Monday, December 31, 2012

Have a Very Shiny New Year

I closed 2012 far more amiably than I closed 2011. This time, I'd been scheduled to work on New Year's Eve, and I was fine with it. I had a pleasant walk around the neighborhood this morning. It was cloudy and chilly, but not abnormally so for the time of year. I strolled down the street and over the park behind the school, but there was no one around, not even a Canadian goose. Everyone was probably inside or out and about, getting ready for New Year's parties.

I had leftovers for lunch while watching more Faeirie Tale Theatre. "Puss n' Boots" is a retelling of the story of a clever cat who convinces a king and a princess that his impoverished master is a Marquis. Ben Vereen is Puss. Gregory Hines is his master. Alfre Woodard is the princess. Brock Peters is the evil ogre the cat has to outwit in order to gain a castle for his "Marquis." One of my favorite episodes; Vereen has a lot of fun as a feline.

"The Snow Queen" is a bit more magical. Lee Remick is the chilly title character, who takes a contrary young man (Lance Kerwin) to her icy home in order to teach him a lesson about friendship. His best friend Gerda (Melissa Gilbert) is determined to go after him. Adapted from a Hans Christian Anderson story, and considerably closer to the source material than the Disney version that's supposed to come out next year sounds like it will be. It's a little muddled - Remick, despite her title status, doesn't have much to do - but has some of the loveliest sets and costumes of the entire series.

Work was a total madhouse all day. If people weren't buying last-minute vegetable and fruit trays for their New Year's Eve parties, they were doing their beginning-of-the-month shopping. Despite the noise and the lines, the day went quickly. I was able to get a few things for my own New Year's Eve during my break, including heavy cream and sparkling pear juice for my traditional New Year's Eve Whipped Syllabub.

Ran two New Year's specials while making chicken stir-fry for a late dinner. Happy New Year, Charlie Brown has poor Chuck stuck doing a book report on War & Peace while the rest of the gang enjoys Peppermint Patty's New Year's Eve party. Rudolph's Shiny New Year is the first follow-up to the original Rankin-Bass Rudolph. Father Time sends Rudolph after the runaway Baby New Year, but he may not be able to get around Eon, the Terrible Monster Bird in time. If he can't bring the Baby New Year home by midnight on December 31st, time will stand still!

But in real life, time stands still for no one. I'd just finished with my WebKinz and was chatting with Lauren and sipping my Whipped Syllabub when I heard the first fireworks go off on the river. I enjoyed a glorious show of sparkling lights flying on the other side of the river. With the trees bare, I had a spectacular view. The huge wisps of red, green, and gold glitter were prettier than anything in Times Square...and a lot less hectic.

I hope all of you have a safe, happy, and healthy 2013. And as Rudolph said, "May it be shiny, too!" ; )

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Ring Out the Old, Ring In the New

Slept until past 10:30 today. When I finally got up, I put on the last Brunch With the Beatles of the year. The theme was "A Decade of #1 Hits," ranging from "Can't Buy Me Love" to "All You Need Is Love" to "The Long and Winding Road." They tossed in George Harrison's New Year's-themed solo song "Ring Out the Old" for good measure. Since I'm probably going to have waffles or pancakes out on New Year's Day, I kept today's pancakes simple and made Journeycakes - cornmeal pancakes - from Felicity's Cooking Studio.

I ate so late, it was almost 1:30 before I made it over to Dad's to do the laundry. He and Jodie were watching the last Eagles game of the season, and probably coach Andy Reid's last game as well. I kind of think they're throwing out the baby with the bathwater over one bad season, but no one's really been happy with him this year. Then again, the Eagles did lose 45-7 to the New York Giants. Despite the rout, the Bears' win did manage to knock Giants out of the playoffs...and out of the running for a second Super Bowl trip in a row.

Dad got so fed up with the Eagles game, he switched around to a couple of different games, including the close Bears-Lions match-up. As mentioned, the Bears finally won that one, 26-24. The Bengals-Ravens game was equally interesting. Both teams fought hard, but the Bengals finally took that one, 23-17. And this wasn't a good day for Dad's teams. At least the Eagles got on the board - the Patriots mangled the Dolphins 28-0.

When I got in, I put away my large load of laundry (washed most of my new clothes, plus some jeans I hadn't done in a while) and had leftover tuna casserole for dinner while listening to my tribute to four music stars I enjoyed who passed on this year. I bought the Rhino Handmade Instant Replay CD set in March; ran the first disc for Davy Jones. Did Side 2 and 3 of my On the Radio LP for Donna Summer. Ran Whitney Houston's first, self-titled album and a collection of Andy Williams singing hit songs from movies (including a lovely version of "Moon River") before heading out to work.

Tonight was one of my two late work shifts this week, and the only night I was closing. It was still fairly steady when I got in, pin-drop quiet when I closed.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Snow Daze In Philadelphia

Jessa and I headed out for Philly around 10:30. I'd spent the morning before that watching more public domain cartoons. Among the interesting shorts this time around were two more Fleischer Brothers Superman adventures ("Billion Dollar Limited" and "The Bulleteers") and a 60s educational TV short called The Adventures of Captain Nemo. The latter involved the captain and two kids helping to rescue a dolphin from a group of hungry sharks. Billie Mae Richards, the long-time voice of the Rankin-Bass Rudolph, was the voice of the girl and boy in this short.

It had started to snow while I was waiting for Jessa. The snow was coming down in big, fat flakes, but as I suspected, it wasn't sticking to the street or sidewalk. We had no problems driving to the PATCO station in Collingswood.

The trip to Philadelphia was sort of weird. The snow was coming down so hard by this point, you couldn't see much of anything - not the city, not the sky. It was all pearly gray, even the Schuylkill River. You couldn't really see much of anything out the window, including the skyline.

Jessa attends college at the Art Institute of Philadelphia. As a commuter (she still lives at Dad's house), she knows the PATCO and SEPTA train lines well. She lead me through the underground maze of white and orange SEPTA stations. The kid knows her onions. We finally came out on Broad Street, a block from FYE.

FYE had a couple of different sales going on. Jessa didn't get anything, but I found a few interesting items. There was a buy 1, get one for a dollar used sale. I found the original full series release for one of my favorite childhood shows, Faeirie Tale Theatre, for a pricy-but-worth-it $41. The $1 set was the first season of Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman. I caught a few episodes while babysitting during the mid-90s and enjoyed them, and Superman has long been one of my favorite DC superheroes. Christmas movies and specials were half-off; I was rather amused to find an Ice Age Christmas special. (Christmas? In the ice age? Oohhkayy.) It ended up being $4 new.

WebKinz put out a series of music-themed "Rockerz" stuffed animals starting last summer. Most of them are really rather ugly, but there's been a few that were kind of cute. Though the hippie cow with the flower was tempting, I ultimately went with the "punk princess" pink-and-black-striped cat who had a bow on her ear and wore a checkered tie. How could I resist a pink cat in a checkered tie? FYE's been getting rid of its WebKinz products for ages; I got the cat for $4.94. I thought the name Cyndi, for Cyndi Lauper, was rather appropriate for her.

By the time we left FYE, it was considerably warmer. The snow had turned into rain, and would remain rain for the rest of the afternoon. We hiked in the rain around City Hall and past the lunch-time traffic to Macy's. I wanted to use the gift card I got from Lauren.

We ducked past the crowd waiting for the next showing of the Macy's Light Show and into the elevators going up to the third level. I needed new socks and underthings. I know, not that exciting, but the drier at the laundromat ate half of my last pair of white socks months ago. I bought a pack of Gold Toe white socks that were on sale. The underthings were buy 2, get 2 free...but I only needed one. I ended up spending the gift card, plus $21 of my own money, but I really needed these.

Instead of braving the crowds, we stayed on the third floor and watched the Light Show from there. I'm so glad I can see this every year. It's so cute. Macy's has a curtain of lights representing various Christmas characters - Rudolph, Frosty, Santa in a train, snowflakes, Clara and the Nutcracker, the Sugar Plum Fairy, ballerinas, clocks, candy canes - that blink and glitter and glow in time to the music and Julie Andrews' narration. There's a beautiful tree with a glowing star. I love the cute bear trumpeters who open and close the show.

Here's a recording of the Macy's Light Show from last year.

 Jessa and I were going to have lunch at Starbucks', but they were busy, and the small Starbucks at Macy's didn't sell sandwiches. We headed out instead. I was hoping to find a cafe or something on the way to Rustic Music, but we didn't see anything we could afford. It didn't help that the rain was still coming down pretty hard, and though it wasn't as cold as it had been earlier, it was still wet and gloomy.

We were dripping wet when we finally made it to Rustic Music. While neither of us saw anything we liked, I was just happy to introduce Jessa to a really cool little store. She said she'd passed it before, but had never gone in.

Jessa was the one who finally found us somewhere to eat. The Bellevue Hotel is one of the fanciest places to stay in downtown Philly, and so big, it has its own upscale mall and food court. Jess says she eats at the food court all the time. It's near her school. Alas, we got there so late, most of the court restaurants were closed. We finally opted for Chinese food. Jess had General Pao's Chicken. I went with the less-spicy Chicken and Broccoli. I had hot tea; she had Sprite. We both had vegetable fried rice. I ate all my broccoli and chicken, but Jessa couldn't get anywhere on hers. We both ended up taking ours home.

Though the rain was slowing down by quarter of 3, we'd both had enough walking. Jessa lead us back into the subterranean labyrinths of the underground train stations. We finally hopped on a half-full train back to Collingswood. The sky remained gray, but it was warmer, and the rain was down to a fine mist. When we stepped out of the train station, even that was gone.

Jessa gave me a small present from our Aunt Jayne on the ride home. She gave me a cute little Christmas snow globe with my name on it. When you flip a switch on the side, it lights up and changes colors. Very nice. It'll look great on my kitchen table.

I spent the rest of the evening at home. I made muffins and had leftovers while watching the Faeirie Tale Theatre episode "Cinderella" and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. "Cinderella" is one of Faerie Tale Theatre's more straightforward adaptations. Jennifer Beals (just after Flashdance) is the put-upon young lady. Matthew Broderick is her prince. Jean Stapleton, in the second of two roles on the show, is her slightly daffy fairy godmother. Eve Arden is the obnoxious stepmother, and Edie McClurg is one of her sisters.

A Game of Shadows picks up right where the first film left off. Watson (Jude Law) is about to get married. His long-time best friend Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) isn't happy about it. He's even less happy with the fact that his arch-nemesis Professor Moriarty (Jared Harris) has been killing off wealthy tycoons and buying their properties. Holmes finally bands together with a gypsy girl (Noomi Rapace) who is looking for her brother to stop his rival from causing a rift of global proportions.

As much as I enjoyed the first one, I think I liked this even more. For one thing, Harris' Moriarty is a far better villain, and the plot makes a lot more sense. The movie also has a hilarious Stephan Fry as Holmes' equally intelligent older brother Mycroft. Some unnecessary special effects sequences slow things down, but otherwise, if you liked the first one and are willing to try a less traditional version of the tales of the World's Greatest Detective, this is highly recommended.

Friday, December 28, 2012

The Snow Is Coming! The Snow Is Coming!

But before the snow comes, I had errands to run. I slept in this morning and didn't get to the Acme for this week's grocery trip until quarter of 12. Bad idea. The line for the customer service was half-way across the front end, thanks to all the dock workers from down the road getting their paychecks cashed. I shopped first this time. I needed to do a lot of restocking today - cream of mushroom soup (used it in the tuna casserole last night), French vanilla mousse mix, toilet paper, bananas, pears, oranges, romaine lettuce, frozen green peppers, canned mushrooms, peanut butter (the Planters Natural was on a good sale). I'm almost out of eggs and am out of canned chicken. Got chicken legs to make stock, and a nice little spiral ham for my New Year's Day dinner. Those Emerald Trail Mix bags are finally on sale for the first time in ages. I may have to get more before the sale ends; I have a ton of coupons that are going to be done at the end of the year.

Oh, and mixed feelings on my schedule this week. While I do work New Year's Day and New Year's Eve, that's not really that big of a deal. I'm not a huge party person, so I wasn't really planning on having those days off. Not to mention, I work in the afternoon both days, and only four hours New Year's Day. I'll have plenty of time to have my traditional New Year's Day breakfast out and make a decent  holiday dinner. What bothers me is two days until 10 again...and not having another day off after tomorrow until next Saturday.

I found a green bag laying on the porch when I got home. My new winter jacket from L.L Bean had arrived! Mom gave it to me for Christmas, but it was too small. It's still a little tight in the tummy and shoulders, but not nearly as bad as it was. I'll keep it this time. It's a nice forest green color that goes perfectly with the scarves Samantha gave me. I switched coats and wore it on my walk to the bank. (I'll keep the black coat for really cold days or heavy winter storms.)

It's hard to believe we're supposed to get an inch or two of snow tomorrow. It was gorgeous today. Sunny, breezy but not gale-force windy, about average mid-30s temperatures for the time of year. There wasn't a cloud in the brilliant blue sky. Everyone's decorations look so nice, all of the wreaths in windows and wire statues in lawns. The bank wasn't busy when I arrived, and I was able to deposit most of my paycheck in peace.

I spent the rest of the afternoon finishing the new Scooby Doo Christmas/winter DVD set I started this morning. As with the "Around the World"-themed set from last summer, this was another mix of 60s episodes, 70s episodes, Shaggy/Scooby/Scrappy shorts, and episodes from What's New, Scooby Doo?. My favorite that wasn't already available on Scooby Doo: Winter Wonderdog was "Whatta Shocking Ghost," an episode from the original 60s-early 70s series. The gang find themselves stranded at a remote mountain hamlet that's had visitors from the high-voltage ghost of a man who vanished while working on a power line. The Mayor of the town wants to warn them away, but the gang become determined to find out just what this shocking spirit is really after.

Ran a public-domain Fleischer Brothers Superman short as I prepared for work. Unlike the Mystery Inc gang, Clark Kent has no time for skiing in a lodge. He has to switch to his Superman guise to ward off a frozen dinosaur that's defrosted and is rampaging in downtown Metropolis (looking very much like Godzilla would over a decade later).

Despite several managers insisting that it was busy earlier, thanks to the weather report and the upcoming holiday, by the time I got into work, the rush hour was winding down. It was very quiet for most of the night. I spend a lot of time doing anything to not be bored - cleaning, pulling shelves.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Beyond the Gray Horizon

I really slept in today - I didn't get up until 10:30! Probably just as well. Though the rain was long gone by then, it was still cloudy, windy, and cold. I wrote in my journal and read The Night Flyers, then had breakfast while finishing Jammin' With Cherry Jam.

Moved to Mickey Mouse Clubhouse while doing a project I've been putting off for ages. I have an old Easter basket my mom gave me that I use for current sewing and crocheting projects. While it does hold scrap fabric and ribbon well, it's not so great for small items like pins, crocheting needles, spools of thread, and measuring tape. I was tired of spending ten minutes searching for everything every time I wanted to work on something. I separated the plastic case into compartments with the little slides that came with the case. There's a place for everything that could fit, even those random tiny balls of leftover yarn Mom sent me last year.

The theme of this Clubhouse DVD set was stories about animals. The title episode had the entire gang running a farm. When Pete's big windmill blows away all the animals, Don, Mick, and Goofy have to chase after them. Something similar happens in "Goofy's Petting Zoo," with fewer animals and a zoo setting instead of a farm. "Clarabelle's Clubhouse Moo-sical" has the crew appearing as characters in Mother Goose rhymes after the chickens who were supposed to perform lose their voices.

The last two involve matching shapes and comparing sizes. Goofy tries to build a house for his old friend Baby Redbird in "Goofy the Homemaker," but Pete keeps blowing away his flimsy materials. The gang finally helps him come up with something stronger. In "Donald Hatches the Egg," Donald finds a large egg that grows attached to him. While the others try to find the egg's mother, Donald keeps an eye on it.

Headed out after "Clarabelle's Clubhouse Moo-sical" ended. I had some errands to run, starting with finding that UPS drop box. I rode a few blocks past CVS, a block down from the enormous Scottish Rite Auditorium in Collingswood. Finally found it in the parking lot of Volunteers of America, right near where the White Horse Pike meets the highway. I considered riding down the highway to the diner I saw on the other side of the road, but I didn't feel like dealing with the traffic.

Rode back down to Collingswood's Theater District instead. The "theater district" on Collings Avenue is really two blocks of restored buildings with a couple of storefronts. There's a 60s building with a pizzeria and a laundromat, what looks like a 70s-vintage convenience store/deli, and several Victorian stores with restaurants, a dance studio, and a much-loved mom-and-pop pharmacy. I took a brief look at the deli to get something warm to drink...but their hot chocolate/cappuccino machine had nothing but hot water in it. I moved on.

Ended up at Sorrento's Pizza, between the laundromat and an empty storefront in the very 60s building on the corner of Collings Avenue and the White Horse Pike. Even the aging sign screams mid-late 60s. The small, narrow restaurant reminded me of some of the pizza joints on the Wildwood boardwalk - a narrow counter/kitchen area, with a small dining area with classic hard red booths in the back, next to a small hall filled with all kinds of junk and kitchen items, along with their TV. The boy behind the counter was really sweet. I bought a slice of cheese, a slice of White Vegetable, and a can of Cherry Coke Zero for $5.60; only Capitol Pizza in Oaklyn has cheaper prices. The pizza was really good, too, nice and salty with a soft crust.

Stopped at CVS on the way home. I was after conditioner, but they were out of what I wanted. I ended up with two half-price boxes of Christmas cards. They were far more than I usually spend on holiday stationary, but still cheaper than they were. I especially liked the smaller cards with the wreath on the snowy red fence.

Though the sun was trying to break out, it was still cold and windy. I spent the rest of the evening at home. Tried a new cookie recipe. The Pillsbury cookie cookbook Anny gave me last year has a Christmas recipe for basic shortbread bars. One half is topped with pecans and chocolate chips. The other half is topped with candied fruit. I replaced the pecans with coconut and the candied fruit with the last of the maraschino cherries. They came out very well, a bit rich but quite tasty.

Put on The Cat In the Hat Knows a Lot About Christmas! as I baked. Ralph the Baby Reindeer accidentally winds up at Nick and Sally's house after the Cat's Christmas party. The group tries to return him to Freeze-Your-Knees Snowland, but the Thing-a-Ma-Jig isn't working. They end up in the African veldt, where elephants help them find water, singing with dolphins in the ocean, and dodging marching crabs on Christmas Island. When they finally get him home (and find out who's been causing the Thing-a-Ma-Jig to malfunction), Ralph and his parents have a surprise for all of them...

Very cute, as we learn about the migration patterns of elephants, dolphins, crabs, and reindeer, and how groups communicate and stay together. This is also one of the few (if not the first) time we meet Nick and Sally's parents in the flesh, instead of just disembodied voices.

Ran Ice Age: The Meltdown while making Tuna Casserole from Julie's Cooking Studio for dinner. Sid, Manny, and Diego are now running a day camp for prehistoric animal kids. still chasing his nut. Manny's been depressed about being one of the last mammoths, and the antics of the other two aren't helping. When a turtle warns of an impending apocolypse and our trio of unusual heroes see a rapidly rising sea, they encourage their neighbors and their families to clear out, then do the same.

On the way, they encounter a pair of comic relief possums named Eddie and Crash.  They also meet Ellie, a a mammoth who's been raised as a possum and believes she's one. As the five make their way across the defrosting landscape, Manny finds himself defrosting towards the wacky Ellie, too. Meanwhile, Sid is doing his best to help Diego get over his fear of water...but it's not easy to convince the stubborn big cat that everyone is afraid once in a while.

I think this is my favorite of the three Ice Age movies I've seen. The story between Ellie and Manny is touching, there's some well-done suspenseful moments, and Scrat is as funny as ever. (Including his ascent to nut heaven in the end.) I do recommend that you see the first one before any of the sequels to make sense of the relationships, though.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Bad Weather Day

I'd been up for ten minutes when Mom called. She told me she'd replaced the L.L Bean jacket I got for Christmas that didn't fit and it was on its way. All I needed to do was wrap it up with the appropriate labels and bags and send it via UPS...which was a problem. I've never used UPS before. The closest store is in Haddonfield. Mom finally found a drop box in Collingswood; I'll go there tomorrow.

Ran some of the public domain shorts as I had breakfast. Surprisingly, of the shorts I watched today, the only ones I'd seen before were the Felix the Cat 30s Van Beuren shorts and the silent "Astronomeous" - and their copy of the latter was in the original black-and-white. For some reason, my copy from that public domain video my parents had for years was tinted bright pink. I don't know if this was actual tint, or a really deteriorated print. I also got to see my first Little Lulu short, a slightly surreal romp that started as a Disney-esque "good angel-bad angel" plot and ended as a music video for "Swinging On a Star."

My favorites of the shorts I watched this morning were both adaptations of fairy tales. Aladdin seemed to be a limited animation version from the 60s. It retains Aladdin's mother and the original Chinese setting, but drops the second genie in the ring. A Coach For Cinderella replaced the usual fairy godmother with a passel of elves and forest critters who make a gown and pumpkin car "coach" for the poor young maid.

It was just cloudy and cold when I rode out this morning. Stopped briefly at the bank to deposit my Christmas money. Half went in savings; the other half went in the checking account. The bank wasn't busy at all...which may be why it's closing in February, to be consolidated with the Collingswood branch. That settles it. From now on, I direct deposit all checks whenever possible, including my paycheck. No more dealing with banks or having to run to a bank to get money in my account.

There were a surprising amount of people out about in Newton River Park for such a gloomy morning. I rode past a whole flock of Canadian geese enjoying Boxing Day, several joggers, and a dog-walker. The wind was starting to pick up as I arrived at Cuthbert Road.

Despite the weather, the Haddon Township Library wasn't that busy. I organized the children's DVDs and shelved the few adult titles that had been returned. Took out a lot of DVDs, since I didn't get DVDs for Christmas - the newest titles for the 2009 Strawberry Shortcake (Jammin' With Cherry Jam) and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse (Mickey & Donald Have a Farm), a recent collection of Scooby Doo winter and holiday-themed episodes, the Christmas episode of The Cat In the Hat Knows a Lot About That!, and two sequels (Ice Age: The Meltdown and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows). I also grabbed the first two Caroline books and took out a self-help book on overcoming negative stories.

Stopped at JoAnn's on my way home. Stores around here are dropping like flies. Like its neighbor Super Fresh, JoAnn's is shutting down. Unlike Super Fresh, it's just moving to a larger location in Cherry Hill. That does leave the immediate area without a hobby store. The yarn shop in Collingswood is expensive for regular yarn; the tiny Walmart in the Audubon Crossings Shopping Center has a lousy selection. There was a reporter for a local newspaper doing an article on the closings when I was there. He actually interviewed me.

Thank goodness for sales. I bought a plastic box for my crocheting notions and a big book of crocheting projects that was on clearance. It only cost me 11 dollars, even after I dropped my 50% off coupon somewhere and couldn't find it, no matter how hard I looked.

It started sleeting while I was in the library. By the time I got out of JoAnn's, rain had joined the mix, too. It was getting late by that point. I rode home and got wet. I did, however, end up calling Dad for a ride to work.

Put on Strawberry Shortcake while I had leftovers for lunch. Cherry Jam is the newest girl in the group. As in The Princess and the Pop Star, she's a singer who is desperate to get away from her publicity machine and be treated like a normal Strawberry Land citizen. She thinks she's found her opportunity in Berry Bitty City...but between talent shows, the girls being excited over her arrival, and the discovery of hidden talents by several members of the group, it proves to be anything but a relaxing trip!

Dad picked me up for work around quarter of 4. Needless to say, due to the weather and the lateness of the hour, we were steady when I came in, stone-cold-dead when I left. Dad dropped me off at home as well.

I found a surprise when I got in. The second item in my Barnes & Noble online order, Julie's Cooking Studio, had arrived! Another American Girl cookbook, this one emphasizes 70s cuisine. The world then was apparently split between cheaper fast options that could stretch longer for busy families, and healthier options that were good for the Earth and for the people on it.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas From the Riverside!

It was sunny, cold, and clear when I awoke this morning. I wrote in my journal and read Christmas After All before I finally got up, got dressed, and opened my remaining presents from Linda and James Young. They gave me Clara's Kitchen, a collection of Depression-era recipes written by a woman who lived through the era, and a folksy snowman pin. (The latter was placed in my stocking so I'd have a "stocking stuffer.")

I ran A Christmas Story as I took my annual holiday portraits of my American Girl dolls (adding the Animator's Collection Toddlers into the mix this year). There are few people out there who can't relate to the story of one boy's holiday quest to get what he sees as the ultimate gift - a BB gun. His mom (Melinda Dillon) repeatedly says that's a bad idea. His dad (Darren McGavin) doesn't seem to notice much besides their smoking furnace and his "major award." Not to mention, Ralphie (Peter Billingsley) may not survive childhood pitfalls like bullies, commercials disguised as kids' shows, and blurting out blue language in front of parents long enough to make it to Christmas Day!

This is must-see Christmas viewing. While I believe this is set around 1939 or 1940 (from the references to The Wizard of Oz and the Little Orphan Annie radio show), the story is timeless.

(Oh, and here's the AG and DAC portraits: Christmas at the Riverside Rest 2012)

Switched to the first half of A Disney Channel Christmas while having a quick breakfast of an apple and two slices of bread with strawberry fruit spread. Mom called briefly to say "Merry Christmas!" and "We missed you last night!" She, Dad, Keefe, and Vicki were going to open their remaining presents, then have Dad's famous breakfast.

I opened the door to the apartment to see how cold it was...and found a surprise hanging on the door with my wreath. My neighbor Richard and his family had left me a bag of goodies sometime between last night and this morning. (They may have done it last night, and it was too dark - and I was too tired - to notice it.) The bag contained two smaller plastic bags of cookies and of chocolate bark - one with sprinkles, one with almonds, and one with dried fruit and nuts. I sampled some as the phone rang. Jessa was on her way to pick me up and take us to Rose's apartment.

Jessa and I did a lot of traveling today. We first headed to Rose's big Christmas Day brunch. She not only invited Dad, Jodie, and the two of us, but Craig's parents, his brother and his brother's girlfriend, their beautiful old golden retriever Grace, and Jodie's sons TJ and Jesse and Jesse's girlfriend Dana as well. Rose and Craig's apartment in Audubon isn't large, but there was just enough room to move around. The three dogs (Rose's miniature pincher Kelsey and Craig's sweet mutt Toby, along with Grace) kept trying to beg food from everyone...and who could blame them, given the spread Rose put out? There was a vegetable tray, a fruit tray, two different vegetable dips, a sweet Cool Whip dip, Jodie's heavenly French toast casserole, a chocolate chip Bundt cake, seafood salad, and hot pork with cheese on fresh rolls.

My Secret Santa was Craig. He gave me some new workout clothes. My old workout and yoga gear was getting worn. I received a beautiful new L.L Bean coat from Mom...but it was too small. I'm between sizes now. I'll have to send it back to L.L Bean later this week.

(Oh, and Rose said she got Keefe for her Secret Santa. She gave him some nice ties. Apparently, he wanted some for his dress uniform.)

Khai was so cute in his Christmas-themed footie pajamas. I gave him three books for his mommy to read to him - the original Berenstain Bears story The Bike Lesson, the classic Sesame Street Golden Book The Monster at the End of This Book, and a large book with several stories about Mickey and Minnie Mouse. One set of grandparents gave him a remote control car. He got a remote-control Thomas the Tank Engine from the other set. (Not a "green choo choo," but close enough.) He played with his new toys while the rest of us watched the Disney's Theme Parks Christmas Parade and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? on ABC.

Jessa and I finally moved on around 1:30. There was no traffic whatsoever as we headed down the Black Horse Pike to Chews Landing, home of our cousin Samantha and her family. Samantha was laying back with a headache, but everyone else was playing with toys in the living room. Faith just got her first American Girl doll (a modern, as far as I could tell) for her birthday. I thought it was the perfect time to give her the historical books. My best friend Lauren sent me a pile of AG historical books last week, but I already had most of them. Samantha was delighted - they're something she and Faith can read together. The boys liked their chess set, too. I spent the next hour listening to Faith rattle off the name of every My Little Pony she owned (she adores horses in general and the new Pony show in particular - her new zebra character glows in the dark). Jessa watched Matt and Ethan play a WWE game on the Wii.

We arrived at Mark and Vanessa's house in Westmont around quarter of 4. Vanessa was working on dinner; Mark was doing something on his computer. We chatted with Vanessa's daughter and Jessa's long-time best friend Brittany and played with her cat, Finn. Finn was a sleek, pretty black-and-white cat who seemed to enjoy the attention. The three of us eventually joined Mark downstairs and ended up watching shows on Nickelodeon - iCarly (a Wonderful Life variant - Carly wishes her brother was more normal, then very much regrets it), Victorious (Tori agonizes over what to get her best friend for a Secret Santa gift), and a slew of Spongebob Squarepants episodes.

This included Spongebob's holiday episode. Spongebob wants to bring a bit of Christmas cheer to Bikini Bottom after his squirrel friend Sandy describes the holidays. His deadpan neighbor Squidward thinks it's a load of hogwash...until he sees how upset Spongebob is when Santa doesn't come and learns a lesson in the Christmas spirit.

Vanessa's dinner included grilled asparagus, a succulent rib roast, home-made macaroni and cheese, corn, and mashed potatoes. I was still fairly full from Rose's spread and settled on the first three. I'm not a big fan of mashed white potatoes anyway. Everything was delicious, especially the rib roast.

Jessa drove me home shortly after dinner ended. When I got in, I couldn't help feeling a bit...empty. Oh, I had fun today. I'm glad I got to spend time with my family and received some lovely gifts, some of which I didn't expect. I just feel left out sometimes. I'm the only 30-something in the family who isn't married, in a relationship, and/or has kids. Everyone is either younger than me, older than me, or they have a family. Big holidays are hard when you're a family of one.

At any rate, I hope you and your family and friends had a wonderful Christmas Day!

Monday, December 24, 2012

White Christmas After All

It was cloudy and cool when I awoke this morning. I finished out my book copy of A Christmas Carol, then had breakfast and did some crocheting. Ran The Bishop's Wife as I worked. In this 1947 comedy-drama, a young bishop (David Niven) wants to persuade a greedy old woman (Gladys Cooper) to build an elaborate cathedral...but he's spending so much time worrying about his project, he's neglecting his older, shabbier parish, his daughter, and his lovely wife Julia (Loretta Young). An angel named Dudley (Cary Grant) comes to Earth to show the bishop what he's missing. Things get complicated when Dudley falls for the charming Julia, and the bishop starts questioning how he can win his wife from a heavenly deity.

A sweet story, remade as The Preacher's Wife with Denzel Washington as Dudley and the late Whitney Houston as Julia in 1996. Cary Grant is a great angel - check out his quick method of decorating Christmas trees!

Rose arrived quickly while The Bishop's Wife was on to pick up the presents for the family. She was pretty early, around 9. She apparently had a lot to do before they went down to Cape May County. She always does on Christmas Eve.

I also opened another present from Linda and James Young early in the morning. They gave me a Dear America young adult novel, this one set during the Great Depression. Christmas After All is the story of Minnie Swift, whose family has been hit hard by the Depression and is facing a bare holiday. Linda said that it's one of her favorites, and I'm looking forward to reading it. (I've never seen this one around, not even at the Haddon Township Library.)

Switched to two classic holiday animated specials as I started to get ready for work. In A Garfield Christmas Special, the famous fat cat finds himself at Jon's family's farm for the holidays. While Jon and his brother Doc Boy celebrate the season with stories about Binky the Clown, Garfield finds a friend in tough-minded Grandma. Grandma's missing her late husband, but Garfield's late-night discovery may make her holiday a little merrier.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas concerns the title character and his dog Max as they try to swipe the holiday presents and decorations from the unsuspecting citizens of Whoville. But even the worst intentions of a Grinch can't stop the holiday spirit. As the Grinch learns, "maybe Christmas doesn't come from a store. Maybe Christmas perhaps, means a little bit more."

Went to work shortly after the Grinch ended. Much to my surprise, it was on-and-off busy all day. The lines sometimes got long, but never that unmanageable. It was worse last night! Of course, we had plenty of help, too. Almost everyone in the store worked long hours today. People were generally in a good mood, but there were some annoying folks, like the lady who insisted on ringing up each of her 20 gift cards separately, holding up a long line.

A couple of employees had to stay even after the store closed. There were things that needed to be shelved, magazines that needed to be organized, and cold items that needed to be returned. As soon as the clock hit 6:25, I signed out, grabbed my bike and jacket and a few things I picked up during my second break, and hurried out.

Much to my surprise, I walked into a white world. No wonder it slowed down a bit later. A soft, glittering snowfall met my eyes. The streets were just wet, but the grass was dusted with white powder. Alas, it started to change over to rain, even as I rode home. It was just rain by the time I'd changed into a regular shirt and snow boots (just in case), grabbed Jodie's pudding pie and a cookie present for a friend, and headed out to Dad's party.

Dad and Jodie's Christmas Eve party wasn't huge. It was mainly Mark, Vanessa, Jessa, and some of Dad and Jodie's friends and neighbors. I said "hi" to my old friend Erica and gave her the cookies for her and her mother. Jessa and I got an invitation to Christmas dinner tomorrow from Mark and Vanessa. We both happily accepted. Neither of us had eaten over there in a few years, and we had fun the years we did it. I sat in front of the roaring fireplace with Dad, sniffing the balsam potpourri and learning the secrets of how to keep a fire going. A friend of Dad's who was going home anyway finally dropped me off at my apartment after the party.

I'm still disappointed that I couldn't go down to Cape May County, but otherwise, things seem to be going fairly well. At any rate, from all of us to all of you, have a wonderful Christmas and the merriest of holiday seasons!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Rockin' Christmas

This morning was Brunch With the Beatles' annual Christmas Show. Every year, they play John Lennon's "Happy Xmas (The War Is Over)," Paul McCartney's "Wonderful Christmastime," George Harrison's "Ring Out the Old," and songs from Ringo Starr's 1999 album I Wanna Be Santa Claus, including the title cut and "The Christmas Dance." We also heard songs culled from a studio album that were supposed to be traditional Christmas carols re-written as Beatles songs, and regular Beatles music that came out during the holiday season (like "We Can Work It Out," "Something," and "Hello Goodbye"). We even get the Beatles' Christmas greetings to their fan club from 1963 and 1964.

I was still feeling a little full from the party at work yesterday and wasn't up to heavy pancakes. I opted to use the Italian bread I bought last week for French toast instead. I topped it with the last of the Peppermint Whipped Cream Frosting. It was absolutely divine. Tried to call Mom after I finished, but I never did hear from her. She's probably busy getting ready for tomorrow.

Normally, I do my laundry on Monday or Tuesday. Those days are going to be very busy this week. I opted to do it today instead. Besides, I had a huge load, and I figured I might as well get it done sooner than later. I wheeled it over to Dad's in Miss Ellie's old cart. It was a lovely day for a walk. Yesterday's clouds, wind, and chill had been replaced by a nice breeze, a bright, cloudless blue sky, and perfectly normal mid-to-upper 40s temperatures.

Dad and Jodie were both at home when I arrived. Dad got in Wednesday evening. He and Jodie were preparing for a party for friends and neighbors they're having tomorrow night. I'm invited, too. Fine by me. I'll save dinner at Applebee's for later this week, or another time. I came in around 12:30. The Fox pre-game show was more fun than usual. They had Brian Setzer and his orchestra playing "Boogie-Woogie Santa Claus" and "Rockin' to the Christmas," which was totally awesome. I have two Brian Setzer CDs and his earlier 80s "Stray Cat Strut" album.

I had a pleasant afternoon. I talked to my stepsister Jessa when she finally came downstairs; she'd spent most of the morning napping. We had such a good time shopping together after Christmas last year, we decided to get together and do it again this year. Since Lauren gave me a Macy's card, I though we might take a trip into downtown Philadelphia, instead of trying to squeeze into a busy mall. I took Jess and a girlfriend of hers into Philly on New Year's Eve about five years ago, and it went really well. 

Rose arrived with Khai during half-time. Apparently, she'd been called into work, and Jodie and Dad had agreed to watch him for the rest of the day. That made me happy, too. Khai was so much fun to play with. Trains are his big thing right now. He told Jodie and me that he wants a "green choo-choo" for Christmas (his exact words). His speech is getting better, too. He can say "Santa Claus" clear as day. I hated to leave him when my laundry was done. We were just getting his several different brand of toddler train tracks sorted out.

The Eagles game wasn't going as well. They started out with a touchdown in the first few minutes, but it was mostly downhill from there. A comeback in the second half wasn't enough to offset several really big mistakes, including a huge fumble in the second quarter that lost the ball to the Redskins. The 'Skins eventually won, 27-20.

I saw Linda, my landlord Andrew's wife, outside as I pushed the cart home. She gave me a hug and thanked me for the cupcakes. I explained about everything that had happened the last few months. She just waved it off; things happen. In fact, she gave me a huge box of fancy Lindt Chocolates for Christmas. Ironically, I'd just been thinking about how I hadn't had one in ages when I saw a commercial for them during the game.

I put my laundry away and worked on a little crocheting at home before packing dinner and heading out to work. The dinner turned out to be not necessary. There were plenty of leftovers from yesterday's extravaganza still in the back room.

Work was busy all night, right up until closing time! We close at 10 on Sundays. I didn't get out until 10 after 10. Everyone must have either been coming from football games or the malls.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Santa Claus Is Coming to Work

I slept in a little bit this morning. When I did finally get out of bed, I ran a few cartoons and TV shows while I had breakfast and gathered presents to be delivered to various relatives and friends. Charlie Brown's Christmas Tales is the third Peanuts holiday specials. Unlike the original show, this one is a series of random holiday-themed skits based after various Peanuts Christmas comic strips from over the years. Sally gets most of the best ones, including writing a note to "Samantha Claus" and how she gets a Christmas tree.

The Year Without a Santa Claus is my favorite Rankin-Bass special. When Santa gets sick, he becomes determined to have a holiday. His wife is just as determined to prove that he's still a beloved part of Christmas and enlists two elves and a reindeer to find some Christmas cheer in the world. What she didn't count on was the elves ending up in the snow-less American south...or become involved in the feud between the infamously hammy Heat Miser and Snow Miser!

The Monkees' did their Christmas episode about half-way through the second season. Compared to some of the other, stranger shows they did that year, this one is actually pretty simple. The groovy quartet find themselves babysitting an obnoxious rich boy when his aunt goes on vacation. The kid refuses to enjoy the boys' attempts to create Christmas cheer....until Mike Nesmith figures out what he really needs.

I finally headed out around 12:30 with a bag of food deliveries. I got lucky with my first two gifts. Andrew was downstairs, clearing out Miss Ellie's old apartment, and Richard was outside doing yard work. I was able to give Andrew the cupcakes for him and his wife Linda, and Richard the loaf of Cranberry-Orange Bread for him and his family right away.

Stopped at Doria's Deli to deliver cupcakes to the store's owners. Mrs. Doria was happy to receive my gift. She gave me a treat, too. Apparently, she makes Truffles for her family's get-togethers from cream cheese, Oreo crumbs, cocoa, and candy coating. She gave me two to try. I took a bite out of the one with chocolate coating. It was absolutely delicious, but as you can guess from something that's mostly cream cheese and thick candy, very rich. I decided to save the rest for later. I thanked Mrs. Doria and went on my way.

Made a quick stop at the bank to deposit my paycheck, then rode over to the Acme for this year's employee luncheon. I wasn't really due in at work until 5, but I figured most of the food would be gone by then. It was 1:30 when I finally made it over there. The back room was filled with employees enjoying every kind of food ever served at a holiday meal - lasagna, kielbasa and sauerkraut, franks and beans, shredded pork, potato salad, three kinds of pasta salad, turkey and gravy, sliced beef for hot roast beef sandwiches, ham, shrimp and pasta, cole slaw, a huge plate of mini-sandwiches from the deli, coconut cake, two cheesecakes, pumpkin bread, rolls, fresh pineapple topped with maraschino cherries, bowls of tortilla chips and potato chips, bags of candy (I snagged one for my 2-year-old nephew Khai), and at least three trays of cookies in addition to mine.

There was too much for me to try everything. I had lasagna, some of the shrimp and pasta, ham, one of the pasta salads, a slice of coconut cake, a mini-turkey sandwich, and several cookies. I had to have three of my friend Jade's coconut macaroons. She and her mom make their cookies, and their macaroons are the best I've ever tasted, sweet and just firm enough.

I forgot Santa Claus was supposed to be visiting the store between 12 and 2 today. He briefly joined the party, along with Mrs. Claus and a helper...and I got quite a surprise when I realized that "Santa" was played by Sam, the head manager! He's a small, skinny 30-something yuppie with sideburns and a goatee. I can only imagine how much padding it took to make him Jolly Old St. Nick - probably a whole couch. ; )

Santa's entourage was more attractive. Jade and Katie, two of the female college students who work as cashiers and customer service clerks, wore striped stockings and short red dresses trimmed with fur. Jade, as "Mrs. Claus," added a pretty cape and hood to her ensemble. And apparently, Jade made the whole outfit herself from an old bridesmaid gown - baking awesome macaroons isn't her only talent.

I've been having problems with the bike for the last few days. Ever since the storm the other night, the gears were sticking and not wanting to move. I thought they needed to be oiled. I forgot contact solution and light bulbs when I shopped yesterday. I just added a can of WD-40. I sprayed all around the gears, and while it was enough to get me home, they still didn't feel right.

I took a good look at the bike when I rolled in. As I inspected the gears, I noticed that the guard over the gears was half-hanging off. That was the problem! The guard must have come loose when the bike was blown over during the storm. I put the guard back into place, tightened the screw, and tried it out. Thanks to the WD-40, it was working better than it did before the storm!

Spent the next hour inside, doing things around the apartment and running a few more cartoons. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is the first and most famous of the Rankin-Bass holiday tales. In this version, Rudolph, an outcast due to his scarlet nose, flees with Hermie, the elf who wants to be a dentist, and wacky prospector Yukon Cornelius, to the Island of Misfit Toys. When the toys won't let them stay, Rudolph returns to the North Pole. A heavy storm almost grounds Santa, before he sees Rudolph's red nose and knows it's just what he needs to help him through the weather. Did a couple of Tom and Jerry Tales holiday episodes after that, including the odd one about Tom chasing two Jerrys in Jerry's dream.

My actual work shift was pretty much the same as the last few times I worked late - busy when I came in, dead when I left. It's a good thing I did bring the cookies early. There was only bowls of chips, bags of Philly Factory pretzels, and plates of cookies (none mine) remaining when I came in at 5. By the time I left at 10, only the pretzels, tortilla chips, and a few cookies remained.

Friday, December 21, 2012

No Time for Christmas

Started off a quiet morning with National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation and crocheting. Clark Grizwald (Chevy Chase) wants a "good old-fashioned family Christmas" and will do anything to make it happen, from stapling 20,000 lights on his house to dealing with two sets of bickering in-laws and his obnoxious cousin Eddie (Randy Quaid). When Christmas Eve finally comes around, the night becomes one disaster after another for Clark. By the time the S.W.A.T team is coming through the windows, Clark has finally learned a lesson about the holidays. We can't make Christmas perfect...but we can make it memorable.

Along with A Christmas Story, this is one of the most popular holiday comedies of the last 30 years. The humor is heavy on the slapstick and mild gross jokes, but there's some nice moments with Clark, his wife Ellie (Beverly DiAngelo) and the family. There's also the wonderfully senile Aunt Bethany, who steals the last 20 minutes of the film and gets many of the best lines. Mae Questel (the original voice of Betty Boop) really should have done more live-action - she's a riot.

I headed out to the Acme to do grocery shopping around 11. The Acme was steady but not that busy when I came in. I was able to get my paycheck and grab a fairly large order with little fuss. I got dollar packs of fish and found thin chicken breasts on sale. Bought lots of fruits and vegetables (and was disappointed to see that the $1.49 bags of apples were gone). Restocked white cake mix after making the cupcakes yesterday; needed a graham cracker pie shell for the pudding pie and heavy cream for the whipped frosting for the Swirled Peppermint Cupcakes. Needed to restock cheese, butter, and wraps.

After I got home, I made the whipped frosting for the Swirled Peppermint Cupcakes. Ran Mickey's Once Upon a Christmas as I did that and ate lunch. This is a late 90s direct-to-video anthology of holiday tales featuring the Disney gang. "Donald Duck: Stuck on Christmas" is my favorite of the three. Huey, Dewey, and Louie wish it was Christmas every day...and if you've ever read the short story by that title (or seen Groundhog Day), you can guess where this is headed. Minnie and Mickey appear in a sweet version of the classic O.Henry short story Gift of the Magi. Max and Goofy's original story about Max losing his faith in Santa has some nice moments, but doesn't come off as well.

When I arrived at work, I was extremely disappointed to discover that I have to work on Christmas Eve from 11:30 to 6:30, after I'd specifically asked to work early! Turns out that, in addition to the seniority thing, they simply don't have enough help. Even people with "seniority" are coming in earlier and staying later than they usually do this weekend. Many people were let go; some college students found better jobs.

I was frustrated and upset all night, and I'm still not entirely happy. The rest of my schedule isn't great, either. Though three days off (including Christmas Day) will allow me to get some shopping done, my remaining hours are generally late, Sunday until 10:15.

If I don't end up going to someone else's house on Christmas Eve after work lets out, I'll go next-door to Applebee's after work and treat myself to a big dinner that isn't a sandwich. It won't make up for having to miss Christmas Eve with my family, but it'll be something.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Cupcake Christmas

I didn't have as much time as earlier in the week this morning - I worked at noon- so I just made Swirled Candy Cane Cupcakes while running a few movies and specials. The cupcakes actually came out pretty well...but I overfilled the muffin papers, so they're huge. One top came off when I tried to move them. The others are good enough to be given away to several people, including Dad-Bruce, Andrew and Linda, and the Dorias.

Muppet Family Christmas tells of how Fozzie invited the entire Muppet gang in the mid-80s to his mother's for Christmas. Ma Bear isn't happy; she's had to cancel her holiday plans in Malibu. Doc and Sproket of Fraggle Rock are even less thrilled. All they wanted was peace and quiet! While Robin meets the Fraggles and a turkey tries to dodge the Swedish Chef, Kermit worries about Miss Piggy, who is still out and about in a huge snowstorm.

This is a total blast if you can find it. Thanks to the Fraggles, the Muppets, and the Muppet Babies all being owned by different companies now, YouTube and other online services may be your best bet. Oh, and "watch out for the icy patch!"

Switched to It's a Wonderful Life as I finished the cupcakes and made leftover chicken soup for lunch. George Bailey is a man who thinks life has past him by. He's beloved by his friends, family, and most of his small town, but his business is missing money, and he's afraid of being broke and arrested for fraud. He's on the verge of suicide when a little old man (Henry Travers) stops him, claiming he's an angel. When a frustrated George wishes he'd never been born, Clarence gives him his wish. George discovers how the town has changed without him, and he finally learns that the man who is truly wealthy is rich not in dollars, but in friendship.

One of the most famous holiday-themed films of all time is a favorite of mine, but it's not for everyone. If the pro-community sentiment doesn't jive with you, it probably won't be your cup of Christmas-spiced tea. There's the "Pottersville" sequence, too. Filmed like the mysteries in vogue in 1947, it's so unnerving that I was 12 before I would watch this movie straight through.

The best thing about the movie is the wonderful assortment of character actors. In addition to Stewart and Travers, we have Donna Reed as Stewart's patient wife Mary, Beluah Bondi as his mother, Lionel Barrymore as the nasty Mr. Potter, H.B Warner as the drugstore owner, Thomas Mitchell as forgetful Uncle Billy, Ward Bond as Bert the cop, and Frank Faylen as Ernie the taxi driver.

Wonderful Life ended just in time for me to hurry off to work. Not surprisingly, given we're less than a week from Christmas Day, the Acme was very busy all day long. We were short on help, too. Our sales start on Friday, and a lot of people who normally would have been bagging or working on the front end were posting new sales tags on items.

Needless to say, I was very happy when my relief, one of the college-age boys, showed up right on time. I did need to get Cool Whip on the way out. It's for the pudding pie that's going to be my last food gift. I would have waited until tomorrow to get it, but Cool Whip was on sale for $1.49 this week, and it was ending today.

When I got home, I made honey-glazed carrots and a cheese omelet and watched one of the odder Rankin-Bass specials, Rudolph's Shiny New Year. The second of three Rankin-Bass Rudolph stories takes the little scarlet-nosed reindeer into the world of Father Time (Red Skelton). Rudolph has to find the wayward Baby New Year, who ran off after he was teased over his big ears. With the help of clock-toting whale Big Ben (Harold Peery), he travels to the Archipelago of Last Years, meeting up with a wacky assortment of former Year Rulers, as well as screechy Eon the Terrible, a bird who wants to stop his death by stopping time.

Not as good as the first special, but certainly better than the ridiculous Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas In July. If nothing else, it has one very touching number early on - Skelton describes the passing of time to Rudolph in the thoughtful "The Moving Finger Writes."

As busy as we were, I'm glad I did work early today. It was partly sunny this morning when I worked on the cupcakes. The sun was still out when I went to work, but clouds were on the horizon. Thank heavens it waited to pour until around 9, by which time I was long online and out of the shower.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Yes, Ernest, There Is a Santa Claus

It was a gloriously sunny day, but I had things to do in the apartment this morning. Started with baking Cranberry-Orange Bread for my neighbors and running through several movies, beginning with The Muppets' Christmas Carol. The first Muppet movie made after Jim Henson's death is this hilarious and touching version of the famous novel. Michael Caine is a fine Scrooge. Kermit the Frog is Bob Cratchit; Miss Piggy is his outspoken wife. Fozzie is Fezziwig; Statler and Waldorf are the Marley brothers. Gonzo and Rizzo are narrating the story and around for comic relief. Not a bad "first Christmas Carol" for younger kids, and a delight for Muppet fans.

As I finished the bread, I went into two movies on the the existence of Santa Claus. In the original 1947 Miracle on 34th Street, Kris Kringle (Edmund Gwen) is a kindly old man who happens to be in the right place at the right time when Macy's executive Doris Walker (Maureen O'Hara) needs to replace the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Santa. He's such a sensation, she hires him to be the department store Santa for Macy's as well. Kris insists that he really IS Santa, which doesn't sit well with Doris. Bitter over a recent divorce, she's raised her young daughter Susan (Natalie Wood) to not believe in any kind of fantasy, and is resisting falling for a sweet lawyer (John Payne). When Kris is put on trial for lunacy, the lawyer defends him...and manages to prove to Doris, Susan, and all of New York that "faith is believing when common sense tells you not to."

Ernest Saves Christmas moves from chilly New York City to the unlikely location of Orlando, Florida. Here, Santa is choosing his replacement. If he can't convince former kids' show host Joe Carruthers to take over his job, the magic of Christmas will die out forever! Meanwhile, Ernest (Jim Varney) has his hands full dealing with a selfish runaway and Joe's sleazy manager who wants him to do a B-horror movie. And then, there's those flying reindeer on the ceiling of the airport stock room....

Miracle is required Christmas viewing. It won several Oscars, including Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor for Edmund Gwen. If you've ever wanted to see Jim Varney's Ernest vehicles, Ernest Saves Christmas is one of the better ones, and not a bad place to start.

After the bread was out of the oven, I went outside to rake. I did get the side path done. It wasn't that bad, but I don't think Andrew did it, and I hadn't done it in a while. I wanted to do the front too, but I couldn't find the tarp I normally use to haul the leaves to the front stoop. It's been getting shredded for a while. Andrew must have tossed it. He didn't seem to have replaced it, though. I couldn't find another tarp.

I finally gave up and went upstairs to briefly sweep my porch. There wasn't much. The wind and storms have blown most of it away. Some of it did land against the house, and the sticker balls are just starting to come down.

Headed to work just a half-hour after I finished the porch. Work was steady for most of the night, after which it died so quickly, I spent the last two hours being very bored. I was in and out with no problems.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Busy, Busy Holidays

First order of business today was my last appointment at the Foot & Ankle Center. It was just a follow-up to make sure my foot is at least ok enough to move around. Like I told Dr. Berlin, it's 95% better. She says it probably won't feel completely right for another few months or so. I can walk on it and work on it, and that's good enough for me.

Made a few short stops on the way home. I needed a battery for the fire alarm next to the bathroom; grabbed it at the CVS a few steps from the Foot & Ankle Center. Discovered a lovely little bakery across King's Highway. Tried some delicious Christmas cake and picked up a small, fragrant loaf of Italian bread. I dropped in at the Oaklyn Library for this week's volunteering session there, but they had even less to do than Haddon Township did yesterday. I was gone in a half-hour.

The weather was just beautiful when I was out and about. The gloomy fog had been replaced by abundant sunshine, wind, and mid-to-upper 50s temperatures. It was so warm, I was fine doing my riding in a heavy college sweatshirt,

When I got in, I retrieved a Christmas card from Mom and a second package from Lauren, then headed inside for lunch. After I had chicken soup and Italian bread, I started the last of the Christmas cookies. I love coconut. I experimented with different coconut cookie recipes for a couple of years before I discovered Cherry Coconut Cookies in The Betty Crocker Cooky Book. They're pretty much lemon squares with a filling made from coconut and maraschino cherries instead of lemon juice, but they're quick and easy to make. They also have the habit of breaking easily. I always grease the pan, despite the book saying not to do that. The one year I didn't, the cookies stuck so badly to the pan, I barely had crumbs to give to everyone.

Ran two unusual musical fantasies from the 80s as I baked. Here Comes Santa Claus is a bizarre French Christmas fable about a young boy and his best gal pal who travel to Lapland to see Santa. The boy's parents were kidnapped by African rebels, and he desperately wants them back more than anything in the world. While Santa and his faithful and chatty fairy friend Mary Ellen go to Africa to rescue the boy's parents, the kids deal with a nasty ogre who eats children and fairies for dinner.

Strange, but charming, thanks to the sheer weirdness of the production. You don't often see Santa wandering around in the very real Senegal, asking directions from real African natives. Or working with a fairy instead of the American Mrs. Claus, for that matter. I don't think the dubbed version has ever been released on DVD; I found my video copy at the North Cape May Acme shortly before I moved. Interesting enough if you ever run into the video, but a little too strange for most casual viewers to seek out.

Here Comes Santa Claus wasn't the only oddball holiday-themed fantasy musical that came out in 1986. One of the major Christmas offerings on TV that year was a new version of Babes In Toyland. Unlike the Disney and Laurel & Hardy movies, this one uses a Wizard-of-Oz-style framing device to set up the plot. Lisa (Drew Barrymore) is a proud resident of Cincinnati, and a young lady who has grown up much too fast. When she's knocked out during a blizzard, she dreams that she ends up in a magical land where toys walk around in theme-park costumes. Barnaby (Richard Mulligan) wants to get rid of his nephew Jack (Keanu Reeves) and frames him for cookie robbery. Lisa enlists the Toymaker (Pat Moriata) to help her rescue her new friends and discover the wonders of childhood.

Pure, unfiltered camp. The production is cheap, the new music is awful, and Reeves is completely out-of-place. Barrymore is somewhat better, as is an over-the-top Richard Mulligan as Barnaby and a dithery Eileen Brennan as Mother Hubbard. Not on DVD, but Amazon did have it for download last year. Mainly for fans of Barrymore, Reeves, or high-camp musicals.

It was too nice to be inside all day. As soon as the cookies were out of the oven, I left. Rode into Collingswood to deliver the books I borrowed from Jodi Staton, along with a card and a small container of cookies.

As I was placing the bag with her things on her porch, I noticed dark clouds building up over the horizon. The wind was picking up, and it was getting a little colder. I needed to stop at WaWa for milk, so I hurried over to the one on Haddon Avenue, a few doors down from Yogawood. I got in just as big, fat drops were beginning to fall from the dark, cloudy sky.

Thank heavens the rain only lasted a few minutes. The sky was breaking up even as it poured. I only had to wait a few minutes before hopping on my bike and riding back to the apartment.

After that, I spent the rest of the evening at home. I made gingerbread cookies and an Angel Spice Food Cake for myself, then had leftovers and sauteed greens and carrots for dinner while running a couple of older holiday movies. Christmas In Connecticut is the tale of a wildly popular food columnist who is really a city girl who can't boil water. When her boss asks her to take in a young soldier at her farm for the holidays and then invites himself, she panics. She doesn't have a farm...but the annoying guy who has been chasing after her does. She goes along with him in order to keep her job and her editor's. This is all well and fine...until she meets the handsome soldier. As the two fall head-over-heels for each other, she finally admits to herself that sometimes, honesty really is the best policy.

One of the last major screwball comedies is cute and frothy with a solid core of character actors, including Barbara Stanwyck as the writer, Dennis Morgan as the soldier, Sydney Greenstreet as her boss who doesn't give anyone a chance to talk before assuming he's right, and S.K Sakall as her good-natured uncle who is the one who really does the cooking. The DVD is worth getting for the touching, Oscar-winning short subject A Star In the East. This features J. Carrol Naish as an Italian hotel owner in the desert who learns a little about Christmas miracles from a strange hitchiker and a desperate young couple who need a place to stay.

The 1951 British version of A Christmas Carol is one of the most famous and best regarded. Other than an expanded past sequence and changing Scrooge's sweetheart's name from Belle to Alice (and bringing her briefly in during the Present sequence), this is pretty much a faithful rendition of the novel. Alistair Sim is widely regarded as one of the best Scrooges on record.

My public-domain DVD copy also includes the 1949 Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer short. Closer to the original book than the Rankin-Bass special, this one isn't as well-known but is charming and quite sweet, with some nice animation.

Monday, December 17, 2012

You Can Never Have Too Many Christmas Trees

Began the last full week before Christmas with paperwork. I had to send a bill and copies of the Temporary Disability claims to the Union. I also needed to get some more Christmas cards out and Mom and Dad-Bill's wedding anniversary card (it was yesterday). As soon as I'd had breakfast and finished those, I grabbed the DVDs that needed to go back to the Haddon Township Library and headed out for this week's first volunteering session.

It was a damp, gloomy day in Newton River Park. The weather was chilly, probably in the lower 50s, warmer than it should be for this time of year but not too bad. Perhaps because it wasn't raining when I was out, I saw more people than I expected, including a couple of girl track team members from Haddon Township High School and several dog-walkers. I gingerly wound my way through two large flocks of Canadian geese mingling with several ducks (including one handsome fellow with dark emerald feathers).

The Library was surprisingly quiet for such a gray morning. There were few people around, and even less to do. The children's DVDs didn't really need to be organized, and I only cleared two foreign titles out of the adult bins. There were no kids books or CDs to put away. I shelved a few DVDs and headed out in less than an hour. (I thought of taking out some Christmas cartoons, but finally decided I'd probably be getting books and DVDs from various people for the holidays. Not to mention, I have plenty of Christmas-themed programming as it is.)

I walked the bike down the hill to Wendy's for lunch. I try not to eat a lot of fast food, but they were near-by and fairly cheap. It was past noon when I arrived, and the place was the busiest I've ever seen it. Executives mingled with teenagers in plaid Catholic school uniforms from Paul VI down the road. Kids chattered about school, sports, and the newest music they'd just downloaded. Adults made jokes about work and discussed their holiday plans. The dining area was festively decorated in swags of red and silver tinsel garland, with lots of cardboard and plastic figurines. It actually felt very cozy. Someone was even nice enough to leave behind a copy of today's Courier Post comics.

Made a few quick stops at Westmont Plaza next. I mainly needed eggs at Super Fresh (I'm almost out). Also grabbed grits, scallions, and a vinyl accordion file coupon organizer that was a decent price. I've been wanting to replace my paper coupon organizer that's been falling apart for years, but the good ones were always too expensive.

Dollar Tree was busy, too. Thankfully, I didn't need as much there. I just grabbed a bag for my nephew Collyn's birthday present and a new shower curtain. I did have to wait in a long line, but for once, they actually had both registers open.

Went right home after that. I put everything away, then grabbed my laundry bag and the yarn for my latest crocheting project (a small hostess gift for my sister Rose, who is having Christmas morning at her apartment this year). Dropped them in Miss Ellie's old cart and pushed it over to Dad and Jodie's.

Jodie was in the midst of a project in the den. She wanted to decorate Dad's huge, very real tree before he gets home on Wednesday afternoon. I ended up taking over the job for her after my laundry went in the drier.

Dad has quite a collection of ornaments! Some of them are obviously old; many of the larger balls that were losing paint and glitter looked like they dated to the 50s. (There was an especially pretty turquoise blue one that glowed a soft green when placed next to a light.)

Others were far more recent. Jessa had a Hallmark Chinese Barbie. Dad had Santa fishing and dressed as a captain sitting on a ship's wheel. The golfing Santa was probably Uncle Ken's; he loved to golf. I suspect the retro 60s Barbie in pink may have belonged to my late stepmother Kaye's.

Many of Dad's ornaments reflected his years as a cruise ship captain and the two decades he, Jessa, and Kaye lived in Florida. Some trees have clip-on cardinals; Dad's has clip-on and twist-on flamingos. There were delicate ornaments that looked like they were made of real starfish, with beads glued on. There were glass balls in the shape of shells, and a set of pink, green, and gold glass shells and sea horses.

It was nearly 5:30 when the laundry was finally out of the drier and I was able to head home. When I got in, I folded and put away my laundry, then ran Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas while eating dinner.

This is yet another Disney direct-to-DVD movie of the 90s, but it's better than most. Set during Belle's time at the Beast's castle, Belle is determined to bring holiday cheer to the residents of the castle. Trouble is, Christmas reminds the Beast of everything he's lost, and he refuses to allow anyone to celebrate it. Belle ignores his rages and goes ahead with her plans anyway. There's also Forte, the castle organ who was once a gloomy composer (Tim Curry). He's determined to keep the Beast listening to his depressing orchestral pieces...even if he has to break up his romance with Belle.

While not quite up to the original, this is much better than Cinderella II or Belle's Magical World. The entire original voice cast has returned, and there's a lovely song, "As Long As There's Christmas." Curry's Forte may be the best thing about this one. Gaston was a so-so villain in the original; he didn't do anything really horrible until the film's last 30 minutes or so. Forte is nasty the moment we meet him; he wants to keep the Beast miserable so he can remain in the spotlight, and constantly uses his only friend, Fife the piccolo (Paul Reubens).

Recommended for parents looking for Christmas movies for girls and fans of the Disney Princesses, Belle, or  the original Beauty and the Beast.

Oh, and it's rained on and off all day. It finally started raining hard a few hours ago and has continued to do so.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

It Kinda Feels Like Christmas

I awoke to a cloudy day that was alleviated by a little Beatles. "The Beatles In 1969" was in the spotlight on Brunch With the Beatles this morning. That mainly meant songs from Abbey Road and Let It Be, along with singles that were released around that time like "The Ballad of John and Yoko."

I had a couple of apples that were getting squishy, so I just made Apple Cinnamon Pancakes again for breakfast. Called Mom after I finished. Mom was working on holiday decorating, now that her husband was at sea and out from underfoot. We had a pleasant talk about how things have improved for me. She told me about an awesome concert she attended at the Cape May Convention Center with a friend who had been a teacher of my younger sister Anny at West Cape May Elementary. They saw a performance by the granddaughter of the Von Trapp Family (of Sound of Music fame). Glorious singing must be genetic; Mom said she had the clearest, most beautiful voice she'd ever heard.

After I got off with Mom, I spent the rest of a quiet, wet day making the Molasses Cookies. These are made the same way as gingerbread men, but they use less flour and aren't quite as thick. They're taken from a variation on a recipe from the Betty Crocker Cooky Book. The original recipe calls for honey, but I like it better with molasses. Here's another version of the recipe. Replace the granulated sugar with brown sugar and eliminate the allspice - I don't have any - and this is about right. While I love cutting out the cookies in different holiday-themed shapes and choosing just the right sugar color to top them with, they do take a while to make on your own.

With the Eagles off today (they played - badly - on Thursday night), I ran children's holiday music all afternoon. I've dug up some really unusual items over the years. Probably the best-known are the sweet, funny John Denver and the Muppets: A Christmas Together and the original Christmas with the Chipmunks, with its "The Chipmunks' Christmas Song (Please Christmas Don't Be Late)," along with Chipmunk covers of other famous holiday tunes. Disney's Christmas Collection is pretty much songs from their original Disneyland Christmas album of the 80s, plus Jiminy Cricket and Mickey singing "From All of Us to All of You" and a charming Jiminy rendition of The Night Before Christmas.

The Looney Tunes turned up in the mid-90s Rhino cassette Christmas With the Looney Tunes (which I bought at CVS somewhere around 2003) and the Peter Pan LP Holi-Daze (a yard sale find). The first is a collection of songs performed by the "characters" (or their later voice actors); my favorite is Daffy's "All I Want For Christmas Is More, More, More." The second is four holiday-themed stories featuring Bugs and other Looney Tunes. The voices on this recording are all performed by long-time radio actor Mel Blanc (even the ones that are usually handled by other actors, like Granny and Elmer). My favorite of the stories is "Santa Claustrophobia." Millionaire Elmer is willing to give his palatial home to anyone who can cure his troubles - he thinks  he's Santa Claus. Bugs and Daffy, hoping to get his money, come up with a solution that makes all three happy.

I found an episode of the Jimmy Stewart radio western The Six Shooter that did A Christmas Carol on a huge random collection of 30s and 40s radio shows almost a decade ago, back when I was still living in Wildwood. Jimmy's good-natured, mysterious cowboy Brett Ponsett tells a frustrated young boy the story of a mean old miser named Ebon who had all the gold he could ever want, but was so stingy, he refused to attend his nephew's party at his livery stable and intended to throw his foreman Bob's family out of their shack on his property on Christmas morning. Naturally, four ghosts appear to set him straight...and eventually the kid and his aunt, too.

I discovered A Merry Snoopy Christmas a few years ago at a yard sale, but never got around to listening to it until today. Side A is the original three Royal Guardsmen "Snoopy Vs. the Red Baron" songs, with additional spoken material that has the Guardsmen playing various military brass and reporters keeping us up-to-date on the War and Snoopy's adventures with the famed German flyer. Side B is a series of Guardsman songs that are pretty standard mid-60s pop. Some are related to the Peanuts and Snoopy ("My Airplane," "Behind the Enemy Lines"); most are not. My favorites of the more generic songs are "It Kinda Feels Like Christmas" (the only holiday-themed song on the entire recording besides "Snoopy's Christmas"), and the cute "I Feel Love."

Ran a Disney book and record recording of selections from The Nutcracker while I cleaned up from baking and ate leftover lentil soup and salad for lunch. As soon as the record ended and was shelved, I packed up my dinner, put on my uniform, and headed out the door.

Work was pretty much the same as it has been - busy when I came in, pin-drop quiet when I left. The weather may have had something to do with it. It had rained earlier while I was working on the cookies. It was only damp when I headed to work, but the shower had returned by 9. It wasn't really that bad; I only got a little wet as I rode home. It's rained on and off for the rest of the night.

Though the Eagles didn't play today, there were lots of other exciting games going on. The Cowboys-Steelers game was on in the back room during my break. The Steelers were winning at that point; the Cowboys had just tied it as I was returning to the registers. They went onto win in overtime, 27-24.

In more pleasant news, the Giants got their rears handed to them by the on-fire Atlanta Falcons, 34-0. 

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Run Run Rudolph

Very busy today! Started out with work on the biscotti. These aren't the hard rusk-shaped cookie many of you dunk in your coffee. I roll them into candy cane and wreath shapes and cover them with sprinkles instead. They aren't hard to make - just butter, sugar, flour, salt, and baking powder. (I added almond extract as well.) They are, however, extremely rich and buttery. This, coupled with the length of time they take to roll and bake, is the reason I only make them once a year.

Ran holiday cartoons and animated specials all morning as the biscotti baked. Mickey and Donald help Santa with a problem on top of Mistletoe Mountain in the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse episode "Mickey Saves Santa." Max and Ruby have fun shopping with their grandmother, decorating their tree (loved the pinwheel as a tree-topper - good idea, Max!), and shoveling their sidewalk so Grandma can visit. ReRun Van Pelt desperately wants a pooch of his own in I Want a Dog For Christmas, Charlie Brown. Snoopy's visiting brother Spike finally teaches the kid how hard it can be to take care of a pet. Scooby, Shaggy, Fred, Daphne, and Scrappy rescue a group of orphans from a grouchy miser and the Ghost of Christmas Past in the early 80s episode A Nutcracker Scoob. Aaron, a bitter orphan who has turned against people after his parents are killed by robbers, is The Little Drummer Boy. He turns to the newborn baby Jesus for help when his beloved lamb is injured, and learns a lesson in faith.

When the cookies were out of the oven and loaded into containers or tins, I made a quick trip out to the Oaklyn Library for this week's volunteering. (I had planned on doing it yesterday, but a lot of things got in the way.) I organized DVDs and picture books while watching a group of little girls in ruffly, bright pink party dresses color pages of candy canes. (The girls' mother said they were on their way to a birthday party and were making a stop to drop off items.)

When I got back in, I heated up leftover lentil soup for lunch and ran a couple of winter and holiday themed classic cartoons. Toy Tinkers is Donald's only solo theatrical short set during Christmas. He and Chip and Dale get into a battle over a bowl of nuts that's far more violent than Pluto's encounter with them in Pluto's Christmas Tree.  One of Tom and Jerry's earliest shorts was a hilarious adaptation of The Night Before Christmas. The two wreck havoc on the presents as Jerry proves that this mouse is certainly stirring. Bugs Bunny has a close encounter with a baby penguin and the Eskimo chasing him in Frigid Hare. In Gift Wrapped, Sylvester is delighted when Tweety is a present for Granny. He thinks he has a ready-made snack! Granny ends up spending her holiday trying to keep Spike and Sylvester from chasing Tweety and each other.

I headed out to work a little early to get my schedule. Too early, as it turned out. I thought I was supposed to be in at 3. I wasn't really due until 5. I decided to take advantage of this and get some more things done. I grabbed flour, brown sugar, and a can of mushrooms at work, then went back to my place.

Wrapped presents while running Santa Claus Is Coming to Town. One of the stranger Rankin-Bass specials turns "Kris Kringle" into an outlaw who defies the grouchy Burgermeister Meister Burger by bringing children toys after the Burgermeister's forbidden them. Mickey Rooney is Kris. Keenan Wynn is the Winter Warlock, the initially evil sorcerer who ends up aiding Kris in the end.

Wrapping presents didn't take nearly as long to do as it has in previous years...and wouldn't have, even if I'd had the money to shop for presents. The Secret Santa on the Cape May side eliminates the need to shop for everyone over there. There were a few people I figured I wouldn't see whom I just didn't do, and I of course didn't get Uncle Ken a cookbook this year. I finished the special and the wrapping just in time to head out to work again.

It was really busy when I was in earlier, with long lines down the aisles. It was still fairly busy when I got in, but the crowds began dying as early as 6:30. By 9:30, it was pin-drop quiet. I left with no fuss.

Oh, and I got a great schedule this week, probably the best I've had since the spring. While I do work until 10 on Wednesday and Saturday, this is offset by working until 6 on Thursday and having Monday and Tuesday off.

Friday, December 14, 2012

A Long Way Down the Track

The day started sunny, bright, and beautiful. I had a lot of errands to run in the morning before I went to Atco in the afternoon. Started with grocery shopping and my paycheck. I was surprised and delighted to see that my paycheck was much higher than anticipated. I was also able to get most of what I needed groceries-wise. The only thing I forgot was mushrooms, and I can get them tomorrow. Otherwise, I needed a fruit restock, dried beans, and grabbed the cheapest chicken legs they had. They were having an awesome sale on the Lipton "pyramid bag" tea; got my favorite flavor, Vanilla Caramel. Bought coconut, chocolate chips, and mousse mix for baking.

Went straight home after that. I put everything away quickly, rounded up my packages, and headed out. Stopped at a quiet bank to deposit my paycheck first, then rode over to the Oaklyn Post Office. Much to my surprise, there was no one in the tiny building but the women behind the counters. This may be the first time since I moved here that I was able to send my Christmas packages and cards in less than five minutes.

(Oh, and Linda & James, Lauren, and Amanda...all of you have packages coming on Monday or early next week.)

Things did not go as well after that. I was able to pick up the PATCO train at Collingswood and the NJ Transit train at Lindelwauld with no problems...but after I got off at Atco, I had no idea where to go. I'd walked out without bringing the address or phone number with me, and my cell phone is so old, I couldn't look it up quickly. I thought I'd take a bus to the White Horse Pike, but the next one wasn't until 1:11. I didn't want to be late, so I thought I'd walk.

I'm going to make a very long story short. I made a wrong turn and ended up half-way down the road before I finally made it to the White Horse Pike...and then, I couldn't find the insurance company. I hiked for what seemed like miles but was probably only a mile or so. Atco turned out to be almost literally in the middle of nowhere, mainly a collection of medical and insurance offices, small local businesses and shopping centers, and basic franchise banks and drug stores. It was more than 40 minutes after I was supposed to have arrived when I finally asked first a construction office, then a post office for directions.

I got lucky at the post office and ran into Donna, one of the women managers at work. Turns out she lives near Atco and was dropping off her own packages. We looked up the address online, and I showed her the original e-mail the Chief Executive sent me. We finally came to the conclusion that the executive said he wanted people to join his sales team. I am not a salesperson. I don't want to sell things. I finally just agreed with Donna that it probably was a waste of time to even go to the interview, especially since it was past 2 by then and I was tired, hungry, and frustrated.

I asked Donna to drop me off at a pizzeria in the small shopping center I saw on my earlier hike. I hadn't eaten since breakfast! When I came in, all of the cooks and bus boys were gathered around the TV. I was shocked when I heard the news about the gunman who had killed 20 children in an elementary school in Connecticut.  God, that is just horrible. Why do people think they can do this, especially to kids? My heart goes out to everyone who was effected by this tragedy.

After all that, I just wanted to get home. I thought of waiting for a bus, but I was tired of standing. I walked back to the train terminal, making it well before the train arrived. The train to Lindenwauld was on time; the PATCO train to Collingswood actually left a few minutes early.

When I finally got in around 4:30, I put on White Christmas to get my mind off the tragic news and continued my Christmas baking with the Oatmeal Chocolate Chip cookies. In this smash hit musical from 1954, Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye play two old army buddies who fall for a pair of cute sister singers (Vera-Ellen and Rosemary Clooney). They follow them up to Vermont, where they hope to cozy up to the girls in the snowy mountains. Turns out it hasn't snowed in Vermont in weeks. The lack of precipitation is causing the inn belonging to their old general (Dean Jagger) to lose business. The two first bring the show they're currently starring in and producing up to the inn to draw business. Then Bob gets the great idea to cheer the General up by inviting their army buddies for a reminder of how much he meant to them, but Clooney thinks he has other ideas. Of course, everything clears up smoothly, just in time for the title to come true...

While I prefer the earlier "White Christmas" movie Holiday Inn (the movie the song was introduced in), this one has its moments, too. Irving Berlin provided some decent new music, including the Oscar-nominated "Counting Your Blessings" and the hilarious "Sisters." Some fairly odd numbers were created for his older ones as well. (Check out the bizarre color scheme on "Mandy.") The movie works best in the first half, where the couples are meeting each other and we're putting on a show. The romantic contrivances with Clooney and Crosby in the second half drag things down quite a bit.

Actually, my favorite number from this film is the first, and the one of the simplest and most touching musical numbers ever committed to celluloid  Bing sings "White Christmas" to an audience of soldiers while accompanied by nothing but a tinkling music box, while bombs go off in the distance. It's such a lovely moment, it's almost hard for the rest of the film to measure up to it.

Oh, and I e-mailed that executive when I got home and told him I wasn't interested in a sales job. Yes, I know I shouldn't look a gift horse in the mouth...but they never even called me. The only message on my phone when I got home was from a telemarketer. You'd think they would have wondered where I was. I don't regret the trip, though. I did get a good, long walk in, and I got to be outside on a gorgeous, sunny day.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Christmas With Sheep, Dwarves, and Mermaids

Started out the morning with breakfast, more crocheting, and two Christmas TV show episodes. In the second season Moonlighting show "'Twas the Episode Before Christmas," Maddie and David search for the mother who left a baby in their secretary Agnes' laundry basket. Perfect Strangers also did a memorable Christmas episode during their second season. In "A Christmas Story," Larry is bitterly disappointed when a snowstorm  prevents him from getting home to Madison for the holidays. Balki does his best to cheer up his friend and remind him of what Christmas is all about.

It was a gorgeous day for a ride to the Haddon Township Library. The sun was out, the sky was blue, and it was chilly and breezy but not too cold for the time of year, probably in the mid-to-upper 40s. The leaves are gone from the trees in Newton River Park now; the river glitters green and gold. There were quite a few people out for a stroll or finishing up a morning jog or taking their dog for a walk.

The Library was very busy, too. I caught the tail end of the Storybook Hour. I helped kids find DVDs, then worked on organizing the kids' DVD shelves. There wasn't much to do with the adult DVDs, so I shelved children's books instead. Took out a collection of Christmas and winter-themed episodes of Shaun the Sheep, the Barbie As special Mermaidia, and the recent fantasy movie Mirror Mirror.

Needed to make a few stops on the way home. The first was Tuesday Morning to buy one last present for my nephew Skylar, a Lego robot set. The second was Super Fresh. They're closing next month. I was hoping to catch some good sales, but surprisingly, they weren't slashed as much as I figured they would be. I did get some things for baking - peanut butter (I really like that Peter Pan Natural Creamy Peanut Butter, and the Acme doesn't carry it), maraschino cherries, yellow cake mix, my favorite Hodgison's Yeast packs (which the Acme also doesn't carry), the Betty Crocker Gingerbread Cookie Mix (I haven't seen it at the Acme yet), cooking spray, and muffin cups (which were cheaper than the Acme's). Stopped at Dollar Tree for an anniversary card for my mom and stepdad (which is Sunday) and a container for the cookies for the Acme's luncheon.

Had lunch at Capitol Pizza. They still have the cheapest pizza prices around. A slice of cheese, a slice of broccoli, and a can of Fresca cost $4.49. It was a nice, quiet meal, too. I ate well after the lunch rush was gone, and it was the first time I'd eaten there that the TV wasn't blaring CNN.

Went straight home after lunch. Another package was waiting for me on the porch, the second from Linda and James Young. This one contained a card and a present that was labeled "open now." It's another Christmas Almanac, this one by Irene Chalmers. It's very different from the slicker, more recent one I found at the yard sale a few months ago. I'll have to give it a better look next week.

Spent the rest of the afternoon at home, running the DVDs I took out of the library. Mermaidia is the second installment of the Barbie Fairytopia series, which Lionsgate released every year in the spring from 2005 to 2008. The main character of the first three specials is a fairy named Elina, who eventually gains larger and more elaborate wings. Here, she has to save her merman friend Prince Nalu when he is kidnapped by the lackeys of the evil sorceress Lavinia, whom Elina banished in the first special. She's helped by a jealous mermaid named Nori. However, becoming a mermaid will require a great sacrifice of Elina, one she may not be ready to handle.

Not bad. Not quite as fun as some of the recent installments, but better than some of the princess-themed fall stories Lionsgate was churning out at this point. I may have to look up the rest of the series.

Went right into another fantasy-themed story, Mirror Mirror, as I started this year's first Christmas baking with Peanut Butter Cookies. One of two movies this year based around the original Snow White fairy tale, this is the earlier and more family-oriented version. Here, the vain and greedy queen (Julia Roberts, playing very against-type) has locked up her shy daughter Snow White (Lily Collins). When the girl tries to warn the prince (Armie Hammer) about her stepmother's treachery, the Queen orders her page (Nathan Lane) to get rid of her. He doesn't have the heart and lets her escape into the woods, where she's befriended by seven tough dwarves who steal from travelers to make a living. They teach Snow White to do the same. Meanwhile, the Queen desperately wants to marry the prince so she can keep on living the high life, even if it requires a little black magic.

I wasn't impressed. While I liked the idea of Snow White playing Robin Hood with the dwarves to save her people and what "The Beast" turned out to be, the whole thing just seemed to be played way too goofy. It lacked even the genuine menace of Snow White and the Three Stooges. Roberts is too over-the-top as the Queen; Collins has a couple of nice moments as Snow White, but not enough to make up for a somewhat bland character. Fun for grade-school age kids and pre-teens who aren't up for the darker Snow White and the Huntsman and major fans of Roberts; cute but not necessary for anyone else.

Switched to Sean the Sheep as I reverted to crocheting and had chicken soup for dinner. There were a few winter and holiday-themed episodes in the second season. "We Wish Ewe a Merry Christmas" was a very sweet story where the sheep and Bitzer, touched by the presents of food that their owner gave them, try to make the lonely man happy with a tree and presents. "Fireside Favorite" has the cat trying to get a sick Bitzer off his usual pillow in front of the fire. Sean makes sure his dog friend gets a good rest.

And I got a call during Mermaidia from a company called American Income Life Insurance, which apparently sells life insurance to labor unions. I'd received an e-mail from them, but I assumed it was a hoax. I'd never sent them anything. I'd be a terrible salesperson. The woman who called said her boss was interested in me and wanted me to come in tomorrow at 1! First of all, that's kind of short notice. Second, they were talking about jobs for training and management. I've never trained or managed anyone in my life, and I'd make a horrible salesperson. I can't sell myself, much less life insurance. Not to mention, their sales office is in Atco, more than 40 minutes away.

After a half-hour, I felt like an idiot for turning down such an opportunity. I called them back and left a message that I'd take two trains and be in Atco by 1.