Thursday, May 31, 2012

Balance In Philadelphia

It was an absolutely gorgeous day when I awoke this morning. The humidity and hazy sunshine had been replaced by gentle breezes and a sky so blue, it hurt my eyes to look at it. I listened to the Peter Pan Alice In Wonderland record while I had breakfast. To my surprise and delight, it was a really sweet musical version of parts of the first book. My favorite numbers were Alice's "A Curious Thing," the Heart Court's "The Queen Has Commanded," and the dreamy title song that bookends the recording.

After the record ended, I rode over to Collingswood to make a short trip into Philadelphia. I mainly needed to return the pair of jean shorts I bought from Macy's last week with Lauren. They turned out to not fit as well as I'd like...and we both somehow missed the rhinestones stitched onto the back pockets. Ugh. I hate anything on the back pockets but basic stitches. It looks silly. What's wrong with plain old jeans?

The lady at the counter was really nice. I had the receipt and hadn't taken most of the tags off, so she was able to ring up the shorts and return the money to my account with no trouble. She even gave me a card for a free perfume sample. I don't use perfume and didn't get the sample, but it was sweet of her.

I strolled to Reading Terminal Market next for an early lunch. It was only about 11:30 and not nearly as busy as it usually is when I'm there. After strolling the area, I finally plopped down on one of the vinyl-topped stools at the Olympic Gyro booth. I hadn't had a good gyro in ages. Mine was huge, with lots of sauce. Amazingly enough, though, only a little dripped onto my hand, which isn't anything I could ever say about the gyros on the boardwalks in Wildwood. I also stopped at one of the Amish bakeries and bought a red velvet cake roll.

As I had the last couple of times I ate at Reading Terminal Market, I went across the street with my snack to the patio with the odd stone pillars next to Marriot Philadelphia. It was so crowded there, I had to sit on one of the cylindrical lights! I guess I wasn't the only one who felt like enjoying the beautiful day. It was mostly tourists waiting for sightseeing buses and trolleys, but I did see one kid trying to get people to sign some sort of environmental petition.

I made my way down 10th Street to Washington Square, home of one of my favorite stores in the planet, Russakof's Used Books. As usual, they were stacked to the rafters with piles of books, DVDs, videos, and CDs on every subject imaginable. I spent over an hour trying to choose something, but I didn't have much money left, especially if I wanted to do yoga later in the day. I just ended up with a paperback mystery set in modern Key West, Blue Moon.

I still had a little time before I wanted to head back to Collingswood. It was so nice, I settled under a tree in the grassy area outside of one of the Jefferson Memorial Hospital buildings and across from the 9th and 10th Street PATCO entrances and read my book. After a while, I got thirsty, so I backtracked to a Starbucks on 10th Street and picked up an unsweetened tall green iced tea.

When I got back into Collingswood (on a surprisingly full train for 2:30 in the afternoon), I went straight to the Library for my first volunteer session there in ages. There were lots of kids and teenagers arriving even as I organized the DVDs. By the time I went upstairs to shelve non-fiction, there were kids everywhere. The Teen Area had a circle of young people studying together; adults worked with younger kids in groups.

It was still so nice when I left the library at 3:30, I went for a short bike ride in the back area of Collingswood between Haddon Avenue and Cooper River Park. I really enjoyed it. I enjoy my back road rides. Everyone always has something different to decorate their homes, from lavish gardens to blow-up pools for the kiddies to colorful pinwheels and banners waving in the wind.

Stopped really quick at Rite Aid to get a bottle of water, then headed for my first yoga class in over two weeks. The nice weather must have brought people out of the woodwork. There were seven women in Lee's class today, the most I've ever seen in the late-afternoon Gentle class. There was still plenty of room to work on standing and balance poses. I'm getting better at balance poses - I can actually do tree mostly without bobbling now.

It was quarter after 5 when the class finally let out. I went straight home to make a decent dinner of chicken burritos with farm market lettuce and cheese, Strawberry Flummery, and leftover vegetables. Since the weather was cooperating, I whipped up Mint Chocolate Chip Muffins using the Nestle Mint/Dark Chocolate Chips I found at the Acme and the last of the peppermint extract for dessert.

Dubbed the first half of the 1948 Superman serial while working in the kitchen. I've heard a lot of bad things about this, including in the To Be Continued... book on serials I take out periodically from the Oaklyn Library. It's cheesy, the production values are terrible, the special effects are primitive, the casting isn't great, the villain isn't Lex Luthor.

Yes, it's cheesy, but so are most serials. It's all part of the charm. Actually, the casting isn't that bad. I especially love Noel Neill's take-charge Lois Lane. (I don't believe Lois would be portrayed this tough again until the mid-90s Lois and Clark show). I think I like the diabolical Spider Lady even better than Lex Luthor. Mad scientist tycoons who plot to take over the world are sooo overdone. The effects, most done with animation (including Superman flying), were actually pretty nifty. Kirk Alyn was ok as Superman, but was really more convincing as Clark Kent. He and Lois have some nice banter. You can also finally see why she doesn't realize Superman and Clark are one person. She spends most of the serial mad at Clark because he keeps scooping her.

If you like old-time action and don't mind the unusual effects and somewhat cheesy dialogue, this is a heck of a lot of fun for fans of serials or the Man of Steel.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Cooling Off

It felt a little nicer when I stuck my head out this morning. Of course, the overcast sky was a big help there. I ran Daisy-Head Mayzie during breakfast. Mayzie is a normal kid who suddenly grows a daisy in the middle of her noggin during school. It's not fun at first. The kids tease her; the adults either want to study her or lock her up or banish her. She finally ends up becoming a celebrity, but being a curiosity has a high price. The Cat In the Hat finally helps her learn that love and respect are far more important than any fame, and being different isn't such a bad thing.

Based after the last story Seuss wrote (but didn't get to drawing), Mayzie isn't top-drawer, but is still rather sweet, and certainly more fun than The Butter Battle Book. This has a very different look than Butter or the earlier Seuss specials, brighter and a bit more fluid, perhaps because it was done by Hanna-Barbara.

Headed to the gym around 11, stopping only to drop a bag of clothing donations by the D.A.R.E containers. The gym was surprisingly busy for a Wednesday morning; I guess everyone wanted to get out now that it wasn't quite as hot or as humid outside. I timed it right; the stationary bikes gradually cleared as I worked out, and there were only a few other people on the weight machines when I worked on my legs.

I rode my bike to the Oaklyn Library next to do this week's session there. For once, there wasn't much to do in the kids' section. I just cleared board books out of the picture book shelves. The DVD shelves needed some serious re-arranging, especially the adult shelves. Oaklyn just started marking all new titles with a black sticker...and of course, I saw a pile of titles with black stickers in with the regular movies.

Spent the rest of the afternoon at my apartment. I had lunch, then did some cleaning. I made my bed. I swept the porch. I vacuumed, which finishes this month's cleaning. I took down the general spring decorations and put up the patriotic and general summer decorations. (Yes, I know the calender says summer isn't for another three weeks. We just got past our first major heat wave of the year. Mother Nature says it's summer.)

Work was surprisingly busy for the middle of the week, but then again, we're getting close to the beginning of the month. It slowed down by 9:30 enough for me to leave with no relief.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

In the Heat of the Day

I slept longer than I planned on. Consequently, it was quarter of 12 when I finally got to the laundromat. Despite the continuing heat wave, I really did need to catch up on chores and resume my regular schedule. The laundromat was busy when I got in, much quieter when I finally left. Good thing. I had a huge bag to be done, including towels and the sheet Lauren slept under last week. It was almost 1 when I finished and headed back out.

I was delighted to find the copy of Snow White and the Three Stooges I ordered last week in my mailbox when I got home. I liked it so much when I watched it with Lauren, I ended up buying it, too. I ran that and the last of the second Stooges shorts disc as I put away the laundry and had a quick strawberry-raspberry butter and peanut butter wrap and pear for lunch.

It was past 2:30 when I went out for my second errand run of the day. I didn't have a chance to get to the Haddon Township Library last week and was looking forward to it, if only for the air conditioning. There was quite a bit to do. The DVD stack was especially high; I organized children's DVDs (ignoring the fuss next to me over a printer that was being affected by high humidity) and shelved the adult and non-fiction titles. There were fewer kids' books to shelve today; many parents may not have wanted to bring their kids out in the too-hot weather.

Needed to make a few store runs on the way home. A quick stop in Super Fresh proved fruitless, but I did get sponges and two much-needed bottles of pump hand soap at Dollar Tree. The pump soap in the bathroom just ran out, the one in the kitchen is down to it's last quarter, and I'm out of sponges, too.

Headed straight home after Dollar Tree, avoiding the rush-hour traffic as best I could. I spent the rest of the evening making Chicken Marsala, steamed spring peas, and sauteed carrots, turnips, and celery for dinner while watching two of the cartoon sets I took out of the Haddon Township Library. In fact, this is the first time I've taken books and DVDs out of any library in ages. I think it's time to start cheaply expanding my range again. I grabbed the NickJr series Ni Hao, Kai-Lan, a collection of Warner Bros-owned Dr. Seuss specials, and the second Cartoon Network live action Scooby Doo movie, Curse of the Lake Monster.

Kai-Lan is basically a Chinese variation on Dora the Explorer. Once again, an inquisitive and good-natured young lady and her odd array of animal friends (and one adult guardian) have adorable adventures that encourages audience participation. The big difference with Kai-Lan is unlike Dora, who is vaguely Hispanic, much of Kai-Lan's tales revolve around real-life Chinese festivals and customs, and yes, Chinese is taught instead of Spanish.

The first story was a double-length tale in which the gang's favorite superhero, the Monkey King, took Kai-Lan and her buddies HoHo (a tiny white monkey), Rintoo (a yellowish tiger), and Kolee (a darling koala) to the kingdoms of the Bears and the Foxes. The two kingdoms are feuding, but no one can figure out why or how to unite them. When a baby bear and baby fox want to be friends, Kai-Lan and her crew visit the Fox King and the Bear Queen to find out what the problem is and how to make them talk it out.

The other two episodes were probably closer to the show's regular format. In the first, the gang visit pink girlie rhino LuLu's home in the clouds. HoHo is frightened of all the new sensations, until Kai-Lan convinces him that trying different things isn't so bad. The third episode also revolved around HoHo. He's eager to make a wish on the Moon during the Moon Festival, the first he really remembers. The toddler monkey is bitterly disappointed when a cloud blocks the moon, but Kai-Lan, her grandpa YeYe, and the others find a way to still give HoHo his wish.

Switched to Dr. Seuss after I cleaned up from dinner. One of the last books Seuss wrote was The Butter Battle Book; this was also the basis for one of the final Seuss specials in the late 80s. (The copy on the Best of Dr. Seuss DVD even has the original card saying it was made for TNT.)  This parable on the futility of war has the countries of Zook and Yook up in arms over whether to butter the bread on the bottom or the top. Zook keeps coming up with bigger arms, and Yook keeps one-upping them, until both create a nuclear-charged pill that could destroy the world if dropped. Who drops first? It's left to your imagination, as the special (and apparently, the book as well) end with the standoff.

The good Dr. himself considered Butter Battle Book to be the closest to the actual book of the animated adaptations. Whether it is or isn't, it's really kind of depressing, and the Lady-or-the-Tiger finale lacks the note of hope injected into the other Dr. Seuss special and book with an unhappy ending, The Lorax. As for Kai-Lan, I found her cute enough and a nice introduction to Chinese culture for little guys, not to mention some of the most adorable animated character designs ever. (Even the sun and finally-appearing moon were cute.) She unfortunately has the same big problem as Dora - if you're watching without kids, you'll probably get bored or annoyed with the interaction after a while.

Monday, May 28, 2012

An Animated Memorial Day

First of all, I salute all of our people in the Armed Services, past and present, on this Memorial Day. I'd like to give a special note to my brother Keefe and my good friend Jen Waters, both of whom are currently serving in the Navy.

Second, I spent most of a very hot day continuing the cleaning. The kitchen was really grungy, especially the sink and dish rack. It needed to be done badly. I dusted and washed the windows, too. Didn't have the chance to get to anything else. I did a lot of dusting before Lauren visited and shouldn't need to do much more. I'll get to the vacuuming tomorrow.

I honored the Armed Services by running wartime animated shorts for most of the afternoon. Three of my favorite 40s Looney Tunes are wartime-related. A chemically-enhanced carrot turns Bugs into a superhero in Super Rabbit. When a Yosemite Sam-like villain gets the best of him, he finally decides it's a job for a real hero...a soldier. Daffy tries to dodge the persistent "Little Man from the Draft Board" in Draftee Daffy. And in Fallen Hare, Bugs tangles with a Gremlin who is bound and determined to wreck havoc on airplanes.

The loonies at Termite Terrace were far from the only cartoon studio to put a comic spin on the realities of World War II. The home front audience's fondness for raucous humor made Donald Duck Disney's number one short subject star during and after the war years. (Mickey wasn't even seen between 1943 and 1947.) Donald did a series of cartoons set in the Army that are favorites of mine; these include the surrealistic, Oscar-winning Der Fuherer's Face, the wonderfully silly The Vanishing Private, and the pair that amounts to a two-parter, Donald Gets Drafted and Sky Trooper. Unlike Daffy, go-getting Donald has absolutely no problem with joining the Armed Services. What he really wants is to be in the glamorous Air Force, but he finds himself dropped in the Army without a paddle. Sergeant Pete tries to whip him into shape, but Donald ends up peeling potatoes. When Donald does finally gets into the air, it leads to an explosive confrontation with Pete!

Woody Woodpecker was another beloved character who became a star during the war years. His only really war-related short was Ace In the Hole, a variation on Sky Trooper. Woody, too, wants to join the Air Force, but he ends up shaving horses. Stealing a plane probably doesn't amuse his bulldog sergeant either, or what he does with it when he finally gets in the air.

Walter Lanz also did several one-shot wartime shorts. Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B depicts what happens when a black trumpet player is drafted. Yes, the stereotypes come thick and fast and obnoxious, but this short has a really swinging version of the title tune and is one of the few cartoons of the era to depict minorities in the military. (It was also, interestingly, released several months before the war began.) Pigeon Patrol is a more conventional war story. A country bumpkin pigeon is rejected from war duty, but manages to get a message through anyway and impress his sweetheart back home.

The Pink Panther became one of the few 60s animated characters to enlist in the Vietnam War in G.I Pink. Like Donald, he enlists because he thinks it looks glamorous and powerful. He ends up encountering land mines, cranky drill sergeants, and canine mascots who think he's for dinner!

I returned to the Stooges during a quick lunch of a Peanut Butter and Strawberry-Raspberry Wrap and a pear. Conveniently, the shorts in the set I ordered from last week were made between 1943 and 1945, when World War II was at its height. In Back From the Front, the boys are adrift in the ocean and find themselves aboard a Nazi battleship, where they proceed to capture the enemy. They Stooge to Conga gets ugly even for these guys when they accidentally find a Nazi war room...and Moe gets a spike shoe in the ear. No Dough, Boys has them mistaken for spies when they're dressed as Japanese men for a modeling job.

It was still hot outside when I headed to work, but not quite as humid as the past few days. Not surprisingly on a holiday, work was busy up through around 5PM, after which people must have gone off to barbecues and picnics. There were a few annoying people, notably the couple who argued so violently, they just ended up taking off and leaving their order behind - good thing it was small. Otherwise, there were no major problems and I was in and out.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Hot and Bothered

I slept in a little bit, not quite as much as usual on a Sunday. I was making Strawberry Multi-Grain Buttermilk Pancakes by 10AM. It was still hot and humid. The sun showed hazily into my windows as I switched on Brunch With the Beatles. The boys' final US-only album Hey Jude - the only one they sanctioned - was in the spotlight. That meant a lot of rarities and songs that, up to that point, had only been heard as singles on this side of the Atlantic, including "Old Brown Shoe," "Lady Madonna," "The Ballad of John and Yoko," "All You Need Is Love" and the title song. I tried calling Mom while the show was on, but I ended up leaving a message.

Spent a couple of hours mucking around online after that. It was about quarter of 2 when I tried calling Mom again. Apparently, she spent most of the morning working in her garden. Lucky woman went to a big concert at the new Cape May Convention Center last night. Peter Nero and the Pops were playing for the new Convention Center's grand opening. Mom said the concert was awesome, and the tickets had been expensive but well worth it. Apparently, it they cost so much, Mom's fellow concert-goers were local dignitaries, landowners, teachers, lawmakers, and other folks who actually have year-round jobs in Cape May County. She said she saw a lot of people she knew, and even got a complimentary glass of champagne. It sounds like she's going to look for similar events in the area, too, and take more walks in Cape May. I'm glad. It'll be good for her to get out of the house more often, especially now that her last child has moved away and she's an official "empty nest" mom.

Speaking of getting out of the house, I broke down and went for a walk after finishing with Mom. I headed to WaWa first for a pretzel and a bottle of water, then strolled to the steep cobblestone steps on the end of East Collingswood Avenue that are a back way into Newton River Park. Despite the hot, humid day, it was nice and breezy in the park. I passed by a flock of Canadian geese poking around the blackberry trees for smushed berries for their lunch. There were a couple of cute fuzzy goslings with them. A couple of especially protective geese hissed at me, but I assured them I had no desire to harm their children and hurried on. A little further down, I watched a sweet little chipmunk dart in and out of a pile of broken branches.

I swung by Uncle Ken and Dad's on the way home to see if anyone was around. Uncle Ken was the only one home, watching the Phillies-Cardinals game. The Phils were losing 4-1 when I was there. I wished Uncle Ken a happy Memorial Day, watched the game with him a little, and moved on. (And alas, it looks like the Cardinals did go on to win the game 8-3.)

I was sweating bullets when I got home. It was too hot to go anywhere else. I spent the rest of the evening cleaning my bathroom and watching wartime Looney Tunes cartoons and Three Stooges shorts. I had a quick dinner of leftovers before hitting a nice, cool shower.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Hot Time at the May Fair

Whew! It was already in the 70s when I finally got up this morning around 9AM. I didn't mean to oversleep. I guess I'm still catching up from my vacation. It was cloudy when I left for Collingswood, but by the time I pulled into the bike rack in the parking lot behind Haddon Avenue, the sky was clearing.

The May Fair is Collingswood's annual Memorial Day Weekend street festival. There's a huge classic car show, a craft show, midway rides for the kids, and the Farm Market, which is absorbed into the fair for the week. I checked out the booths first. Saw two booths with 18 inch doll clothes. Ended up buying a hand-made bathing suit and cover-up from the second one.

My next stop was the car show. There were more cars than ever this year! It just seemed to go on and on. A whole fleet of GTOs rumbled on the very first block; the red one reminded me a little of the MonkeeMobile without the extra seats. My favorites were the nifty red Packard with the black top and the sporty little orange-red Corvette.

I strolled through the crowds, next stopping at Lees Avenue just off Haddon, where the Farm Market did its business. It was past 11 by the time I made it there. Everyone was sold out of snap peas, but I did get some spring peas to steam later this week. I also bought carrots, strawberries, asparagus, a yellow sweet onion, and a lovely little head of red leaf lettuce from the organic booth.

Next, I made my way to the kids' section to watch the little guys enjoy themselves. The Midway is where all of the games and rides are. There was a train in the parking lot of an office building, a tilt-a-whirl, and the cutest little Ferris Wheel. I saw a bunch of bounce houses on the very end of Haddon. One had a SpongeBob SquarePants theme. One was shaped like a big bear. The third was supposed to look like an inflatable jungle.

Passed by three bands playing on my way back. One was a girl group doing 40s numbers like "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend." One was a typical pop-rock band playing 80s and 90s hits like "Love Shack." The big one on the corner of Haddon and Collings Avenues was playing what sounded like classic rock. All three were pretty good; the rock band's "Love Shack" cover was my favorite, although "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend" was cute. 

By this point, the sun was out and the clouds had disappeared. There was a nice breeze, but it wasn't enough to alleviate the nasty humidity and sweltering heat. I hiked back to my bike and rode home. I didn't even see any yard sales today; they're probably all at the Shore.

I spent the rest of the afternoon watching Three Stooges shorts and avoiding the heat. I had leftovers and a lettuce salad for lunch, then made Strawberry Flummery with the last of the strawberries in the fridge and a few that got mushed on the way back from Collingswood. "Flummery" is a jelly-style dessert that apparently was popular in colonial America. It's the simplest dessert in the book - all you need is fruit, water, sugar, and cornstarch. I've made it with everything from strawberries to peaches, and it always comes out delicious.

Since I had a new outfit for Jessa, I changed all of the dolls into lighter outfits. Jess wears her bathing suit and cover-up and the jean shorts I bought her last year. They're all tight on her - I have the feeling they were made for the newer 18-inch dolls that are thinner - but I did get them on. Sam wears her sailor-themed Middy Dress and brass whistle. I put Felicity in the only lightweight dress I have for her, her lavender-striped Traveling Gown (also known as her second "Meet" outfit). Molly was dying to wear her AG Circle of Friends Tap Dance costume with the red and blue sequin trim and ruffled sleeves, not to mention those shiny, bright-red tap shoes!

It had gotten a little cloudy by the time I left for work, but nothing horrible. Work was busy for most of the evening, not surprising on a holiday weekend. It did clear out a little when people started going to their barbecues around 6:30 and heavy clouds rolled in. It picked up later, partially because the kid who was supposed to show up was so late, he was due at 7 and still hadn't arrived when I left at 9:30.

My schedule next week isn't great. On one hand, I only have 20 hours, and I could really use a decent paycheck. On the other hand, I also have three days off, including tomorrow, and I could also use some time to resume my regular schedule and get things back together at my apartment after my vacation and my visitor.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Through the Looking Glass

It was hot, humid, and sunny when I got up around 9:30 this morning; not a good combination. Nevertheless, I did have a few errands I wanted to do. Since I needed to go to the Acme anyway, I started off with a good work-out at Lucile Roberts. I did 20 minutes on the elliptical machine and got a good sweat in. There were more people doing the weight machines. I used the hand weights while other people used the arm machines.

Surprisingly for a holiday weekend, the Acme was busy but not overwhelming. It was almost 1PM by that point. A lot of people must have been on their way to the Jersey Shore or the Poconos. I was pretty much just restocking after Lauren's visit. I needed eggs, boxes of Emerald Trail Mix (Lauren loved those - I gave her a couple to take on the train), cans of crushed pineapple and no-salt tomato sauce, peanut butter, and chicken broth. Fruit concentrate was on a good sale, so I picked up two cans. I also used a coupon for a new Red, White, and Blue Kool Aid in packs I thought I'd try. It'll be another week or two before more fruit debuts at the farm market, so I grabbed pears, bananas, and grapefruit.

By the time I got home, I was sweating bullets...and it wasn't entirely from the gym. It was sunny, breezy, and humid out, probably in the mid-upper 80s. Once again, I spent the afternoon inside, watching movies and mini-series and eating out of the fridge for lunch.

Alice is SyFy's second modern update of a classic fantasy story. This Alice (Catherine Scorsone) is no precocious little girl in a ruffled pinafore. She's a tough martial arts instructor in modern-day San Francisco. Unlike D.G, she's pretty content with her life. She likes living with her mother Carol (Teyrl Rothery) and she has a hot boyfriend named Jack Chase (Phillip Winchester) she might even be in love with. The only bruise on the apple is the disappearance of her father when she was ten; she's been searching for him ever since.

Jack is kidnapped by strange men in suits shortly after giving her a fancy ring. Alice thinks it's a proposal, but the ring has far more important implications. Seems it controls the mirror that allows humans to enter Wonderland. The Queen of Hearts (Kathy Bates) would do anything to get her hands on it. She's been capturing humans and draining of them of emotions, which are then sold as drugs to the Wonderland public. Alice is aided by The Mad Hatter (Andrew-Lee Potts), a con-man who plays both sides of the coin, and Charlie (Matt Frewer), the last surviving White Knight. Even when she does find Jack, he's hardly what he appears to be. Her father is closer than she thinks, too. It'll take all of Alice's guts and cunning to rescue both from the wily Queen and her bizarre assortment of henchmen...and to learn how important those human emotions are when encourages the "oysters" (Wonderland parlance for drained humans) to revolt.

While I didn't like it quite as much as the longer and more elaborate Tin Man, this had its moments. I especially enjoyed Potts' Han Solo-eque Mad Hatter, Frewer's sweetly daffy Charlie the White Knight, and Bates as the manipulative Queen.

I needed to hit the bank, so I went for a short walk after Alice ended. It was quarter of 5 when I made my way to the White Horse Pike...and barely got across it both times. I completely forgot today is the start of Memorial Day Weekend. The Pike was jammed all the way down to the Collingswood side! Everyone must have left as soon as work let out.

I, on the other hand, just went home to make a mushroom and Colby cheese omelet for dinner and watch Roberta. This is the original film version of the tale of two guys who inherit a dress shop in Paris and fall for the ladies who work there. In this case, the guys are Randolph Scott (very far from his usual western digs) and Fred Astaire. Scott is a football star, Astaire is a dancer and band leader, and neither knows anything about dresses other than how good a woman looks in them. While an old flame of Astaire's who has become a star in Paris (Ginger Rogers) gets them a job, Scott finds himself running Roberta's with his aunt's favorite assistant (Irene Dunne). Astaire and Rogers hope that the two partners end up falling for each other, but an old girlfriend of Scott's (Claire Dodd) makes a play for him after he inherits the shop. The two finally come together in time for the big Roberta's fashion show and one last awesome dance from Classic Hollywood's favorite hoofing pair.

There's a reason this one is included with several Astaire-Rogers sets. It's all about the movies' most famous dancing duo, no matter how much it wants to pretend it's about the slightly stiff Dunne and even stiffer Scott. (Dunne would do much better in another semi-operetta made two years later, Show Boat.) My favorite number was the adorable challenge duet "I'll Be Hard to Handle." Their more romantic dance to "Lovely to Look At" at the end was also nice.

("Look At," "Handle," and "I Won't Dance" were written for Astaire and Rogers to perform in the film; they weren't from the original Broadway show. They became so associated with Roberta that they've since been added to the stage version and were sung in the 1955 MGM remake, Lovely to Look At.)

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Sudden Storms and Saying Good-Bye to Friends

Lauren and I started the day with one more walk in the park and a snack on the fruit of the blackberry tree. She would be spending most of the afternoon in trains or train stations. It was a lovely, sunny morning, neither as hot nor as humid as yesterday. We strolled around the perimeter of the park, just taking in the beautiful views while we could still do it together.

We spent the last hour at my place watching the Peanuts specials I bought on Tuesday. You're a Good Sport, Charlie Brown, gives Charlie a chance to finally win it all when he joins a motorcross race. Peppermint Patty and "The Masked Marvel" prove worthy opponents, but Chuck finally proves that slow and steady really does win the race, and that the best prize of all is being a real winner. He learns a similar lesson in You're the Greatest, Charlie Brown, when the gang enlists him and Marcie in the Junior Olympics' decathlon. Not only do the duo find themselves competing against "The Masked Marvel" again, but tough Freddy from Fremont also proves stiff competition.

Jodie picked us up around noon to head to the train platform behind Shop Rite in Cherry Hill. We were joined by Jodie's younger son's girlfriend. Other than a quick move when she missed the turn-off that sent me bumping all over the place, we made it there on time. Lauren's train was right on schedule. I gave her a hug and watched her as she got on the Transit to Philly.

I finally opted to spend the rest of my day at home. My legs were tired. My refrigerator was largely empty. I didn't have a lot of money left, either. I started putting together peanut butter cookies from the sugar-free baking cookbook as I ran Tin Man.

This elaborate Wizard of Oz update from SyFy introduces us to quite a different view of over the rainbow. D.G (Zooey Deschanel), a waitress in Kansas, is longing for something she can't quite put into words. She wants to find the place where she belongs...but she never expected that the place she belonged in would be the Outer Zone (the O.Z). This wasteland was taken over by the witch Azkadellia (Kathleen Robertson), who isn't what she seems. Neither are the friends she encounters along the way, a good-natured fellow named Glitch (Alan Cumming) who had half his brain removed by the witch, a cowardly half-animal creature named Raw (Raoul Trujillo) who has psychic powers, and Wyatt Cain, an ex-cop ("Tin Man" in O.Z slang) who lost his family to the witch's raiders and has a lot more heart than he would ever admit. This motley group, most of whom can barely remember their own names, set off to find "the Emerald of the Eclipse," the key to saving the O.Z from Azkadellia's wicked schemes.

I really liked it. Generally, I'm no purist. I enjoy seeing how stories can be picked apart and told in a different way. I found this modern version of one of the most famous fantasy stories in the world to be imaginative and a pure delight. Critics, who were probably expecting something closer to the book and MGM movie, were apparently harsh on it, and it seems to be the kind of thing people either love (the boy who sold it to me at FYE gushed about how much he enjoyed it) or hate. As Deneb at Mutant Reviews pointed out, there's a lot of plot holes and it can be cheesy, but the characters are fairly well-written, the special effects are excellent, and it really does suck you into its bizarre world.

Tin Man is 3 and a 1/2 hours. As I was watching the first half, I realized I heard what sounded like raindrops on the roof and the outside part of the air conditioner. Much to my surprise, when I poked my head out the front door, I got wet. It was pouring, and thunder could be heard in the distance. This was not something I expected to see after the gorgeous morning we had! I was worried about Lauren, too. The storm came out of nowhere and may have affected her train.

The storm passed about a half-hour later, as quickly and suddenly as it arrived. I finished up the series, baking a loaf of Banana-Dark Chocolate Chip Bread. I made myself a wrap with the last of the ham and provolone from yesterday and some bibb lettuce while watching episodes of Tiny Toon Adventures ("Fairy Tales for the 90s") and Sailor Moon ("Mirror Mirror on the Wall") that also put different spins on famous stories.

It was around 6PM when the bread came out of the oven. Not only had the sun emerged again, but it was much cooler than it had been this morning. I took advantage of the return of nice weather with a stroll to WaWa for milk and a cherry-limeade Icee. My cell phone rang on the way; good thing I walked. It was Lauren. The train from Philadelphia and New York had both left on time. She mentioned that there were clouds and the trains were wet, but she never saw the storms we did here. She must have literally out-raced Mother Nature! She was 25 minutes from Albany at that point. I haven't heard from her since then, but I imagine she's long at home by now.

There were clouds building up again as I headed home with my milk and my Icee. Thankfully at press time, they have yet to do anything but look unattractive. I dubbed The 39 Steps and Quadrophenia while working on a collage for The Artist's Way book. It's supposed to be all the images of your past, present, and future, or just whatever grabs you. I ended up cutting a lot of things out of rare movie, American Girl, and L.L Bean catalogs, but I think it came out pretty well.

39 Steps and Quadrophenia are veddy, veddy British, but that's where the similarities end. The original 1937 39 Steps is the tale of a spy (Robert Donat) who finds himself literally attached to a London woman (Madeline Carroll) with handcuffs as he tries to stop important information from leaving the country. Quadrophenia jumps ahead twenty years or so to the disenchanted life of a young "mod" who questions his involvement with a local gang and his idol (Sting) after a riot in the seaside resort of Brighton.

39 Steps is a relatively light Hitchcock story; it's not as comic as some later versions, but it's also not as dark as some of his later films. Quadrophenia is hard to find and is mainly for fans of Sting, the Who album it's based after, or this era in English history. (And heed that R rating on the latter - there's f-bombs all over the place. If bad language bothers you, don't come within a hundred miles of this one.)

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Some Like It Humid

We slept in this morning...and were surprised to awake to sunshine, humidity, and 80-degrees temperatures. It was supposed to thunderstorm today! Lauren was asleep until almost 11:30. It was past noon when we decided that since it was actually sunny out and Lauren will be sitting for a lot of tomorrow, we'd go for one last walk.

We headed up to the White Horse Pike to check out some of the small stores there. Our first stop was The House of Fun, a collectibles and toy store. The place was even more filled with toys from the 70s and 80s, Hello Kitty merchandise, broken arcade game machines, action figures in and out of their packages, shirts with pop culture sayings on them, and books about comics and cult films than ever. They'd also added a small shelf of videos and DVDs. You won't be surprised to hear that the DVDs and videos were all anime sets, science fiction and fantasy films, and sci-fi TV shows. They also had the usual assortment of ancient video game consoles and their attachments and games, both loose and in their boxes.

I ended up with the 1980 Flash Gordon on DVD, the 1948 Superman serial on video, and a notebook featuring Sanrio character Tuxedo Sam the penguin. (Sam is prominent in Hello Kitty Furry Tale Theater, but I've never seen him on any of the multitudes of Sanrio items until today.) Lauren was intrigued by one of the Atari consoles. She bought it, all its attachments, and several games (including her favorite, Frostbite) when she discovered the store's owner was willing to ship it to Pittsfield for a very good price.

The comic book shop next door was busier, but otherwise not as interesting. The white cat sunning in the window and his black and white companion near the front entrance watched us as we browsed. On the rare occasions I read comic books, it's usually kid-oriented characters - Garfield, Looney Tunes, the Disney crew, Scooby Doo. They didn't have anything like that left. Lauren said she's so behind on her comic book reading, she has no idea what she needs or where the stories are going.

Far from the predicted thunderstorms, it was getting sunnier and hotter by the moment. We headed back to West Clinton Avenue. I dropped into Doria's Deli to introduce Lauren to Mrs. Doria and pick up lunch meat and sodas to eat when we got home. (Her husband seems to be working with their son; she says she did help her with a big catering order for Collingswood High School the day before.)

After we got in, I put my purchases away, and we had ham, provolone, and bibb lettuce on whole-wheat wraps. (I added spicy mustard and radishes.) In honor of Tuxedo Sam, I ran the action-oriented Hello Kitty Saves the Day DVD. Sam is prominent in most of these stories...and you've never lived until you've seen a laid-back blue penguin in a jaunty sailor's cap playing Tarzan or Crocodile Dundee.

Since it was still sunny outside, we went for a short walk in the park next-door. We'd seen a tree laden with blackberries (and dropping them all over the sidewalk) on the way home. There turned out to be a similar tree in the park. Alas, the branches were too high for us to fill bowls with them, but we did get enough to have a nice little snack.

(Those trees are very common in the South Jersey area. There's tons of them in Cape May County. My sisters and I used to pluck them from the trees in our neighborhoods on the way to school as kids. There was also a tree on the other side of the entrance to the mall where the North Cape May Acme is. I'd grab a few on my way to work when I was living with my folks during college.)

We took some pictures of us eating berries and among the flora, then went back to my place for the rest of the afternoon. We played our last round of games. Lauren won Memory and Pokemon Yahtzee. We each won one game of Bingo. In fact, we stopped only because we thought we'd fall asleep if we continued sitting.

Lauren put on Without a Paddle, which she bought at Rustic Music yesterday, while I made mashed turnips and sauteed turnip greens and onions to go with the leftover meat and the last of the carrot salad in the fridge. Paddle is actually less goofy than I thought it would be. A trio of long-time friends (Matthew Lillard, Seth Green, Dax Shepard) find a map that belonged to a fourth friend who just passed away. The map is a treasure map belonging to a man who once hijacked an airplane and vanished with the money. The four decide to use the map and find the loot...but they don't count on encountering a very protective bear, a pair of female hippies, a mountain man with a connection to the treasure, or a pair of drug farmers who shoot first and don't bother asking questions!

It's not nearly as bad as it sounds. It's actually rather sweet. I love how the three men, especially the very neurotic Green, finally learn that the most important thing isn't money, but their relationships with each other and the ones they love. There are a lot of goofy gags involving pot on fire, very dedicated female hippies, and angry bears, but if you enjoy the three main actors or comic treasure-hunting tales like The Goonies, you'll probably enjoy this one.

In fact, we have The Goonies on now; we've also watched Weekend at Bernie's and the Bowery Boys movie Feudin' Fools (which also involved a close encounter with hillbilly farmers on the wrong side of the law). Lauren's going  home around 12:30 tomorrow; I haven't decided what I'm doing afterwards. If my legs are up for it, I'll do yoga. Otherwise, I'll be here or return those pants to the Macy's at the Cherry Hill Mall.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Goin' Downtown

It was cloudy, humid, and cool when we made our way to Collingswood around 11AM. We had decided to eat in New Jersey and just grab a snack in Philadelphia. Lauren wanted to have lunch at Tortilla Press, a popular Mexican restaurant on Haddon Avenue, a block from Yogawood. We arrived well before the lunch hour; it was so quiet, we got a choice table next to the corner window where the Christmas lights and the (not working, but still kind of cool) fountain are. Lauren had cheese and chicken enchiladas with Mexican rice and refried beans (she didn't eat the latter - neither of us are fans of refried beans). I had a delicious chicken, cheese, and avocado quesedilla with fresh salsa and cilantro slaw.

We went straight to the PATCO station after lunch and took it into Philadelphia. I know what we both like; we got off at 12th Street and walked to the big FYE on Broad Street. I couldn't find the fourth DVD for the buy three used DVDs, get one free sale, but I did get some interesting items. I've read about SyFy's mini-series Tin Man and Alice online. I love seeing favorite old stories get fresh hearings and thought these sounded unique. You're a Good Sport, Charlie Brown is one of two Peanuts DVDs I wanted for the summer. Chuck and the gang join a motorcross race. Maybe for once, Chuck won't end up with the short end of the lollypop, if he can get past Peppermint Patty and "The Masked Marvel!" Scooby Doo: Winter Wonderdog is a collection of episodes from the original and late 70s series with winter or Christmas themes. Scooby is one of the only characters I like that I didn't have something holiday-related for.

Lauren did even better. She bought three sets of Red Skeleton show episodes for her parents, a Three Stooges set, three Three Stooges movies she didn't have, and a new pair of headphones for her trip home (apparently, her old ones were flickering).

Our next stop was the Macy's on Market Street. I badly needed a new pair of jean shorts and a pair of khakis. We took the escalator to the second floor, and after a series of twists and turns, finally found the women's plus size department. I didn't see a pair of jean Bermuda shorts I liked; I ended up with a relatively short pair of capris. I did get a nice, light pair of khaki cargo Bermudas that worked. (And I discovered later, to my dismay, that the grumpy girl behind the counter forgot to take off the plastic bit from the jeans! I'll see if I can get Jodie to swing by the Cherry Hill Mall on our way back from taking Lauren to the trains station on Thursday.)

We were going to use the bathroom in Starbucks, since we intended to leave that way, but of course, it was closed. We both just bought iced teas (Lauren's was green tea) and went back up to the third floor to find the bathroom. This time, we took the elevator, which turned out to be much faster. Lauren finally found the entrance to the bathroom, which was hidden in the back of the girls' dresses racks. The hall between the entrance and the actual stalls and the entrance was so twisty, it must have taken us three minutes just to get there! At least after all of that, it was plain but very clean.

The Macy's Starbucks opens onto 13th and Chestnut. We hiked down 13th Street to the awesome used music shop I found on my birthday, Rustic Music. I knew the moment I went in there that Lauren would love it. We browsed around while listening to the older men working behind the counter talk about their bands and recording studios and local bands. Lauren ended up with five CDs, a video copy of Robin and the 7 Hoods, and a DVD copy of the comedy Without a Paddle. I bought a video copy of Maytime I hope I can dub (2 dollars is a lot cheaper than the Warner Archive's 25 with shipping), one CD, and three records. The CD was Rod Stewart's The Great American Songbook Vol. II, this time in the correct case. I love his duet with Cher on "Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered."

The records were:

Paul McCartney - Pipes of Peace (My mom had this when my sisters and I were little; we listened to it all the time)

The soundtrack for That's Entertainment, Part II

A Peter Pan Records version of Alice In Wonderland. Peter Pan was a children's record company that mostly specialized in versions of fairy tales or kid's stories, though they did a few licensed characters as well (I saw Star Trek and Bugs Bunny listed in the inside cover.) My sisters and I had a Peter Pan record with Hansel and Gretel and Thumbelina as kids; I can still sing some of the music. The cool thing about the Alice LP is the book that comes with it. It's done in the style of a typical 70s comic book; Alice sports Malibu Barbie blond locks and a red jumper over a puff-sleeved blouse and looks more like she should be cavorting among Wolverine and Storm than the Mad Hatter and March Hare.

We were pretty worn out after the long walk. Fortunately, they seem to like to put used media stores near PATCO stops in Philly. Rustic Music was only a few blocks from the 13th and Locust PATCO station. We took a semi-full train to Collingswood, then walked straight back to my apartment. The weather was nice enough to hold out. The sun was in and out all afternoon and it did get much warmer, but otherwise, it remained cloudy and humid.

We showed each other what we'd gotten in Philly, then had the chicken legs I threw into the crock pot before we left and various leftover salads and vegetables for dinner. We ran movies as we ate, and then when we went online.

Robin and the 7 Hoods was the last "Rat Pack" movie and their only out-and-out musical. I dubbed it for Lauren, who hadn't seen it, and will dub it for me probably sometime next week. Sinatra is the title character, Robbo, a big-time gangster in Chicago in the late 20s whose mentor (Edward G. Robinson) was just rubbed out by Guy Gisbourne, a hood looking to move up in the rackets (Peter Falk). Marian (Barbara Rush), the daughter of the dead man, tries to move in on Robbo, but he smells a female rat and shoves her off. With the help of his men Will (Sammy Davis Jr.) and Little John (Dean Martin) and the silver-tongued secretary Allan A. Dale (Bing Crosby, in one of his last films), he uses a series of charities as a front for his criminal activities. Gisborne is mad as heck when he sees the money rolling in...and Marian's not much happier when she can't reel in Little John. Rob's going to need all of his cunning and cleverness to make sure he doesn't end up in a cornerstone in the new police station!

This is required viewing if you're a fan of Sinatra or the Rat Pack; Crosby has quite a bit of fun as the well-spoken, fashion-challenged Allan A. Dale, too. Not the best musical in the world, but there's some decent numbers, by far the most famous of which is Ol' Blue Eyes telling his fellow Windy City dwellers why "Chicago" is his kind of town.

We switched to one of Lauren's Stooges movies after Robin ended. I have fond memories of seeing Snow White and the Three Stooges on cable and broadcast TV in the afternoons during my childhood. Tin Man and Alice are far from the first attempts to "re-imagine" popular stories. In this variation, the Stooges are traveling performers who are renting the seven dwarves' cottage, joined by their adopted son Quatro (Edson Stroll). The quartet are discovered by a young lady named Snow White with a fondness for ice skating (possibly because she's played by Olympic figure skating champion Carol Heiss) who takes their offer to stay with them. Can they save her from the wicked queen (Patricia Medina) and her henchman (Guy Rolfe), especially when it's discovered that Quatro isn't what he seemed?

I remember thinking this was a really cute movie in the vein of the Disney Babes In Toyland. It's surprisingly less cheesy than I remember. There's really not enough Stooges, the music is not great, and the lovers are stiff as boards, but if you're a fan of unusual fantasy tales, figure skating, or are looking for some slightly more kid-friendly Stooges than usual, this is really quite charming. (And get the recent Fox DVD with the white background - it's a restore widescreen copy with gorgeous color.)

Monday, May 21, 2012

Rainy Day Women

It's just as well that we were up until 4:30 in the morning chatting. It rained heavily overnight, but when I finally got up around 10:30, it was just cloudy. In fact, my porch was drying, indicating that it probably hadn't rained in a while.

We actually didn't have any huge plans for today. Our only real plan was getting to the laundromat. Lauren needed to wash clothes for the week, and I had a small load to do, too. Before that, we strolled down the White Horse Pike and into Westmont to have lunch at one of our favorite places to eat in the area, the Westmont Bagel Shop.

I saw online that the thrift shop that just opened on the White Horse Pike is shutting down. That was a surprise. They just opened a few months ago! I asked the manager out front why they were closing when they just got there. She said they'd decided they preferred running a charity to a thrift shop business. It's a shame. They had a far better selection than they did the last time I was in there, including records and a nice collection of glass and dishware. I ended up with an Eagles jersey that cost me five dollars and a record (the soundtrack from the Disney Babes In Toyland) that was a little over 50 cents.

It was about 1:30 when we arrived at the Bagel Shop. The only other people there were an older woman, a young executive who ate up front, a talk show on the TV, and the teenagers working the cash register. Lauren ordered a pizza bagel and chips. I had turkey and Swiss with avocado spread on a toasted egg bagel and fries. We both enjoyed a quiet lunch as we discussed the game yesterday and what to do next.

We stopped at Kayla's Garden Center for a refreshing treat on the way home. I ordered a black cherry milkshake. Lauren opted for a lighter blue raspberry water ice. I sat in the swing tables...for five seconds, until I realized the canopies had water in them and were getting me wet again. We decided it was safer to sit at tables.

The clouds, which had been heavy all morning, were getting worse. The wind that had emerged during the game yesterday was chillier than the past week, and it was humid, to boot. We went home for a bathroom break, to round up our laundry, and so Lauren could brush the blue raspberry dye off her mouth, then headed out again to get our chores done. The laundromat was relatively busy. I didn't have a really huge load, so we decided to share a washer and a drier. We were out in less than an hour.

It was starting to shower lightly as we hiked home with our loads. Between that and the fact that we didn't really have any other plans for today anyway, we spent the rest of the evening at my apartment. We played a round of Pokemon Yahtzee. (We tied. We just know each other too well.) We watched Brain Donors while I made the usual Sunday pancakes for our Monday dinner. Lauren loved my Strawberry Multi-Grain Pancakes. We made Alton Brown's Pocket Pies with the Acme roll-out pie crust I bought on Friday. She filled hers with tomato sauce, Parmesan cheese, and turkey pepperoni. I filled mine with strawberry slices and mashed ripe banana.

Right now, we're enjoying our treats as we chat online and listen to jazz records and the on-and-off showers. Tomorrow, rain or shine, we're going to head into downtown Philadelphia for some serious shopping.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Philly Phanatics

It took a while to actually get to the game. I called Jodie this morning when I finally got up and about...and my stepsister Jessa called ME at the same time. She originally suggested going to Citizen's Bank Park by train, but that would have taken over an hour! Train is what she knows best. We finally worked out a quicker route via Google the same time she called and said she asked our Uncle Ken, who is a huge Philadelphia Phillies fan and has been to many games, the fastest route to the Sports Complex Area.

We did finally make it to the game around 12:30. It was a gorgeous day for a ball game, nicer than the last time we went. While it was still sunny and hot in the stands, it wasn't nearly as warm or humid. There was a cool breeze blowing through South Philadelphia that felt really nice, too. Lauren had the perfect seats - 141, second row, seats 1 & 2, the section in front of the main concourse floor of Harry the K's Bar & Grille. ("Harry the K" being beloved Phillies sportscaster Harry Kalas, who died in 2009.) We had a great view of the whole game (ignoring the drunken idiots behind us who kept making fun of the men and one woman selling beer, bottled water, popcorn, and peanuts in the stands).

Lauren and I had promised we wouldn't spend nearly as much money this time around as we did last year. Lauren bought a slice of pizza and a bottle of soda and got water for both of us in the stands. I bought a gigantic soft pretzel and a program. Otherwise, we wanted to save our money for our trip into downtown Philadelphia next week.

I wish the game was as much fun as the crowd at the stadium. Even I could tell that the Phillies played badly. One of the Red Sox shot a home run into the stands (not near us, alas) two minutes into the first inning! It didn't get much better from there. The Red Sox got another homer later in the third inning that brought home three players. The Phillies improved a little in the second half, but it was too little, too late. The Sox won 5-1.

Citizen's Bank Park was really fun today. For one thing, there were tons of really little kids around. Apparently, they were giving out free Hot Wheels-sized toy trucks to kids under 14. (I loved the adorable little female fan in the Phillies sailor-style dress and her daddy, who sat in the seats across the aisle from us.) Lots of groups were having outings, too. I got bored with the game and feeling hot and walked around during the bottom of the 7th, enjoying the sights around Harry the K's and checking out the Memory Lane Phillies history wall, which I didn't get to do last year.

I briefly rejoined Lauren in the stands, but we finally decided we'd had enough of sitting down. Lauren needed to use the bathroom, and I wanted to call Jessa and tell her the game was almost over. After Lauren finished, we watched the last inning together with the standing crowd. Heavy clouds had moved in around 2:30, and a wilder, cooler wind came with them. It felt really nice up there, as the wind whistled down the concourse and over our backs.

The game ended around 4:30. Jessa picked us up about 15 minutes later. Her boyfriend Bobby joined us this time around. As with last year, the worst traffic was around the stadium area. (Good thing the Sixers play tomorrow night and in Boston. I can only imagine what the traffic's like when more than one team is playing.) Otherwise, it was smooth sailing both ways.

Lauren and I decided we weren't up to anything resembling cooking, or even tossing leftovers together. Jessa dropped us off at the Oaklyn Manor Bar, a few blocks from my apartment. Lauren had a Pizza Cheese Steak. I had Cheese Steak Sliders. (Three deep-fried mini cheesesteaks.) We shared a plate of fries and watched sports games on the TVs around the bar's outdoor patio. (The Miami Heat was losing when we were there, but they ultimately went on to beat the Indiana Pacers in the NBA Eastern Semi-Finals. On the other hand, the Los Angeles Kings couldn't get anything going against southwestern rivals the Phoenix Coyotes in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.)

The sun had been in and out since we got back to Oaklyn, but the clouds seemed to be taking over as we finished dinner. That was fine by us. It made for a rather pleasant walk to WaWa for our favorite fountain sodas with flavored syrups. I recreated Dr. Pepper's Berries n' Cream Soda from a few years ago using Diet Dr. Pepper and cherry, raspberry, and vanilla syrups. Lauren had her favorite cherry and raspberry syrup in Mello Yello. The wind had picked up, and it felt absolutely marvelous as we strolled along together.

When we got in, we watched some cartoons and went online. The weather isn't supposed to be great tomorrow, so we don't really have any major plans besides a trip to the laundromat.

Oh, and we both had enough sense to put on suntan lotion before we left and wear baseball caps to shade our faces. My chest and neck got red, but some of that might be leftover from yesterday, and it's nowhere near as bad as last year. Lauren said she bathed in sunblock; she's fine.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

A Whale of a Saturday Morning

No sleeping in this time! We were both up bright and early on another beautiful May morning for the Collingswood Farm Market. I ran the second half of the American Top 40 as we got dressed and I ate coffee cake and a slice of grapefruit. Casey jumped forward a decade to 1984 as pop, soul, and power ballads ruled the airwaves. We heard "Let's Hear It For the Boy" by Denise Williams from the Footloose soundtrack, "Against All Odds" by Phil Collins from the film of that title, and "Time After Time" by Cyndi Lauper. The number one hit was a touching ballad from that week's top album, "Hello" by Lionel Richie.

We finally started out around 9:30. After a brief but futile stop at a yard sale on West Holly, we headed over to East Haddon, the street next to PNC Bank, where several sales were taking place. A group of 6-and-7-year-old kids were calling out their lemonade stand. Neither of us could resist liquid that was a quarter or those cute faces. We each bought a cup, and I purchased a heart made from colorful beads melted together that one of the girls was selling as her "art."

I did better at a sale on the next block. They were selling records in pristine shape. I bought three:

George Winston - Autumn and December

A Winter's Solstice: A Wyndham Hill Sampler, which looks like a collection of New Age and jazz holiday/winter-related songs

We headed for Collingswood next, strolling past Newton River Park. As we did, we passed many people going in the opposite direction around the paths. I couldn't figure out why so many different people - men and women, children and elderly folks, even people in wheelchairs - were doing until I saw their t-shirts. I forgot "Steven's Walk," a charity walk-a-thon, was today.

We made it to the Collingswood Farm Market around 10:30. I didn't really need much. In fact, all I bought was strawberries, turnips with their greens still on, and bibb lettuce. Lauren grabbed apple butter for her parents.

We walked down to the Collingswood PATCO station and hopped a quiet train to Haddonfield. The train was so quiet, the only people in the car besides the two of us was a dad and his two very energetic toddler sons. The boys kept going on about the dinosaur statue in Haddonfield; Dad mentioned taking them to see the Green Festival.

We stopped at the Freestyle Bike Shop first. I wasn't taking any chances this time. One of my bike pedals is starting to come apart. They're good, solid metal pedals, but I've used them continuously for seven years. That's how I got that nasty bruise on my stomach; the pedal broke, and my tummy had a close encounter with the handlebars. It wasn't off entirely, but I figured it was only a matter of time. I told the boy what I needed, and he asked me what kind of pedals I had, if the gear was held in place by a bolt. I ended up buying somewhat smaller, black versions of the ones Dad bought when the plastic/metal pedals I'd had for years broke off shortly after moving here in 2006.

We went to the British Chip Shop next for an early lunch. As the waitress seated us in the small wooden tables on the sidewalk, I noticed some commotion in the common area with the large gazebo at the end. There were several booths and tables, most staffed by people giving out pamphlets or selling plants. I figured this was the "Green Festival" the dad on the train talked about. (We even saw the dad and his boys again as we waited for our lunch.)

I had my favorite Chip Shop Sandwich (chicken, Irish cheddar cheese, sliced apples, spicy mustard on thick bread) again. Lauren had the Ploughman's Sandwich - same thing with ham instead of chicken and no apples. We both enjoyed the earthy Great Mountain of Greens. She had iced tea; I had a can of "ginger beer" (a spicier ginger ale).

I peered around the Green Festival as Lauren used the bathroom after lunch. It seemed to be a combination of booths about environmentalism and Haddonfield's smaller version of the Farm Market, with the British Chip Shop replacing the Treehouse Cafe as the choice food provider. Alas, they were just starting to close up shop as I browsed. One table was giving away free pine tree seedlings. I liked the idea, but I have tons of trees around my apartment, and Lauren wouldn't have been able to carry one to Pittsfield.

We headed for our favorite store in Haddonfield, the Happy Hippo Toy Shop, next. Despite the place being packed, we both found things we wanted. Lauren bought a floppy stuffed frog and dragon made by her favorite toy company, Mary Meyer, as well as two lavender ladybug-themed bracelets for her mother and herself. I picked up a WebKinz I'd always wanted, the sweet Blue Whale.

We browsed in Jamaican Me Crazy and the other games-themed toy shop next, but didn't find anything we liked. Not to mention, the crowds on King's Highway were still pretty heavy, even with the Green Festival over. We hiked back to the PATCO and took a far fuller train to Collingswood.

Lauren loved our trips to the Pop Shop last year so much, we absolutely knew we had to go there again. We got in by ten after 1, hitting the tail-end of a busy lunch crowd. We ended up having our ice cream at the counter. Lauren had a chocolate cream soda. I had an "Aloha Allie"; seltzer, vanilla ice cream, and coconut with pineapple and coconut syrups. Lauren may have been the smart one; my overflowing soda was making a mess when the girl placed it on the counter (with piles of napkins under it). It was pretty good, though.

This morning, we passed by people setting up some tables in the parking lot of St. Mark's Church in Oaklyn, across from the PNC Bank. I completely forgot about their Strawberry Festival! I usually end up working during it. We strolled around tables of strawberry-themed baked goods, some small local crafts, and used items for sale indoors. We didn't buy anything, but we did say "hi" to two of the tellers from PNC who had a table set up under a tree.

There was one last yard sale in Oaklyn I wanted to look at before we went home. A house on Kendall was having a two-day moving sale. We both hit paydirt here. Lauren found a fluffy bear who looked like one of the hand-made critters I've seen at the alpaca booth at the Farm Market in November, a really nice backpack-purse (Lauren says she has a purple version that isn't in nearly as good of shape), and a Nintendo-themed necklace keychain. I bought a beautiful doll-themed quilt, also hand-made. I've wanted to find a nice, summer-weight quilt or comforter for my bed during warmer months. We discovered when we made it back that it doesn't fit the full bed, but the stuffed animals cover most of it anyway.

After spending the morning on our feet, we rested for a couple of hours. I beat Lauren at War; she was ahead for most of the game, but I got the jokers. We each won a round of Bingo. I made Sauteed Swiss Chard, Spinach, and Mushrooms to go with our leftovers for dinner as we watched another Bowery Boys movie, the wrestling tale No Holds Barred.

It was still too nice to sit inside, even after dinner. We saw a Little League softball team being treated to ice cream from Leo's Yum Yums around the corner from me when we were walking home, so we decided to do our own treating. I already had my ice cream at the Pop Shop and settled for an Orange Vanilla Yum Yum (creamier water ice). Lauren ordered a Peanut Butter Sundae, but the harried girl behind the counter must have heard her wrong. She gave her two! She must have been hungry; she ate them both. We enjoyed our cooling dessert while listening to a pack of kids chatter and brag about how brave they were and grab a lot more free spoons than they really needed.

When we got in, Lauren went online, and I hit the shower; I joined her afterwards. Tomorrow, we're going to see the Phillies play the Red Sox at Citizen's Bank Park.

Oh, and meet Big Bertha, my adorable Blue Whale! She'll take the second underwater room I created to use a couple of the more recent water themes.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Walk Like A Woman

I slept until about 9:30 this morning. Read and did my journal in bed for an hour, until Lauren got up in the entertainment area. (She sleeps on the loveseat.) We ran my Backyardigans DVD while I made Strawberry Coffee Cake with fresh Farm Market strawberries for a late breakfast/brunch. We sat at the table, sipping tea and eating coffee cake and enjoying each other's company.

This time, when we headed out, we went in the other direction to the Audubon Crossings Shopping Center. We stopped really quick at the Acme to pick up my (much-needed) paycheck, then headed in the back of the mall to go shopping.

The mall was a bit of a disappointment. Lauren's not really into video games anymore, and most of the 7 clothing stores were for teenagers or hip urbanites (like the people coming on the buses from Camden). I did get two t-shirts in bright red and daisy yellow and a new pair of low-heeled brown canvas dress flats from Fashion Bug and a pair of simple denim Bermuda shorts from Avenue. (The latter were on a half-price sale.)

I was going to take Lauren to Bassett's BBQ for lunch. When we arrived there, though, we found the store to be dark. Most of the furniture was gone, and it looked like someone left in a hurry. What a bummer! This is the second time in less than a year that a barbecue restaurant abandoned that storefront. I guess people around here prefer cheesesteaks for comfort food and for their barbecue to be on their own grills.

We ended up next-door at Tu Se Bella's instead for pizza. Lauren had a slice of pepperoni and a Coke. I had a slice of mushroom and a bottle of water. It was surprisingly busy for 2:30 in the afternoon. We ended up eating in the main dining area.

After a quick stop at Marburn Curtains for a shower curtain (which I meant to buy when I was coming back from the gym on Wednesday), we headed to the Acme for our shared groceries. We've decided to try an Alton Brown recipe - pocket pies. We did cheat a little and buy pre-made, roll-out pie crust. Lauren loves pepperoni, so we picked up some for her to make pizza pocket pies. The rest of it was pretty normal - almonds (still on sale), bananas, pears, grapefruit for me, chick peas to replace what we used for the Potato-Chick Pea Salad last night, Emerald trail mix bags on sale, apple juice concentrate for baking.

(Oh, and it looks like the big Giveaway game from last summer was so successful, the Acme is repeating it this year, with bigger prizes for employees and customers. I got my first two tickets today. I also checked out my schedule, and got a bit of a surprise. I'm not working again until next Saturday! The managers must have thought I said until Friday, not Thursday. Oh well. I'll have an extra day to run errands before I go back to work.)

After we got home, we put our groceries away and went right back out again. Lauren's addicted to soda and thought it would be easier to drag it home from CVS than from the Acme. I realized on the way that I forgot vanilla on our last trip, too. I also bought our annual shared pack of Tastycakes. Tastycakes are exclusive to the Philadelphia area, so I buy some to share with Lauren when she visits. This year, it was the filled Coffee Cake Cupcakes.

It was another gorgeous day for walking. We enjoyed the sweet scent of roses and honeysuckle and watched kids ride bikes and adults chat with each other on newly-mowed front lawns. The weather was as perfect as it gets in Southern New Jersey in mid-May. It was sunny, breezy, and in the upper 60s. The sky looked as bright blue as a child's watercolor landscape.

When we got home, we once again played games for a while. She beat me twice at Go Fish. We tied at War and at Memory; we just know each other too well. We mostly ate out of the fridge for dinner. I added my own version of another Alton Brown recipe, Carrot Slaw. I liked the idea of peeling the carrots with a vegetable peeler instead of grating them; I always think that turns them into mush, too. Lauren doesn't like mayonnaise, so I replaced the mayo and sugar with a few tablespoons of apple cider vinegar, honey, and olive oil. I thought the syrup from the crushed pineapple used made it too watery, but Lauren really liked it. We watched Disney's new Winnie the Pooh from last summer while we ate.

Tomorrow, we're going to do what I usually do on a Saturday - hit the yard sales and the Collingswood Farm Market. We'll probably have lunch in Haddonfield, too.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Me and Lauren and a Wombat Named Wilbur

All the traveling Lauren did and the cleaning I did yesterday must have tuckered us out. We didn't get up until past 10:30! It was almost noon before we finally headed out into the glorious sunshine for a long walk in Audubon.

First stop was my favorite local music shop, Abbie Road. Bob, the store's owner, is a nice guy and really likes both of us. I ended up with:

Two Huey Lewis and the News CDs, Fore! (cassette replacement), and Four Chords & Several Years Ago (I love their version of "Some Kind of Wonderful").

And three records:

Paul Simon - Graceland

Kim Carnes - Mistaken Identity

Those Wonderful Thirties - The Stars of Hollywood's Golden Era - A 2-disc set of songs from movie musicals of the 30s, some of which are rare today.

After a long chat with Bob about music stores and local sports, we headed a few blocks up to the Pine Street Shops. I'd never taken Lauren to Willie the Woodsman's and Wife, a gift shop. Lauren bought a cute plaque for her dad for Father's Day. I bought a WebKinz Wombat; they're the "Pet of the Month" and come with extra online goodies. I named him Wilbur. He looked like a Wilbur to me. (And I did just watch Charlotte's Web a few days ago.)

Much to my delight, Simply Soups was now open in its new, larger location on the end of the block. It took over the storefront that used to be Act Two Collectibles, but you'd never know it from inside, it looked so different and pretty. The round, metal 50s-styles tables and chairs had been joined by more mismatched wood and metal furniture, wooden baker's racks, and shelves to hold the once-cramped knick-knacks. The whole room was painted a soft, creamy yellow, and the long display window was now the front of the dining area. Lauren and I enjoyed a lovely view of Pine Street as we ate a very late lunch. Lauren had a turkey and cheddar wrap, a can of Pepsi, and chicken and rice soup. I had my usual Italian Wedding soup, breadsticks, and can of Diet Coke.

We stopped at Desserts By Design on the way back. I said "hi" to the nice lady who owns the shop, and we made our choices. We both went with cupcakes. Lauren chose Strawberry Chocolate. I had Orange Butter. She put them in a bag for us to have later; we were full from lunch!

I'd always wanted to show Lauren the boat launch at the end of Goff Avenue with the fabulous views, so we hiked there next. The weather was absolutely amazing. It was sunny and breezy, but not too hot or humid, probably in the upper 60s-lower 70s. It was so clear, we could see straight to the Ben Franklin Bridge. There were two people in a motor boat fishing, but otherwise, the river was clear and quiet.

We spent the rest of the evening at home. I won Pokemon Yatzee; Lauren won Memory. I made Chicken Cheeseburgers, steamed green Swiss chard, and Potato-Chick Pea Salad for dinner. (I got the latter out of one of my low-fat cookbooks. I never tried it before, but it was a quick recipe, and it came out very well.) Lauren ran Good Eats episodes while I did the dishes and took a shower.

We're online again, running my Donna Summer records in honor of the disco and rock favorite who passed away today. Tomorrow, I badly need to pick up my paycheck, and we'll go grocery shopping and check out the mall behind the Acme.

Oh, and meet Wilbur, the sweet but slow wombat! He'll probably either get a room of his own or move in with Bernice the Bear.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Friends On Vacation


Sleep did not come easily last night. About a half-hour after I laid down on my new daybed, a massive thunderstorm passed over Camden County. The thunder could be heard for miles. Even I saw the lightning, cuddled in the back of my new bed. It's not easy to settle down when you're thinking of your best friend's arrival the next day and Mother Nature is putting on a pyrotechnics show to rival the Fourth of July.

But I did finally get to sleep. When I awoke the next morning, it was still a little cloudy and humid, but nothing like last night's storm or yesterday's downpour. I watched Donald Duck vacation-themed cartoons as I had cereal and half of a grapefruit for breakfast. After I ate, I made Strawberry-Raspberry Mousse Pie for dessert while Lauren's here, then made my bed. (It is so much easier to make a daybed than it is a mattress and a box spring on the floor! The dolls all fit, too.)

I decided a trip to the gym would be useful for my health and to alleviate anxiety, since Lauren wasn't due to arrive until 6:14. When I arrived, I settled down in a stationary bike and watched Family Feud and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. I got in shortly after noon. Most people were probably at lunch, though it did get a little busier later. There were more people using the leg weight machines with me.

Much to my surprise, when I got home, the sun was out and the clouds were vanishing. It was too nice to be inside all day. I had a ham and spinach wrap, a pear, and the last of the banana muffins for lunch, then decided I'd walk over to Uncle Ken's to see if anyone was home. Uncle Ken was the only one there, watching true crime documentaries on the Biography Channel. I said "hi" to him, asked him how his birthday went last weekend, and told him about Lauren arriving.

Spent the next couple of hours at my place, tidying up the apartment for my visitor. I vacuumed. I ran a dust cloth over everything quickly, since I just dusted not long ago. I pulled out a sheet for her to sleep under and fresh towels. I put some things I didn't need in the back room.

Jodie called while I was dusting my bedroom. She would be picking Lauren up; Dad's out on a cruise ship job. Did I want to meet her at her place instead of her driving to Manor? Sure! Why not? After I finished the bedroom, I swept the porch and shook out a few rugs. Headed to Hillcrest Avenue around quarter of 6; Jodie met me on the way.

Lauren was right on time. It was such a nice day, she'd encountered no problems whatsoever on the way here. All of her trains were on time, and she easily found lunch and her way in New York and Philadelphia.

When we got in, I showed Lauren all the changes in my apartment. She'd been sitting for most of the day and I was inside for a lot of it, so we decided to go for a walk and get me some dinner (after she put on some shorts).

It was a perfect night weather-wise. The clouds were gone, replaced by upper 70-degrees temperatures, gorgeous sunshine, and soft breezes. We enjoyed the heady scent of roses and honeysuckle while watching the kids play with toys in their front lawns and the teens stroll with their own friends. There was something going on at the apartments next to WaWa; some people were gathered outside, talking to a cop. They sounded really upset. No one was hurt; I think something may have happened to a Hispanic child. I heard a mother say she wished more people in the area spoke Spanish.

I ended up getting a Roast Beef-Provolone Hoagie on a Whole Wheat Shorti (6-inch roll) and a pretzel. Lauren got a 4-inch turkey sandwich, two sodas (one for tomorrow), and a frozen iced tea. (She loves Dunkin' Donuts' version and thought she'd try WaWa's.) We trooped home, then had our dinners while watching the Bowery Boys movie Bowery Buckaroos.

Right now, we're both online. Tomorrow, we'll go for a stroll in Audubon.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Mother Earth and Father Time

I felt a distinct sense of deja-vu when I awoke this morning and saw a heavy downpour out my window. It rained for most of the morning. I spent the time baking Dark Chocolate Chip-Oatmeal Cookies and watching two of the Looney Tunes movies, 1001 Rabbit Tales and Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Movie. By the time the latter was done, the rain was down to a sprinkle, the sun was coming out, and my cookies were a little burnt. I hadn't been paying attention. Oh, well. I had other things to do besides worrying about burnt cookies. I had a ham and spinach wrap, a pear, and an Emerald Trail Mix bag for lunch, then headed out to run errands while Mother Nature was behaving.

First on the list was the Oaklyn Library. I haven't been volunteering at them as often lately. I just haven't had the chance to get there...and they're the closest to me! It was pretty quiet when I arrived, just a few people on the computers. I organized the children's picture books and DVDs. Put the Rainbow Fairy Magic series together - for some reason, they were separated all over the series shelves.

It was still raining a little bit when I went in. When I left, I got quite a surprise. The rain was gone, the clouds were breaking up, and the sun was out...and it was hot and humid. It was now too hot for my blue raincoat. I stuffed it, my purse, and a bag of videos, cassettes, and CDs I was bringing to the Haddon Township Library into my basket and moved on.

I rode through Newton River Park on my way to the library. That may have been a mistake. The park is on low ground beneath a hill, and I found myself riding through huge puddles. Despite the rapidly improving weather and the gorgeous greenery, I only saw an older lady jogging and one dog walker out this afternoon. The dog gazed longingly at a pair of Canadian geese on the other end of the park, probably hoping for goose pate for a snack.

There were only a few children's books to shelve today, but they did have a nice pile of DVDs to do, for kids and adults. The rain brought a lot of people out of the woodwork, too. Even as I left, I saw kids coming to the library after school to look for books to read and do their homework.

Made two quick stops at the Westmont Plaza next. I was originally going to buy parchment paper at Super Fresh (I ran out after doing the cookies this morning), but the Acme has a better price. I did get some things to make a nice surprise for Lauren. I moved a few doors down to the Dollar Tree for another surprise for Lauren and sponges.

I thought I saw someone moving in the main building when I passed by Kayla's Garden Center. Apparently, the ice cream parlor was now open. Kayla's sells flowers and other garden paraphernalia in the spring and fall, and Christmas trees and wreaths during the holiday season. (Dad-Bruce says he's bought his tree from them for years.) In honor of my upcoming vacation, I treated myself to a soft-serve German Chocolate milkshake. I settled down in the picnic table swings with the sherbert-striped canopy and rocked back and forth...until I realized I was getting wet! My rocking the seats had sent rivers of water from this morning gushing down. It was actually kind of cool-looking, as long as I stayed away from the worst of it.

It looked like it was getting cloudy again, so I just went straight home. I still had spring cleaning I wanted to do. I ran Sailor Moon fourth-season episodes while scrubbing the inside of the refrigerator. The first was a Japanese take on Roman Holiday - the Sailor Soliders rescue a duchess who has fled her stifling entourage for one day as a normal tourist. In the second, Serena and Rini help a fashion designer who seems to be blocked. Fish Eye of the Amazon Trio wants to be his one and only model, but Serena's request for a wedding gown of her own helps the designer more than she'll ever know.

Switched to dubbing Charlotte's Web as I baked Chocolate-Mint Muffins. (I.e, "what you do with ten candy canes leftover from Christmas - crush them and put them in muffins.") This is the 1973 animated adaptation of the famous E.B White children's book about a sweet-natured pig named Wilbur. To the delight of his beloved human Fern, he's saved from becoming dinner by the very smart title character and her fabulous web-weaving ability. When Charlotte becomes a mother, he becomes determined to help her, and in the process, learns a great deal about life, death, friendship, and real miracles.

This was one of my favorite books as a child (my own copy has been read so much, it's literally falling apart). E.B White supposedly wasn't thrilled with how it condensed and sugar-coated the story, but I've always liked this version. The great voice cast includes Henry Gibson as Wilbur, Debbie Reynolds as Charlotte, Agnes Moorehead as the Goose, and a very well-chosen Paul Lynde as Templeton, the disagreeable rat.

E.B White's complaints aside, the best thing about this one is some really gorgeous music. The Sherman Brothers came up with one of their best non-Disney scores here. One thing I give them credit for is being able to come up with beautiful ballads for stories without traditional boy-meets-girl plots, as they do here and in Mary Poppins. Two of the loveliest songs they ever wrote can be found here, the title number as Charlotte does her amazing work, and the gorgeous "Mother Earth and Father Time."

My vacation officially starts tomorrow. Since Lauren isn't coming in until 6:14, I intend to treat the rest of the day like a normal day off. I'll hit the gym in the morning, then do things around the apartment and run errands in the neighborhood.

Monday, May 14, 2012

It's Vacation Time!

Started out a cloudy, humid morning with a run to the laundromat. I learned my lesson last week. From now on, no matter what else I have to do on Monday or Tuesday morning, I get the laundry done first. Some things just can't be rushed. Thankfully, not only did I not have anything resembling the amount of laundry that I did last week, it wasn't nearly as busy, either. There were a few people around, but most of the washers and driers were open. I was in and out quickly.

I spent the rest of the afternoon at home, doing chores and more spring cleaning after lunch. The bathroom floor and the rectangle of linoleum between the entertainment area and the bedroom (the only non-carpeted floors in the apartment) were scrubbed. I finally gave the Maiden Fair Hair I won on eBay months ago a magic eraser bath. That went so well, I wiped down most of my dolls with the magic eraser. I hung the rose print sun catcher on one of the windows overlooking the porch and did the other one I bought of a lighthouse against a lovely sunset. That one will be hung tomorrow.

Work was busy for most of the night. Maybe people were dodging the weather. It started raining on and off while I was inside cleaning, and seems to have continued into the evening. The rain was stopping when I went to work...but it was a soft shower when I came home. I just got wet.

Technically, tomorrow is a normal day off, but after that...vacation! Lauren will be visiting from Wednesday night to next Thursday. I'm going to treat tomorrow and Wednesday morning and afternoon like ordinary days off. I have quite a bit planned, including a run to the Oaklyn and Haddon Township libraries tomorrow. I'd like to try to get donations to Haddon Township; if the weather's too nasty, I'll just go with Lauren next week. I do want to get to Oaklyn, though. I've been neglecting them.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

A Beautiful Day for Mothers

It remained gorgeous, bright, and warm when I finally got up around 10AM. While many women were having Chocolate-Covered Strawberries in honor of Mother's Day, I opted for Dark Chocolate Chip-Strawberry Multi-Grain Pancakes and a half of a grapefruit. Ran Brunch With the Beatles as I ate. The theme today was "The Beatles and Other British Invasion Groups." We heard early Beatles music, along with hits from other British bands who followed in their wake. Songs included "Wishin' an' Hopin'" and "I Only Want to Be With You" by Dusty Springfield, "Ferry Cross the Mersey" by Garry and the Pacemakers, "Time On My Side" by the Rolling Stones, and "I'm Into Something Good" by Herman's Hermits. I tried to get a hold of my own mother twice, but she was out. I figured she was either working in her garden or out to brunch with Dad.

After the Beatles finished, I went to the side yard to finish up the raking. The path leading to my apartment was pretty bad. Even at its worst, though, it never takes me very long to do. It was clear in less than 20 minutes. As I worked, I saw Richard and another man pull something huge out their side door. It seemed to be a very large entertainment center. Richard's wife said they got a big new TV; did I want their old one? Sorry, no. I love the 15-inch TV I bought last year. Nice to know I'm not the only one getting new furniture, though.

It was such a nice day, I went for a walk to CVS after I was done raking. The breeze felt fresh and cool as I made my way down to Newton Avenue. The gardens look so lovely. The roses, like everything else, are early this year. They're blooming in huge bunches of deep red, coral, dusky pink, and creamy white, twining up houses like thorny rainbows.

CVS wasn't too busy when I arrived. I needed contact solution. My current bottle is almost empty. The large container was on sale for $8.99; not great, but better than the 9 or 10 dollars it usually costs. I picked up Herbal Essences on sale as well, along with milk. I chatted briefly with Jodie's son TJ and a friend of his on my way back. They were riding bikes over to Jodie's house to wish her a happy Mother's Day. They wondered why I was on foot instead. I decided to give the bike a rest; I'd be taking it to work.

When I got in, I put my purchases away and had a simple, fast lunch of shrimp, spinach salad, and leftover steamed asparagus from yesterday. I had plenty of time for once to make dinner, change into my uniform, and head to work.

Work was really busy for most of the night. In addition to this being a holiday, there's lots of birthdays and barbecues this weekend. Many colleges are having their graduation ceremonies this week or next week, too. I ended up having to stay an extra hour because a college student called out, but given I only work two days this week and could use the money, maybe it's just as well.

I did finally get a hold of Mom when I got home. I guessed right; Dad did treat her to a Mother's Day breakfast at their favorite diner in Rio Grande this morning. She loved the card I sent her, too. We had a great chat about our favorite movies. (She can't wait for the new Sherlock Holmes movie with Robert Downey Jr. to come out on DVD next month. She saw it in the theaters, lucky duck!)

Saturday, May 12, 2012

"Life Is Like a Box of Chocolates..."

I awoke to an absolutely gorgeous morning. It was sunny, breezy but not as windy as the last few days, and already in the 60s at 7:30. I ran the American Top 40 as I had fried eggs and a grapefruit half for breakfast. Casey moved back a decade to 1974 with a round of folk music, R&B, bubblegum pop, and hard rock. Hits included "Bennie and the Jets" by Elton John, "I Won't Last a Day Without You" by the Carpenters, "Dancin' Machine" by the Jackson Five, "The Entertainer" from the Oscar-winning comedy The Sting, "Tubular Bells" from the horror blockbuster The Exorcist, "Band on the Run" by Wings, "You Make Me Feel Brand New" by the Stylistics, and "Oh My My" by Ringo Starr. That week's number one hit got the whole country up and dancing - again: "The Locomotion."

My front tire has been deflating again, so when the Top 40 ended, I went downstairs and pumped it up, just as I did last week. I pushed it around front to put the copy of the New York Times on the porch. The moment I started back towards the bike, I heard a huge POP! I thought something had fallen off a train or someone shot at me. Then I saw the air ruffled around my front bike tire and how flat it seemed.

Yes, the tire was flat. I overinflated it, and it blew. I couldn't believe my rotten luck. It was my own fault for not changing the darn thing ages ago. That tire is five years old. I bought it from Ace Hardware in 2008 when the one I had before that blew on me. Now I had to waste a morning changing a tire instead of going to yard sales.

My luck improved when I saw my neighbor Richard next-door. He heard the shot and my yelling at the bike. I ended up borrowing the front tire from his (barely-used, according to him) bike so I could run my errands.

I did finally make it out to the Collingswood Farm Market and Haddon Township's Town-Wide Yard Sale around 10:30. It was very busy at the farm market when I got there with people buying food for barbecues, Sixers parties, and Mother's Day brunches. All I needed was asparagus, strawberries, green Swiss chard, radishes, and small white potatoes for Lauren's visit (she doesn't like sweet potatoes).

The Haddon Township Town-Wide Yard Sale is really more like an area-wide yard sale. Haddon Township includes Westmont,West Collingswood Heights, the streets around the Ritz Theatre on the White Horse Pike, and the neighborhoods between Westmont and Cooper River Park. I stopped at a yard sale on East Holly near the Ritz Theatre first and picked up four CDs:

Don Henley - The End of the Innocence (cassette replacement)

Billy Joel - Storm Front (cassette replacement), Piano Man (turns out I already have this one - I'll donate it to a library)

R.E.M - Out of Time

After I left the Farm Market, I checked out some yard sales on either side of Cuthbert Road, near Walgreens. My only find here was a really interesting book, Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype. I feel like there's a wild woman in me that I keep having to tame in order to earn a paycheck and keep my apartment. I want to let her out and still make a living. Maybe this will help understand why I've been so restless lately.

Made a quick stop at Ace Hardware while I was in Westmont. A sales clerk helped me retrieve the right size tire from a high shelf and showed me the aisle for the bike items, including tubes. I looked at some porch furniture, but it was too expensive. I saw some I liked at a yard sale, but the owners weren't able to deliver it, and I don't know anyone who can. Rode a few streets down to a sale near the train tracks and picked up a much-needed bottle of water and a Powerpuff Girls DVD, The Mane Event.

I picked up four videos from two yard sales in the development behind Haddon Township High School - Roman Holiday, the original The 39 Steps with Robert Donat, Quadrophina, and Blazing Saddles. Found a pack of two round lights for closets at a sale a few streets down. Only one worked, but that's fine. I also found the rare America Cares Care Bear who was sold in the early 2000s. I spent a lot of quarters trying to win him when I lived at Wildwood, but he was always at the bottom of the crane. (There must have been something big going on at Haddon Township High School, too, maybe some kind of track meet or sports event. There were tons of people milling around on their grounds and lots of colorful striped tents.)

Haddon Township High wasn't the only school holding a major event today. I was looking for an estate sale in Oaklyn when I ran across something far more interesting. The Oaklyn (Elementary/Middle) School was having it's annual Spring Fling this morning and early afternoon. The Fling is the PTA's big festival for the kids; it usually consists of a couple of game booths, a bake sale, and a bounce house or two.

This year, the PTA had grander ideas. In addition to the usual game and bake sale booths and bounce house, there were craft tables, fire trucks to explore, three midway-style rides, carts selling non-baked-goods, a booth selling Chick Fil' A sandwiches, and a mini-car show on West Clinton. I grabbed two sugar cookies and a Chick Fil' A sandwich and chatted briefly with Mrs. Doria, who was selling sodas and hoagies outside their store with her family. My Uncle Ken had brought his beloved pale-blue Corvette, and there were other cars there as well. My favorite was the gorgeous turquoise 50s car with the white fins.

I finally got home around 1:30. Turned my bike over to Richard to get the new tire and tube on (and so he could have his back), then went inside for my sandwich and some slightly mushed strawberries. Went right back out after that; I still had a lot to do. I scrubbed the porch furniture. I went under the porch to wash out the indoor trash can and recycling canisters. (It's easier to do this with the hose.) I picked up branches and sticks and took them out back. I raked the front lawn. The grass is still pretty long, but Andrew's been too busy to do it, and I don't know how. (And Andrew says Miss Ellie's lawn mower doesn't work anyway - he'd have to bring his own or borrow Richard's.) The only thing outside I didn't get to was raking the side path going to my apartment. It doesn't take that long. I'll do it tomorrow.

When I got in, I made Cornmeal-Coated Chicken Thigh Nuggets with Spinach-Pear Salad, steamed asparagus, and Banana Honey Muffins for dinner. I tried dubbing Roman Holiday, but it didn't work. Ended up doing Forrest Gump, which I picked up last week and never got to, instead.

Tom Hanks won an Oscar as the title character, a simpleton growing up in Alabama with his strong-willed mother (Sally Field) and troubled best friend Jenny (Robin Wright). He and Jenny find themselves scattered pel-mel by the tumultuous events of the mid-late 20th century. Through it all, from football stardom to Vietnam, from shrimping in the Louisiana Gulf to running across the country, Forrest's only thoughts are to the women he holds dear - Jenny and his mother. Jenny, however, is a flighty creature who runs from fad to fad - from early 60s folk to late 60s protests to 70s glam to early 80s single motherhood. Forrest and Jenny's paths intersect, but life always seems to pull them apart...until Jenny's hedonistic lifestyle catches up with her, and they both admit that there are some things you just can't run from, like life and death.

A lot of people have complained that Forrest's views of life are overly optimistic and that a lot of the events of this time period have been simplified. Not to mention, self-abusive Jenny doesn't seem to have ever noticed Women's Lib happened. I agree with the ladies of the Cinematherapy books that she seriously needed to talk to some kind of therapist, or at least grabbed a copy of Ms. Magazine somewhere along the line.

I think the simplicity is the point. Yes, these were rough times for a lot of people. My biological father and uncle lived through everything here; my mother and stepfather were born around the time Forrest was showing a certain young Memphis rocker his dance moves. I would have been a kid in the mid-80s, presumably when the movie ends. Ok, so some of it, like the thing with "Have a nice day!" towards the end, is a little too much. Most of it is very moving - Jenny and Forrest running towards one another on the Mall in Washington DC is the best-known moment, but I've always loved the touching sequence where an angry Jenny throws stones at the home where she was abused as a child, until she collapses in the dust in tears and frustration. Forrest sits down with her, commenting that "Sometimes, there just aren't enough rocks."

"And that's all I'm gonna say 'bout that..."