Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Time for Mistletoe and Holly

I spent most of the morning putting up my Christmas garlands. Mom gave me these ropes of artificial greenery trimmed with ribbons, beads, bows, and small trinkets several years ago. She'd gotten fed up with putting them up all over their house. I can see her point. I do still use tacks on the heavy garland around the two windows in the dining area and the one wrapped with gold ribbon on the window behind the tree, but most of the others are now twist-tied to unused curtain rods. I also have a white and gold tinsel garland that is wrapped around the top of the baker's rack and a long, plush gold tinsel garland that goes around the DVD racks.

Putting up the garlands didn't take as long as I thought it would. I had the time to call Stockton and get some more information on classes. I think I should have said I was looking for Distance Learning (online classes), not Continuing Education (certificate courses). They called back later and said they had none of the courses I was looking for...even though their website clearly says that they do! I'll call them again later in the week and clarify what I meant.

Work was very quiet for a lot of the day. It was much chillier, windy, and on-and-off sunny. With kids back in school and people back in work, most folks had probably returned to their normal schedules this week. Even some regular beginning-of-the-month people may have done their shopping last weekend. I did have some annoying customers, but nothing horrible. It was so quiet at 6PM, I was able to get off and buy things for a Pumpkin Mousse Cream Pie with no relief. (My relief was the new cashier...who apparently was suspended.)

When I got home, I ran Santa Claus Is Coming to Town while making the pie and having leftovers for dinner. One of Rankin-Bass' most famous specials is their interpretation of how the Santa Claus legend got started. Mickey Rooney makes a fine Santa; Keenan Wynn is fun as the Winter Warlock. ("Winter, if you please.")

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Holiday Season Begins

Maybe running out to the Haddon Township Library this morning wasn't a great idea. It had rained on and off all morning, and continued to do so into the afternoon. It was gray, wet, and dismal as I made my way across Newton River Park. The only creatures who weren't bothered by the rain were the flocks of Canadian geese who grazed in great numbers around the path. (The flock was so big, I just walked my bike to the street instead of trying to go around them.)

Surprisingly, the library wasn't that busy when I came in. There were no DVDs for me to shelve, so I organized the kids' DVDs and put away picture books instead. I eventually rented four DVDs - the new Barbie As special, Barbie: Princess Charm School, Max and Ruby's Christmas, and two movies, the version of The Green Hornet from earlier this year and Nowhere Boy, a biography of the teen days of John Lennon.

Made a quick stop at Super Fresh after I left the library. They're having a sale on oatmeal, which I forgot to pick up on Friday. I also found good sales on Whole Wheat Flour and the Dr. Oteker mousse mixes I like. I decided to stock up for the holidays.

On my way home, I stopped at WaWa. I was going to buy a salad, but their salads are huge and not that cheap. I opted for a Santa Fe Chicken Wrap instead. The rain had stopped by this point, but would start again not long after I got home.

I ran Princess Charm School as I put everything away and made my bed. Barbie's tales of royal girls are thrust into the here and now as Blair, a hard-working young girl from a poor foster family, finds herself with a scholarship to a boarding school that prepares princesses for the royal life and commoners to work alongside them as "Lady Royals." Flustered Blair is sure she doesn't fit in, but her new princess friends and the school's head mistress believe in her. The head teacher wants her own daughter to be crowned Princess of the land where the school is, and when she sees that Blair might be royalty, she becomes determined to stop her from making it to the graduation/coronation.

I really wish this has been available in September. It would have been an awful lot of fun for back-to-school. I didn't think I would like it after seeing the trailer earlier in the year. I learned a lesson today about not judging a movie from its advertisement. The trailer emphasized Blair's slapstick falling over her four-inch heels, but the special only has a little of that, and mostly in the beginning. Though it has a lot in common with earlier princess tales (Barbie on a quest; Barbie meets lots of buddies; Barbie is helped by small creatures; well-meaning but nasty mother pushes her daughter over Barbie), the modern setting and Blair's down-to-Earth personality gives it a refreshing twist. The animation looks better, too, if still a tad bit waxy. Still, it's a  vast improvement over the last two fairy-themed stories.

I went for a short walk after Princess Charm School ended. It was still gloomy and damp and dripping, but the rain was holding off. I hiked down to the end of Goff Avenue. The water was steel-colored and sharp, like it could prick your finger if you touched it. The trees, now stripped of most of their leaves, looked bare and dismal. I moved along down back to Kendall Boulevard, passing a few of the last kids going home from school on my way.

It started raining shortly after I got back home. This time, I took the hint. I spent the rest of the evening inside. There's a reason I only dust under the toys and books every couple of months...and that reason is it takes forever to do! Of course, it would take even less time if I didn't get distracted by every other book in the apartment. It wasn't until quarter of 7 that I finally got it all done.

Though it was late, I still pulled out the Santa Bag before I had dinner. The big red felt Santa Bag has all of the Christmas items that are too big or awkwardly shaped to fit in containers (like the wreath for the front door and the Ferro Rocher bell) or that I just want to put up first (the poinsettia-print placemats, the holiday-colored coasters that used to be pot holders, the mistletoe).

I ran Max and Ruby while I had leftovers and roasted Brussels sprouts for dinner. I did rent this one last year, but there's some really cute episodes here. The title one, with Max waiting impatiently for Santa (despite his sister trying to shoo him to bed), is adorable. I also like "Max Is It." Ruby and her buddies Louise and Valerie want Max to play Freeze Tag with them. He agrees...but only so he can chase Ruby and get the candy she has in her backpack.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Emma's Webs

It was just too darn warm when I got up this morning. It was a little cloudy and breezy... and almost in the 70s. That's just not right in late November in southern New Jersey. It didn't even feel right when I ran the holiday-themed Cricket On the Hearth during breakfast.

Cricket is one of Rankin-Bass' most unusual specials. Danny Thomas introduces and stars in this tale of the insect of the title, Crocket (Roddy McDowell, who also narrates) who helps out a set of young lovers (Marlo Thomas and Ed Ames) when he is believed lost at sea and she becomes blind from the shock. He turns up again the day before Christmas, but she's set to marry an ugly old miser (Hans Conried). Crocket does his best to make sure the pair learn the true meaning of love...and of the Christmas spirit.

That this is based after a Charles Dickens short story doesn't make it any less strange. The psychedelic animation (not to mention the prominence of pop singer Ames and comedienne Thomas, the latter then appearing in the sitcom That Girl!) marks this as a 1967 production. Some of it isn't for younger kids, either, including at least one death that occurs off-screen and a lot of the melodrama. Try it with older kids who find some of the simpler Rankin-Bass specials too mawkish, but start the little guys with the original Rudolph or Frosty first.

Headed out to get my laundry done after Cricket ended. Perhaps due to the very warm day, the laundromat wasn't busy. I was able to get in and out within an hour, despite a large load that included several towels and dust rags.

I put everything away when I got home, then threw open the windows. The apartment was too warm to leave them closed! Maybe it was just as well. I've discovered over the past week that I seriously needed to dust around the woodwork and behind furniture. There were huge cobwebs and dust bunnies all over the place. It was horrible and very dusty! I finished with just enough time for a quick lunch of leftovers and some Hello Kitty Furry Tale Theater shorts before heading for work.

Work was quiet when I came in, but picked up during rush hour and was just starting to slow down when I finished around 8PM. It's the beginning of the month, with all the annoying customers that often come out then in full force. One woman would pull an item out of her cart, sniff at it, smell it, then hem and haw over it for five minutes or so, before finally deciding to drop it on the conveyor belt or in a basket. After ten minutes of this, I got so fed up, I turned her over to a manager. (I was on my way to to my fifteen-minute break anyway.) Not only did she end up returning more than half of what was in her cart, but she carried her credit cards and money in a huge sock and took forever finding it.

Later, I had a couple of those older women who give five hundred orders on how to bag, but refuse to lift a finger to help...and when they do, they rearrange everything that I've done because I gave them too many bags. Of course there's going to be a lot of bags! If the bags are light, with only a few items, there's going to be a lot of them. That's life. Thank goodness there was plenty of help, and it was quiet enough by 8 that I was able to leave quickly with no relief.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Caught In the Cobwebs

Started a sunny, breezy, too-warm morning off with Brunch With the Beatles. George Harrison, who passed away around this time in November 2001, was in the spotlight today. Among his songs played were "Do You Want To Know a Secret," the covers "Roll Over Beethoven" and "Chains," "Do You Want To Know a Secret?", "Don't Bother Me," "Taxman," "Something," "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," and "Here Comes the Sun." Solo numbers included "My Sweet Lord," "Give Me Love," "I've Got My Mind Set On You," and my favorites of his songs on his own "Blow Away" and "All Those Years Ago."

Called Mom during the second hour of the show. I tried to call her earlier, but I kept getting a busy signal. I figured she was probably taking to her sister Terri, who is a bit of a chatterbox, and I was right. She was also on her way to the shower and in a bit of a hurry, so we didn't talk for too long. She loved the Cranberry Bread and had eaten more than half of it, and the rest of the household had made short work of all but the heel of the Cinnamon Strusel Bread. 

My Banana Pancakes really filled me up this morning, so I didn't pack much of a lunch. I didn't rush heading out the door to work, either. Thankfully after the last few days, work was steady, but not really busy. We probably won't be really busy again until we get closer to Christmas and Hanukkah and people start buying food for holiday baking and parties.

The moment I came home, I changed into my Eagles shirt, grabbed my purse, and went back out to watch the game at Uncle Ken's. Turns out there was no need to rush to that, either. The only people watching the game with Uncle Ken were Blake, his dad, Dolores, and a couple of Uncle Ken's buddies. I did have a meatball sandwich with them for dinner and got to see most of the second quarter.

I had some unexpected extra time on my hands when I got back in around quarter after 6. I ended up doing the vacuuming tonight instead of tomorrow. Turns out there was a lot more to do than I thought. The kitchen was a mess, with leaves and bits of acorns everywhere from the front door. (The only entrance to the apartment is in the kitchen.) I moved several small shelves and discovered cobwebs in places I didn't know cobwebs could be. I'm going to have a LOT of dusting to do over the next few days.

(And no, the Eagles didn't win. They lost to the New England Patriots 38-20.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Christmas On Parade

I started out this morning with the American Top 40. Instead of a re-run, though, it was a Christmas special Casey Kasem must have done before he left the show. Among the songs I heard were Johnny Mathis' "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas," Perry Como's "There's No Christmas Like a Home Christmas," and the Stevie Nicks version of "Silent Night", which followed Casey's telling of the story of how British and German troops came together in peace for one Christmas Eve night during World War I.

I headed out around 9:30. Stopped at a quiet bank first to deposit my paycheck, then rode to Collingswood for their Christmas Parade at 10. It was already mobbed on Lakeview Avenue as I rode down the street. Hoards of people strolled down the sidewalk with their children or pets, enjoying the gorgeous, breezy, sunny, fairly warm morning. I parked on the bike rack in the parking lot where the Farm Market is held during its season, then headed across the street.

I was originally going to get a drink at WaWa, but I scotched that idea the moment I went in. The line went half-way across the tiny store, and the rest of the room was mobbed. I ended up buying a bottle of water at Rite Aid two doors down instead. They were dead as a doornail. I guess everyone wanted hot coffee and tea.

I joined the crowd at the Borough Hall Building next-door to the WaWa/Rite Aid building and waited for the parade to start. Unlike previous years, I didn't have to wait very long. They were barely fifteen minutes late. I bought my traditional pretzel from the Collingswood High School Wrestling program while I waited. (They did very well, too. Their pretzels were gone well before the parade's half-way mark, and they were selling t-shirts instead.)

I stood next to a large family (or perhaps several families) with two little girls, probably about three and four. They were shy at first. They didn't want to shake hands with all the people in costume, the Grinch, Spider Man, Superman, and the Teletubbies. (Don't ask about the last one.) They got into it after a while, though. Soon, they were strutting along with the Mummers groups and string bands and waving at the kids in the school floats. They marched with the high school marching bands and clapped for the two dance schools from Haddonfield and Oaklyn.

(Ovations in Oaklyn - around the corner from me, in fact - went with the more traditional approach. Their younger kids were dressed for "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" in bright, poofy strawberry red-and-neon-green costumes and did some energetic but fairly simple moves to "We Need a Little Christmas." The Haddonfield School of Dance had older girls in more sophisticated black pants, shirts, and bowler hats. They did slinky Bob Fosse-style moves to music I couldn't really hear over the crowd.)

There were other groups in the parade, too. I counted at least three classic car groups, including one with Herbie from The Love Bug. There were two motorcycle groups that showed off for the crowd. There were stilt walkers who juggled and high-fived kids. (The guy who juggled in time to the music from the Mummers in front of him was awesome.) We waved to six beauty pageant winners, and to a group of Girl Scouts who wore fancy dresses to spoof the pageant winners. High school bands from Cherry Hill East, Camden High School, and Collingswood belted "Louie Louie" and Christmas standards. (And the flag girls had a much easier time this year with the barely-there breeze than with last year's gale.) Santa was accompanied by most of Collingswood's fire department and the Collingswood High School's band.

I left the moment Santa arrived. The family was long gone by then. I took the bike past the crowds on Lakeview and back to Oaklyn. Picked up a turkey and provolone cheese hoagie from Doria's Deli for a quick lunch when I got in.

I had just enough time to get the windows dusted and washed before I went to work. Ran this year's first showing of the Rankin Bass Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and How the Grinch Stole Christmas as I changed into my work uniform and got dinner together.

Perhaps because of the nice day, work was busy but not quite as bad as usual. It was nearly dead by the time I headed out. I didn't technically have a relief, but the kid who is always late for work because of his other job was so late, he ended up coming in for me...a half-hour after he should have arrived.

Friday, November 25, 2011

No Black Friday for Me

I got up at the normal hour of 8:30 this morning. I had absolutely no desire to join the Black Friday mobs. For one thing, I worked at 11AM today. For another, I have some pretty basic rules about holiday shopping. I don't do fancy electronics or video games, and all of the kids in the family know it. I try to stick to a budget limit as much as possible. I did buy a few things on Black Friday last year, but it was a couple of non-sale titles from the FYE in the Audubon Crossings Shopping Center that I picked up late in the afternoon at work. With that store gone, I have neither the reason nor desire to venture into the mall. You couldn't pay me to go into a Walmart today, especially one as small as the store in the mall!

I started taking down the Thanksgiving and fall decorations, but I didn't have a chance to finish before work. Work was surprisingly on-and-off busy all day. I figured it would be dead, like it was last year on Black Friday. A lot of people must have gotten their government money early. We were short on help, too, due to many people asking for today off to get their own shopping done. I was just barely out on time.

I did have to do some grocery shopping of my own today, but it was my usual Friday shopping. I needed to restock some baking items. Bought ground chicken and small beef steaks that had manager's coupons. Needed toiletries and contact lens cases, cranberries, celery, and to restock peanut butter and powdered sugar.

When I got home, I finished taking down the Thanksgiving and fall decorations, then ran With a Song In My Heart while I had leftovers for dinner. This is a fairly intimate 20th Century Fox musical drama about real-life radio singer Jane Froman, who was a major star when she was badly injured in a horrible crash during a World War II USO tour. Despite needing 39 operations on her legs and arm during her lifetime, she would continue to perform for troops and radio, TV, and nightclub audiences for another decade and a half, including several years after the movie came out in 1952. Susan Hayward, herself no stranger to playing tough women, was marvelous as Froman (who did all the singing). I also liked Thelma Ritter as her sensible nurse who becomes her most supportive friend.

Oh, and I have a pretty good schedule this week, probably the best I've had since September. Tuesday and Thursday off, no days later than 8PM. 

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Giving Thanks for Family, Food, and Football

The first thing I was thankful for when I woke up around 8AM was the gorgeous weather. It was sunny and bright, not gloomy and windy like it has been the past few days or was last Thanksgiving. Rose called about an hour later, when I was getting dressed. She would pick me up around 12:30 and meet her boyfriend Craig and their son Khai at their apartment, where we'd all leave for Cape May County.

That was fine with me. It gave me a chance to watch Thanksgiving-related cartoons and shorts and to have a marvelous walk. I ran The Three Stooges and Garfield's Thanksgiving before I headed out. The Three Stooges are convicts in England who find themselves sent "Back to the Woods" to battle Indians in the Colonies and romance three pretty Pilgrim lasses. Garfield deals with a far more modern Thanksgiving dilemma in Garfield's Thanksgiving when Liz the Veterinarian insists on him going on a diet the day before Thanksgiving...and then Jon, who is notorious for not being able to cook anything that requires real effort, invites her over for a home-made Thanksgiving dinner. It takes some hard convincing on Garfield's part and an appearance of Grandma (of the Christmas special) to make it a memorable meal for everyone!

It was the perfect day for a stroll around the neighborhood. Much to my surprise, it was chillier than it has been, but not that cold. It was probably warmer than it was at Halloween last month! I made my way down Manor and around to the park behind the Oaklyn School. Geese honked in the river, digging around for fish for their own Thanksgiving luncheon. Little boys chased each other around the playground, while their dads and older brothers played touch football in the field between the playground and the school.

I peered into the windows of classrooms as I went by on my way out to Kendall Boulevard. Many windows were decorated with huge leaves with autumn scenes drawn on them. I saw racks of kids' books and lots of Little People buildings, including the Garage, House, and a barn that reminded me of the one my sisters and I had when we were kids. (I wonder if the left door still makes the mooing sound when you open it?)

Spent the next hour baking Cranberry-Orange-Chocolate Chip Muffins and running more holiday specials. Charlie Brown and the Peanuts crew show each other the true meaning of the holiday in A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. Peppermint Patty invites herself, Marcie, and Franklin over for dinner. That's a problem, since Chuck's planning to go over to his grandmother's for dinner. Peppermint Patty is hardly appeased by Chuck's meal of popcorn and pretzels, but it's Grandma who finally solves everyone's dinner trouble and gives the kids a reason to be thankful.  

The Mayflower Voyagers digs more deeply into the history behind the holiday. In this episode of the mini-series This Is America, Charlie Brown, the Peanuts are cast as Pilgrim kids on the Mayflower's fateful voyage to the New World. While Lucy complains about the trip on the tiny Mayflower and swoons over Captain Miles Standish, Chuck's worried about the Pilgrims finding their way in the wilderness, Peppermint Patty and Marcie deal with their fears of wild creatures and Indians, and Linus reminds them of the importance of keeping the faith.

I had just pulled the muffins out of the oven when Rose called. She picked me up a few minutes later. We stopped at her apartment first to pick up Khai, Craig, and their things. (Thank goodness they decided to leave the dogs Kelsey and Toby at home this year. There just isn't room in Mom and Dad's small house for even little Kelsey.) There were no problems riding down there. We stopped briefly at a WaWa to get Rose a cup of coffee and me some tea, but other than that, the roads were clear, the weather was gorgeous, and Khai slept most of the way.

Almost everyone was there when we arrived. My brother Keefe and his girlfriend Vicki were playing Wii Bowling. Dad was watching them, and Mom was working on the mashed potatoes in the kitchen. My oldest nephew Skylar played with Matchbox cars. Anny, Skylar's mother, arrived later and left right after dinner - she had 9PM work at the Big Lots in North Cape May.The kids finished with Wii a few minutes later, and Dad switched to the Packers-Lions game. (There was no doubt who would win that one. The Packers have been slaughtering every team they touch all season and the Lions are only so-so. Though the Lions finally rallied in the second half, the Packers came through 27-15.)

We sat down to dinner around 3PM. Mom said this is her 33rd Thanksgiving dinner. She's been making them since high school! She has it down to a science by now, and she makes some of the best. In addition to the mashed potatoes, there was turkey, sweet potato casserole, green bean casserole, potato rolls, cranberry sauce, carrots, pearl onions in white sauce, and home-made stuffing. I had everything but the mashed potatoes and gravy (I'm not a big fan of brown gravy or white potatoes), and it was all marvelous, as usual. Mom even revealed the secret of her heavenly sweet potato casserole - pumpkin pie spice. No wonder it tastes like dessert at dinner!

We watched a figure-skating special for a while during dinner, then switched to the Cowboys-Dolphins game. Rose, Craig, and I took the little boys outside while Mom and Dad made coffee and set up the desserts. We first went for a walk down the short, dead-end road, but we encountered a scuffle between two dogs that spooked poor Khai. We eventually ended up in Mom and Dad's backyard. Craig pulled Khai around the yard in a big red Radio Flyer wagon, while Rose and I tried to explain to Sky that it was too dark to chase frisbees around.

Rose's friend Colleen dropped by for a visit as we began dessert. Colleen said she was too full from dinner to eat, but the rest of us enjoyed pumpkin pie (my favorite, and apparently Vicki's, too), apple pie, ice cream, Mom's famous chocolate chip bar cookies, and her home-made whipped cream. We had a long chat with Colleen about her sisters and their kids, her tough-but-soft-hearted mother, and her life as a single lawyer in Harrisburg. (And the Cowboys pulled off a play at the last minute that won the game 20-19.)

Rose, Craig, Khai, and I finally headed out around 8 (after Dad loaded a cooler Rose picked up at WaWa with tons of fresh seafood he or other local boats caught). Once again, we had a relatively uneventful trip. This time, Craig stopped at WaWa for a drink. We hit a little traffic about a half-hour from home, and Khai got a little fussy, but he once again slept most of the way. Here's hoping my American readers had an equally tasty Thanksgiving with a lot to be thankful for! :)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Cleaning Up for the Holidays

It rained on and off for most of the morning. I decided I was much safer and dryer staying home. I spent the morning baking Cranberry Bread, cleaning the kitchen, and watching various specials. Did Winnie the Pooh: Seasons of Giving first, then Planes, Trains, and Automobiles and the Angelina Ballerina Christmas special The Show Must Go On.

I started making bread at Thanksgiving during my college years. Bread was often the only thing I had the time to make that I could bring home for Thanksgiving, and the Pilsbury Quick Bread mixes weren't expensive. As it turned out, Mom had plenty of food for dinner and dessert...but my bread was perfect for a quick breakfast the next morning! They were such a hit, I've brought two loaves of quick bread, one Cinnamon Strusel and one pumpkin or cranberry, to Thanksgiving dinner ever since.

I jotted off a quick e-mail to Stockton College after I finished with the kitchen. I'm hoping they'll call me or send me more information on their non-credit program. The Art Institute called, but I finally said thanks a lot, you were very kind, but you're not really quite what I'm looking for. I'll keep you in mind. They only had one class I was really interested in, and it was expensive.

Thank goodness the rain was long gone by the time I headed to work. Work was on-and-off busy all night, actually not as bad as I figured it would be, given that tomorrow is the biggest food holiday of the year. There was plenty of help, no problems whatsoever, and the time went quickly.

For my American readers who won't be able to get online tomorrow, I wish you a very happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Raining In the Holidays

I had a lot to do today. It was showering when I got up this morning, but as I headed out around quarter of ten, the rain had seemed to putter to a sprinkle. I'm probably not going to have the time (or decent weather) the rest of the week for library volunteering, so I made two stops today. Did the Oaklyn Library first. I organized the DVDs, rearranged the young adult series, checked the kids' picture books, and pulled any remaining books on Thanksgiving for displays.

Thankfully, the weather held out as I made my way to the Haddon Township Library. Needless to say, the only people out in the dripping wet Newton River Park were Canadian geese poking around for an early lunch and a lone jogger ignoring the weather. It was just starting to rain again as I pulled up to the library and locked my bike at the thick u-shaped bike rack near the back door.

There was a bit more to do at Haddon Township than there was last week. I had a nice stack of both kids' and adults' DVDs to return, and there were some non-fiction DVDs that needed to go back, too. I went through all of the adult DVDs, removing children's and foreign titles that were shelved improperly. I put away a good-sized pile of children's picture books. Took out four titles for myself - Dora's Christmas Carol Adventure (I don't normally rent Dora the Explorer, but how can I resist her version of A Christmas Carol?), the Angelina Ballerina Christmas special that I rented last November, the musical biography With a Song In My Heart, and Catch Me If You Can again (I didn't get to it last week).

My next stop was the Dollar Tree across the street. I needed rubber bands (I discovered last week that mine had become brittle and hard), sponges, and a card for my sister Rose to congratulate her for passing the Bar. I also ended up buying three board books for Rose's 1 1/2-year-old son Khai for Christmas.

I had lunch at the Westmont Bagel Shoppe. Kept things simple with a toasted whole wheat bagel with nothing on it and a bowl of spicy beef chili. It was 1:30 by the time I was eating my chili. The high school kids and nurses were long gone. It was just me, The Chew on ABC, my bowl and bagel, and one other person enjoying their meal.

My luck ran out with the weather. The rain was coming down at a pretty fair clip as I left the Bagel Shop. I just shrugged and rode home. There wasn't much I could do about the weather. I wanted to get things done, and I couldn't put them off. I got a bit damp, but not soaked.

My timing was perfect. Less than 20 minutes after I got in, it started raining harder, and has continued raining hard for the rest of the day. I changed into dry clothes and worked on things for Thanksgiving and around the apartment.

First on the to-do list was the Cinnamon Strusel Bread to bring to my parents' house for Thanksgiving. Keefe loves that bread. It's just the Pilsbury Cinnamon Strusel bread mix made the way the box says, except I exchange the water for buttermilk for some extra tang and moistness. I started making Pilsbury bread mixes back in college, when I wanted to bring something home for Thanksgiving, but didn't have the time or the room in the stove in Stockton's dorms for anything elaborate. I now make the Cranberry Bread from scratch, but the Cinnamon Bread continues to be a mix.

I ran Dora's Christmas Carol Adventure as I finished the bread and started cleaning the bathroom. Dora and her pals are gearing up for their Nochebuena (Christmas Eve) Party when Swiper the Fox does what he usually does...swipe their gifts. Santa's not thrilled with him doing this on Christmas and puts him on his "naughty" list. For once, Dora feels bad for Swiper and offers to help him change his ways by showing him how he acted in the past...and what may happen to her, him, and their friends in the future if he doesn't learn to share.

As fond as I am of the Dora characters (especially big blue Benny the Bull), the show itself can be dull for adults without kids to watch, since it's an interactive program that involves endless repetition. This one, however, was a bit different. For one thing, I don't believe Dora has ever attempted anything quite like time travel before. For another, Map (and his annoying voice) comes into play only briefly at the end, and Backpack is never seen at all. The repetition is downplayed as well. It doesn't really have much to do with Christmas Carol, but it is a nice recent Dora special and an interesting way to discuss a child's stages of growth, from baby through pre-teen, with very young kids.

I put off finishing the bathroom to go online for my appointment with representatives of the Art Institute of Pittsburgh. Though I did end up applying, I really don't think I'll be taking classes there. They didn't understand that I'm not interested in becoming a student. I just want to take a few small non-credit classes to learn about business and web writing and upgrade my web design skills. All three of the people who talked to me were very nice and extremely helpful, but I think they're more interested in serious art students. They're also expensive. The one class that looked useful, Internet Marketing, cost at least 3 to 5,000 dollars more than similar classes at Stockton and Temple/Camden County College.

When I did finally finish the bathroom, I started Chicken Legs Poached in Lemon-Wine Sauce and steamed Brussels sprouts and cauliflower for dinner and watched the first half of Babes In Toyland. I always watch the Disney live-action version of this venerable musical fantasy in mid-late November, as it's probably the closest I'll get to seeing a British pantomime without leaving this side of the pond.

Unlike the 1986 TV movie, this is straight fantasy. Mary Quite Contrary (Annette Funicello) is engaged to marry Tom Piper (Tom Sands), but wicked Barnaby (Ray Bolger, having a grand time) wants her money...and is determined to get Tom out of the way. He hires lackeys to get Tom out of the way. Tom finds his way back, and he, Mary, and Mary's siblings end up in Toyland when they get lost in the Forest of No Return. They end up helping the bumbling Toymaker (Ed Wynn) and his nerdy assistant Grumio (Tommy Kirk) with making the toys for Christmas...but the toys themselves may help in another way when Barnaby follows them.

A lot of people prefer the Laurel and Hardy Babes, but I think this one is just as much fun. If nothing else, we get some nice numbers, including Bolger's solo "Castle In Spain" dance, the villains' hilarious "And We Won't Be Happy 'Til We Get It," and Funicello's imaginative "I Can't Do the Sum."

Monday, November 21, 2011

Christmas Carols

Started off the day with A Christmas Carol: The Musical and Multi-Grain Cheerios and fruit for breakfast. Kelsey Grammar is Scrooge and Jason Alexander Marley in this adaptation of the long-running Madison Square Garden version of the beloved Charles Dickens story. Alas, this might have worked better onstage. Grammar wasn't a bad Scrooge, but the music was unmemorable, and the story moved so quickly that it seemed much too rushed. The Ghost of Christmas Present's big number, "Abundance and Charity," seemed to exist simply to give the Rockettes something to do.

Went to the laundromat right after the movie ended. It was very busy with people getting their clothes done before the holiday. I was fortunately able to find a washer and a dryer with no wait.

It was so late when I got home, the minute I finished putting the laundry away, I started getting ready for work. As I made my dinner, I got several phone calls in a row. Turns out it was the Art Institute of Pittsburgh and Philadelphia trying to get through to me. The person I talked to last week would like to meet me online tomorrow afternoon to discuss possibilities of doing online courses and finding financial aid.

It had been cloudy and cool (though still a little too warm for this time of year) when I was at the laundromat, and it remained so at work. Work was on-and-off busy, still a lot but not as bad as the weekend. People were generally in a better mood, too. Maybe they just finished their shopping. There was more food leftover from Saturday in the back, too, so I got dinner on the Acme for the second time in three days.

It slowed down a bit towards the end of the night, and I figured out why when I finally made it outside (after a mix-up regarding who was supposed to leave when). It was quite damp outside. Not soaking wet, but wet enough to make me realize we must have gotten some light rain earlier in the evening. Anything we'd had was gone by 9, though. I was perfectly dry going home.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

I'm Into Something Good

Started a sunny, breezy morning with Brunch With the Beatles. The spotlight today was on the early Beatles and other British bands who found success in the US in their wake. Among the UK acts from the early and mid 60s we heard were Dusty Springfield ("I Only Wanna Be With You"), the Dave Clark Five, the Rolling Stones (the original version of "Time Is On My Side") and Herman's Hermits ("I'm Into Something Good"). The earliest British number to hit the top of the charts here was apparently the instrumental favorite "Telestar."

I made Apple Cinnamon Pancakes for breakfast, then called Mom after I was done. We talked for almost an hour! She told me that my brother Keefe did have a good birthday. He had to work on Friday, but spent the weekend going bowling with his girlfriend and some friends of theirs and going out to the Pizza Hut in Wildwood. My sister Anny, on the other hand, was a busy bee. She works at the Big Lots in North Cape May and has been picking up extra hours. Not to mention, her crazy season is coming up...which means Mom will be babysitting her sons more often. I told Mom about e-mailing colleges and about my heel spur as well.

We talked for so long, the show was more than three-quarters when she finally said she had to get ready for the arrival of Anny and her boys. I drank my Pumpkin Spice Chai, finished my pancakes, and did the dishes as the show ended.

Spent the remaining hour before work prettying up my dolls for the holidays. All of my American Girl and Sailor Moon dolls but Tuxedo Mask have special outfits or gowns that they wear from the week before Thanksgiving through the week after New Year's. The Sailor Soldiers wear fashion doll dresses found in dollar stores or vintage 80s and early 90s Barbie party frocks. (Sailor Moon's is actually an Ice Capades Barbie ruffled top and a white skirt with a pink underskirt that just happened to look like one dress together. The low neckline is covered by a white, sequin-trimmed fur stole.)

The American Girls all wear their "canon" Christmas dresses mentioned in their books. I got Samantha's deep red Cranberry Christmas Dress along with the doll when she was my big present for Christmas 1993. Found Molly's dark green velvet Evergreen Christmas Dress (in it's later incarnation with the buttons on the front) and Felicity's bright blue Christmas Gown on eBay. Jessa apparently bought the Chinese New Year outfit for her modern Asian doll to use in a school project. Fortunately, it's one of the outfits she gave me that's mostly intact. It's a gorgeous red and gold brocade pants outfits with real frogs to close the jacket.

(As for Tuxedo Mask, well, I just haven't found any good Ken clothes yet. Just as well. As you can guess from his name, he comes dressed for the holidays anyway. ;) )

I finished with just enough time to grab a small lunch, change, and hurry out to work! The sun was still out as I hurried down the White Horse Pike, but it was humid and much too warm for this time of year, and that little breeze from this morning was gone.

It was pretty much the same as yesterday - very busy, with some fairly cranky customers. Thankfully, it started to thin out around 5:30, and by the time I left an hour later, I was able to shut down without a relief and pick up brown sugar, orange juice concentrate, and canned pumpkin, all of which I'll need for future baking.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Thanksgiving Rehearsal

I'm thankful that I awoke to a lovely, sunny morning. It was the perfect day for making my last Collingswood Farm Market run of the year. Ran today's American Top 40 re-run as I ate oatmeal with bananas and fruit concentrate and a pear for breakfast. We disco danced our way into late November 1978 as uptempo synthesizer dance tunes and dramatic ballads found their way into the spotlight. Hits from this time period include "Our Love - Don't Throw It All Away" by Andy Gibb, "You Don't Bring Me Flowers" by Barbara Streisand and Neil Diamond, "Sharing the Night Together" by Dr. Hook, and "Ready to Take a Chance Again" by Barry Manilow.

The #1 hit of the week was one of the hottest songs of that year, Donna Summer's lengthy smash tale of "MacArthur Park."

I did look around for a yard sale, but I couldn't find it and just went straight to the Farm Market and back. Despite the wind and chilly temperatures, the booths were packed elbow-to-elbow with people buying their Thanksgiving fruit and vegetables. I managed to find my way through the crowds long enough to pick up honey, Brussels sprouts, pears, small Empire apples, bananas, cranberries for Cranberry Bread for Thanksgiving, spinach, an onion, and an acorn squash.

I ran into a friend while I was at the Farm Market. I hadn't seen Pattie at Yogawood in a long time, even before I took a few months off from yoga. She said she'd found Thursday evening classes to be easier with her schedule at her massage therapy business. She suggested getting together sometime soon; she even had a friend she wanted me to meet.

There was one other yard sale listed on Craigslist, but it was cold and windy, and I didn't feel like running around. I just went straight home. I spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon working on editing the Bowery Boys fanfiction we have backlogged from as far back as the middle of the summer. I posted a Halloween story and a story about the Boys apple-picking on a farm, and there's more coming in the next week or so, including this year's NaNoWrite novel-length fanfic:

Bowery Boys Fanfiction - The Haunted Theater and She's the Apple of My Pie

I left for work a little early so I could pick up my contacts before my shift. (I worked until 6:30, and America's Best is only open until 6.) I should have left a little earlier. The place was packed with people trying to get their prescriptions before the holidays. It took me almost ten minutes to pick up my contacts, which normally takes about two seconds to two minutes.

Work was busy all day long and filled with some really grouchy people. I don't know why so many customers were in a bad mood. Maybe they hit long lines at other stores, too. People fussed at me. I couldn't bag anything right. They growled at each other, too. I heard a noisy fight in the line behind me at one point.

Thank goodness the employees were in far better moods. The Acme had a Thanksgiving Employee Luncheon in the back room all afternoon and evening. They'd started at 11, and there was still tons of food when I arrived. It felt like a dress rehearsal for Thursday! I had turkey (not much of it - by the time I got to it, it was really dry), baked ziti (pasta), a pile of sliced fresh broccoli and green peppers, chunks of fruit, a slice of carrot cake, and a slice of red velvet cake with thick cream cheese frosting from the bakery that was too rich for me to finish. I was so stuffed after eating a second plateful of veggies and meat that I had no need to go out to eat after my shift was over.

The hit of the party was one of the head front end manager's "white trash" - ie, Rice Chex mixed with powdered sugar, peanut butter, peanuts, and I believe M&Ms. Chex has a variation on this recipe (sans the peanuts and M&Ms) called "Muddy Buddies" at their site. Everyone kept eating tons of it, including me! The manager really turned a few customer's heads when she told people on the front end what she made for the luncheon, though! ;)

And speaking of Thursday, I did get Thanksgiving off. I also got Tuesday off, which is a very good thing. I'll have a lot to do that day, including returning DVDs and books to the Haddon Township Library and getting the Christmas cleaning started.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Loose In Oaklyn

First of all, happy birthday to my brother Keefe, who is 19 today!

It was a gorgeous day when I awoke around 8AM. Sunny, breezy but not windy, and chilly like it's supposed to be in mid November in southern New Jersey. It was a perfect day to run a pile of errands, starting with a ride to the Acme for my paycheck and groceries.

The Acme wasn't too busy when I arrived around 11. I didn't need a lot, anyway. Found cooked and seasoned shrimp with a manager's coupon that was already on a good sale. Had a coupon for three free Shopper's Value (Acme low-cost brand) Spices with ten dollar purchase sale. All I needed of what they had was the Cayenne Pepper; I donated the Meat Tenderizer and Soul Seasoning to the box near the self-checkout lanes for a local soup kitchen. Needed to restock eggs, batteries, and yogurt, and I Can't Believe It's Not Butter was on sale and I had a coupon. Since Cool Whip and Jello Pudding were on sale, I bought things to make a pudding pie. Thanks to Cool Whip's new limited edition Sweet Cinnamon Flavor, I decided to make it a Spiced Vanilla Cream Pie.

When I got home, I made the pie and had a short lunch of muffins and Cranberry Flummery, then went out for a walk. My first stop was the Oaklyn Library. I couldn't stay there for too long. I arrived at 1:30, and they close on Fridays at 2. I did manage to drop another bag of videos off, quickly organize DVDs and some kids' books, and check out Cranberry Thanksgiving. (Which, for some reason, was listed under the title of the movie Good Will Hunting in their computer system. It took a minute for the librarian to figure everything out.)

After I left the library, I headed down the White Horse Pike. Made an in-and-out stop at PNC Bank to deposit my paycheck, then hiked a few blocks down the Pike to CVS. I mostly needed milk there, but I ended up grabbing a few Christmas presents, too.

Dropped by Dad and Uncle Ken's on the way back to my place. Dad and Jodie were at home, doing things on their laptops and watching the endless Law & Order re-runs on USA. I talked about my course options with both of them. The problem now is finding grants. There was so much information online about grants and funding, I was overwhelmed. Jodie and I checked a few sites and discovered that the Art Institute of Philadelphia, the school my sister Jessa is currently attending, seems to be the only local school offering grant money for people who want to learn web design. We sent an e-mail asking for more information.

(They were nice and called me back a bit later in the afternoon. I told them I was still browsing, but they're definitely worth considering and I would love any information on grants and on their non-credit online courses that they could provide.)

When I got home, I went right into sweeping the porch. It needed it badly. The rain and wind from yesterday and Wednesday left more piles of leaves that were getting into the house again. The leaves seem to be gone from most of the large trees now. Some of the smaller ones still have a lot of leaves, but by and large, I can see all the way to the water again...which means that should be the last time I'll need to do a lot of porch sweeping for a while.

Spent the rest of the day inside, watching Bowery Boys movies, editing fanfiction, and baking pumpkin bread for the Acme's Thanksgiving Luncheon tomorrow. I ran a couple of my favorite Bowery Boys episodes from the early 50s. Loose In London takes the Boys and soda shop proprietor Louie Dumbrowski overseas when Sach Jones is named heir to a British earl. No Holds Barred and Jalopy take us into the fast-paced worlds of wrestling and car racing respectively. Both films have more-or-less the same plot - Sach develops a special power or formula that makes the Boys successful at sports. When crooked managers start to notice their overnight stardom, they first send a woman after them who invites them to a party, then send goons after them. Naturally, the Boys wind up on top. I had a tasty dinner of Flounder in Lemon and Wine Sauce With Mushrooms and Onions, roasted Brussels sprouts, and the last of the baked pumpkin pudding for dinner as I ran Jalopy.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Chilly Balance

The damp and cold had returned when I headed out for this week's yoga class. Focus on the day was on stretching the back and hamstrings and on balance poses. I did as well as I could, which actually wasn't too bad. I'm still not that flexible, but I can hold a pose a little longer than I used to.

There was plenty to do at the Collingswood Library when I headed over there after class. I put away a good-sized stack of DVDs (including two huge Mad Men season sets), and all before the kids got out of Storybook Hour and came looking for movies. Later, I shelved a few Wii titles.

The weather, which had been cloudy and windy all morning, was looking even worse by the time I finished at the Library. I went straight home. Turns out I did the right thing. It started spitting as I pushed the bike over the hill near the Newton River Park. It picked up as I rode through Oaklyn, and was a small but steady shower when I got home.

I had a sweet potato pancake and leftovers for lunch while running the rest of the 1978 The Nutcracker and Muppet Family Christmas. Spent an hour or so after that listening to Christmas CDs, updating a couple of inventories (probably the last time I'll get to it until after the holidays), and editing part of the long Bowery Boys fanfic Lauren and I are working on for the NaNoWrite novel-writing program. Look for that by the end of the month!

The sun was just peeking out from behind some hazy clouds as I pulled on my heavy black coat and went to work. Work was on-and-off busy all night. Other than a few annoying customers, there were no major problems, and I was in and out.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Rainy Day Swashbuckler

I slept in longer than I should have this morning, but I did manage to make that call to the claims office. They gave me the address and said they'd send me the information that day. It turns out I already had the claims office's address that the Foot & Ankle Center wanted...right in the front cover of the thick book the Claims Office sends all union members. Boy, do I feel silly. I called the Foot & Ankle Center and gave them the address right before I left.

I put off calling for a ride too long. It poured all morning. I was hoping it would let up, but the rain was still coming down hard by quarter of noon. I didn't have the time to call anyone. I just rode to work and got wet.

Work was on and off busy all day. Weather or no weather, tomorrow marks exactly a week until Thanksgiving, the biggest feasting holiday of the year. Many people were buying their canned goods, baking necessities, frozen vegetables, and 49 cent turkeys. (For the second year in a row, the Acme just has the turkeys really cheap instead of making people save for weeks and weeks in order to get one free one. I like this. It makes more sense, especially for people like me who don't buy enough in a month and a half to earn a turkey, or who need more than one.)

Thankfully, I was able to shut down with no relief. By 5PM, the rain had changed from big, fat drops to a soft, sprinkle-y shower. I still got a little wet riding home, but it was nothing like earlier.

When I got in, I changed into dry clothes and got dinner and some movies going. First on the list was finishing Captain Blood, which I started last night. This was Errol Flynn's first major movie in the US, and he's wonderful as the doctor turned pirate after he and his fellow unjustly arrested prisoners flee Jamaica for the buccaneer's life. Blood, however, can't forget the pretty plantation owner's daughter (Olivia DeHaviland) who bought him when he was a slave. When his men capture her ship coming back from England, he decides to return the favor.

This reminds me of why I love swashbucklers. Errol Flynn seizes the screen and has a great deal of fun doing so. As with musicals, this is another screen genre Warner Bros had been reluctant to revive after the Depression began. Historical action films were expensive and often pompous, bogged down in breeches and pretty speeches. How to make all the wigs and fancy gowns work in a studio known for gangsters and tough chorus girls? Give it a topical angle and bring in actors who can look tough and still work in a historical context. Dashing Flynn was such a sensation as the roguish doctor who turns pirate, he practically made a specialty out of swashbucklers and historic westerns for the next fifteen years.

Switched to something a little quieter as I had a delicious dinner of chicken burgers, steamed broccoli and cauliflower, and Cranberry Flummery (the Raspberry Flummery recipe from Felicity's Cooking Studio made with cranberries - boy, was it yummy, perfectly sweet and tart). The version of The Nutcracker features Mikhail Baryshnikov as the Nutcracker Prince. It's dreamy and delightful, probably the closest I will get to seeing a real, large-scale production of this popular ballet during the season at the moment.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Heel Spurred Into Action

Since I had my appointment with the Foot and Ankle Center at 1:15, I did things around my apartment and in the area this morning. I started off the day with a short walk down to Goff Avenue and back. It was cloudy and damp, cooler than yesterday but still well above normal temperatures for this time of year. The riverside was a gray-green sheet of ripples, reflecting the gloomy sky.

When I got home, I went back out on the porch. It needed to be swept badly. Last week's heavy winds left piles of leaves up to my ankles. It took a lot longer to get rid of all that than usual! I got the thick cobwebs off the windows and siding, too. I don't know why I get cobwebs so badly. I guess it's because I don't really do much with my porch. The bugs get so bad out there in the summer, I often can't eat or read without getting bitten to death. I should look around for better porch furniture next summer and see if I can get someone to haul it to my place.

When I finished with the porch, I dubbed the last of the holiday specials I'm doing for myself. A Walt Disney Christmas isn't really a "special," but a series of Disney classic theatrical shorts that revolve around Christmas and/or winter. I love it because the tape is so old, it has the uncut versions of Santa's Workshop, The Night Before Christmas, and Donald's Snow Fight. I'd never seen those in their original forms until I found this tape. I picked this one up from Blockbuster around 2004-2005, when they were clearing out their videos. I'm guessing it's from the early 80s - it has the strange Mickey silhouette graphics "Walt Disney Home Video" opening and a thick, heavy white clamshell cover.

The last special I dubbed is a rarity from 1974. Though Yes Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus won an Emmy for Outstanding Primetime Children's Special, the video I found at a yard sale about three or four years ago was the first time I'd ever heard of it. This is a retelling of the famous real-life Christmas story of little Virginia O'Hanlon, who wrote the editorial section of the newspaper The New York Sun in 1897 asking them about the existence of Santa. The letter the editor wrote in return is one of the most famous and touching essays on the holidays ever printed. Virginia went on to be a teacher and principal, and the Sun ran that letter every Christmas Eve until it went out of business in the 50s.

I'm surprised Paramount didn't pair this with one of their Peanuts DVD releases in the early 2000s. Though technically not a Peanuts special, it was made by the same people who did the Peanuts specials for years. The animation has the same look, and it even uses some of the same voice actors from the Peanuts specials done during that time period. To my knowledge, neither this nor A Walt Disney Christmas are currently available on DVD, though there was another retelling of the story of Virginia and her letter, Yes, Virginia, done about two years ago in more modern CGI animation.

My fried egg sandwich lunch took longer than I thought. I was a few minutes late for my appointment! Turns out they didn't have much to say. Yes, I had a very bad heel spur. My foot did look much better, so there was no need for a second injection. (Thank goodness.) All I had to do was sign a few things, show off my foot, and I was on my way.

I had quite a few errands to run this afternoon. My first stop was the Haddon Township Library. I had a pile of books and DVDs to return and videos to donate. There were plenty of DVDs and books for me to shelve, too. I ended up taking out another short Treehouse Max & Ruby set, Catch Me If You Can, the TV musical version of A Christmas Carol with Kelsey Grammar from a few years ago, and the Mickey/Donald/Goofy Three Musketeers again. (I didn't get to it last week.)

Made some quick stops at the Westmont Plaza next. I needed quite a few things at Super Fresh. I just ran out of maple syrup, and they have better prices than the Acme does (one of the few things they do have better prices on). They were having a big sale on cooking spray, and they have the Pilsbury Cinnamon Swirl Bread Mix, which the Acme no longer sells. (And that turned out to be on sale, too.) I always make the Cinnamon Swirl Bread for Thanksgiving. My brother loves it and would eat the whole loaf himself if permitted. Speaking of my brother, I also picked up his gift card. His birthday is Friday.

Ran to Dollar Tree for cards for Christmas, Thanksgiving, and my brother's birthday, then rode straight home. I didn't have a warm reception waiting for me. The Foot and Ankle Center had called. Turns out they didn't have enough information to process my claim! How? The secretary had called AmeriHealth herself to get the necessary info. At least, I thought she did. She wrote it down for me and everything. Maybe that's not what she did. When I tried to get into AmeriHealth's website, they claimed I wasn't even a member! Of course I am! They even said on their phone menus that Amerihealth handles Acme Markets. I'm so frustrated. I'm going to have to spend tomorrow morning before work getting all of this settled.

I cheered myself up by making Mint Meringue Cookies and watching The Three Musketeers. In this very, very loose Disney version of the classic Alexandre Dumas novel, everybody's favorite trio become Musketeers to protect Queen Minnie and her lady-in-waiting Daisy. Captain Pete and Clarabelle Cow, however, have more sinister plans in mind for the sweet female mouse, including giving her the most incompetent bodyguards, the cowardly duck, very small mouse, and dog who is not known for his brains. The boys race to rescue two of their ladies and reform the third, all before the wildest performance of The Pirates of Penzance on record!

If you're a fan of the original Disney characters, by all means, jump right in. This is a lot of fun. The animation isn't up to the standards of the original shorts, the French turtle narrator is probably unnecessary, and fans of classical music may not be thrilled with the vapid lyrics added to the works of Beethoven, Strauss, and Bizet, among others. What I loved here is some hilarious slapstick, especially in the Pirates-wrecking finale, and the adorably silly romance between the boys and their ladies.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Holidays are Coming

And in view of that, I spent most of the afternoon dubbing Christmas videos. Before I started with that, though, I got the laundry done. It was gorgeous, sunny, breezy but not as windy as last week, and probably in the upper 60s-lower 70s...really TOO warm for this time of year. The nice weather must have encouraged everyone to put off their chores. The laundromat was quiet the entire afternoon. I was able to get my fairly large load done with no fuss whatsoever.

When I got in, I put the clothes away, then started dubbing as I had the last of the leftover stew for lunch. The Flintstones' Christmas Carol was first on the list. Fred is playing Scrooge in Bedrock's local Christmas Eve play, but he takes the role far too seriously when he forgets to pick up Pebbles at the local day care and puts off his Christmas shopping until the last minute. Even worse, half of Bedrock is coming down with "the Bedrock Bug," and Wilma finds herself overtaxed with last-minute roles as it is. Wilma does her best to help her hard-headed husband see the light.

I like this, but I've always liked The Flintstones. Surprisingly, it actually sticks more to the book than many live action versions do, including sequences like Scrooge's sister Fan's arrival at his school and Marley showing Scrooge the phantoms out his window that often get cut from other adaptations. Fun for young kids and fans of The Flintstones. (At press time, this is the only Flinstones holiday special readily available on regular DVD. The Flintstones' earlier specials, A Flintstone Christmas and A Flintstone Family Christmas, can only be found on DVD in the Warner Archives.)

The next two were shorter specials from the early 80s. Bugs Bunny's Looney Christmas Tales is an anthology show featuring three made-for-the-special shorts. (The one about how the Tasmanian Devil ended up in the Santa suit is my favorite.) The Bernstein Bears' Christmas Tree shows what happens when Papa, Brother, and Sister Bear seek the perfect tree in the mountains...but they keep encountering trees that are homes for wild animals. When a snow storm ends their trek, they return to town, only to find that the local tree lot is sold out. The animals whose homes they spared have a special surprise for them when they get home!

Headed to work shortly after the cartoons ended. Work was very busy all night, not a surprise given that Thanksgiving is next week and we had call-outs. I was in and out with no trouble.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Aren't You Glad You're You?

Started off a sunny, breezy, warmer day with Pear Pancakes with Cranberry-Pear Compote (cranberries boiled in white grape-pear juice until they're practically jelly). As I ate, I dubbed The Bells of St. Mary's. A sequel to the Oscar-winning Going My Way, I ended up enjoying this more than the original film. Maybe it helps that Bing has the equally good Ingrid Bergman to bounce psalms and witticisms off of this time.

Father O'Malley (Crosby) now finds himself in the church of the title, the head of its order of nuns and Catholic school. O'Malley clashes with by-the-book Sister Benedict (Bergman) over how to run the school. Meanwhile, the old man building the skyscraper next door (Henry Travers of It's a Wonderful Life) wants to knock down St. Mary's to build a parking lot, but the school's newest charge, the daughter of a struggling single mother, may not have anywhere else to go...

As much as I liked Crosby here, Bergman comes off best as the strong-willed woman of the cloth who learns to let her habit down every once in a while and play baseball with the kids. Her teaching one of the boys who has been picked on to box was hilarious.

But my favorite part had nothing to do with Bergman or Crosby. St. Mary's first-grade Christmas pageant was utterly adorable...and fairly realistic with kids that age, from what I've witnessed with my younger cousins.

Put in a quick call to Mom while the movie ran. She had things to do before the Eagles game and couldn't talk for long. Apparently, my sister Anny had a tooth painfully removed last week. They were going to take her out to dinner and buy her an ice cream cake to make up for her not being able to eat on her birthday. Mom was thrilled to hear I now had some direction in mind for my life and had some goals to work toward.

Ran a short, lesser-known Rankin-Bass holiday special as I prepared to head to work. The Leprechaun's Christmas Gold is the only special I've ever seen that mixes Christmas lore with tales of Irish mythology. A young sailor gets quite a surprise when he pulls ashore on a remote island just off of Ireland to cut down a tree for Christmas. The tree has been holding a banshee prisoner. If she doesn't get the gold that belongs to the leprechauns who live on the island before Christmas morning, she'll turn into nothing but tears! She does her best to convince the wee people, and then the young sailor, to give up the precious metal.

Work was very busy all night. I was surprised, given this was the first Eagles game during the day since before Halloween. Maybe they were avoiding the game - the Eagles lost to the Cardinals 21-17. There were no really major problems, and I was in and out.

When I got home, I made chicken cutlets sauteed in wine sauce and leftover curried cauliflower for dinner and dubbed A Christmas Story and the original Emmett Otter's Jug Band Christmas with the narration by Kermit the Frog that was later cut on home video and DVD. The latter is my family's copy; we taped it off of HBO in 1988, shortly before A Disney Channel Christmas (which is why they're on the same tape).

A Christmas Story, for the two of you who haven't seen the 24-hour marathons of this film on cable, is all about the attempts by a 9-year-old by in 1940 Indiana to convince his mother to buy him a BB gun for Christmas. Trouble is, Mom thinks it's a bad idea, his dad may be too busy yelling at the furnace and the neighbors' dogs to notice, and he may not even survive childhood pitfalls like bullies, kids' shows that turn out to be commercials, and blurting out blue language in front of parents long enough to make it to Christmas Day!

Good ol' Ralphie. I've met few people who can't identify with something in this film. Yes, I too dealt with bullies, kids' shows that were really barely-disguised commercials, getting in trouble for accidentally cursing in front of parents, Dad's negotiation on the Christmas tree, annoying siblings, and begging for a special Christmas present. (Mom and Dad should be very happy that the closest my brother Keefe came to Ralphie's request was asking for power tools.)

Emmett Otter is far quieter. Based after the book by Lillian and Russell Hoban, this lovely Muppet cable special is one of the first they did with more realistic animals. Emmett and his Ma face a bare Christmas, until the near-by town announces a talent show on Christmas Eve. Both give up something they prize in order to join the contest. The winner of the contest turns out to be a surprise...and how Ma and Emmett finally have a happy holiday is even more so.

This is one of the sweetest holiday specials ever made. Paul Williams' music is absolutely gorgeous, including the touching ballads "When the River Meets the Sea" and "In Our World" and the hoe-down number for the Jug Band, "Barbecue."

I'm now dubbing another odd Christmas offering, the 1986 Babes In Toyland with Drew Barrymore as the child who doesn't believe in fantasy and Keanu Reeves as one of the citizens of the title world. I'm not exactly sure what anyone was thinking with this odd TV musical. No one can sing, the production looks cheap, Reeves is very out-of-place, and Leslie Bricusse's music is awful. It does have some really cute camp elements, though, including a scene-chewing Richard Mulligan as the villain Barnaby and Eileen Brennan as dithery Old Mother Hubbard. (This isn't currently on DVD, though has it for download.)

Saturday, November 12, 2011

It's a Wonderful Harvest

I love fall. It makes the whole world one big pot of gold. The first things I often see in the morning are the golden oak leaves just outside my bedroom windows, blowing gently in the wind. The squirrels chase each other, trying to save nuts and acorns for the winter. The birds chirp as they prepare for their long journey south.

The American Top 40 re-run warmed up things nicely this morning. We remained in the 80s, but moved ahead to 1985. Among the songs gracing the charts in mid-November were Whitney Houston's "Saving All My Love For You," the ballad "Separate Lives" by Phil Collins and Marilyn Martin, Ah-Ha's "Take On Me," Aretha Franklin's "Who's Zoomin' Who?" (I actually have that LP), Freddy Jackson's "You Are My Lady," and two numbers from the massively successful soundtrack to the stylish TV cop show Miami Vice, it's instrumental theme song and "You Belong to the City" by Glen Frey.

The song that knocked the Miami Vice music into the number #3 and #2 spots was one of my very favorite songs from my childhood, the energetic "We Built This City" by Starship. This was apparently the first #1 hit for the group that had started out as Jefferson Airplane in the 60s, switched to Jefferson Starship a decade later, then removed the "Jefferson" a year before the song came out.

It was a gorgeous, sunny day when I headed out after the show ended. The wind remained, but it was warmer than yesterday, and there wasn't a cloud in the deep blue sky. Perhaps due to fears over the extreme cold earlier in the week, there were far fewer yard sales this week. In fact, I went to the farm market first this time. They were bustling, even at quarter of 10. There were even more hand-made gift booths this week than last week, including the wool yarn booth with the live alpacas. (I loved the big, fluffy chocolate brown one with the huge brown eyes.) I ended up buying small Empire apples, pears, broccoli, a small organic cauliflower from the organic booth, bananas from the wholesaler, molasses, and cheddar cheese from the dairy booth.

Checked out two yard sales in Collingswood and Westmont near Cooper River Park next. Didn't find anything I liked at Westmont, but I picked up five records and a blank journal at the one in Collingswood. The records are:

Two LPs of Scott Joplin ragtime music by The New England Conservatory Ragtime Ensemble.

Colors of the Day - The Very Best of Judy Collins

Linda Rondstat - Linda Rondstat

Lena Horne - Lena Lovely and Alive (Apparently, this is a rare German pressing.)

The soundtrack from Breakfast at Tiffany's

I went straight home after leaving Westmont. Had leftover beef stew for lunch and spent the rest of the afternoon working on a baked pumpkin pudding from Felicity's Cooking Studio and watching holiday DVDs. Winnie the Pooh: Seasons of Giving is a direct-to-DVD combination of two winter-oriented episodes of The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh and the sweet Pooh Thanksgiving special. The Very Merry Christmas Songs DVD is basically an expansion of the Disney Sing-Along video of the same name, with additional songs utilizing footage from various Disney holiday TV and direct-to-DVD shows. The Mayflower Voyagers is a Peanuts special on the Pilgrims and the first Thanksgiving.

Went to work as soon as The Mayflower Voyagers ended. Work was off-and-on busy, nothing out of line for the day, time of year, or beautiful weather. There were no major problems (from me or the customers), and I was in and out with little fuss.

Went behind the Acme for dinner. I couldn't remember the last time I had pizza, so I opted for Tu Se Bella's. Had two delicious slices of vegetable and plain cheese and a bottle of Diet Coke. I ate my meal while listening to people pick up their orders and enjoy the warm room that smelled like garlic butter and watching the college football games on the TV over the soda machines.

When I got home, I began my holiday Video to DVD dubbing with It's a Wonderful Life. I've had a public domain video copy of the beloved tale of how one man's life touches so many others for several years. I've been wanting to replace it, but most of the Wonderful Life DVDs I've seen have been two-disc sets that are out of my price range for a movie I only watch a few months a year. Besides, I've heard and read so much about this movie, most of the extras would likely be redundant anyway.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Saluting Our Veterans

First of all, hats off to all our service people, past, present, and future, including my friend Jen Waters, who is in the Navy.

Started today with some more classic theatrical shorts devoted to the Armed Services and wartime. (And those of you who are offended by my saluting our fighting men with cartoons...well, you're in the wrong place.) Finished the remaining war-related Looney Tunes shorts. Bugs Bunny eats a super-charged carrot and becomes Super Rabbit. He flies out to Texas to stop a nasty cowboy (with Yosemite Sam's voice) from clearing out all rabbits! But when the going gets tough, Bugs changes into the uniform of a real Army officer. Daffy has far less interest in joining the services in Draftee Daffy, as he tries to escape that pesky little man from the Draft Board. Bugs trades super-heroics for a different kind of fantasy when he tangles with a plane-sabotaging gremlin in Falling Hare.

I started the Donald Duck in the Army series before I headed out. I always watch Disney's famous cartoons revolving around Donald's wartime misadventures on Armed Services-related holidays. Brash, noisy Donald was the perfect character for 40s audiences, who liked their comedy in-your-face, according to Leonard Maltin. My favorite is The Vanishing Private. Donald gets a little too into camoflage when he uses a new invisibility paint on a cannon, and then on himself. Sergent Pete nearly ends up going crazy trying to catch "the little man that you can't see."

My first errand of the day was running to the Acme to pick up my paycheck. Though the manager at the customer service desk said it had been busy, it didn't look too bad at that point. I next made brief stops at America's Best to order contacts and Fashion Bug for a quick look at their khakis (I need work pants that fit).

Went back to the Acme to do my grocery shopping. It still wasn't that busy. The lines seemed fine. I needed to restock after last week's baking and take advantage of some sales. I ended up with Hershey's Special Dark Chips (good sale), packs of fish, a pack of skinless chicken thighs and a pack of chicken tenders (40% off all Perdue chicken), brown sugar, regular white sugar, whole brown eggs, liquid egg whites, and frozen green peas (to replace what I used in the curried cauliflower last week).

After I got home, I enjoyed a delicious lunch of leftover shrimp and spinach and apple salad while finishing the Donald Duck cartoons. When they ended, I went back out for a stroll to the bank and CVS.

Yes, I know the bank was closed today. I used the ATM machine to deposit my paycheck. After I left there, I headed to CVS. I wanted dish washing liquid and mouth wash, but they were out of the sale items. I ended up cruising the Christmas decorations aisle instead. I love the Peanuts characters in nativity costumes. Snoopy the Sheep is so cute.

It had been cold and windy all day long, probably no more than the lower 50s. It was sunny when I was at the Acme, but clouds appeared as I headed to CVS. The clouds just made everything colder. I decided I'd be better off at home.

When I got in, I ran several more shorts and a Bowery Boys movie while making Cranberry-Dark Chocolate Chip Muffins. Warners and Disney weren't the only studios who made theatrical shorts that revolved around war. Walter Lantz at Universal did one for Woody Woodpecker that spoofed the strict rationing of gasoline in the US, Ration Bored. He had better luck with non-character wartime shorts. Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B depicts an African-American jazz trumpeter's introduction to the Army and how he gets his outfit going with his swinging reveille. In Pigeon Patrol, a country bumpkin who was rejected for wartime carrier pigeon duty still manages to get an important message across, kick the Axis in the rear, and impress his girl back home.

The Pink Panther found himself in the Vietnam War in G.I Pink, his only full war-themed cartoon. Pink proceeds to make a mess of this man's Army. Between misplaced land mines and cranky canine mascots, his commanding officer just wishes he'd get drafted by the Navy instead!

The Bowery Boys made four Armed Services-related movies between 1951 and 1953. I ran two today. They join the Army after thinking New York's being invaded in Bowery Battalion and find themselves protecting their friend Louie Dumbrowski from spies after plays for a hydrogen ray. And they're hardly saying Let's Go, Navy! when they hit the open seas to find the sailors who stole their money for a Bowery charity!

Between Bowery Boys movies, I looked up all of the local colleges to take a look at their non-credit online courses. I narrowed it down to Stockton College near Atlantic City (where I got my undergraduate degree from) and Temple/Camden County Community College (who use the same company for their online non-credit courses).

I'll ask for information about the medical billing as back-up, but I'm not really interested. No offense to real medical billing workers and transcriptionists, but it doesn't sound like thrilling work. I want to do something creative and interesting that actually uses some of my college learning. Stockton has courses in writing for websites and freelance writing. Temple/Camden County have web design and multimedia design courses that are expensive, but might be useful for what I have in mind.

I'd like to have my own at-home company writing for local publications and helping small businesses in the area design and compose newsletters, announcements, flyers, brochures, and memos. I'd also like to take some creative writing workshops and classes and try to revive that part of me, too. I haven't been able to do any writing beyond the fanfiction Lauren and I do together in ages. I just haven't had any ideas, nor have I been able to make myself sit down to write.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Foggy Balance

Once again, I awoke to dense fog. The fog remained as I rode to Collingswood for this week's yoga class. We concentrated on headstands in an attempt to lift the fog from our own minds. Karin had each of us pair up with another student. The girl I paired with couldn't get her legs all the way up, either, which made me feel a lot better. I can get my legs up the wall, but I still can't get on my shoulders.

Went right to the Collingswood Library after work. There was a big pile of DVDs to file and shelve, and plenty to organize, too. I finished with the kids' shelves just as their Storybook Hour let out, so I ended up helping some children find DVDs to take out, too.

By the time I was pulling my bike out of the bike rack, the sun had burned off the fog, and it was much warmer. This lasted more than half-way through my ride. I was just coming up to the White Horse Pike when clouds once again obscured the light. The wind picked up too, and it became much colder.

Unlike the fog, the clouds remained. It was still cloudy and cool when I went for a walk after I got home. Despite the sudden change in temperature, there were lots of people out and about, working on Thanksgiving (or Christmas, in the case of the neighbors across the street) decorations, clearing out cars, or raking or blowing leaves to the sidewalk. Kids chased each other on bikes. Teens chatted with their pals passing in cars or on bikes of their own. (And there were a lot more kids than usual. The students of the Oaklyn School are off today and tomorrow for Veteran's Day and the New Jersey Teacher's Convention.)

When I got in, I just spent an hour watching Looney Tunes wartime shorts in honor of our people in the Armed Services. (I'll do the Donald Duck in the Army cartoons tomorrow.) I also paged through Christmas books, looking for decorating and edible gift ideas for the holidays.

It was still cloudy when I rode to work, and even colder and windier. Work was busy for most of the day, not surprising given that kids are the only ones who are off for the holiday, and we should be getting the last of the beginning-of-the-month people this weekend.

The only problem was something I did. I was handling a WIC Check, and it just disappeared. I couldn't find it anywhere. No one could. Not the customer or the managers. It wasn't on the bottom of the register. It wasn't under anything. It wasn't in with the coupons. I panicked. There was a line, and the check wasn't anywhere! It never turned up while I was there. I felt so embarrassed.

Oh, and those dark clouds did finally produce some rain. It rained while I was riding home and for several hours afterwards, though I don't think it's doing anything right now. According to the Weather Channel, it won't be lingering, either. It's supposed to go right back to upper 50s-lower 60s and sunny tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Golden Autumn

I awoke to another sunny, breezy day, warm for this time of year but not quite as much as yesterday. I spent most of the late morning and afternoon at work. We were pretty busy for the majority of the day. While I dealt with quite a few of those annoying old ladies who never want to bag and give five hundred contradictory orders on how to do it, most people were in pretty good moods. Even the annoying woman in the bright-colored hat and five hundred layers of clothing wasn't anything resembling the problem she usually is. I even met someone who has seen me riding to yard sales and enjoys doing it herself.

Went straight home after work. I wanted to run to WaWa for milk. I wasn't the only one out and about, either. The roofers down the street were still working on hammering shingles, though they were now blasting Bruce Springsteen. The family across the street was starting to put up their Christmas lights. (They always do it around Veteran's Day. They have this huge display that stays up as late as March or April.) People were cleaning out their cars, raking their yards, and walking their dogs. Kids threw footballs and basketballs in their backyards and strolled and chatted in packs.

When I got in, I had Flounder in Lemon Sauce and a Spinach-Avocado Salad for dinner and made "War" Bread (a multi-grain bread from New England) while dubbing Charade. Audrey Hepburn finds herself on the run after her husband, who tried to run off with $250,000 stolen from the US government during World War II, is murdered. Three crooks who helped him steal the gold and are after Hepburn are the suspects...or could it be the mysterious man with many names who has fallen for her (Cary Grant), or the American Embassy official who seems awfully interested in the gold (Walter Matthau).

Stanley Donen usually made musicals, and he can't help referring to a few of them in this stylish caper. It's lighter than most of Hitchcock's, more like a cross between a Hitchcock late 50s caper and an early James Bond film. The Paris photography is magnificent, the color palatte is appropriately bright and brilliant, and the dialogue is at turns witty and grim. Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant work well together as the pursued lady and the man who may or may not be what he says he is. In addition to Matthau, look for James Coburn as one of the crooks after Hepburn.

(Oh, and the bread came out absolutely divine, soft and chewy, with just enough molasses flavor.)

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Citizen Redmer

I ended up spending most of the morning finishing off Avatar. I didn't realize how long it is! I did enjoy it. It takes a long time to get where it's going, but it really picks up in the second half. That final battle is beautifully done and very intense! It's still not anything I'm going to buy, but it was definitely worth the rental. Those of you who are more into technology or science fiction may find this far more compelling than I did.

Finally made a few calls around quarter of noon. I still couldn't get a hold of Jodie, but I did talk to the Foot and Ankle Center. I had no idea my ortheopedics take six to eight weeks to arrive! They do want to see me for another appointment, though. I'll be going in next Tuesday afternoon.

Headed to the Haddon Township Library next. It was the warmest it's been since the beginning of last month! It had to be at least in the 70s, sunny and breezy under a glistening sky. This was reflected in Newton River Park being far busier than usual for this time of year. I saw picnickers, dog walkers, joggers, and various couples out for strolls. The playground was filled with kids and parents, with little girls playing house in the huge stone barbecue shelter and the little boys trying to climb it.

The Haddon Township Library was busy, too. There were pre-teen girls having a study group in the kids' section, and almost every computer was full. I shelved a few DVDs, but I mostly worked on the large stack of children's books. The majority of them were books about Halloween or fall, which makes sense, since we're now really past that holiday.

I wanted to take out Citizen Kane, but it wasn't in. I settled on two cartoon DVDs, the last of the 2003 Strawberry Shortcake sets, Growing Up Dreams, and animated Disney Three Musketeers with Mickey, Donald, and Goofy in the title roles. (This is the only version I know of with Clarabelle Cow as Lady DeWinter.)

It was past 2:30 when I finally got out of there. Decided to try something different for lunch and opted for Wendy's. The have a menu option where you can choose a salad, then pick something small on the side, like a burger or a wrap. I went with something a tad healthier - a baked potato with ketchup and a little whipped butter spread. I don't like sour cream anyway, fattening or not. It's a little too sour for me! Added an Apple Pecan Salad and an unsweetened lemon iced tea and enjoyed a late lunch as I admired the view from the long windows in front of Wendy's.

Instead of going to the Westmont Plaza, I went in the opposite direction, past the Haddon Township High School to the Westmont Acme. I was dismayed to discover that Dollar Depot, the wonderful little dollar store between the Acme and the CVS, is shutting down. I love that place. I've bought quite a few wonderful retro-style holiday decorations and cardboard hangings there. They have an amazing cheap spice selection, too. That's also where I found three Rankin-Bass specials, Christmas Eve on Sesame Street, and the Going My Way/Holiday Inn DVDs a few years ago.

I made equally good scores this afternoon. I found the cutest little Christmas folk-art-ish bear with red and green streamers. I'll hang him outside on the porch. Picked up some Christmas Coca-Cola-ad-themed gift tags and holly-ringed mailing labels. My last item from the spice/food shelves was apple cider vinegar, which I ran out of over the weekend.

As I browsed amid the Christmas decorations, I encountered a shelf filed with small stacks of videos. Most of them were fairly recent copies of old movies. I ended up with five to dub to DVD - Support Your Local Sheriff, Charade, Captain Blood, Anchors Aweigh, and ironically, Citizen Kane, the one I looked for in vain earlier in the afternoon. Everything in the already-cheap store was 40% off, bringing my order to a little over 8 dollars.

Rode back to Oaklyn the way I came, via Newton River Park. It was only slightly less busy at 4PM than at 1. There were still lots of joggers, dog walkers, and kids in the playground. I wanted to head over to Dad's to see if he and Jodie were at home.

They were indeed there when I pulled my bike into the driveway. In fact, Jodie was just going on the porch to enjoy a cigarette. Turns out they'd been in Eastern Pennsylvania, helping Jessa's grandmother with a broken hip, for over a week. Jodie reinforced Mom's suggestion about medical billing. I'll send for Camden County College's catalog and application, but I'm still not sure. It costs money, it sounds complicated, and I don't really want to be a doctor or a nurse. It's also, however, a well-paying job I can do at home that's at least a little closer to what I'm interested in than being a cashier.

When I finally got home, I made a quick dinner of leftovers and Brussels sprouts and ran political-themed cartoons and Citizen Kane. Tiny Toon Adventures's "Citizen Max" is a spoof of "Kane," right down to Hampton Pig as the reporter chasing an expelled Montana Max's last words before he was booted out of school and going to the other toons to find out how it happened. In You're Not Elected, Charlie Brown, Chuck was the gang's original choice for school president, but when Lucy decides he's just not popular enough, Linus is nominated in his place. Charles Schultz gets some wicked jabs in at politics and long-winded politicians as Linus tries to win support while campaigning for his favorite cause - advocating the Great Pumpkin.

Went right into Citizen Kane after the cartoons ended. As with another oft-referred-to classic, North By Northwest, I came into this one at a bit of a disadvantage. This is one of those movies that have been spoofed and stolen from so frequently, it's kind of hard to just take it at face value.

For all that, I did enjoy it and can see why so many directors have been inspired by it. Welles, just 24 when this came out in 1941, uses unusual photography, camera angles, dark lighting, and a biting screenplay to tell the story of the rise and fall of Charles Foster Kane, a media magnate who started out as a driving newspaper owner determined to show the side of the "little people." After 50 years, two wives, and the loss of his empire, he finally learns a lesson in how power can corrupt good intentions...and that no amount of money can buy true happiness.

Oddly enough, it reminds me of a much earlier Social Network with more interesting characters. I especially liked Joseph Cotton as Kane's best friend and the long-time drama critic on his paper. For all the controversy involving real-life media magnate William Randolph Hearst thinking it too closely resembled his own biography, it richly deserved its Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. (I might have to look up the HBO movie on the making of Citizen Kane with Liv Schriber as Welles now, too.)

Monday, November 07, 2011

Dances With the Avatars

Started out one of the most gorgeous days in early November I'd ever seen with a run to the laundry. The busy week and beautiful weather was reflected in the laundromat. When I arrived, it was quiet as can be. Some people did arrive later, but by then, I was starting to load my laundry into the drier.

It was so lovely, after I put away my laundry and ate a quick lunch, I went right back out for a walk. I just had time for a quick trip to the boat launch on the end of Goff Avenue and back. The view was incredible. The barest breeze rippled the green water. The view was so clear, you could see the top of the Ben Franklin Bridge with no trouble. The trees were every shade of gold you could imagine, from gently buffed to shining brilliant.

There were lots of people out and about, too. Two of people in the house across from us were already putting up inflatable Christmas decorations, including one related to the Nickelodeon kids' show Yo Gabba Gabba. (They're the ones who put up the gigantic light displays every holiday season.) Men working on the roof of another house blasted classic hard rock music. People walked dogs. Parents pushed strollers. Kids ambled home from the Oaklyn School down the street.

I watched the first half of Avatar during lunch and continued it when I got back in from my walk. Avatar is the very strange tale of a young, crippled Marine who is sent to the planet Pandora in place of his late brother. A company on Earth wants to mine a new, precious metal on Pandora, but they need the cooperation of the planet's native people. A group of scientists create a way to inhabit computer "avatars" that look like the natives, so they can convince them to allow mining. The Marine finds himself caught between the scientists and their goals, the war-and-profit-hungry company...and the native people and beautiful planet he's slowly coming to respect.

I'm not sure what to think of this one. Yes, Pandora is an incredible, colorful, well-designed place, but the animation is waxy and weird, almost too-lifelike. The story isn't anything new, and like The Social Network, it's hard for someone like me with no interest in science or war to warm up to these tough characters.

Had my only late work shift this week tonight. Work was busy when I came in, dead when I left, probably thanks to the Eagles game tonight. Apparently, the Eagles started out poorly, but at press time, were winning by a touchdown over the Chicago Bears, 24-17.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Daylight Savings and Other Fall Stories

I was more than a little disoriented when I got up this morning, thanks to this morning's Daylight Savings. Did I go to bed at 1...or 2? Was I up at 8AM or 9AM? No matter. When I finished with my journal, I put on Brunch With the Beatles and had a smashing fall breakfast of Squash Cornmeal Cakes (made with the leftover acorn squash from last night), a dressed egg, and applesauce.

Ran Brunch With the Beatles while I ate. "Songs From 1966" was the theme today. This was the year the Beatles really kicked into high gear and started doing more elaborate productions in the studios. Among the hits and high notes from that year were "Yellow Submarine," "Michelle," "Paperback Writer," "Tomorrow Never Knows," "Nowhere Man," "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)," "Act Naturally," and "We Can Work It Out." I tried calling Mom about mid-way through the show, but I got the answering machine.

The rest of the day wasn't terribly exciting. I worked on editing Bowery Boys fanfiction, then had a very quick lunch, put together a Crock-Pot beef stew for dinner, and went to work. The Acme actually called me in an hour early. This wasn't a big deal. I had no major plans for today, and while my hours are generally earlier this week, they're also fewer. It was busy all night, right up until I was ready to leave. There were no major problems, and I was in and out after picking up a can of low fat and sodium beef broth to replace what I used on the stew.

When I got home, I had my stew and talked to Mom. She was happy to hear I'd finally gotten some things done. I do feel much better now that I'm back to a more regular schedule and have a few plans. I need to call the Foot and Ankle Center about my orthopedics and actually hang up those flyers this week.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Chilled Harvest

Brrr! I awoke to 40-degree temperatures as I turned on this week's American Top 40. They stayed in the 80s but jumped back a few years to 1983. Popular songs from early November '83 included "True," by Spandau Ballet, "Say, Say, Say" by Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney (their second collaboration), "Uptown Girl" by Billy Joel (which has been a favorite of mine ever since), "Delirious" by Prince, "Telephone" by Sheena Easton, and "Making Love Out of Nothing At All" by Air Supply.

That week's #1 hit was a reflection of the popularity of country music in the early 80s, as it was also that week's top country song - the duet "Islands In the Stream," by two of the 80s' favorite country music stars, Dolly Pardon and Kenny Rogers.

Other than the cold, it was sunny, windy, and a perfect day for a farm market/yard sale run. There weren't too many yard sales around this week, probably because of the chilly weather. My first stop was a sale on Merrick Avenue, near the Westmont Acme and CVS. The proprietor was annoying, with his nasal voice, dumb jokes, and attempts to make people walk away with items, whether they wanted to or not. Most of his records were singles from the 80s, but I did find a record that interested me:

Jim Croce - You Don't Mess Around With Jim

The Collingswood Farm Market was next. It was fairly busy despite the brisk weather and the distinct lack of food booths. All of the flower stands were gone, replaced by craft salespeople. The honey seller told me she's on her last week, too. I found everything on my long list that I needed, though, including mushrooms, Brussels sprouts, carrots, apple butter, spinach (for the first time since the spring), pears, little Fuji apples, the honey, cauliflower, and broccoli. I needed to do some major restocking after the weather was too messy to get to the Farm Market last week!

I made my best finds today at indoor sales. An antique store in Collingswood was having a big used book sale, with paperbacks for a dollar and hardbacks for two dollars. I bought a Rachel Ray cookbook for a Christmas present, and a Disney Wonderful World of Reading Christmas-themed hardback, a hardback copy of the Old West-set mystery Holmes on the Range, and a lovely 50s-era book of fairy tales for myself.

Rode around Collingswood for a while, looking for another yard sale. When I couldn't find it, I decided to try the thrift shop at the Logan Presbyterian Church on the corner of Market Street and the White Horse Pike in Audubon instead. They hold the thrift shop every other Saturday. I've often ridden by when they've been open, but I was usually on the way to or from a yard sale and had never tried them. With few options, I was willing to check them out today.

The thrift shop was in the basement of the pale-green house in the back of the main church. It was basically the same thing as the now-closed thrift shop in Collingswood - clothes, toys, records, videos, knick-knacks. Here, though, everything had it's own room. There was a room for clothes, a room for toys and kids' videos, and a room for everything else, including adult records, videos, and decorative items. (Like the Collingswood thrift shop, they don't have the room for furniture.)

I made my best finds here. Among their children's videos were a fourth Muppet Babies Video Storybook I'd never heard of and a copy of The Flinstone's Christmas Carol, both of which I could add onto the end of dubbed DVDs.

There were two boxes with records off to the right in the large knick-knacks room. I found some great cast albums and sountracks there:

The original cast of the 1965 Broadway musical Do I Hear a Waltz?

The soundtrack to something called 'S, Wonderful, 'S, Marvelous, 'S Gershwin - the back cover says it's a TV "Super Special" from 1971 with a great cast, including Larry Kert, Fred Astaire, Leslie Uggams, Robert Guillaume, Peter Nero, Linda Bennett, and Jack Lemmon.

The soundtrack to the original film version of Gigi

The massive 3-disc 1956 original cast album to Frank Loesser's The Most Happy Fella

The lady at the front table where I made my purchases said they'd be open again on November the 19th, which also happens to be the last day of the farm market. If I'm not too busy and the weather's good, I might have to try to get back there and see if they have any more great records.

Rode over to an estate sale on Wyoming Avenue in Audubon after leaving the church. When I found nothing good there, I went back up Market Street to the TreeHouse Cafe. It was almost 12:30 by then, and the coffee house/meeting place for mothers was very busy. I was lucky to find a seat! A cup of hot chocolate and very spicy turkey chili helped me warm up after riding around outside all day.

By the time I left there, it was past 1PM. Time to head home. I gave Miss Ellie my rent before I left, including a letter that stated my intention to do the raking today. Miss Ellie had a message for me on my answering machine. That wouldn't be necessary. Her grandson would be coming over in a few hours to do the raking.

Well, that left me at loose ends. Raking was my big plan for today. I opted for a walk to WaWa for a snack instead. Since it remained in the middle 40s, I threw a coat on over my thickest sweater and grabbed ear muffs and gloves. I wasn't the only one out and about, either. I saw lots of kids in strollers being pushed by bundled-up parents, joggers enjoying the fresh breeze, and teenagers in packs heading to WaWa for hot drinks. I grabbed a pretzel and a hot chai and headed home.

Spent the rest of the afternoon at my apartment, doing things online. I also finally made the first ad for my editing business. I'm going to put up ads in local libraries and coffee houses, and maybe businesses that kids might frequent, like the comic books shop. I'll work on online advertising and advertising in colleges next week, when I can drum up the courage. It took me long enough just to make a flyer!

Ran The Mikado while making shrimp, mashed acorn squash, and Curried Cauliflower for dinner. This is the 1939 British version of the 1885 Gilbert and Sullivan operetta. I figured that if I could enjoy the equally stagey 1983 Pirates of Penzance, I would get a kick out of this...and I did. American singer Kenny Baker is Nanki-Poo (ok, so the names are weird - work with me here), a minstrel who falls for pretty school maid Yum-Yum. Trouble is, she's to be married to Ko-Ko, the new Lord High Executioner, and he's under the thumb of the pretentious Pooh Bah. Nanki-Poo has his own secrets to dish out, too...and when it all comes out in the open, it may take all of Ko-Ko's skills in clowning and persuasion to keep everyone's heads on their shoulders, including his!

If you love theatrical-style musicals or Gilbert and Sullivan, this is really cute, despite all the talk about beheading and punishments. The production is gorgeous, too, with the usual bold palette of Technicolor replaced by more delicate pastel shades, and the soundstage sets looking exquisite. The D'Oyly Carte Players have a ball with the material, and Kenny Baker looks and sounds far more at ease here than he did playing ringmaster to the Marx Brothers in At the Circus.

A few caveats. First of all, this is apparently a severely truncated version of the show, slimmed down to 91 minutes. While it all moves fairly quickly (moreso than the Pirates of Penzance film), purists probably won't be thrilled with the missing scenes and songs, and the plot is hard to follow at times. There's also the matter of obvious Brits (and one American) playing Asians. Not to mention, this is not the place to come to for heavy opera. This is about as fluffy as you can get and still talk about executions.