Friday, December 31, 2010

Working New Year's

Sigh. Yes, I spent almost the entire day at the Acme. I had to work 8 hours, and I work early tomorrow. I'm not happy about it, but I know, I know, it's a paycheck and health insurance.

Work was busy all day long. If people weren't picking up platters for New Year's parties, they were buying pork for their traditional New Year's dinners. It's also the beginning of the month, which means we had a lot of annoying people coming out of the woodwork. Thankfully, there were no major problems, and I was able to shut down without a relief.

Good thing, too. I wanted to get my shopping for my own New Year's breakfast and dinner done and get my schedule. I'm not happy with my schedule at all. After having me work 30 hours this week, all I get next week is 18. Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday off again. While it'll be nice to be able to use those days to get the Christmas decorations down without a fuss, I do wish I had a steady schedule. 30 hours one week and 18 the next drives me crazy and tires me out.

I didn't have quite as big of a shopping trip as I have the past few weeks. The only meat I needed was ham for tomorrow's breakfast; all I needed for produce was bananas and grapefruit. Yoplait Light Yogurt was on sale, so I stocked up on that. Grabbed part-skim ricotta and mozzarella cheese for dinner. I was out of cereal, so I picked up Acme's generic Life on sale. Got one of Bigelow's holiday limited edition teas ("Eggnog'in") and treated myself to three bags of Land O'Lakes Gourmet Hot Chocolate.

After I got home, I put everything away and started dinner. I was going to make Baked Pasta with ground chicken and cheese, but I didn't have the time. I just made Skillet Tomato Pasta with ground chicken, ricotta, and mozzarella cheese, along with Spinach Salad with Grapefruit Sections.

Made Whipped Syllabub from Felicity's Cooking Studio for dessert. While most people toast the New Year with champagne, I go far more decadent...and non-alcoholic. The Whipped Syllabub is stiff-beat heavy whipped cream with a mixture of fresh-squeezed orange juice, lemon juice, sugar, and sparkling apple cider. It was very creamy and tasty.

Watched the Bowery Boys and cartoons as my last movies of 2010. Looking For Danger is the best of the Stanley Clements-era Bowery Boys I've seen so far. Duke relates how he, Sach, and the others outwitted the Nazis and helped the Allies in North Africa during World War II. Far more action-oriented than most of the other Clements-era movies, this one was a lot of fun, especially Sach and Duke loose in the Sultan's harem!

After the Boys ended, I ran Rudolph's Shiny New Year. This is the first of several Rankin-Bass follow-ups to their most famous property. Rudolph has to find the Baby New Year before the year begins...but he has very big ears that people keep laughing at, which upsets him so that he runs off. Yes, this is campy, but it does have some nice music, including the touching "The Moving Finger Writes."

Ran a couple of Woody Woodpecker cartoons to finish out my year as I did the dishes. Woody was not the most attractive character in his early years, either physically (he was buck-toothed and had the fattest legs I ever saw on a bird) or mentally (even HE questions how crazy he is). On the other hand, there was some funny moments, including Woody and a cat trying to eat each other during a particuarly severe winter in "Pantry Panic."'s hoping that all of you have a happy, healthy, and laughter-filled 2011! Happy New Year to one and all!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Tales of the Gold Stooges

Slept in again this morning and started out around 11 with a trip to the Audubon Crossings Mall to finish my Christmas shopping. Stopped at FYE again, this time to get the Three Stooges Collection Vol One set I didn't see at Cherry Hill. I also found something I missed on Tuesday that I wanted, the 1982 Indiana Jones-esque action show Tales of the Gold Monkey. Several friends have mentioned this show to me, and as a fan of both the Indiana Jones series and this show's animated equivalent Tail Spin, this sounds like it's right up my alley.

More Information on Tales of the Gold Monkey

(And there's a reason I wanted to get these now. I don't like that the Audubon FYE is closing...but if it has to close, at least I can get the inventory at a good price. The Stooges were $19.99 and came up to $12.50 with the closing sales and my Membership Card. Tales of the Gold Monkey was $49.99 and came up to $31.50.)

I didn't have as much luck with winter boots. I checked Fashion Bug, Payless Shoes, and The Shoe Depot. Shoe Depot was the only store with decent, waterproof, lined winter boots, and they were either too expensive or not the right size. I just want simple zipper-up, waterproof, non-suaede boots. Nothing fancy. Rugged enough to last at least two or three winters, with good tread on the bottoms. I'll just order them from LLBean or Land's End.

Had a slice of broccoli pizza and a slice of mushroom pizza for lunch at Tu Se Bella's. It was only 1 at that point, so I went to work early and bought a bottle of sparkling apple cider for tomorrow. (I figure it'll be gone by the time I finish work tomorrow.)

The cashier I bought the cider from told me we got our paychecks early this week because of the holidays, so I went right over to the desk and picked up mine. (I'm glad we did. God only knows what it'll be like tomorrow, when everyone else is getting theirs before things close for New Year's.)

Work tonight was quite busy, much busier than earlier in the week. People are getting ready for their New Year's dinners and parties, not to mention the beginning of the month.

I watched lots of Stooges when I got home. Fun ones out of this batch include "The Sitter-Downers," where the boys build a home for their prospective sweethearts and "Goots and Saddles" (the Stooges play poker to flush out cattle rustler Longshore Pete for General Muster).

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Stop the Printing Presses

I ended up spending most of the morning trying to get the printer working. It wasn't a matter of getting it hooked up to the computer. I did that just fine. It was getting it online where I had problems. I tried all morning. I connected it six times, counting tonight...and it wasn't until tonight that I got it to print online as well as offline. Otherwise, the thing worked fine. It even came with ink cartridges, which I appreciate - ink cartridges aren't cheap.

While I was cursing at electronic devices, Mother Nature was doing her own work. By the time I headed for the Acme, the snow was half-gone from anywhere exposed to direct sunlight. I was able to ride to work on the street once I got off of Manor, which is still covered with packed snow.

Work wasn't a problem. It was on-and-off busy, and I filled in the slow times with candy stocking. My relief was on time, and I was in and out quickly.

Watched Three Stooges shorts when I got home and made steak with fried mushrooms and onions and roasted Brussels sprouts for dinner. Some classic material here, including the boys' attempts to sell medicine in "Dizzy Doctors" and save their father (Curly in a double role) from a conniving blond after his money in "Three Dumb Clucks."

I work early New Year's Eve and New Year's Day, so I decided to make special dinners both days to make up for it. Tomorrow, I'm going to finish my after-Christmas shopping at the Audubon Crossings Mall tomorrow and have lunch out. I'll make ground chicken lasagna New Year's Eve with Whipped Syllabub from Felicity's Cooking Studio.

The Cooking Studio will also provide a New Year's Day Colonial dinner - chicken pudding, sweet potatoes and apples, Sally Lunn Bread, and baked pumpkin pudding. This will be in honor of Felicity's retirement on the American Girl site.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A Bear of a Trip

I wanted to go to the mall today, but there were a few errands I just couldn't put off anymore. I rode my bike as well as I could around town. Hit the bank and did my laundry. The laundromat was dead; a lot of people either did their laundry before the snow hit, are away for the week on Christmas break, or are hiding from the snow.

When I got home, I put the laundry away, had a quick lunch...and headed right back out again. I wanted to take the 1:45 bus that would likely arrive in Audubon Park to the Cherry Hill Mall. Well, I walked over to near the tattoo parlor on the White Horse Pike, and waited...and eventually saw a bus going by. My bus. Which didn't stop, or even come on my side!

Needless to say, I was NOT happy. I finally decided to walk over to the Audubon Crossings Mall and take a look at the FYE there. It's closing down. I couldn't figure out why. I always thought it was really popular.

I finally picked the gift set for The African Queen that comes with a reprint of Katherine Hepburn's wonderful book about the making of that movie and the first Woody Woodpecker set. I used to love the Walter Lantz cartoons when they were on Fox in the late 80s and early 90s. Between the store's closing sales and my Membership Card, I whittled African Queen down to 28 dollars and Woody Woodpecker and Friends down to $17.99...and with the 30 dollar gift card Lauren gave me, it ended up costing 18 dollars.

And why is the FYE closing if it's so popular? Alas, the Audubon Crossings management apparently raised the rent beyond what FYE was willing to pay, popularity or no popularity. (I wonder if that's what sunk Fat Jack's Barbecue as well.)

I headed over to the bus stop on Nicholson Road after leaving FYE. This time, the bus DID pick me up. Barring some traffic in Cherry Hill, I finally arrived at the Cherry Hill Mall around 3:30.

I spent most of the time at JCPenney, my favorite of the four major department stores in this area. They always had great sales. I really did well there. I eventually picked up two long-sleeved t-shirts, 4 bras, a new pair of good New Balance sneakers for work (the old ones were literally falling apart), and a pack of heavy washcloths. Every single last item was on some kind of a sale - the bras were buy 2, get 2 free.

Just strolled around the mall next. I browsed in a few stores, but it was really crowded. Like me, everyone wanted to hit the big sales. My next stop was the smaller FYE next to Macy's. I made another great score there. In addition to picking up the second set of Three Stooges shorts (I may go back and get the first from the Audubon FYE later this week), they were having a 50% off all WebKinz sale. I've wanted the Signature Endangered Brown Bear since it came out a few months ago, but the large Signature WebKinz are usually $24.99. With the sale and my Membership Card, it came out to $11.25!

I was getting really tired at that point. I browsed in Macy's and Spring, looking for boots, but I either couldn't find what I wanted, or the line was too long. I want fur-lined, weather-proof boots. Actually, I'd like a pair of Uggs, too, but let's start with the ones that'll keep my feet dry in weather like this. The boots Miss Ellie gave me in the summer are cracked and old.

I had a Sweet Onion Teryiaki Sandwich and Sun Chips at Subway in the food court, then went back to JCPenney's to await the 7PM bus. (JCPenney is conviently next to the bus stop.) I found one more thing I needed there - a nice, thick pair of red knit gloves. My black gloves with the faux-fur cuffs are getting thin, and the heavy cheinile gloves have a hole in them.

(And I still have 22 dollars left on the last JCPenney gift card!)

This time, the bus picked me up and dropped me off with no problems. I walked home easily. Most people had cleared their sidewalks...and in many cases, what humans didn't clear, Mother Nature did. The grass on the Black Horse Pike is half-clear. It's still a bit windy, but not as bad as the last few days.

There was salt laid on my steps when I got home, but not on the porch. I'll do that myself tomorrow.

And meet Butch the Signature WebKinz Brown Bear! He's going to be one of the last WebKinz I get. I want to find a Silverback Gorilla and a Bluffadoodle...and after that, I don't really need any more WebKinz! I have over 85 online. I'll still play the game, but I need to start clearing stuffed animals, not buying more.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Snow Day!

Most of you who have seen the news know that the East Coast was slammed with anything from 6 to 20 inches of snow last night. Thankfully, we got about a foot - not a small amount, but far less than the Jersey Shore or than what we got during last year's December snowstorm.

That didn't stop the roads from being a mess, though. I don't think the dead end side of Manor was ever plowed, or at least, not salted or plowed well. When I did get up this morning, I decided to just spend the morning hanging out at home instead of risking the mess.

(Oh, and by the way, someone did finally show up to fix the radiator last night...around 10PM. At the very least, it's not making noise anymore.)

I walked to work around 2. I didn't want to drag anyone else out in the snow, especially if they haven't plowed or salted their driveways. Manor Avenue was a bit messy, but most sidewalks on Kendall were clear. I had a far easier time on the Black Horse Pike than I did yesterday - the high winds had blown much of the snow off of the sidewalks and much that I was able to walk across most of them at my normal speed.

The only place that was a problem both was was the ramp onto Kendall. Snow had blown into high drifts against the railings, but I wasn't taking a chance on the roads, especially later in the evening. Hiking over mountains of ice created by snow plows shoving snow against the curb was annoying, too.

Alas, it took me longer to walk there than I had anticipated. I was 15 minutes late. For all the business we had, I could have been a hundred minutes late. It got mildly steady during the usual 4PM rush hour, but was stone-cold-dead for the rest of the night.

Not surprisingly, the shelves were decimated. People in particular were complaining about missing eggs and bananas. The Philadelphia International Airport must have cleared their runways pretty quickly; by the time I finished at 7:15, I saw people buying eggs and bananas.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Walkin' In a Winter Wonderland

I was jolted out of bed around 7:30 by a loud banging noise coming from my living room. I thought it was a snow blower outside...until I looked outside and saw nothing but gray ground. We hadn't gotten a single flake of snow yet.

It was coming from my living room heater, behind the tree (which is pulled well away from it). It's been doing it on and off all day. I have no idea why it's doing it. It wasn't doing it yesterday.

I managed to make Johnnycakes and put on Brunch With the Beatles between bouts of noise. "Beatles #1 Songs" was the theme, but I didn't get to hear a whole lot of it.

I called Mom after breakfast. She was fine. Hers, Dad's, and Keefe's Christmas was quiet after we left. They cleaned up from the party that night. In the morning, they opened the remaining presents, and Dad made a smaller version of his famous Christmas morning breakfast. (The one that includes his greasy scrambled eggs and home-made hash browns...and that Mom always fusses leaves grease all over her kitchen.)

Anny's Christmas wasn't quite as pleasant. My 6-year-old nephew Skylar sneaked into the living room on Christmas morning and opened all of his presents before anyone else! Needless to say, no one is very happy with him right now. (Although how he managed that in the tiny house he and his mother and brother have in the Villas is beyond me. You'd think Anny would have heard SOME rustling paper.)

Left for work right after I finished my chat with Mom. The sky was gray and cold. It was chilly, but not windy. I saw a few scattered snowflakes as I sped along, but they weren't really much. Mom said they were getting huge piles of snow as I talked to her, but we hadn't gotten anything at quarter of 11.

Not surprisingly, work was a total madhouse when I got in. It was ridiculous. Everyone wanted to get home before the snow got bad...which admittedly, it did. By 2:30, those little flakes had become a blustery blizzard. The blizzard cleared out the crowd, but it also decimated our supplies. All of the eggs but the organic brown eggs were gone by the time I finished at 4, and bread was getting low, too. There was a surprising amount of milk, though.

Good thing, because snow or no snow, I had my own shopping to do. I needed a huge basketful of items - yogurt (plain and flavored), milk (there was plenty of half-gallon skim milk), ground chicken, a nice London Broil, tangerines (to replace the vanished bananas I haven't been eating much anyway), a bag of apples, grapefruit, an onion, apple cider (to make Felicity's Apple Butter), granola bars, and canned diced tomatoes. Restocked mousse mix, Smart Balance butter, and muffin cups after last week's baking. I treated myself to two bags of Land O'Lakes Mint Gourmet Hot Chocolate on sale and a half-price bag of York Peppermint Patties to freeze for a chewy treat. (I may get more Yorks tomorrow.)

And yes, I bought the organic brown eggs. I prefer brown eggs anyhow, and organic is as good as any. If I have to pay extra...well, at least I know my breads and cookies will be healthier.

I walked home. Before you look at me funny, first of all, a few people did offer to drive me, but I had the bike. Second, I didn't want anyone going out of their way on a day with weather most people around here can't handle well. Third...well, I WANTED the walk. I needed the exercise, and I loved my walks in the snow last year.

I had more of a problem on the Black Horse Pike. The wind was really whipping something fierce there. It blew into my eyes, covered my bike, and made it hard to push. Things were much better once I got to Kendall Boulevard. Newton River looked like one big greyish-white pearl, and Kendall looked like a Christmas card or a Thomas Kincaid painting. A series of spotlights casing a soft white, star-like pattern on the glittering snow were especially pretty.

Though I enjoyed my walk, I was glad to get home. I put on a few Bowery Boys movies and made salmon and spinach salad for dinner. Both Bowery Boys movies I had on today were from the later Stanley Clements years. Hot Shots had Duke and Sach playing bodyguard to a spoiled child TV star and wasn't much fun. Hold That Hypnotist, with Sach remembering where he hid a treasure in a past life under hypnosis, was much better.

Put on The Dress Circle after dinner. Tonight's theme was just what the doctor ordered - "Positive Songs For the New Year." The up-tempo songs to give people New Year's resolution ideas including "Don't Be Anything Less Than Everything You Can Be" from Snoopy the Musical, "You Mustn't Be Discouraged" from the Carol Burnett Broadway vehicle Fade Out, Fade In, "Life Has It's Funny Little Ups and Downs" from the 50s MGM movie I Love Melvin, and the wonderful Sting version of the British show tune favorite "Spread A Little Happiness" (which the hosts have used on New Year's before - for once, we all agree that it's lovely).

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Put A Little Love In Your Heart

It was cloudy and cool when I headed to my tree at around 7:30AM. I'd put Linda and James Young's presents for me out the night before. Linda and James are big fans of books, and that's what I got from them this year. They gave me a PD James mystery, "An Unsutable Job For A Woman," "Penny From Heaven" about a girl from an Italian family growing up in 1953 (I love Linda's stories about growing up in a big Italian family in the 60s), the children's book "The Birdsalls," about four sisters who have s surprising summer, and the American Girl book "Felicity's Cooking Studio," a reprint of Felicity's cookbook from the early 90s with a flower-shaped cookie cutter and helpful tips.

After I unwrapped my presents, I tossed together a Banana-Coconut-Dark Chocolate Chip Coffee Cake from baking leftovers and put on A Charlie Brown Christmas and A Christmas Story. The latter is a Christmas Day staple for many, including me. A kid in 1940 Indiana wants a Red Ryder BB Gun for Christmas and will do anything and beg anyone for it. From tongues on fire poles to Santa's boot in his face, Ralphie Parker spends a classic Christmas in pursuit of what he sees as the ultimate gift.

Went over to Dad and Uncle Ken's after Christmas Story ended. Dad, Jodie, and Jessa were up and moving. Jodie gave me a comfortable brown scarf. Jessa gave me four adorable Disney stuffed animals in Christmas gear, shaped like eggs. There were Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, and Goofy. Dad gave me a lovely card made from Christmas paintings my Pop Pop, Dad and Uncle Ken's father, made before he passed away in 1998. Pop Pop was a wonderful artist. His paintings grace many walls in Uncle Ken's house. My mother admired his work. I brought Felicity to show off her new Riding Habit, and she traveled with me for much of the day.

We were later leaving than we'd planned. Poor Dad lost $110 worth of gift cards! He searched all over the house for them. He finally found them in his file cabinet drawer under the drawer in his computer desk he'd put them in! He found a gap in the back of the top drawer, and the cards must have slipped through them.

We finally headed out to Sam and David's around 11:30-12. (Jessa came later on her own.) The boys had just gotten dressed in new matching sweaters. Sam and David were preparing for their big dinner with Samantha's mother, Jane, and her husband Mario. Faith spent most of the time playing with either her new Leapfrog puppy game or the dollhouse she got for her birthday last month. She barely stopped to look at the Disney Princess Magnetic Paper Dolls I bought her or put on the pretty, fashionable pink dress she got from Dad and Jodie!

The boys were, for once, more polite. They put together the Nerf basketball hoop I gave them right away, thanked me for it nicely, and happily showed off their new Mario Galaxy 2 game.

We left right after Aunt Jane and Mario arrived. When we got home, Uncle Ken, Dolores, and several of her children and grandchildren (including Mercedes and Blake) were there. I got to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and give Uncle Ken his present from me. I usually give him a Rachel Ray cookbook. He loves Rachel Ray. Dolores said he watches her every day. Dad watched AMC's Scrooged marathon and the beginning of the 1951 A Christmas Carol. Jodie made Spaghetti Salad for her dinner with her aunt and her family.

We went to dinner around 4. Jodie's Aunt Colleen is really nice. They live in a lovely house in Mt. Ephram. I got to see Jodie's dad and meet Colleen's husband and her four teenage and college-age sons. Colleen is close to Jodie, and her sons are good friends of Jodie's two college-age boys. Her house was beautifully decorated, with two large trees and lots of ornaments and Christmas figures. I admired the decorations and talked about record collections with Colleen when I noticed she had a Victrola like the one I used to own.

We had a very tasty dinner. There was ham and turkey breast, pasta salad, potato salad, cole slaw, Jodie's spaghetti salad, green bean casserole, home-made sausage stuffing, and stuffed shells. I had everything but the pasta and potato salads.

After dinner, we played a dice game called Left, Right, Center. Everyone starts with three dollars. You roll a dice that has a dot, an L, an R, and a C. If you get a L, you hand the person to your left a dollar. If you get a R, the dollar goes to your right. "C" means the dollar goes in the middle. A dot means you do nothing. We had a good time playing. Jodie's dad eventually won the pot, but it was fun.

The news ran all during the game. We joined the teenagers for a rather startling newscast. Seems some winter weather may be heading our way. There's a big snowstorm making its way across the south right now...and it may be even bigger when it gets to us tomorrow. I agree with Dad (who has been a sailor for 40 years and ought to know) that it'll probably hit coastal areas worse than us. Channel 3 was calling for anything from 4-18 inches of snow, but I suspect the 3-7 inches that the National Weather Service Predicted is more likely.

Dad, Jodie, and I rode home around 6:30. I spent the rest of a quiet evening crocheting, eating a small bowl of Edy's Peppermint Ice Cream, and watching the touching 1972 TV movie The House Without A Christmas Tree. Ironically, like A Christmas Story, this also deals with a memorable Christmas for a child living in the 40s. In this case, smart Addie wants a Christmas tree badly, but her dad says no. Like Ralphie, Addie comes up with some creative ways of getting what she wants, but they just upset her dad more...until a kind gesture of Addie's teaches her dad a bit about the Christmas spirit.

Friday, December 24, 2010

A Candle In the Window

I could not sleep this morning. Even though it wasn't Christmas Day yet, I was still too excited to sleep. I got up at quarter after 6 and tried to go back to sleep, but gave up around 7 and opted to read and write in my journal for a while instead. I made grits with banana, brown sugar, and butter and watched Christmas In Conneticut and Garfield's Christmas Special until I headed to Uncle Ken's at 10 to meet Rose and Craig.

Rose and Craig, of course, didn't arrive until after 11. They have an excuse this year, though - 9-month-old Khai. We met at Dad and Uncle Ken's so Rose, Craig, and Khai could give their presents to the Camden County side of the family. (They're going over to Craig's mother's house tomorrow.) Uncle Ken gave Rose and me these adorable stuffed Frosty the Snowmen dolls that dance when you take their hats off and put them on. Khai loved watching Frosty dance. He got a plastic "tool set" with a hammer and "nails" to whack and a dump truck that vibrates when you pull a "rock" in the bed.

We headed out around 11:30-noon. I squeezed in next to Khai's baby seat and had a very pleasant ride "chatting" with him and keeping him amused with his plastic keys. He's teething now (has four teeth on top) and loves anything he can put in his mouth. He did nap a little while we were on the highway, but he awoke when we stopped at a WaWa for drinks and a bathroom break.

Kelsey the Miniature Pincher was NOT happy with that WaWa stop! Kelsey just had an operation not long ago to remove a non-cancerous growth on her leg, and Rose and Craig didn't want to leave her alone. Kelsey is very attached to Rose. She rode in her lap both ways. When Rose went to WaWa to get a drink, Kelsey actually went over to the driver's side window, pushed the button with her paw, and lowered it all the way down so she could see when Mommy was coming back! What she didn't see was she also lowered the window next to Khai and me an unexpected blast of cold winter air! I'm just glad she didn't try jumping out the window.

We finally arrived in Cape May County with no more problems around 1. Mom was taking a shower and Dad was picking up 2-year-old Collyn and 6-year-old Skylar, but Keefe and his girlfriend Vicki were home. We chatted with them for a while before Vicki had to go to work. (She works at the same Michael's in Rio Grande that Mom does.)

Dad arrived with Skylar, Collyn, and Collyn's dad Mike about a half-hour later. The boys were very excited...maybe a bit too much. Mom finally came down, too. We chatted. We played with Khai. We kept Skylar from chasing Kelsey. We played Super Mario Brothers and Mario Kart on Wii.

We all sat down to dinner around 4. There were so many of us - 12 all together - that Dad and Keefe set up a card table at the end of the dining table. We had a delicious dinner of ham, romaine salad with home-made bacon dressing, mashed potatoes, potato rolls from Shop Rite, green beans with onion, and ambrosia. Mom out-did herself, as usual. Everything was just divine.

All three little boys were getting very fussy by after dinner. Collyn and Skylar got so crazy, Dad eventually took Collyn, Mike, and me out to look at lights in the next neighborhood over. We had a nice time. There were some really lovely light displays. My favorite was the house with all of the light sculptures, including two gingerbread people and a gingerbread house, a dancing snowman, an elephant on a ball, and a dolphin in a bird bath.

Our ride did the trick. Collyn was out like a light by the time we got home. He didn't even wake up to eat dessert. Mom set out her home-made snickerdoodles, sugar cookies, peanut butter cookies, and her famous chocolate chip bars. Rose and Craig contributed a fruit tart and chocolate mousse cake from Wegman's. A neighbor of Mom's had given her a carrot cake that was utterly divine.

After dessert, we finally opened presents. We really need to be more organized about it next year, when the boys are a bit older. I have no idea what happened to the cards I had for everyone. There was such a flurry of wrapping paper and hugs and bows, I still don't know half of what everyone got!

Rose and Craig gave me a Chia Herb Garden. (I hope I have enough sunlight for it.) Keefe gave me a 30 dollar gift card to Borders. Anny and her boys gave me awesome Miss Piggy slippers and a 15-minute-recipes cookbook. Mom and Dad gave me two lovely ornaments - a pretty china doll in a Christmas outfit and a gingerbread man in a Philadelphia Eagles uniform. I got my annual calender, this year with vintage Coca-Cola ads. Got Bath and Body Works body lotion (considering how dry my hands have been, I need it) and Oil of Olay lotion. Mom and Dad gave me Toy Story 3 on DVD, which I'm dying to see - I have the other two.

Mom did give me something from American Girl. My Felicity not only has the least clothes of my four girls, but hers are the most difficult to find for decent prices on eBay. And with her Archival announcement, most of her things sold out quickly on AG's website...including her Riding Habit. Yes, Mom got me the Riding Habit, a lovely green felt military-style outfit that will be perfect to keep Lissie warm this winter. She also hand-knitted her a gorgeous shawl and bought Springfield Collection sneakers for Molly and Jessa to share.

Dad gave me one of my two big presents. My old printer couldn't plug into the laptop Lauren gave me last Dad gave me a new printer. I'll hook it up later this weekend.

Mom gave me the best - and most surprising - present of all. About 20 years ago, Mom got a gorgeous print of a real animation drawing of Gus and Jaq the Mice picking up blue beads for Cinderella's pink bow gown in the Disney Cinderella. It's hung in her room or office ever since, and I've always admired it. Cinderella is one of my favorite Disney movies. Well, imagine my shock when I opened something that seemed to have a frame...and found that print! Mom apparently had gotten tired of it and said she couldn't think of anyone who'd appreciate it more. It was one of the sweetest presents anyone ever gave me.

I don't remember much about the ride back, other than Khai fell asleep the moment he was put in his car seat and it was otherwise uneventful. I got in around 8:30, dressed Felicity in her new Riding Habit and shawl, and went online.

And when I went online, I got another shock. Two of my fellow online WENN chatters, Mike from Oklahoma and Jen (the Jen who visited me last June and is now in the Navy) from Seattle are engaged! He flew all the way out to Washington State to be with her. That's the sweetest thing I ever heard.

In the words of Sydney Greenstreet at the end of Christmas In Connecticut, "What a Christmas!" ;)

I hope yours is equally full of wonderful surprises!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas Bowery Boys Stories Posted

Just posted the two Bowery Boys stories Lauren and I wrote for the holidays, "The Bowery Boys' Christmas Carol" and "How the Bowery Boys Saved Christmas." Enjoy!

Bowery Boys' Basement Clubhouse
Christmas Vacation

Started out a sunny, cold, blustery day with the very last thing I need to make for Christmas. For the last few years, I've made my dad's girlfriend Jodie and her sons Jesse and TJ a pumpkin pudding pie for Christmas, since they like the ones I make at other times of the year so much. That concludes my Christmas baking, wrapping, and shopping.

After I finished with the pie, I ran some errands around the neighborhood. I'm going to be meeting Rose, Craig, and Khai at Uncle Ken's house around 10 tomorrow, so I made all my neighborhood present deliveries today. I dropped Miss Ellie's cupcakes at her side of the house. I left my neighbors' bread on their front door. I brought the Dorias' cupcakes to their deli.

Went for a walk around the neighborhood after I left the Dorias'. I got to check out all of my neighbors' decorations in the daytime. As lovely as the lights are, there are other things to see, too. Some people had huge inflatable Santas or reindeer. Others had doors that were guarded by vintage light-up hard plastic nutcrackers and snowmen. Houses with elaborate front doors had big evergreen wreaths on windows. Snowflakes and large, glittering plastic ornaments hung from trees and porches. Windows that didn't flaunt wreaths had lovely candles or figurines. My walk felt very, very festive.

I stopped by the Oaklyn Library, hoping to do some volunteering. Alas, while they are open again, they're apparently only open for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday this week and next week before starting a full week's schedule again on January 3rd. That's ok. I'll just go back early next week.

Spent the remaining hour at home having lunch and watching National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation and the Remember WENN episode Christmas In the Airwaves. I figured Christmas Vacation was appropriate, considering that many adults and children will be going on their own holiday vacations starting today. I hadn't gotten around to Airwaves yet and had missed watching it with the other WENN chat members on Sunday; enjoyed it, as always.

It wasn't really busy in the neighborhood this morning. Must have been because everyone was already trying to get home. There was traffic on the Black Horse Pike around quarter after 12 when I was heading to work. I'm assuming everyone got off early and wanted to rush home or to their relatives' homes as quickly as they could.

Work was busy when I got in, too. It was really crazy between 1 and 4, confirming my suspicion that many people got off early and went shopping as soon as they left work. After about 4:30-5, it slowed down to on-and-off steady. It was still on-and-off when my relief arrived and I finally headed out.

I made a quick stop at Arby's for dinner (after buying pumpkin at work to restock what I used on bread and mousse pies this week). Despite my getting off at 6:30, Arby's was completely dead when I came in. I guess everyone is eating on the road or at home. I had a Philly Steak sandwich that got burned a bit on top and some Curly Fries.

Went straight home after that. It wasn't nearly as easy as getting to work. The wind was whipping something fierce, chilling me to the bone! I was so glad when I finally got inside and jumped in the shower.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Balance and the Holidays

Started off a sunny, clear, windy day with yoga class. I normally prefer the Thursday class, but I work at 12:30 tomorrow and won't really have the time. Erik is in charge of the Wednesday class, and while he's a very sweet man, he's also a yoga whiz. He's amazingly flexible. His classes tend to be fast-paced and difficult. We worked on hip-openers and joint flexibility today, including several ying poses and shoulder stands. I didn't really have a problem with anything but the shoulder stands (which I still can't do) - it was just a matter of keeping up with him!

Went straight to the Collingswood Library after class. Once again, there wasn't a lot to do there. I put two DVDs away, organized the DVDs, and shelved one non-fiction book upstairs.

It's just as well that there was nothing going on at the Library. I wanted to get home and do some raking for Miss Ellie. While we don't have nearly as many leaves on the ground as we did at this time last month, there's still more than there was last December. I wanted to get them up before the winter weather really sets in. Not to mention, this is the last week for leaf pick-up in Oaklyn. I also found another package from Lauren on the porch and a card from Meggan and Jason, married friends in Washington State.

I had a leisurely lunch of leftover chili and an apple before heading to work. Work was on-and-off steady all night, busier than it has been but not as bad as I figured it would be. Everyone must be waiting for Christmas Eve. There were no major problems, and my relief was on-time.

I opened my last present from Lauren when I got home. She gave me the adorable new WebKinz Gray Wolf. I'm going to name him Gabe, as in Dell, one of the original Dead End Kids who would later play the frequently-employed friend of the Bowery Boys. Gabe will move in with Frostina in her Winter Holidays Room.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

This Time of the Year

I slept in this morning, likely the only time I'll be able to do so this week. Read The Great Santa Search and my new Bowery Boys books in bed, then wrote in my journal. When I finally got out, I put on my clothes, had a quick breakfast of muffins and a half of a grapefruit, and watched Barbie In A Christmas Carol again before I had to take it back. I didn't get out to the Haddon Township Library until past 11.

I had a hard ride. Though it was sunny and a little less chilly than it has been, it was also very windy. The wind whipped across my face as I rode across Newton River Park. This time, I didn't see any wildlife, but I did see some older ladies walking dogs. The ladies were bundled up like Randy in A Christmas Carol.

The Library was quite busy when I got in. It was busy in the back, too. The librarians were showered with cookies and treats from various people. I got to sample some, too. The chocolate-covered cookies were especially good, and I liked the creative green marshmallow wreaths made from corn flakes and green-tinted Jet-Puffs.

I didn't want to linger at the Library for very long, since I had a lot of things to do today. I just shelved and organized DVDs. Found three kids' DVDs I wanted to take out. I grabbed the last episodes of the 2003 Strawberry Shortcake series Berrywood, Here We Come!, Volume Eleven of Charlie and Lola, and another Max and Ruby holiday collection, A Very Bunny Christmas.

My next stops were short runs to Super Fresh and the Dollar Tree. The Super Fresh carries carrots in bunches, which I prefer to the tasteless orange clubs Acme sells in bags. They also have better prices on maple syrup (one of the very few items with a price that's better than Acme's), and I forgot the mushrooms on Saturday. Also stopped at Dollar Tree for another Christmas bag.

Had lunch at Geneva Pizza on Cuthbert Road, a few blocks down from the Westmont Plaza. It was 1:30 when I got in, and the place was quiet. My only companions for a slice of cheese and broccoli pizza and a can of Diet Coke was Judge Alex on the big-screen TV across from me.

Headed home after lunch. I told Miss Ellie I'd rake under the bushes in the front of the house for her. After I finished that, I went for a walk around the neighborhood. Went to the end of Goff Avenue to check out how frozen the river's gotten. I had a wonderful, clear view all the way to the Ben Franklin Bridge.

Spent the rest of the evening at the apartment. Worked on the last baked item I need to make while watching Berrywood!. As you can guess from the title, these two stories are both movie-based. In the first, Strawberry's old friend Limelight is now a star...but like Eden Starling, Limelight has a serious me-first complex that alienates her old friends. The second story shows what happens when the girls try to make a movie to save an old theater and the Pie Man and Sour Grapes interfere.

To be honest, these aren't Strawberry's best by a long-shot. Neither made much sense, and Limelight changes her mind about her ways much too quickly and arruptly. It is nice to see the 2003 series come to at least some conclusion, though. However, mothers looking to introduce their daughters to the second world of Strawberry might want to start with the 2003-2005 entries.

Max and Ruby had a lot more fun. My favorites in this collection were "Grandma's Present" (Ruby shops for something special for Grandma, but the boa she picks is more appropriate for her than her rather tomboyish grandparent) and "Ruby's Snow Angel" (Ruby teaches Max to make snow angels, but he would rather search for the Abominable Snow Bunny).

Two stories show a rare spirit of cooperation among this pair. "Max's Christmas Tree" has the duo decorating their own tree. Ruby, as usual, wants it to be conventionally beautiful...but Max has his own definition of "beauty" that can work just as well. (I loved his pinwheel for a tree topper.) "Ruby's Sing-Along" has Ruby trying to decide on a song to perform for a talent show. She has no idea what to sing and play...until Max and his noisy animal toys give her a very creative answer.

Ran White Christmas while having chicken chili, spinach salad, and leftover mashed sweet potatoes for dinner. White Christmas tends to drag in spots (especially once the rom-com contrivances take over in the second half), but some of the numbers are sensational. I love both the girls and the guys' versions of "Sisters," the bizarre "Mandy" number, and the touching performance of the title song in the opening sequence.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Countdown to Christmas

Couldn't sleep in today. I had too much to do! I started the morning with this week's laundromat run. That may not have been the best idea. The place was the most crowded I've ever seen it, even at quarter of 10! I was very lucky to be able to get a washer and a dryer without waiting. I guess everyone's doing their laundry early before Christmas. (Either that or they put off doing it during the weekend in order to concentrate on holiday things.)

I usually ride by the Oaklyn Library on my way to and from the laundromat...and I noticed that the orange sign was gone and there were cars in the driveway. There was another sign in the door. This one stated that the Library was not only open and with nice new carpets on the floors, but extending its hours from 10-2 and 4-8 to 10:30-7:30 for most of the next two weeks! I'm so glad they're back. I've missed volunteering there. I didn't have the time today, but I'm off tomorrow.

When I got home, I put the clothes, dishrags, and cookie cloths away, then started the cupcakes. I usually use a mix for the cupcakes I give out because they make more, but I like to experiment with them to make them interesting. I crushed a candy cane and added it and some of that peppermint extract I bought last month to the batter. Alas, I think I overcooked them. They're soft on the inside and a bit tough on the outside. I'm hoping some home-made Candy Cane Frosting will help tomorrow.

I had chicken stew and an apple for lunch, then headed to work. Work was on-and-off busy, more so than it was over the weekend. A lot of people are in the midst of their Christmas baking now. I was able to stock quite a bit of candy between customers.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Miracle at the New Meadowlands Stadium

I once again slept in and read books in bed this morning. When I finally got up, I made Banana-Coconut Pancakes for breakfast and listened to the Brunch With the Beatles annual holiday show. Now, the Beatles didn't make any actual Christmas albums when they were together...but they all did holiday songs solo, including Paul's "Wonderful Christmastime," John's "Happy Xmas (The War Is Over)," and a Christmas album Ringo did in 1999 featuring the bouncy "The Christmas Dance." They also ran the Beatles' Christmas recordings for their fans from several years and an album of Beatles-style Christmas classics done by a Beatles tribute band.

Started work on Peanut Butter Surprise Muffins towards the end of Brunch. They're the second of the baked goods I'm making for presents this week. The "surprise" is strawberry jam in the middle. Some of them got messy, but they mostly seem to have come out all right.

I went to Dad and Uncle Ken's around quarter of 1 for the Eagles' game. My sister Rose and her 8-month-old son Khai were already there when I arrived. Khai is getting so big! He was pretty good until halftime, when his apparently lack of sleep caught up with him and he started getting cranky. My cousin Samantha had other guests and couldn't come, but several of Dolores' children and grandchildren did, including 12-year-old Mercedes, 7-year-old Blake, and 2-year-old May.

I could only stay until half-time. I had to work at 3. At the time, it seemed like it was just as well. The Eagles played poorly in the first half and were losing badly to the Giants 24-3. I had a roast beef sandwich quickly and went back to my apartment to pick up dinner, grab my bike, and head to work.

As it turned out, I saw the wrong half of the game. About an hour or so later, a woman in my line was chatting with her husband on her iPhone...and he was screaming so loud over the last couple of plays of the 4th quarter, she had to hold it well away from her ear! Apparently, the Eagles were able to turn things around shortly after I left and eventually made a huge comeback and beat the Giants 38-31.

(I TOLD Dad not to give up on them. He was saying when I left how the game was over and the Eagles wouldn't be going to the playoffs, oh well. I hate it when he does that. Mom does it, too. You don't drop something mid-way through...and you don't give up on a game during half-time. You never know.)

After that exciting news, work was steady all night, with no major problems. I suspect a lot of people were either watching the remaining games or still at the malls.

Put on the second half of The Dress Circle when I got home. The theme for this year's Christmas show was "Christmas On TV and Radio." We heard songs from the holiday made-for-TV musicals The Dangerous Christmas of Red Riding Hood, The Gift of the Magi, and the live-action version of The Stingiest Man In Town. I also caught the last two or three minutes or so of a 20-minute radio version of A Christmas Carol featuring Ronald Coleman as Scrooge and a final Christmas greeting from Frank Sinatra in his radio days.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Hark the Herold Angels Sing...and Get Tough

I once again began my day by sleeping in and reading The Great Santa Search and my wonderful new Bowery Boys books in bed. I didn't get moving until quarter of 10! When I did get going, I had grits for breakfast and watched the only Care Bears holiday special to date, The Care Bears Nutcracker. Originally a Care Bears Family episode (complete with the original credits), this is a very, very loose retelling of the famous ballet.

Actually, one of the things I like about the Care Bears version is that it's up-front about how loose this story is. The ballet teacher says right away that there's more than one way of telling this story...and one involves a little girl who just lost her best friend. When some of the Care Bears and Care Bear Cousins come down to Earth to cheer her up, they get involved with helping an amnesiac Nutcracker save Toyland and the Sugar Plum Fairy from the wicked Vizier.

I didn't head out to the Acme until almost noon. When arrived, the store was busy but not crowded...but the back room was hopping. Today is the Acme's annual Employee Christmas Party. I had to grocery shop today anyway, so I figured I'd join in (despite being off today). My cookies joined spinach dip, layered bean-and-cheese dip, potato and pasta salads, barbecue pork and hot roast beef sandwiches, baked ziti, green bean casserole, carrot cake, home-made pumpkin whoopie pies, deviled eggs from the deli, chocolate-covered pretzels from the bakery, a huge cheesecake, potato chips, and tons of Hershey's Miniatures. I had the pasta salad, baked ziti (I know - tons of carbs), a slice of carrot cake, a pumpkin whoopie pie, a chocolate-covered pretzel, a little spinach dip, and a couple of Miniatures. Chatted with several cashiers and deli people who were on their breaks as well.

After I finished eating, I still had a ton of shopping to do. My vegetables desperately needed to be restocked, as did my whole wheat flour. Wanted to grab eggs and Smart Balance Butter, too, before everyone else does for their baking. Needed peanut butter and low-sugar strawberry spread for the muffins I intend to make later in the week.

When I got home, I put everything away, then put on Angels With Dirty Faces and worked on Pumpkin Bread for a present. Angels is one of the several movies James Cagney made with Pat O'Brian, and probably the most famous. Cagney is a former reform-school kid who is now a major gangster. O'Brian was his best friend as a kid; he's now a priest who takes care of orphan street kids. Ann Sheridan is the girl Cagney used to tease whom he now rents a room from. The Dead End Kids (Leo Gorcey, Billy Hallop, Huntz Hall, Gabriel Dell, Bernard Punsley, and Bobby Jordan) are some of O'Brian's urchins who admire Cagney's criminal endeavors...maybe a bit too much for the good father's taste. Humphery Bogart is Cagney's crooked lawyer and partner.

This is one intense movie! I really enjoyed it, though melodrama usually isn't my thing. Everyone did very well, even the kids. Cagney and O'Brian were friends in real life as well and always play off each other beautifully. I liked Cagney with Ann Sheridan, too. They looked quite natural and relaxed together (even if I'm not entirely used to Ann Sheridan as a brunette).

After the pumpkin bread finally came out of the oven, I decided to go for a walk. I had to run some errands, anyway. Needed to go to the ATM machine at the bank to deposit my paycheck and to WaWa for milk. I strolled around the neighborhood between errands, looking at lights. There was one house on Newton that had a tree almost entirely wrapped in gorgeous blue-and-white LED lights. It looked magnificent against the black sky.

After I got home, I made tilapia with spinach with mushrooms and onions for dinner and switched to the original 1947 version of Miracle On 34th Street. After that, I ran a couple of winter and Christmas-oriented Donald Duck cartoons, including Toy Tinkers and the debut of everyone's favorite mischevious chipmunks, Chip N' Dale.

Alas, I didn't really get to watch much of the cartoons. I spent a frustrating hour trying to get a fish bone out of my throat. I really panicked, and while it did come out (right before I got in the shower), my throat is still a bit sore.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Angels We Have Heard On High

I stayed up late last night reading my new Bowery Boys books and subsequently got a later start on the Molasses Roll-Outs than I originally planned. The Molasses Roll-Outs are a cut-out molasses-spice cookie, and they're what I do instead of sugar cookies. Everyone does sugar cookies, but I like these much better. They're rich and crispy and spicy, and not too sweet like many commercial sugar cookies. Like the Biscotti, they get sprinkled with sugar or cinnamon imperials.

Ran The Bishop's Wife while working on the cookies. One of three classic Christmas movies made in 1947 (and one of two dealing with angels), this one tells of a troubled bishop (David Niven) who prays for guidance when he's trying to raise funds for a huge cathedral. He's visited by Dudley (Cary Grant), an angel who shows him what really matters - the love of his friends, his daughter, his smaller, older parish, and his sweet wife Julia (Loretta Young).

This is an enjoyable tale of Christmas cheer. Grant makes for a wonderful angel (I know a lot of people who want him to do the tinsel on their tree), Young is luminous, Niven does well as the unhappy bishop, and character actor Monty Wooley has a grand time as a professor who has never found the words or reason to start his volume of world history...until Dudley gives him one.

I finished both the cookies and The Bishop's Wife just in time. I gulped my leftover chicken stew, changed into my work uniform, grabbed my coat, and hurried to work.

It almost wasn't worth the rush. Work was a little steady during rush hour, but otherwise very dead for most of the night. I'm assuming everyone is still at the malls.

I did discover that yes, I have Christmas Eve and Christmas Day off next week. I also have Tuesday off, and no really late hours. Good. I'll have a chance to get the rest of the baking done.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Balance and the Winter Weather Surprise

It was mostly sunny, cold, and windless this morning when I headed out for this week's yoga class. A full class concentrated on variations on one of my favorite poses, the Warrior pose. It's a basic standing pose, and for once, I'm actually quite good at it. Other than I can't really bind, I actually felt really good about the pose.

I got my first of several surprises of the day when I left class and headed for the library. While the thrift shop is now officially closed, it would seem that the Collingswood Variety Store has been (temporarily?) resurrected. There was a sign in the door that said they're open from 12-4 most days. I'm wondering if someone bought them, or they're just trying to sell off the last of their stock?

The library wasn't terribly busy, possibly due to the cold. I just put away and organized DVDs. Went home early. By this point, it was getting cloudier and colder, and I had other things I wanted to do.

High on that list of "things I wanted to do" at home was make the Cherry-Coconut Bar Cookies. I love coconut, and for several years I tried different Christmas cookies that featured coconut before falling in love with these. They're made the same as Lemon Squares, with a pastry bottom that's baked first, but the filling is made from coconut and cherries instead of lemon. I made sure to grease the bottom of the pan; the recipe in The Betty Crocker Cooky Book says not to, but the last time I didn't, I couldn't get the darn things out of the pan. They came out beautifully, flaky and sweet and very, very pink!

By the time I headed to work, the clouds had gathered...and they had the pearly-whiteness of snow. A few flakes were just starting to tumble down as I rode to work, but I assumed it was a passing flurry and thought nothing of it. We weren't supposed to get any kind of snow.

At least, I thought nothing of it...until I saw quite clearly when I peeked out the windows of the lobby about an hour and a half later that it not only continued to snow hard, but it was sticking. The Acme was on-and-off busy, surprising for such crazy weather. Considering the way everyone was fussing, I'm surprised anybody was out at all once the snow started. I have the feeling my customers didn't like being taken by surprise; no one on any local forecast said anything about even a dusting of snow.

I briefly debated calling Dad or Uncle Ken for a ride home. Then people started giving reports of the long, long line of traffic on the Black Horse Pike and all the accidents caused by people who wouldn't go slow on the slippery roads. Obviously, this night was not made for cars. I treated myself to Edy's Peppermint Ice Cream (they started tomorrow's sale early) and walked home.

I'm glad I did. The snow was gone by the time I got out. We only got a dusting, but it still looked lovely against all the Christmas lights. I had no problem walking. I slipped slightly twice and had a close call with a glossy sign that had fallen over on the Oaklyn ramp. Otherwise, I walked at my normal speed with absolutely no problems. (Given the black ice, I wasn't going to chance getting on the bike.) In fact, it was so nice, I took a shortcut through Audubon Park and got my walk to admire the lights in after all.

There was a package waiting for me when I got home. It was from Lauren. I decided to have the crock-pot chicken stew I'd started for dinner and wait until I got online to open my present from her. Good thing - turns out there was more to the package. I had to pull on my boots after my shower and go get the rest of it, which I hadn't seen on the porch.

It was worth it in the end. Lauren is the most wonderful best friend in the whole world. She made me copies of the remaining Bowery Boys movies with Huntz Hall and Stanley Clements and two books on the Bowery Boys, From Bowery to Broadway and The Films of the Bowery Boys. The former was kindly signed by its author, Len Getz. She also gave me two more movies, Angels With Dirty Faces and They Made Me a Criminal, the new WebKinz Ice Dragon, a program to make covers for home-made CDs and DVDs, and tons of gift cards to eBay, JC Penney, Barnes and Noble, FYE, and the Vermont Country Store.

Oh, and the beautiful Frostina the Ice Dragon will be either getting a snow room or a Christmas room (or maybe a combination of the two).
Last Monkees Dream World Fanfic Posted

I just posted the last Monkees fanfic Lauren and I intend to write for a while, The Monkees and the Big Store, at our Dream World. For the time being, we're now going to work on writing fanfic for the more-neglected Bowery Boys.


The Monkees and the Big Store

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Lemon Biscotti

I was just finishing breakfast and preparing to make the dough for the Biscotti this morning when the phone rang. Yup, it was the Acme. Could I come in at 12:30 and work eight hours? There was a call-out.

No, I couldn't work eight hours. I really shouldn't have worked at all, but I need the extra hours. I ended up going in from 12:30 to 5:30. I wasn't terribly happy about it, but I don't want my bank balance to start tipping towards empty again. I did manage to get the Biscotti dough done before I headed out.

After all that, the Acme was mildly steady all day, never really busy. There were a few annoying customers (including one lady who stared at me while I bagged everything...then proceeded to re-bag several herself), but other than that, there were no major problems.

I still felt a little down when I got out. I really wanted to get the Molasses Roll-Outs done today, too. To cheer myself up, I decided to do the other thing I had planned for today, wander around the neighborhood and look at light displays. I just did it on my bike instead of on foot.

It wasn't a bad night for it, too. Yes, it was cold, but there was a nice snap to the air, and the breeze had the scent of burning pine from many fireplaces and wood stoves. It felt good to be outside after being in the warm kitchen and the stale air of the Acme all day.

The people of Oaklyn have a lot of fun decorating for the holidays. The lights around here range from candles in windows to lights wrapped around porches, railings, roofs, and yards in displays that make Clark Grizwauld look restrained. I especially like the pretty LED lights - the vibrant blues and greens on those strings look especially nice. I also noticed a few houses now have multi-colored icicle lights that were very attractive.

I finally got home around 6. After a quick dinner of a hoagie I bought at the Acme, I got down to the business of making biscotti. The biscotti I give away for Christmas isn't the hard rusks many of you eat with your coffee. Instead of baking them into rusks, I roll them into candy cane and wreath shapes and decorate them with colored sugar and cinnamon Imperials.

In fact, I think the Biscotti are my favorite to actually make of my yearly Christmas cookies. They're easier than the Molasses Roll-Outs and a lot more fun than the bar and drop cookies! The only reason I don't make them for myself year-round is they use a lot of butter and are also very fattening.

I ran the 1986 Babes In Toyland while making the Biscotti. This is an odd one. Drew Barrymore plays a very adult young lady from Cincinatti who doesn't believe in toys or Christmas...until she dreams that she finds herself in the title fantasy world, helping Jack Be Nimble and Mary Quite Contrary escape the evil Barnaby!

I think it's kitschy-but-cute. Drew Barrymore is fine as the overly adult Lisa and familiar sitcom actor Richard Mulligan has a blast as Barnaby. Other folks are a lot less comfortable, including Pat Moriyata as the Toymaker and Keanu Reeves (!?) as Jack. This and the other video I watched tonight, the 1975 animated Yes Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus aren't currently on DVD, but could probably be found fairly cheaply on eBay.

As for the Molasses Roll-Outs, I'll just flip-flop my plans for tomorrow and do them Friday and the Cherry-Coconut Bars tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Baby, It's Cold Outside!

I awoke to literally freezing upper 20s temperatures in Southern New Jersey and brisk 40-mile-an-hour winds. Spent a little time in bed before finally dragging myself out for oatmeal for breakfast.

Lauren and I are working on a Bowery Boys Christmas Carol fanfic, so I ran various versions of A Christmas Carol all day. Did Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol during breakfast. The very first network animated special is best-known for a lovely score by Broadway's Jules Styne and Robert Merril, including the ballad "Winter Was Warm" and the Cratchits' rousing anthem "We'll Have the Brightest Christmas."

After breakfast, I bundled up in my big black coat and the knitted stocking cap Mom made me several years ago, hopped on the bike, and headed for the Haddon Township Library for this week's volunteering session. It was cold and very windy in the park. Needless to say, I saw no children in the playground, dog-walkers, or joggers today. The only people in the park besides me were Canadian geese and fat ducks having a mid-morning snack.

The Library wasn't terribly busy when I arrived, not surprising, given the cold day. I did help a little girl and her mother find a Callieu DVD. I also shelved adult DVDs and returned childrens' books. I took out Barbie In A Christmas Carol to continue the Dickens theme I had going (and because it was the only Christmas DVD I could find in the library).

Went across the street after leaving the library. Made a quick stop at Dollar Tree for an anniversary card for Mom and Bill-Dad (their big day is the 16th) and to restock my Christmas cards.

After I left Dollar Tree, I went a few doors down to the Bagel Shop for lunch. It was around quarter after 1. The kids were gone, but there were plenty of nurses on break from various local hospitals and other professionals on their way to or from work there. There was a long table filled with the Bagel Shop's cookie trays and boxes in the front of the stores. It looked very festive. I had a nice, hot bowl of beef chili and a toasted honey-oat bagel for lunch. It was really good, nice and warm and not too spicy.

Headed for home after lunch. I spent the next hour running Barbie In A Christmas Carol and making the dough for the Peanut Butter Cookies. I rented Barbie's Christmas Carol last year as well, though not this close to the holidays. Mattel's Scrooge is a spoiled singer named Eden Starling who insists the performers in her variety show stay and rehearse during Christmas Day, which doesn't make her very popular. She couldn't give a fig...until three ghosts appear and make her change her mind. One of the better Barbie In/As specials; I love the much-improved CGI animation, including some of Eden's hilarious facial expressions.

Went for a walk around the neighborhood while the dough was chilling. I love how festive Oaklyn gets around holidays. Many houses had wreaths on their doors. Others had elaborate light displays. Some had inflatable figures or older ones made of hard plastic. A smattering of houses had menorahs in the windows. I loved the one with the Mr. Potato Head toy among what appeared to be Hummel figurines in the big picture window. Stopped at WaWa and bought low-fat French Vanilla cappuccino and orange juice to make cranberry-orange muffins later.

Spent the rest of the evening making Peanut Butter Cookies and Cranberry-Orange Muffins and watching the 1951 British Christmas Carol with character actor Alistair Sim and The Muppets' Christmas Carol. Other than an expanded past sequence, the '51 Christmas Carol is about as straight of a version as you can get. The Muppets add a hilarious Gonzo and Rizzo the Rat as the narrators/guides, not to mention talking vegetables. Michael Caine is their Scrooge; Kermit and Miss Piggy are the Cratchits.

Finished the night with Bugs Bunny's Christmas Tales while I had salmon, mashed sweet potatoes, applesauce, and steamed broccoli for dinner. This early 80s special is made up of three new shorts, the first of which is a short version of A Christmas Carol. Yosemite Sam is Scrooge. Porky Pig is Bob Cratchit. Bugs is Nephew Fred...but he takes it upon himself to give Sam Scrooge a Dickens of a time by appearing as a ghost and scaring him into changing his ways!

(Incidentally, a much longer Looney Tunes version of A Christmas Carol came out a few years ago, with Daffy as Scrooge and Porky Pig once again taking the Bob Cratchit role. I haven't seen it, but it's much easier to find than Christmas Tales, which I believe is only on DVD as part of the Looney Tunes Gold Collection Volume 5.)

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Cookie Baking Begins

Started a cold, windy, partly cloudy day with a run to the laundromat. Surprisingly, it wasn't busy at all when I got there around 10. There was a family with a small child that kept crying and two older ladies. I had no problems getting a washer or a drier. I really didn't have that much laundry, either. I was in and out in a little over an hour.

After I got home and put the laundry away, I began the next phase of my holiday season - baking cookies! This may be one of my favorite parts of the Christmas season. I bake five kinds of cookies to give to adults and families as gifts and to bring to the Acme's Christmas party:

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip
Peanut Butter
Molasses Roll-Outs
Cherry Coconut Bars

The Oatmeal Chocolate Chip are the easiest and were the ones I did today. They come from the frequently used recipe I got out of Prevention Magazine last year. That recipe is so good, it should be shared.

It did, however, take longer to bake than I thought. I changed, left the cookies to cool, packed a dinner, and rushed to the Acme for today's shift. I made it just in time.

Work was mostly on-and-off busy and downright dead after 7. We did have a few annoying customers. One was that obnoxious guy who always insists everyone put the paper bags in the plastic bags for him (like that's so hard to do?) and then takes years to bag everything himself. The guy after him threw a fit because I told him he had to get his turkey weighed by the meat department so he could use his rain check for those 39 cent birds from Thanksgiving. He threw the turkey at me and took off so angry, I got upset. (And didn't give me the chance to tell him he had the wrong bird, anyway. That sale was for turkeys, not turkey breasts.) Thank goodness the people after HIM were really nice.

After all that, I was more than happy to spend the last two hours putting candy away. I didn't even mind it being dead, other than the time crawled something horrible.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Wet Christmas

Slept in, then enjoyed Corn Griddle Cakes and a half of a grapefruit while listening to Brunch With the Beatles. Their theme today was "The Beatles In 1969." Good; I prefer their later music. That meant plenty of songs from Abbey Road and Let It Be, including "Get Back," "The Ballad of John and Yoko," and "It's Too Much."

I tried calling Mom after breakfast, but I just got a busy signal. Oh well. I'll try again tomorrow. I updated my finances online instead. I'm going to have to pay my bills this week, but otherwise, my major shopping is done. If anyone shows up unexpectedly, they're getting food or a gift card.

It had been gray, cloudy, and windy all morning, but the rain from last night was gone. This remained as I rode to work. Work was on-and-off steady all night, with no major problems. I was in and out on time. I stocked up on eggs and milk for baking and gift tags for next week's cookie containers, then headed home.

By the time I was on the bike again, it had just started raining. Thankfully, it didn't get really heavy until well after I was inside, eating spinach and cheese egg pancakes and Banana-Apple Muffins for dinner.

Went online for this week's The Dress Circle at 7. The theme was "Everyone Sings Cole Porter," i.e jazz and vocalists sing Cole Porter standards. Even Fred Astaire's classic, smash-hit version of "Night and Day" couldn't compete with the composer himself. I've always loved Cole Porter's charming rendition of "You're the Top," which I have on a 30s CD.

Oh, and the Eagles have the late game for the second week in a row. At press time, they're tied 7-7 with division rivals the Dallas Cowboys.
New Bowery Boys Story Posted and News On Monkees Series

First of all, I just posted one of our latest Bowery Boys stories. With Disney's version of Rapunzel now a hit in theaters, we thought we'd give the boys (and our invented character Sally) a crack at it in the form of "Sally-punzel."


Oh, and for all two of you who still read our Monkees "Dream World" stories, Lauren and I have talked it over for a few months now, and we've decided as of tonight that the holiday story will be the last Monkees fanfic we write for a while. We're both still Monkees fans, but we've been doing the "Dream World" series since May 2004 and are really burnt out on it. Not to mention, we've been enjoying writing the Bowery Boys stories together, and we never did come up with a Monkees story for last month.

We're going to finish out the year with the holiday story, but that'll be it for a while. We might return to it. We might not. We'll see what happens.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Together For Christmas

It was partly cloudy but a lot less chilly when I got up this morning, already in the mid-40s and windless. It was a very nice day to get things done. I wanted to run my errands before my friend Amanda arrived from Vineland around 11. I packed up the boxes for my friends Linda and James in Georgia and Lauren in Massachusetts and a small package for my little nephew Collyn, who turns 2 today, and headed over to the Oaklyn Post Office on the White Horse Pike.

I wish I hadn't. The Oaklyn Post Office is tiny and cramped. There was barely enough room for the short line. When it was finally my turn, I first was told that I had to cover the "media mail" stamps on one box with marker. Then they said the zip code on another was wrong and had to look the damn thing up and hold up the line doing so! I felt so embarrassed. I should have figured this all out when I was at home.

I did finally get the packages sent out. Went straight to the bank after I left the post office. They were very dead, and I was in and out as quickly as possible. Good thing, too. Amanda arrived about fifteen minutes later.

Amanda is my other best friend besides Lauren. We met when we were in some of the same classes at Stockton College around 1999. She's my only friend from college I've stayed in touch with since then. Until last year, we would get together at Christmas and do something special together. Sometimes, we'd go see a holiday show, like "The Nutcracker Ballet." Sometimes, it would be something as simple as shopping.

Alas, Amanda wasn't able to come up from Vineland, where she lives with her parents, last year due to major car trouble. No such problems this year - she had a very nice used gray-green two-door Ford with comfy plush seats, a CD player, and huge cup holders for her beloved coffee.

We ended up in Collingswood for a few hours. We had brunch at Tortilla Press (the Mexican restaurant I treated myself to during my August vacation). We shared the basket of home-made corn chips dusted with cinnamon sugar and both had the Breakfast Enchiladas. They came two to a plate, drizzled with salsa and sweetened sour cream. There was potato hash with green and red peppers and a spicy black bean dish on the side. We both ate everything but the beans, which were too spicy for either of us. Amanda said she'd take the beans home to her dad, who loves spicy food.

We had a nice time, strolling through Collingswood and browsing in the stores. We stopped at the thrift shop, which is (finally) on its last day. I bought three records - Wings, the original cast album of the 1975 musical Shenandoah, and an Anne Murray Christmas LP. We browsed in the used book store, where Amanda bought a collection of stories about witches and ghosts. We went to Grooveground. Amanda got a Peppermint Mocha Latte; I bought a chilled drink made from pomegranate juice, mint, and club soda. (The "Pomegranate Chiller" was very good. Mint and pomegranate aren't the first flavors I'd think of blending, but the drink was quite tart and refreshing. I might have to get it again sometime.)

After we left Collingswood, we went back to my place for a half-hour to open presents. She's a Yankee Candle addict and had been taking advantage of a store that apparently just opened near Vineland. She knows I'm not crazy about candles, so my presents were non-burning items - a stuffed-and-wooden snowman carrying two lip glosses, and a porcelain gingerbread ornament that smells like spices. Both are welcome. I love gingerbread and ornaments, I need lip gloss, and the snowman is winter-oriented enough that I can keep him out until March.

Amanda left around 2. She was due at a birthday party in Vineland at 4:30 and had to pick up some co-workers on the way. I'm so glad we were able to get together this year, even if she couldn't stay for very long. She works at a Bob Evans and as a substitute teacher for the Vineland School District. She's very busy, and it's often hard for us to coordinate schedules. We might try to get together again in the spring, after the weather defrosts a bit.

My other big event of the morning was the arrival of the last Christmas present I'd ordered from I wrapped it as soon as Amanda left. This means all of my material gift Christmas shopping is DONE. My remaining presents are either under the tree or in the mail. I can now move my attention to the next phase of my Christmas season - cookie baking!

I realized when I was wrapping the gift that I don't have enough gift tags for all of my baked presents. I went on a stroll to CVS to see if they had any. Stopped at Dad's to say "hi" to him and Jodie on the way. They were putting up Dad and Uncle Ken's (real) Christmas tree when I stopped by. Dad and Jodie had just come home from a trip to Cape May the day before and were happy to settle down into getting ready for the holidays.

CVS didn't have gift tags...but they did have the Russell Stover's Coconut Wreath that I love. I hadn't seen that yet this holiday season. It's a patty made of coconut and milk chocolate. I'm not normally a fan of milk chocolate, but the combination of chocolate and crunchy coconut is irresistible.

I'm not the only one who thinks so, either. I haven't seen the Coconut Wreath anywhere else, including the Acme. There were only a few left at CVS, and they're apparently sold out on Russell Stover's site as of tonight in individual packages.

Spent the rest of the evening at home. I made tilapia, roasted Brussels sprouts, and potato pancakes for dinner while watching Holiday Inn. I edited the Bowery Boys version of "Rapunzel" Lauren and I wrote last week - look for it later tonight!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Mint Chocolate Chip Dreams

Began this morning elbow-deep in cocoa and mint and dark chocolate chips. I was making Mint-Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies to send some friends. I think they came out very well, very rich and minty, even if they took a while.

In fact, they took a lot longer than I expected. I barely managed to get a short walk around the neighborhood and lunch in before I headed to work!

Today was my 7 1/2 hour work day, 12:30 to 8. Ironically, it ended up being on and off steady all day, and never more than mildly busy. It went by very quickly, and there were no major problems.

Good thing, because I had a LOT of shopping to do after work! I'll be doing cookies all next week, so I stocked up on things I needed for those, mostly butter and the coconut and maraschino cherries for the Cherry-Coconut Bars. I also needed plastic containers to put the cookies in. That was in addition to all the usual stuff I need - grapefruit, apples, bananas, yogurt, granola bars, soup, Wheat Chex, and chicken breasts.

My schedule next week is pretty much the same as this week's was originally - a little over 20 hours, three days off including next Saturday. (I'll probably end up going in Saturday anyway for grocery shopping and the Acme's store Christmas party.) On one hand, I could use the hours...but on the other hand, it'll be nice to have plenty of time to get the cookies done, for once.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Wrapping Balance

Started out a brisk, sunny day with this week's yoga class. It was fairly quiet - a lot of people are probably just starting to get into the holidays. Good thing, too, because we concentrated on balancing poses and back stretches. I can walk up the wall ok, but I'm not very good with some of the balancing. I tend to need to lean on blocks.

Went to the Collingswood Library next for a volunteering session. Not much going on there, either. I shelved a few DVDs and organized the DVD section. There was nothing to put away upstairs at all, so I just went home early.

Spent most of the rest of the afternoon finishing with the present-wrapping. All of my purchased presents are now wrapped and under the tree but one. That's my sister's present, which I had to order online when I couldn't find it in Philadelphia. It should be coming by next week.

I had a Peanut Butter and Peach Butter Sandwich and an apple for lunch, then went straight to work. Work was steady for most of the evening, but other than my relief was late, there were no problems.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

"It's Christmastime In the City..."

And I've had a very long day. I don't remember Philly being this crazy when I went shopping last year. The PATCO was full when I stepped on the Philadelphia Local around 10:30 this morning. I was very glad to be able to find a seat. Perhaps people were taking advantage of the decent weather. It was still very cold, about 35 degrees, but the clouds were gone and it wasn't nearly as windy as it has been.

I made a wrong turn at the PATCO station and ended up at the Mellon Center instead of the Gallery Mall. That was ok. I took a quick peek at the toys at Ross Dress For Less, then just headed out the Market Street entrance and went down the block to the mall.

Made my first find of the day at the big FYE at the Gallery Mall. I was looking for an action DVD for my stepdad I thought he might like at the FYE in Audubon, but I couldn't find it there. I was able to pick it up for a good price in Philly. Peeked at the Gallery Mall's Toys R Us Express for something for my cousin Samantha's 5-year-old daughter Faith (the only kid left on my list) before heading out.

My next stop was Rite Aid for allergy medicine. Then, it was onto Macy's to see the Light Show, the Dickens Village, and pick up something for my stepsister Jessa. BIIIIGGGG mistake. By this point, it was past 12, and Macy's was a total mob scene. There were piles of kids waiting to watch the Light Show, and a line going half-way across the third floor to get into the Dickens Village! It took me twenty minutes to find a short line in the housing department so I could buy my present for Jessa. I never did get to see the Village.

I did get to see the Light Show, though. As always, it was worth it. Thousands of tiny LED lights cascade from the Grand Hall, telling condensed versions of several holiday stories through colorful images, Julie Andrews' narration, and a gorgeous, fully-lit Christmas tree (re-added a few years ago). No wonder this has been a Philadelphia holiday tradition for at least 40 years. It had every single child in the entire building spellbound. The bears with the trumpets are still my favorites.

Here's the older version of the show, sans the tree.

I was so happy to get out in the cold air after all the warm bodies in Macy's! I doubled back and headed to Reading Terminal Market for lunch. Had a Chicken gyro from that same Mediterranean booth Lauren and I ate at in June and I ate at alone on my birthday. They're cheap, and they make good food. I also treated myself to a butter almond cookie from The 4th Avenue Cookie Company booth near the entrance.

After I finished lunch, I went through City Hall and onto the Avenue of the Arts to visit the big FYE and Borders there. No luck at FYE, but I did get Uncle Ken his present at Borders. It was almost 4 by the time I got out of Borders. Neither store was anything resembling as busy as Macy's had been, but I did a lot of browsing, especially at FYE.

Headed down Chestnut Street for my last stop of the day at the Liberty Place Mall. Turns out that they, too had a Toys R Us Express. Compared to the ones I'd seen at the Gallery Mall and in Audubon, this one was HUGE! I did see some doll clothes, which was my original idea for Faith...but then I noticed more areas even further in the back. I finally found Disney Princess Magnetic Paper Dolls, which I thought she'd get even more of a kick out of.

It was past 4:30 when I finally made my way down to 15th Street, after making a quick stop at CVS on Chestnut for pads. I was lucky to be able to hop on a rather surprisingly not-full PATCO home. Other than being cold, my ride home was no problem at all.

I spent the rest of the evening wrapping presents. I didn't quite finish. I think I still have five left to do. Plus, I never did find what I wanted for Rose in Philly. I finally just ordered her present from, which I consider to be a last resort. Online shopping may be a great option for people who don't have the patience for it, but I really do enjoy shopping. I love browsing, seeing the people, getting out, enjoying my finds.

On the other hand, I don't enjoy long lines, grouchy sales clerks, or tripping over everyone and their grandmother. I think next year, I'll try to avoid the crowds by starting my trip at the Liberty Place Mall and the Avenue of the Arts and ending it at Macy's and the Gallery Mall. Hopefully, the latter will be less crowded in the late afternoon.

Oh, and my box from Linda and James Young came today. There were a few wrapped presents that looked like books. I didn't open them; I'll save them for Christmas Day. There was also a stack of DVDs with copies of a series of mystery TV movies Linda likes, McBride. I'm a fan of John Larroquette, so I'm definitely willing to check these out.

Here's Linda's fan site with more information.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

A Child's Christmas In the Grocery Store

I got up early enough this morning to get my Christmas cards done before I go to work. Only two cards get sent through the actual mail. All of the others are either part of packages or are given directly to the recipient. Saves me a lot of stamps, and I think it's more personal when you give them out instead of send them.

Ran Very Merry Christmas Songs while doing the cards. I was disappointed to see that the original wrap-around segments reusing footage from the 50s Jiminy Cricket Christmas special (and the song from that special "From All Of Us to All of You") have been exchanged for a more elaborate wrap-around featuring a huge model town and railroad and a ponderous narrator.

Otherwise, all of the sing-alongs from the original video are present and in their original forms (other than a remixed version of "March of the Wooden Soldiers"). Some of the additions are obvious shills for other Disney direct-to-video productions of the era; others, such as the Bing Crosby "White Christmas," are more welcome. And even the obvious plugs have their uses. This may be the only place to easily find "As Long As There's Christmas" from Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas. That "mid-quel" has been out of print for several years on video and DVD. (I'm surprised Disney didn't re-release it when they put Beauty and the Beast back out in October.)

Work was actually kind of fun, for once. I'm glad one of the managers called me in yesterday morning. First of all, I really need the extra hours. Second, it was on-and-off busy, which gave me a chance to finish the candy I started yesterday.

Third, we had four groups of kindergartners from different area schools touring the store today. Some of them had more time to spend at the store than others, but they were all really enjoyable to watch, and just so cute! I loved how they'd all say "Merry Christmas!" to everyone on the front end, customers and Acme employees alike.

I was done at 2:30, home by quarter after, and out again by 3. I really wanted to get some volunteering in at the Haddon Township Library. That was my original plan for today anyway. I avoided the worst of the traffic on Cuthbert by taking the path through Newton River Park both ways. It was windy, cloudy, and cold, but the park was surprisingly busy with joggers and walkers.

As it turns out, there wasn't a whole lot to do at the library. They already had several kids just out of school doing CDs and audio books. I put away the few DVDs and shelved kids' books. I ended up taking out the one Christmas DVD I could find, Max and Ruby's Christmas.

Went straight back to the apartment after I was done at the Library. I put chicken breasts in the kitchen to marinate in Teriyaki sauce for an hour, then put on Max and Ruby. My two favorite bunny siblings celebrated the holidays by waiting for Santa, learning to make a figure eight, building a snow queen, having a tea (and pirate) party, and holding a surprise party for Ruby's friend Louise.

Ran The Year Without a Santa Claus while having Teriyaki Chicken and Broccoli, brown rice, and eggplant Parmesan for dinner. One of the most famous Rankin-Bass specials tells the tale of how Santa caught a bad cold one November and decided to take a vacation from his usual duties...much to the consternation of his wife and the two head elves. They take it on themselves to find some Christmas cheer and restore Santa's good health, but they don't count on the Heat Miser and the Snow Miser and their ribald feud to make things a lot more difficult!

One of the funniest of the classic Rankin Bass specials is by far best known for the Miser Brothers and their crazy vaudeville numbers. They were so popular, they would be revived in a second special in 2008.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Miss Redmer in Toyland

Started a cloudy, windy day with laundry. Since I didn't get out until almost 11:30, I expected it to be busy. The wind and cold must have scared customers away. There were three older ladies and one mother, nothing too bad. The mother came in after I'd already put my laundry in the dryers, so there were no problems getting machines.

After I got home, I put my laundry away. Had a big lunch of leftover chicken meatloaf from last week, chicken soup from Saturday night, spinach salad, and applesauce. I headed out after I did the dishes.

I wasn't due into work until 3, but I really wanted to check out the Toys R Us Express that had appeared in the Audubon Crossings Mall behind the Acme. I figured it would be the perfect place to buy presents for the kids on my list, and I wasn't disappointed. The only kid I couldn't find something for was the one girl in the family, my cousin Samantha's 5-year-old daughter Faith. Otherwise, I was able to find gifts for my 2-year-old nephew Collyn, Samantha's pre-teen sons Ethan and Matt, and my 4-year-old cousin CJ.

I picked up the Disney Very Merry Christmas Songs Sing-Along on DVD for myself. Yeah, yeah, I know it's for young kids and not a single 31-year-old, but it makes great background music during the holidays. It also includes a couple of songs from Disney direct-to-video productions of the late 90s/early 2000s that are hard to find or expensive on DVD.

I finished shopping just in time. I just made it to work. Work was busy during the first half of my shift. It was so dead during the second half, I spent most of the last two hours I was there putting candy away. I got out quickly, and there were no major problems.

I had shopping luck at work, too. I found the most adorable Baby Jaguar Beanie Baby sitting on Register 1's intercom, ready to be put away. I thought he'd be a perfect companion for my baby nephew Khai to watch his new Go Diego Go! DVD with, especially since the name of the DVD is "The Great Jaguar Rescue."

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Winter's Comin'

Started a cold, partly cloudy day with a call to Mom to say "hi" and see how things went last night. She was fine, but very busy. She and the family in Cape May are just starting to get ready for Christmas. Keefe had just woken up after participating in the West Cape May Christmas Parade last night. He'd apparently sprained some fingers not long before the parade and found himself carrying large drums...and in pain. He didn't make the full parade.

Mom had a good suggestion for next year that I'm going to pass onto Rose. Instead of trying to get to the West Cape May Christmas Parade, perhaps we could try to attend the one for Lower Township - ie, North Cape May, Town Bank, Erma, and the Villas, the towns closest to Cape Island on the mainland. Their parade is shorter, but there would be more parking - no searching for the car for twenty minutes with a toddler or having to take a round-about route to avoid traffic. Not to mention, a lot of the bands, floats, and groups who appear in the West Cape May parade also appear in the one for Lower Township.

Spent the rest of the morning listening to Brunch With the Beatles while doing the budget and updating my finances. The budget wasn't too bad - most of my expenses last month were food-related, including eating out more than I should have. (I'll likely see a lot of eating out this month as well, since I'll be away from home fairly frequently on shopping and riding excursions.)

John Lennon had the spotlight on Brunch with 25 of his best songs. I was surprised with the top song. I was sure it would be "Imagine," but that was number two. Number 1 was my favorite of his solo songs, "(Just Like) Starting Over." I'm a big fan of the Double Fantasy CD, which also spun off "Woman" and "Watching the Wheels." Both were also in the top 25, along with "Help!," "Power to the People," "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away," "No Reply," "A Day In the Life," "Strawberry Fields Forever," and "The Ballad of John and Yoko," among others.

Headed to work after finishing the budget. Work was steady all day, a bit surprising on a chilly day when the Eagles weren't playing. (They played Thursday.) We're probably still getting beginning-of-the-month people. There were no major problems, and I was in and out quickly.

I wanted to go shopping, but I forgot today is Sunday. I made a quick stop at FYE and saw nothing I wanted, but they were closing at 6. So was Toys R Us Express. I'll have to go to both places later in the week. I ended up having a very filling dinner at a busy Golden Corral instead. I even won a green stuffed elephant from a crane game on the way out. I named him Vert, which is French for "green."

Got home in time for a shower and the second half of The Dress Circle. "The Shows of December" was the theme tonight. I got to hear the title song from the 20s Gershwin hit Lady Be Good and "She Likes Basketball," as performed by Jerry Orbach in the original 1968 cast of Promises, Promises.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Before the Parade Passes By

I got a LOT done today. Started off a lovely day in late fall with a walk to the bank. The sky was blue. The air was chilly, but not bitter cold. It was windy, but the houses blocked the worst of it. I deposited my very large check in the bank, then headed home.

My original plan was to go to the Acme first, then rake the side path. I decided when I got back that I really wanted to get the side path done. I'm glad I changed my mind. I think there were even more leaves on the side path than in the front yard, thanks to the wind between the neighbors' house and ours. It only took about 20 minutes, but there was still a lot of struggling.

Collected my pay from Miss Ellie next. Poor darling! She sounded terrible. Apparently, she had a bad cold. I saw her nephew later - he said he was going to spend the day with her.

Next on my list was grocery shopping. Had to restock the fruit today - I picked up grapefruit, bananas, apples, and the pears that were on sale. Had a coupon for toothpaste and for Teriyaki sauce, and flour is on a really big sale for the holidays. They finally had the Nestle Dark Chocolate and Mint Chips bags again, too. I intend to use the first bag to make cookies for a friend, but I bought two more bags for myself for after the holidays. I love mint anything.

Rose had called right before I left. Kelsey the dog was ok - she'd gotten some medicine for her leg at the vet's that morning. We were on for the West Cape May Christmas Parade! She picked me up around 2. I spent the time before that having leftover meatloaf for lunch and sweeping the porch.

Rose and I drove down there with Khai, stopping at WaWa for hot drinks. We met Mom, Dad, Anny, and Skylar at Mom and Dad's house. (Keefe had already gone on ahead to West Cape May - he's in Lower Cape May Regional High School's marching band in the drum section.) We chatted there for a bit while Dad and Sky played Mario Galaxy 2 and Rose fed Khai and got him dressed in warmer clothes.

We finally headed for Cape May around quarter after 4. It might have been better to leave earlier. We hit traffic at least a mile before the West Cape May Bridge. We ended up going over the Cape May Bridge instead...and we still hit traffic near the Lobster House on Schellinger's Landing. We finally went down Texas Avenue and up to the beachfront instead.

(And a sad note - it would appear they finally demolished the old Cape May Convention Center. I know the place wasn't in great shape even when we were kids, but so many events used to happen there. We used to go roller skating there on weekend afternoons in the winter and spring. We went to birthday parties there. The summer parades were judged there. They held craft fairs there. Lots of fond memories. I wonder what's going to replace it? Another convention center, or maybe a new restaurant or a group of shops?)

We parked on Grant Street in West Cape May and walked down to Broadway, where the Parade passes through. It was well past 5 by the time we finally found Anny, Sky, and Anny's friend Jeff in front of the 7-11 on Broadway, across from the park where the Lima Bean Festival is held every fall. We got very lucky. The parade was almost a half-hour late. It started just ten minutes after we arrived. Mom and Dad joined us 20 minutes later after doing some shopping at the Washington Street Mall.

The West Cape May Christmas Parade is a huge deal. Towns as far away as the Philly area compete for cash prizes. Every town in Cape May County, some of them barely large enough for one fire truck, submits at least one fire-fighting apparatus. There's beauty queens. There's dance groups. We got to see one, JoAnne Regan's, do a number to "All I Want For Christmas Is You" dressed in sparkling white-and-silver flapper costumes. There's floats for churches and local businesses. There's Mummers, which they never had when I was a kid. (I saw the same farmer group who were in the Collingswood Parade, complete with cow and very yellow chicken.) There's string bands.

Skylar was having the time of his life, chasing candy and blowing on the long blue plastic horn his mother bought him. Khai just seemed dazed, even after Rose gave him a juice bottle. It was very cold and cloudy by then, too, though the park blocked the worst of the wind. Needless to say, we didn't stay for the whole parade. I don't think we were even there for an hour. That's ok. Khai's still little. There will be other years, and I did get to see the full Collingswood Parade. I'm just glad we were able to get down there at all.

We stopped at the big WaWa in the Villas to use the bathroom and get warm drinks and snacks, then head home. This time, we only hit traffic by the Deptford Mall. We spent the ride home talking about Christmas presents and the parade and our family while Khai slept the whole way home.