-force winds remained. It was too windy and still a little too wet to rake leaves, so I decided I would volunteer at the Oaklyn Library today. I had oatmeal for breakfast, watched The Care Bears' Nutcracker, and headed out.

At least, that was my original plan. When I arrived at the Library, there was an orange sign on the door that said "CLOSED Until Further Notice." I had no idea what was going on. I hadn't heard anything about the Library closing. I thought they'd earned enough money to stay open. I peered inside. It was dark, but otherwise, everything looked perfectly normal.

I didn't get it. What happened? My digital alarm clock was blinking when I woke up this morning. Maybe the electricity hadn't gone back on in that part of town. Or there was a gas leak. Or something broke that was really important, like the heat or plumbing.

I went for a walk down Kendall Boulevard instead, but it didn't get my mind off the library. I went to the best place I could think of that would have information, Doria's Deli. I bought water and asked Mr. Doria if he'd heard anything about the library closing. Yes he had. Apparently, according to him, it had something to do with one of the volunteers drinking with their friends in the library during their shift and getting caught.

That's one of the dumbest reasons I have ever heard to close a library, especially one that's as important to the community as the Oaklyn Library is. They should prosecute the volunteer and his friends, not the library. It reminds me too much of when I was a kid in elementary school, and the teachers would punish the whole class when one person did something stupid. It isn't right, and it isn't fair. You don't punish a group when one person did something wrong. You punish that person.

I ended up spending most of the rest of the afternoon editing the Bowery Boys story Lauren and I are working on instead. I had leftovers for lunch and watched more cartoons, then headed to work.

Work was busy for most of the night, up through about 6:30. I put candy away after that.

Actually, the big deal tonight was the beginning of a "new" program for the baggers. They now have to ask people if they want help taking their food to their cars. Um, that has always been part of their job. The company is just making a bigger deal out of it now.

Otherwise, there were no major problems, and I was in and out.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Rain In Toyland

I awoke to a cloudy, gloomy day and rain on the roof. I had grits and a half of a grapefruit for breakfast while watching more Bowery Boys. Angels In Disguise is one of my favorites of the comedy-dramas the Boys did from 1946 to about 1951. Slip and Sach are devastated when their friend Gabe Moreno is hurt by a local gang in a police shoot-out and another cop is killed. The two take it on themselves to flush out the gang...eventually bringing in Louie and the other Boys when they realize just how tough this gang is.

It was down to just being cloudy and damp when I rode across Newton River Park to the Haddon Township Library. The only rain I saw on the path were showers of red, gold, brown, and copper-colored leaves that swirled around my bike as I passed by. Needless to say, the park was quiet today except for one or two joggers.

The Library was hopping when I arrived. Their Children's Hour was just ending, and quite a few kids wanted DVDs. One mother was looking for Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory for her little girl. The library doesn't have it, though, so she settled on some Backyardigans. Another little girl wanted Disney Princesses. The mother of a boy requested Teletubbies; the library only has one Teletubbies DVD, though, and it was out. She and her son settled on Thomas the Tank Engine.

I returned a few DVDs and CDs, but I spent most of the time shelving the Easy Readers. There was a huge pile today! It took me a while to get them all together. By the time I finished them, it was getting late. I wanted lunch and to run some errands, and I didn't trust the weather. I didn't take anything out today...but I did buy what looks like a vintage 50s-60s copy of the Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book from the Library's book sale for a dollar. It's in a ring binder and very much resembles my reprint of The Betty Crocker Picture Cook Book.

(I later discovered the cookbook was an even better find than I had originally thought. Someone left their hand-written cooking notes in the binder, along with a folder filled with Halloween, Christmas, and Valentine's Day recipes cut from what appears to be 60s copies of Better Homes and Gardens! There was even a vintage Safeway ad for flour tucked in. This is the second time in less than a week I made an awesome vintage find.)

My next stop was Super Fresh. My brother Keefe's birthday is Thursday. I had no idea what to buy an 18-year-old boy; Mom suggested an iTunes card, so I got him that. Also picked up cooking spray on sale and turkey cutlets for dinner.

I didn't really feel like eating out today, so I went straight home after that. I had a chicken leg, a plum, and a cranberry-orange muffin for lunch. Went for a walk when lunch was done. I forgot to buy a card for Keefe when I was out, so I did get one for him at CVS. Bought a Fat Free French Vanilla Cappuchino for myself at WaWa to ward off the damp chill.

Stopped at Doria's Deli on my way home for lunch meat and discovered I had a reason to celebrate, even between holidays. I had totally forgotten that the big Eagles-Redskins game was last night. It seems to have gone quite well. ROADKILL! the Philadelphia Daily News screamed - Eagles quarterback Michael Vick had apparently flattened the Redskins and former Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb at the 'Skins' home stadium, 59-28. Had a nice chat with Mr. Doria about the game.

With the weather remaining iffy, I spent the rest of the evening at home. I paid my Nelnet bill online and got my Verizon bill together. I prepared Keefe's card and gift card to send tomorrow. I made this year's Christmas card, purchased presents, and baked goods presents list. I worked on a crocheted blanket for my dolls and made turkey cutlets with stewed apples for dinner while watching the Disney Babes In Toyland.

Released in 1961, Babes In Toyland is Disney's first live-action musical. I figure it's about as close to an English pantomime as I'm going to get without flying to England in December. Mother Goose Land residents Tom Piper (Tom Sands) and Mary Contrary (Annette Funicello) are going to be married...but wicked Barnaby (Ray Bolger) will do anything to get her money, including stealing her sheep and having him kidnapped by a Laurel-and-Hardy-like comic duo. Mary's siblings go after the sheep, and Tom and Mary eventually go after them. They all end up in Toyland, where the befuddled Toymaker and his nerdy assistant are trying to make the Christmas toy deadline. Can Tom, Mary, and the kids help...and is Barnaby far behind?

If you like old-fashioned operetta and fantasy, you'll probably get a kick out of this. Most people tend to compare this unfavorably with the Laurel and Hardy version. I think both are equally enjoyable. Some of the numbers here are really cute, including Funciello's imaginative version of "I Can't Do The Sum," Bolger's showy "Castle In Spain" dance, and the villains' hilarious "And We Won't Be Happy 'Til We Get It."

Monday, November 15, 2010

Laundry and Pumpkin Pie

I awoke to heavy fog, apparently all over Camden County, according to the radio. Thank goodness the fog had long vanished by the time I headed over to the laundromat to get my clothes done. It was just cloudy, not even windy or all that cold, and it pretty much stayed that way all day.

The weather must have scared people off. There were a few people in the laundromat this morning, an older lady and a couple of guys who live around the corner. I didn't have any problems getting a washer or a dryer and getting out in a little over an hour.

After I got home, I put everything away and did my finances. I've been meaning to catch up on them since that mall trip a few weeks ago. After that, I had a quick lunch of peanut butter and farm-market peach butter on whole wheat baguette slices and a plum while watching Bowery Boys movies.

Work wasn't too bad. It was busy during rush hour, but otherwise dead. There were a few mildly annoying customers, including one couple who kept fussing at each other and took so long, another woman ended up helping unload their cart. Other than that, there were no major problems, and I was in and out quickly.

I kept seeing people buying pumpkin pies at work...but the one thing I'm not good at baking is pies. I decided to make a pumpkin mousse pie for dessert, since Acme generic Cool Whip and graham cracker crusts are on sale anyway. I had the pie after my dinner of chicken and golden beet soup leftovers. I think I needed to add more milk; otherwise, it was very tasty.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Baby, You Can Drive My Bike

Started out another beautiful 60-degree day with apple-pear-cinnamon pancakes and Brunch With the Beatles. Rubber Soul was in the spotlight today. I listened to "Yesterday," "I'm Looking Through You," "Drive My Car," and "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)," among others, as I continued to organize my new desk. I pulled all of the plastic containers with old disks of stories and back-up programs and put them on the shelf on the bottom of the desk. This freed up room on the brown Ikea shelves that I badly needed. I also re-arranged the Care Bears and other toys on the desk and shelves.

Tried calling Mom after I'd finished with the desk, but I kept getting a busy signal. I got a busy signal three times. I figured Mom's sister Terri was chatting with her and decided I'd call again after work.

Work was a bit busier than yesterday, and there were a few annoying customers, but otherwise I was in and out, and there were no major problems. I had a nice ride to and from work, too. It was a perfect day for mid-November in southern New Jersey, sunny and windless.

Finally got through to Mom when I got home. Yes, she had been talking to Aunt Terri earlier. She was fine, though tired from working all week. Michaels is going into its busy season. Aunt Terri isn't as happy. She just took a new job that she hates, but it's closer to her home in Virginia. Mom was going to make dinner for Keefe and his girlfriend Vicki while they watched the Dallas-Giants game. (Which Dallas eventually won, BTW. The Eagles play tomorrow.)

I make an Apple Crisp for dessert, then had shrimp, a baked sweet potato, and roasted Brussels sprouts for dinner. After that, I put on The Dress Circle. Their focus was on Dorothy Fields, one of the few female lyracists for years. We got to hear two of my favorites of her shows, Sweet Charity and the Shirley Booth vehicle By the Beautiful Sea, along with songs from the movie Swing Time and another Broadway show featuring Booth, A Tree Grows In Brooklyn.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Yard Sale Score

It was a gorgeous day for a farm market run. It was in the mid-60s today, maybe a tad warm for this time of year but not too bad, breezy and sunny. It was warm enough that I just wore my Cape May heavy hooded sweatshirt while doing today's Farm Market/Yard Sale errand run and was perfectly fine.

I checked out some yard sales first. An indoor yard sale at Harding Avenue near the Oaklyn School was a bust, just knick-knacks, but I hit paydirt at a big two-family sale near the entrance to the park on East Bettlewood. I found a 16-inch Laugh-A-Lot Bear, a Winnie the Pooh Valentine's special...and an absolutely gorgeous antique roll-top desk for $10. I looked at it and debated it for several minutes. I don't usually buy large furniture from yard sales. I can't fit most pieces, and I obviously can't take them home on the bike. I just bought the bear and the video and moved on.

My next stop was the Collingswood Farm Market. It's in its last two weeks of operation for the year. The craft booths are starting to outnumber the food booths. This had its virtues. A wool-selling booth at the very end near the Perkins Center for the Arts displayed two adorable Llamas along with everything you can make from their wool. (I may buy the yarn I saw if they're there next week.) I got food, too - honey, Brussels sprouts, cranberries, spinach, carrots, apples, and plums, bananas, and the first grapefruit of the season from the wholesaler.

I rode around and looked for more yard sales in Collingswood for a while, but I couldn't get my mind off that cool desk. I finally decided to ride back to East Bettlewood and see if it was still there. It was. I talked to the owners; the man said he'd be more than happy to drive it over in about a half-hour. I gave him my 10 dollars and headed out.

Had enough time on my way home to check out something going on a few doors down. The Baptist Church on the end of Bettlewood near the Post Office was holding a small craft fair and bazaar. I didn't end up buying any crafts, but I did get a Cinnamon Strusel Muffin Top from their bake sale.

I got home just in time. The man was pulling up to the house even as I was. He carried the desk upstairs. After he left, I moved the old desk and pushed the new one into place. It's perfect. It's one of those old roll-top desks with cubbyholes that have a spot for everything. Mailing items, Sam's clothes patterns, and a folder that had once been in the old heart paper-holder now went in a drawer. My thesarus, Pocket Guide to Correct Grammar, and French dictionary went into cubbyholes, along with envelopes, index cards, the Zip drive, and my stapler. The Writer's Reference, dictionary, and box of stationary items went on top with my modem, a pile of stuffed animals, Maiden Curly Crown, and Sakura, the little Card Captors figure.

I just love this desk. It's by far my favorite yard sale find ever. It's just the right length and height for the apartment. It's even the right color. It's only a slightly darker shade of reddish-tan than the walls in most of the rooms. The roll-top even works, with no sticking. It has a few dings and scratches, and there's a small streak of what looks like white paint and at least one drink ring on top. The stuffed animals hide the ring and the paint. Like Lauren said when I told her about it tonight, the rest give it character.

I got the old computer desk from the Big Lots in North Cape May in 2003, shortly after it opened. I desperately needed a real computer desk that wasn't a bunch of crates and an old piece of heavy wood. It was kind of ugly, with a light ash-colored Formica top and wobbly, curved metal legs, but it was also only 45 dollars and the last computer desk Big Lots had that I could afford then. It had a lip under the desk for the detached keyboard; alas, that lip jammed early on and hasn't really been functional in at least five years.

The old desk had other problems, too. It didn't have nearly enough storage space for everything that went with the computer and in my desks in college. I found a huge, heavy wooden paper divider/drawer with heart-shaped cut outs on either end at a junk shop a block from me in Wildwood. I couldn't bring myself to get rid of that. It's too big to use in the living area and is no longer necessary in the bedroom, so I moved it to the back room. It's now used to store all the pamphlets and brochures I've picked up during my various travels.

There wasn't really anything I could do with the old desk, though. It wouldn't fit in the back room. I somehow managed to drag it down the steps and over to the curb. I taped a sign that said "Free - Take It!" to the top of the desk. We get a lot of scavengers around here, people who come from time to time with trucks or vans, looking for interesting junk left in scrap piles. They're welcome to it.

Spent the next hour or so editing the Bowery Boys NaNoWrite novel we're doing. We're about half-way through it - look for it by Thanksgiving!

I had enough time to have leftover chicken legs, Golden Beet Soup, and carrots for lunch and head to work without rushing. Perhaps due to the gorgeous day (and us being between holidays again), work was steady for most of the day but not crazy-busy. It won't get really busy until people start stocking up for Thanksgiving by the end of next week.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Balance On A Busy Day

Whew! I've had a long day. Started it with yoga class to make up for missing it yesterday. Even arriving ten minutes early, the place was packed. At least 22 people jammed into the small Yogawood studio to work on the shoulders and "core" (i.e, stomach). We couldn't do much else. It was kind of hard to move around squeezed together like that. On the other hand, I agree with Micki that the energy level in the room was fabulous. It's a good reminder of why I enjoy these classes.

Next stop was the Collingswood Library, which I also skipped yesterday. I just put away DVDs and did a lot of DVD organizing. They all needed it. I didn't get to the Collingswood Library last week. I didn't have the time, with the extra hours at work.

Rode straight home after that...but it was too nice of a day to stay inside for long. It was sunny, breezy, and in the lower 60s, same as yesterday. I had a leftover chicken leg and spinach for lunch, then went right back out again.

Headed for the Acme next. I picked up my paycheck, did grocery shopping, and got my schedule. While I do have some late hours (including a 4:30-9 on Thursday), I also have some earlier hours (10-4 on Friday) and more of them. I'll take that.

The Acme was surprisingly quiet for the time of day and year. I'm guessing everyone's waiting for next week to start stocking up for Thanksgiving. In any event, I didn't need much. Quaker was having a $1.99 sale on cereal and granola bars - bought regular Life (a favorite of mine) and the new Chocolate Mint Granola Bars and Raspberry Mocha Granola Squares. Got Acme's not-bad generic light yogurt, the only yogurt on a good sale. Bought shrimp on a really good sale and three of those packs of individual servings of fish that make a great quick dinner. Stocked up on canola oil.

I had lots to do, so I headed right home. I put everything away, then went for a walk on the White Horse Pike. I stopped at the post office to finally get my sister's birthday card out. Went a block to the bank to deposit my paycheck. Browsed in the House of Fun. Stopped at WaWa for milk, a pretzel, and a Coke Zero with chocolate and raspberry syrups.

After I got home, I spent the rest of the evening baking and watching movies. I started a baguette before leaving for my chores. I formed it into a long shape after I came home, then let it double in size while I made Cranberry-Orange Muffins.

Ran several videos I hadn't gotten to watching yet while baking. The Great Waltz is a sweeping MGM operetta in the same vein as the Jeanette MacDonald/Nelson Eddy movies. Ferdinand Gravet is the young Johann Strauss, who writes memorable music while being caught up in the whirl of Viennese life in the 1840s and 50s, including a student revolution. But while he does love his wife (Luise Rainer), he's also infatuated with the diva who helps create one of his most famous compositions, "Tales of the Vienna Woods" (Miliza Korjus).

I don't know anything about Strauss, other than I like some of his music, so I can't tell you what's fact and what's fiction here. The movie was filmed by French cinema great Julian Duvivier, and it does have a certain flair to it, from the whirling "Viennese Woods" number to the stirring "Blue Danube" finale montage.

On the other hand, the script is a bit of a bore. Rainer, Korjus, and half the German-accent character actors on the MGM lot do their best to lift a storyline that's fun in spots but really lacks inventiveness and devolves into a routine soap opera in the second half. This currently isn't available on DVD, but if you ever run into it on video or TCM, stay for the not-bad leading ladies, Oscar-winning cinematography, and amazing costumes...not for the plot.

Switched to little-known Christmas specials while I made salmon, honey-wine-glazed carrots, and Chilled Golden Beet Soup for dinner. Snowden's Christmas was one of the big holiday offerings for 1999. I remember it being huge at the time, with tons of toys on the shelves at Target and even a float at the Macy's Parade. Ironically, all the fuss was for a what amounted to a so-so Toy Story knock-off. Four toys, including the title stuffed snowman, head for New York so they can be with their little boy for Christmas. Fairly cute, with decent Claymation, but nothing you haven't seen before.

I found Yes Virgina, There Is A Santa Claus at a yard sale a few years ago. It's the oft-told real-life tale of the little girl of the title who wrote a letter to the editor of a New York newspaper asking him about the existence of Santa. The twist is the special was done by the same people who made the Peanuts specials and looks and sounds like it, with a similar animation style and familiar voice actors. I'm surprised Paramount didn't try to add this onto one of their original Peanuts releases as a bonus short - it apparently did win an Emmy in the 70s, according to the box.

Oh, and the baguette came out very well, nice and chewy.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Saluting Our Veterans

I overslept and never did get to yoga today. It was just as well. I wouldn't have been able to get to the Collingswood Library, even if I hadn't overslept. Today is Veteran's Day. While many schools are open (New Jersey kids get enough days off in November as it is, between Thanksgiving and the Teacher's Convention), most government buildings and many smaller businesses aren't. I didn't get out of bed until after 9:30.

When I did finally get up and get dressed, I had breakfast, then made that low-fat Prevention Magazine recipe for Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies. They came out beautifully, nice and soft.

Ran two East Side Kids movies while baking. Most of the East Side Kids movies were filmed while World War II were raging, and more than half of them involved the Armed Forces or war in some way or another. I finally chose two that were more war-oriented than most. Flying Blind is an earlier movie from 1942 that has the boys working at an airplane factory that's dealing with sabotage. Follow the Leader is from two years later. Mugs McGinnis isn't thrilled when the Army discharges him due to bad eyes...and he's even less thrilled when a member of his gang gets killed by spies right in the Kids' basement clubhouse!

It was such a nice day, I really couldn't waste all of it inside. I went for a walk for an hour while the cookies were cooling. My first stop was Uncle Ken's. He was sitting on the porch, so I decided to have a chat with a real veteran. Uncle Ken was celebrating Veteran's Day by enjoying the nice weather and supervising the repairs on his roof. Everyone else was out with kids or working.

Went to CVS next. They didn't have the conditioner I wanted...but they did have garlic powder on sale, which I've been meaning to get for ages now. Also picked up three baskets with fall foliage in them for general fall decorations in the living room.

The park was gorgeous today. It was a perfect day in mid-November in New Jersey. The sky was bright blue, without a cloud in it. It was breezy, but not as windy as earlier in the week. It was chilly, probably in the mid-upper 50s, colder than it has been but not too bad. The foliage is at it's peak, in bright shades of rust, copper, gold, lime green, red, orange, and even some deep purple and brown. It was like walking through a rainbow.

When I got in, I had leftover steak, fresh farm market spinach, and steamed Brussels sprouts for lunch while watching the "Donald Duck in the Army" cartoons Disney made between 1942 and 1944. I traditionally watch these every Memorial Day and Veteran's Day. Cantankerous Donald was the perfect Disney character for wartime audiences, who loved seeing the temperamental fowl give it to the enemies and to Drill Sergent Pete as good as he got.

Although the Oscar-winning "Der Fuehrer's Face" is probably the most famous of these, my favorite is "The Vanishing Private." Pete tells Donald that he needs to make a new cannon "hard to see." He does that, all right, via a special invisibility paint. The fun really begins when Donald lands in the paint...and a spooked Pete winds up chasing "the little man that you can't see" all over the base.

After the cartoons, I went on the computer for a while. I knew I was working late tonight, so I played WebKinz this afternoon instead. I also worked on editing the long Bowery Boys story Lauren and I are working on for the NaNoWrite program this month. It challenges you to write a 50,000 word novel by the end of the month. Look for the Bowery Boys' story by Thanksgiving and this month's Monkees story by the beginning of December!

I had a little bit of extra time before work, so I wound up my Veteran's Day by skipping from World War II to Vietnam. The Pink Panther joins the Army in "G.I Pink," but discovers that dealing with land minds, cranky drill sergeants, and nasty mascot dogs is even scarier than fighting in the jungle!

I left early for work. I'd been debating all day whether I wanted to eat out or not. I finally decided I didn't feel like cooking or having leftovers for lunch and dinner. I didn't work until 6, but I rode over to the Audubon Crossings Mall at quarter of 5.

Ended up at Chick Fil'A. I don't often eat there. First of all, they're very popular with families and are usually crowded. They often run specials, and they're the only one of the four fast-food restaurants at Audubon Crossings with a playground. Second, they're also the most expensive of the four fast-food restaurants. Arby's and Sonic are both much cheaper for some of the same food.

On the other had, I'd just had roast beef for lunch, and it was too cold to sit outside and eat Sonic's. I opted for a Chargrilled Chicken Sandwich with no condiments and a Carrot-Raisin Salad. There was a line when I arrived, even at just after 5, but it moved quickly.

I had so much time left before work, I made a brief stop at FYE to see if they had anything for my brother Keefe's birthday next week. I didn't really see anything good, so I finally moved on.

After all that, my 6-10 shift at the Acme was on-and-off steady when I came in, quiet as a mouse when I left. I found out why I'd gotten a rare late shift, too. The older woman who usually works late had apparently called last week and said she wouldn't be able to come in at all for a while. Ok, I can understand that. We are just entering cold and flu season. I don't often get really late hours anymore, anyway. I just hope they don't make it a habit. I don't mind the late work, but it's nerve-wracking riding home in the pitch-dark on my bike.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Hail, Hail, the Leaves are All Here

It was a gorgeous, sunny, 60-degree day when I awoke this morning. I read The Lost Temple for a while and wrote in my journal. After I got out of bed and got dressed, I had yogurt and an apple for breakfast while watching some Armed Services-themed Bowery Boys. Here Comes the Marines is the only movie where the Boys plausibly join the Services; they're all drafted. Sach proves particularly incompetent...until he gets buddy-buddy with the head of the base, who knew his father. He's made a sergeant and proceeds to flagrantly abuse his power and his whistle. His fellow Bowery Boys, including best friend Slip Mahoney, do their best to try to bring Sach back down to Earth. They finally end up using him as bait to trap a smuggling ring.

Headed for the Haddon Township Library next. It was fairly late by then, almost 11, and I had a lot I wanted to do today. I wasn't at the library for very long. Mostly organized DVDs. There were quite a few today, including a large pile of kids' DVDs. I didn't really feel like dealing with check-out, though, so I didn't take anything out today.

Next on the list was shopping for my sister and brother's birthdays. My sister Anny turns 26 today; my brother Keefe will be 18 next week. I stopped at JoAnn's and got some bath lotion, lip gloss, and a cute necklace with a bell for Anny to wear to her job at Big Lots for Christmas. Stopped at Super Fresh for those cheaper grits. Had a quick slice of broccoli and mushroom pizza at Capitol Pizza on the White Horse Pike.

When I got home, I put everything away and went right back out again to rake leaves. It was the perfect day for it, too. Clouds rolled in briefly while I was running errands, but nothing came of it. By the time I was raking, it was sunny and gorgeous again. It's still windy, but not so bad that I had trouble raking. Once again, I got the entire yard done and my porch swept, not to mention earned 20 dollars. And once again, it felt good to really DO something, instead of just standing behind a register.

Went inside after I finished the sweeping. I made dinner while running the last of the four Bowery Boys Armed Services comedies, Clipped Wings. By 1953, when this one was made, the emphasis was fully on comedy, and the Boys were down to four and soda shop owner Louie. In fact, it's just Slip and Sach who end up soldiers this time. They inadvertently join the Air Force when they visit the base to ask about a friend who was arrested for spying. The highlight is Sach ending up in a barracks filled with women, including an older female sergeant who doesn't appreciate his wandering eyes.

Dinner came out very well, too. I made Baked Chicken Legs in Marsala Sauce and steamed Brussels sprouts. For dessert, I used up the home-made whole wheat bread that didn't quite bake right and made it into a delicious bread pudding from the Betty Crocker's Picture Cook Book, with skim milk and egg whites substituting for whole milk and whole eggs. Still came out very sweet and creamy.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

It's My Life

Started an absolutely gorgeous, blustery 60-degree fall day with a walk to the Oaklyn Library. Actually, I didn't really do much there. Neither the books nor the DVDs needed much organizing, and they're finally clearing out some of the older videos. I wanted to take out some of the usual Christmas and Thanksgiving books I check out of the Oaklyn Library every November, but I was only able to find a kids' book on Thanksgiving and Cranberry Thanksgiving. I also took out two Christmas craft-and-recipes books to get ideas for Christmas food gifts.

Went for a pleasant walk around the neighborhood next. The weather was just so nice, other than the chilly wind. It blew leaves off of people's carefully-created piles and whipped them around my ankles before carrying them into the street. Most people got their Halloween decorations down over the weekend, though a few houses still have ghosts and cobwebs out. Most have just left pumpkins and mums, and maybe a few Thanksgiving or fall banners.

I had leftover chicken meatloaf and spinach salad for lunch, then headed to work. Work was busy all night, with not even the annoying customers I had last night. It had slowed down enough by 6:30 that I was able to shut down and leave with no relief.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Declaration of Independence

Started a fairly sunny morning with laundry. I made sure to get in by at least quarter of 10, so there wouldn't be any problems with finding a washer and dryer. I made it just in time. There were only two other young women who looked like college students and the lady who owns the laundromat when I arrived. After a half-hour, it was crowded with couples, families, and more older people.

After I got home, I put the laundry away. I'd washed the bed sheets today, so I put the sheets away, put fresh ones on, and made the bed. After I finished with the bed, I went for a walk.

I spent the walk trying to tackle the problem of how to handle this "James" who has been posting derogatory comments on this blog for the past at least four or five months, maybe more. Since the spring, at least. I haven't had problems with trolls in the past, and I'd like to avoid them in the future.

The truth is...I've always been afraid of turning into a child again. I'm afraid of someone coming and taking me away from the life I'm living and putting me with crazy people or just taking my independence. I'm afraid what happened when I was a kid - being treated like I'm a freak - will repeat itself.

It won't. I'm not a child, and I'm not a freak. I'm a damaged woman with a hurt child inside, but the woman and the child are still healing. Maybe I'll always be healing...but I know my own mind. I'm not crazy, and I'm not going to hurt someone. I'm tired of people breathing down my neck and telling me how to live my life. What makes them so perfect that they can insult me? Are they scared of someone who is different...of something that's out of their worldview?

Maybe the way I live isn't the way other people would live. Maybe I do get too upset over things. Maybe I do obsess more than I should. Maybe I didn't vote last week. That doesn't make me a bad person. It makes me an honest person. (Which is more than I can say about most politicians.)

I'm proud of my independence. I live alone. I make my own money. I volunteer. I ride my bike. I explore. I travel. I go to yoga class. So I don't have kids or a family. Neither do a lot of other people these days. Being single doesn't make you irresponsible. It just means you don't have to worry about someone leaving the toilet seat up when you aren't at home.

You know what? As the Leonard Berenstein song from the original On the Town goes, I'm lucky to be me. I'm my own person. I don't answer to anyone. I can go where I please, when I please. I can eat what I want or not eat it. I can watch Bowery Boys all day and talk with my best friend online all night. I can go wherever I want, and no one is looking over my shoulder or second-guessing my decisions.

Who am I? Someone who has a lot to learn. Someone who has learned a lot since the spring. What have I learned? That I'm not such a bad person. That I need my independence - it's part of my very being. That I like kids but aren't sure I want to raise them. That I do have friends and can meet people. That I feel better when I try to stay upbeat. That obsessions aren't such horrible things to have if you can make them work for you. That I need to join a group that really works at something and doesn't just sit there and talks about it, whether it's doll-collecting or yoga or dance. That I do need to work on some things...but I can do others just fine.

I switched the comments to "registered users only." If nasty comments continue, this blog will become private and by invitation only. I wanted to send this "James"'s name to Blogger and get them blocked, but it doesn't look like they can do that. As I said in my previous blog entries, I will not tolerate bullying anymore...on this blog or in my life.

I was on Blogger for so long trying to figure out how to change the comments, I was almost late for work. I did make it just in time.

Work was a pain early on. There were a few annoying customers. One woman threw a fit when she didn't get a game piece for the promotion that's going on at the Acme. If you spend 50 dollars, you can get a ticket, pull the tab off, and win prizes ranging from coupons to a home makeover. She didn't spend 50 dollars, but the last people had and she got mad when she couldn't get a ticket.

An hour later, I got stuck with one of those people who buys a cart full of food, and then oops, they have to take half of it back, because they somehow thought that 100 dollars worth of food came to 50. And one of the women was snapping curses at the other because she didn't even WANT half this food and oh, why were they buying all of this? I really didn't need to hear that. If they didn't want the food, they shouldn't have brought it to the register. Plus, the other woman kept going through her full cart to see what she should keep, which meant she put one item on the belt per five minutes, which meant they took forever to ring up. Why can't people be more considerate? Stores are public places.

In any event, the second half of my shift was far quieter and less eventful. I had no relief and shut down without a problem.

I needed a birthday card for my sister Anny and stocked up on the last two French Vanilla Mousse Mixes for the holidays, then headed home. Dark clouds had been gathering since my walk earlier in the afternoon. It had been mildly sprinkling on my way to work. The ground was wet by quarter after 7, but it wasn't raining at all. We must have gotten a short but heavy shower sometime after I got in.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

I Get a Kick Out of Them

I slept in on a chilly, sunny November Sunday...more than the clock said, due to Daylight Savings last night. Got up in time for a long, quiet breakfast of Apple-Cornmeal Pancakes and a pear. Ran the Coasters record I picked up from a yard sale a few weeks ago, then listened to Brunch With the Beatles. "The Beatles and Other British Invasion Bands." Normally, I'm not crazy about shows that focus on the early Beatles songs that sounded too...well, too boy-band-ish. This theme, however, alternates Beatles hits from 1963-1965 with other British acts who debuted in America during those years. Among my favorites were Herman's Hermits "I'm Into Something Good" and two from Dusty Springfield, "Wishin' and Hopin'" and "I Only Wanna Be With You."

Talked to Mom after breakfast. She seemed to be in a pretty good mood. She was on her way out to run errands. She was very happy with her new cell phone, which can take pictures. She wants to get pictures of his son before he finishes his senior year of high school. Dad got himself a Droid, so he can enjoy his newest pastime - putting money in the stock market.

Edited some Bowery Boys stories for a while before heading to work. Work was on-and-off really busy, not surprising for a football Sunday in November. I was in and out with no problems other than my relief was one of those college boys with a second job who is always late.

I had tilapia with peppers and mushrooms for dinner, then went online for tonight's Dress Circle. "The Shows of November" was the theme for tonight. November is a big month for Broadway openings, and among the hits and flops that first appeared in November are Cabaret, Jersey Boys, Anything Goes, Guys and Dolls, Bells Are Ringing, the recent musical version of Young Frankestein, and the cult flops The Grass Harp and Taboo.

Oh, and the Eagles played a big game tonight against Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts. Though the Colts did come back in the second half, the Eagles ultimately won 26-24.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Harvest Time

I awoke to a beautiful, bright fall day. The breeze was chilly, but the sun felt nice on my back. I slept a bit later than usual on a Saturday and got a late start to the Farm Market.

The Farm Market was busy when I arrived around 10. Many of the usual food booths had been replaced by local craftspeople selling their wares. Lots of dogs out, too. I saw a little terrier who reminded me of my friends Linda and James Young's dog Willow, an elegant greyhound, and an adorable brown and white dachshund. I ended up buying apples, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, golden beets (thought I'd try them), bananas from the wholesaler, and the first fresh New Jersey cranberries of the season.

I saw no yard sales today, so I ended up going straight home. I put everything away and spent an hour working on editing Bowery Boys stories. Posted two short stories, "Sick Day" and "East Side Story," at the Bowery Boys' Basement Clubhouse.

After I finished with the editing, I went for a pleasant walk. Fat white clouds were scuttling in as I strolled down Goff Avenue to the river, then back down to West Clinton. It was breezy, but not anywhere near as windy as it has been the past few weeks. Leaves crunched underfoot, and the air smelled like dried leaves and logs. A few folks still have their Halloween decorations up (and probably will until Veteran's Day on Thursday), but most have general fall decorations, like scarecrows and uncarved pumpkins.

I had a quick lunch when I got home. Watched most of Bowery Battalion, the first of four Bowery Boys movies set in the Armed Services. The Boys aren't exactly the most popular soldiers in the Army when they get spooked by an air raid drill and enlist. They may get their chances to prove themselves as worthy soldiers, however, when they rescue the owner of their soda shop hangout Louie Dumbrowski from a gang of spies who want the top-secret formula he has memorized.

Went to work after lunch. Work was busy for most of the afternoon, not surprising on a gorgeous Saturday in November. We're starting a new promotion, too. Customers receive a card they can send in to win prizes if they buy fifty dollars worth of groceries.

Came home and had leftovers while watching The Leprechauns' Christmas Gold, one of the lesser-known holiday specials I occasionally take in during November. It's a Rankin-Bass half-hour program from the late 70s, when they started to get really, really strange with their ideas. In this case, a young Irish sailor finds himself up to his hatches in trouble when he lands on an island inhabited by the Wee Folk...and accidentally uproots a tree that imprisoned a banshee who had been after their treasure.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Pumpkin, Dust, and Rock N' Roll

I took advantage of weather that remained dreary to sleep in as much as I could this morning. After I got up, I had a quick cereal breakfast and watched the Angelina Ballerina Christmas special, Christmas In Mouseland. Angelina is looking forward to her school's big pantomime of Cinderella and is desperately hoping to dance the title role. She's devastated when it goes to her rival Penelope Pinkpaws instead...and she's chosen to play the Wicked Stepmouse! Things go from bad to worse when she's dropped from the production after a fit of temperament and a sledding accident lands the understudy, her beloved teacher Miss Lilly, in the hospital. Angelina takes it on herself to talk the pantomime's writer Mr. Operatski in to staying...and to realize that they both need to learn a lot about patience and determination.

Poor Angelina! I think some of the adults were a bit hard on her here. While she shouldn't have thrown a fit about losing the role, what happened to Miss Lilly wasn't entirely her fault. I have to give her some credit, though. She's one tough missy. Miss Lilly is right about her determination.

(And by the way, before people start jumping on me, yes, I watch Christmas specials and listen to Christmas music in November. My rule is, if an animation franchise or TV show has a Thanksgiving episode, I watch that in November and wait until after Thanksgiving for the Christmas show. Anything else is fair game. I have at least 50 holiday-related videos and DVDs and well over 100 holiday CDs, cassettes, and records. There's just too much to fit into 25 days anymore!)

Headed out after Angelina ended. First stop of the day was the Oaklyn Library for this week's volunteering session there. I organized the DVDs, then did the children's videos and the kids' picture books. The videos really needed it. They had been put away in the kids' section...but many of them had been tossed in any old way, and it just looked clunky.

Next stop was the Acme. They were busy there, but they had plenty of help, and no one asked me to stay. Good thing, because I did need to pick up my paycheck and do some grocery shopping. I took advantage of a coupon from Acme and a $.79 Swanson's Broth sale to stock up for winter soups and sauces. Also bought yogurt, granola bars, canned pumpkin, ground chicken, steak, parchment paper, eggs, a roll for dinner, and a Christmas present for a friend.

I went straight home with my grocery load, then put it away and went right back out again. It was still cloudy when I rode to the Acme, but by the time I walked to the bank, the sun was coming out. It was in and out for the rest of the day.

I thought of having lunch out after I left the bank, but I remembered I intended to make my own cheese steak for dinner. I just got a pretzel and a fountain Coke Zero with a bit of raspberry and vanilla syrups instead. After my snack, I hiked around the neighborhood, enjoying the blustery breezes and the wonderful upper 50s-lower 60s temperatures. It really looks like fall now; all of the trees have reached their peak and are turning lovely shades of rust, copper, gold, red, brown, and pumpkin orange.

Briefly ended up at the park behind the school. I wouldn't normally go there on a school day, but most kids in New Jersey have off this weekend for the yearly Teachers' Convention. There were quite a few kids there anyway, just hanging out in the playground. Some men were watering the school yard as I passed by. I don't know why. It just rained yesterday, and we've gotten tons of rain. The field looks much greener than it did during the dry summer, even nicer than during the Town Picnic last month.

Spent the rest of the afternoon at home after I finished my walk. I was originally going to go into Audubon on my walk, but my legs are tired after spending so much time at work and running around this week! I opted to dress Samantha and Molly in warmer clothes (Molly got her school outfit; Samantha her meet outfit with the white pinafore), dust the apartment, and work on the budget instead. I also made a Pumpkin Mousse Pie with the pumpkin leftover from the muffins I made last week.

After I finished the budget, I put on Top Secret! and made that cheese steak, along with carrots in white wine-horseradish sauce and the last of the steamed cauliflower.

Top Secret! is the least-well-known of the "Laugh Or I'll Shoot!" comedies. American rock star Nick Rivers travels to East Germany for a concert. He finds himself involved in a Nazi scheme to draw submarines out of the water and falls for the beautiful head of the group fighting against the Germans. And did I mention this is also a spoof of Elvis movies...and oh yeah, Val Kilmer does his own singing?

It's as bizarre as it sounds. In fact, this may be the most bizarre of the three big Zucker/Abrahams 80s movies. While Airplane! and The Naked Gun take on the relatively normal genres of disaster film and cop show, Top Secret! goes after rock musicals, Beach Boys music, World War II films, and The A-Team, among others. Alas, the emphasis on Cold War-era politics means this one hasn't dated as well as the other two...and nor have some of the sex gags.

On the other hand, I get a kick out of the very accurate parodies of 50s and early 60s rock and of the musicals of that era, where kids went into screaming fits just by hearing their idol sing a tune in a pizza shop (as in one number where Kilmer starts kids into a Grease-worthy sock hop).

And yes, Kilmer did all his own singing...and is quite good at it. He really needs to do more musicals.