Sunday, March 31, 2013

An Easter Under an Umbrella

It didn't start that way. When I awoke around 9, it was just cloudy. I dozed off for an hour...and when I finally shuffled out of bed for good, it was still merely cloudy and windy. I ran Brunch With the Beatles for a while (The White Album was in the spotlight today) before switching to Easter programming. I found a can of apricot slices in the pantry leftover from last fall (when I needed cheap sources of fruit and vegetables) and made Apricot Whole-Wheat Pancakes for my Easter breakfast.

I'm not terribly religious, so I mainly stuck to specials and a film on the secular side of Easter. The Easter Bunny Is Coming to Town is my favorite of the three Rankin-Bass Easter specials. While the music is no great shakes, the premise is interesting, the characters are fun (love the Hendrews Sisters), and it's the only Rankin-Bass spring special that is completely devoted to Easter, with no reference to other holidays. It's the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown is also my favorite Peanuts special, mainly due to the hilarious running gag with Peppermint Patty, Marcie, and their attempts to learn how to cook eggs, and Charles Schultz' cracks at holiday commercialism that are even more pointed than in the Christmas shows.

I called Mom during the cartoons. She was just about to hit the shower. She needed it; she'd spent the week spring cleaning while my stepfather was at work (he's a commercial fisherman). She was going to have a much quieter Easter than in previous years. It was just going to be her, Anny, and Skylar for dinner and an egg hunt. They normally go to the Wildwood Boardwalk for their opening weekend, but the weather didn't look like it was going to be conductive to strolls by the beach.

Switched to Easter Parade as I worked on my first doll and stuffed animal photo story since the fall. Easter Parade is one of the most famous of the Freed Unit 40s and 50s MGM musicals. Fred Astaire is a vaudeville dancer in 1912 whose partner (Ann Miller) leaves him to star in a show on her own. Depressed, he tells his best friend (Peter Lawford) that he could turn any girl into as good of a dancer as Miller. He finally chooses a singer in a bar show (Judy Garland). At first, he tries to turn her into an elegant ballroom showgirl, before finally understanding that she's really a down-to-Earth comedienne  All four couples eventually wind up on Broadway and finally settle their differences in time for New York's famous tradition spelled out in the title song.

I've always liked this one. As with the composer biographies, a slight story is wrapped around some fabulous numbers, including Astaire and Miller's "It Only Happens When I Dance With You" and Miller's awesome "Shakin' the Blues Away." Garland gets a fun medley of songwriter Irving Berlin's hits from that era with Astaire, and later got Astaire into hobo costumes long enough for the hilarious "A Couple of Swells." While Peter Lawford was a reluctant musical performer at best, he does get my favorite of the numbers written entirely for the film, the sweet "A Fella With an Umbrella." Recommended for fans of the stars or MGM musicals, or for people looking for non-religious Easter programming.

Peter Lawford wasn't the only one who needed an umbrella. By 3:30, the clouds had burst, and it was pouring. Despite the weather, I walked to Dad's for the party. I should have called for a ride. I was only wearing my thin turquoise spring dress and brown open-toed flats (which got completely soaked). I didn't think anyone would have the time to do it.

The party wound up being pretty big. Everyone brought something to eat. In addition to my cupcakes, Dad and Jodie provided ham, turkey breast, macaroni salad, cole slaw, macaroni and cheese, Jodie's famous asparagus wrapped with bacon, rolls, and tartlets and an egg-shaped cake from Desserts By Design in Audubon. Mark, Vanessa, and Brittany brought mashed potatoes. Jodie's relatives brought egg salad. Dad made two kinds of deviled eggs - one plain, one topped with applewood bacon. The parents of Rose's boyfriend Craig brought bruschetta.

Between meals, I watched my two-year-old nephew Khai hunt for eggs, then chase after the bubbles I gave him. He was so cute. I also got to see my first Doctor Who episode - Jodie's sons Jesse and TJ were watching what I believe to be one of the relatively recent ones with David Tennant as the famous British time-traveler on Netflix. (The Oaklyn Library, of all places, has what I believe to be one of the Tennant seasons on DVD. I really need to check that out, if only because several good friends of mine are fans of the show.)

The boys, TJ's friend Riff, and Jesse's girlfriend Dana switched to Ferngully: The Last Rain Forest after they finished with Doctor Who. Crysta is a young fairy who lives happily in a rain forest, learning magic from a wise older fairy and chasing her guy friend Pips. She gets the shock of her life when she first meets a crazy fruit bat who has been experimented on by humans...then sees a human damaging a tree. She accidentally shrinks the human, Zak, down to her size. Though she and Zak fall for each other, their relationship is doomed. Zak is not only part of a project that will destroy the rain forest, he inadvertently unleashed a toxic substance that takes over the project and nearly poisons the forest. Only Crysta has the power to stop him...

Despite some incredibly lush visuals (and being well-remembered by kids who grew up in this era like Dana and Jesse), this is very, very much a movie of its time. The environmental message is delivered with all the subtlety of a two-ton brick, and some of the freakier images are just plain disturbing. It doesn't help that Robin Williams in Genie-random-voice mode is the bat who has been screwed with by humans and hates them with a passion, and Tim Curry is the villainous smog whose main song was so sexually charged, it had to be heavily trimmed before release. Not for younger kids; older kids who enjoy action and can handle the moralizing and young adults with fond memories are the main audience for this nowadays.

Once again, I got bored long before I finally made it home. There just weren't a lot of people around to talk to. I finally hitched a ride home with Rose and her boys, by which time the rain was down to a fine mist.

Oh, and here's the photo story I worked on this afternoon. My dolls and several stuffed animals are disappointed that the Easter Bunny seems to have left no eggs and go on a quest through the living room to find them.

The Riverside Rest Easter Egg Hunt

At any rate, I hope everyone had a wonderful (and much drier) Easter and Passover!

Saturday, March 30, 2013

March Madness and Other Spring Stories

We opened on an absolutely gorgeous, sunny spring day with this week's American Top 40 re-run. Late March 1984 would have been a rather exciting time for my family. That was when Mom announced that she was pregnant with a third daughter, who would become my youngest sister Anna. The hits that eventful early spring included "Against All Odds" by Phil Collins, "Hello" by Lionel Richie, "Miss Me Blind" by Culture Club, "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" by Cyndi Lauper, "Automatic" by the Pointer Sisters, "Hold Me Now" by the Thompson Twins, "Somebody's Watching Me" by Rockwell, and the German smash "99 Luftballons" by Nena. That week's #1 song was the title tune from the year's blockbuster movie musical, "Footloose" by Kenny Loggins.

After the American Top 40 ended, I quickly changed two of my dolls into Easter outfits. Samantha and Felicity were fine in what they were wearing. Molly now sports her cute aqua Polka-Dot Outfit, with navy ribbons in her pigtails. Jessa is more eclectic; she wears Kit's floral skirt from her "meet" outfit with a magenta t-shirt, white socks, and Samantha's black plastic Mary-Janes.

Started out for a few errands in the Oaklyn area after I finished with the dolls. First on my list was a quick stop at CVS. I forgot one Easter card last week for my landlord and his wife Andrew and Linda. Tried Reese's White Chocolate Egg there - I'd never seen the single pack at the Acme. Not bad, but lacking the sweet/salty taste of the milk chocolate version.

I walked by Dad's on my way to CVS, but there was no car in the driveway. There still wasn't when I went by there again, but I decided to see if anyone was around anyway. Yes, Dad was home, preparing to work in the yard and the pool area. He's having the pool completely remodeled this spring. It needs new concrete around the perimeter of the pool, and it's starting to leak. He says the firm he hired will start next week. Jodie was doing some last-minute shopping at the Acme; she arrived shortly before I left.

Dad and Jodie are having Easter dinner at their house this year. It sounds like the same deal as their Christmas Eve party. The guest list includes Rose and her boys, Mark and Vanessa, several neighbors, Jessa and her boyfriend Bobby, Jodie's sons Jesse and TJ, Jesse's girlfriend Dana, and a few members of Jodie's family. As it turns out, they're not having dinner until 4 - no one is up to a lot of holiday traveling this year.

Headed to the Oaklyn Library after leaving Dad's. This time, I mainly concentrated on the children's books. The Library was almost completely empty. There were only two women working on computers and the librarian. The day was too nice for hanging around inside. I wasn't there long, either. I was out again around 12:30.

Made several quick stops next. WaWa didn't have heavy cream. Family Dollar did have trash bags and dry-erase bags...but the store was so busy, and the line was so long, I decided it wasn't worth the effort of waiting for them. I'll buy them from Acme or Rite Aid later in the week. I checked out my first yard sale of the season on the end of West Oakland Avenue. There wasn't much left by 1, but I did buy two cookies from a pair of enterprising little girls.

Since it was two blocks down anyway, I tried Aunt Berta's Kitchen as a special Easter treat. Aunt Berta's is a popular soul food restaurant and catering service on the White Horse Pike, a block from Capitol Pizza and the laundromat. No wonder they've gotten good reviews from everyone I've talked to who tried them. The salmon cakes and stewed collard greens I ordered were delicious. The salmon cake had a perfectly soft center and dark, crunchy fried shell. The greens were the right amount of salty/sweet. There were thick slabs of cornbread, too. The salmon cakes were so big, I took one and a slice of cornbread home for lunch later this week.

I do wish the service had been a little faster, but it is the day before Easter. The catering part of the business is probably swamped with orders. I watched Ohio State beat Wisconsin in a game from earlier in the March Madness tournament - Ohio State was playing later today. (They eventually lost to Wichita State, 70-66.)

Though it was still a pretty nice day when I finished lunch, my legs were getting tired from all the walking, and I had things I wanted to do at home. When I got in, I ran cartoons and started cupcakes. I've made an Orange Coconut Mousse Pie for Easter dinner for the last few years. While that was tasty, this year, I wanted something that was easier to transport and better for kids and young adults who would have been eating sugar all day by 4PM. I used that Betty Crocker Strawberry Cake Mix I bought yesterday, added buttermilk, sliced strawberries, applesauce, and mashed bananas, and made Strawberry-Banana Cupcakes.

As soon as the cupcakes were out of the oven, I was in the bath. I needed a bath. This was a fairly busy week. I've really come to enjoy my baths. I read Simple Abundance and just enjoyed the (relative) peace and quiet of a busy spring day.

After my bath, I made a lamb chop with steamed asparagus and Spinach and Greens Salad for dinner while watching various Easter and spring specials. Uniqua becomes a plant-based superhero who fights the dark Gloom Meister (Austin) in The Backyardigans episode "Flower Power." "Spring In Acme Acres" brings thoughts of love with the wrong species, avoiding spring cleaning at Elmyra's, and competing in crazy game shows to the Tiny Toons. Ruby finds all the eggs that the Easter Bunny hid, but her little brother is the one who gets the prize in "Max's Chocolate Chicken." Bugs and Granny try to find an Easter Bunny replacement among the Looney Tunes in Bugs Bunny's Easter Funnies. Daffy doesn't do much better with a paint brush with a wicked sense of humor in Daffy Duck's Easter Egg-citement. Yogi is determined to bring the Easter Bunny to Jellystone Park's Easter Jamboree - and save his and Ranger Smith's necks in the process - in Yogi the Easter Bear. And in Here Comes Peter Cottontail, the title character has to travel through a year's worth of holidays in order to deliver enough eggs to become the new head Easter Bunny.

I did two more Easter programs on YouTube. Brother Bear learns about the miracle of spring...and other kinds of the early 80s special The Bernstein Bears' Easter Surprise.

Part 1
Part 2

This Silly Symphony from the mid-30s is one of Disney's few attempts at a springtime short. It's cutsey, but it has a catchy theme song, and the color is gorgeous.

Funny Little Bunnies

For those of you who won't be around tomorrow, I hope you all have a great Easter (and Passover, too)!

Friday, March 29, 2013

The Sunny Side of Life

Started today with this week's grocery trip. The Acme was massively busy with Good Friday shoppers when I arrived. I was lucky to find everything on my grocery list. Good thing I didn't need a really big trip. I mainly needed peanut butter. I ended up with the Natural Smuckers. It wasn't on sale, but it was the cheapest "natural" brand they had. They were having a huge seafood sale; I bought a small container of fresh mussels and three packs of fish fillets. I bought things to make cupcakes for Easter dinner. Got ground chicken and a lamb shoulder steak on sale.

When I got home, I put everything away, then decided I'd have a decent lunch for a change. I used the mussels to make Pasta Salad with Mussels and Spring Vegetables while running Sally. The real-life Marilyn Miller made three movies in the early talkie era. Two of them were based after her much-loved stage hits, including this one. Miller is the title character, a waitress who dreams of being a Broadway dancer. She's devoted to her goal and to flirting with a young man she keeps seeing in the window (Alexander Gray), she can't concentrate on her work. Her fortunes pick up when she meets the young man at her newest job, and he recommends her to the cafe's owner (Ford Sterling) as a performer. Turns out the young man is a millionaire and the goofy waiter with lots of society friends is a former Count (Joe E. Brown). When an agent (T. Roy Barnes) and his girlfriend (Pert Kelton) discover the Russian dancer they hired for a Long Island party has backed out, they hire Sally to replace her. Can Sally pull off the ruse...and even become a star?

If you enjoy early talkie musicals as much as I do, this is a must-see. Miller is a so-so actress and not much of a singer, but something special happens when she dances. This is especially notable in two delightful numbers, her adorable duet to "Look for the Silver Lining" with Brown and the "Wild Rose" chorus number. (The latter is partially in Two-Strip Technicolor. The entire movie was originally in color, but the color prints were apparently lost except for this segment.)

I went for a short walk to WaWa after lunch, around 1:30. It was still a beautiful day at that point. There were clouds on the horizon, but the sky was still mostly blue, and it was far less windy and cold than it has been. It felt more like spring. This was reflected in the gardens that had suddenly erupted in jonquils, daffodils  and crocus, and in the wildflowers popping up in lawns. It was also reflected in how busy it was. I waved to Richard doing chores around his front lawn and to Linda, my landlord Andrew's wife, on her porch. Kids chased each other on their own front lawns; parents chatted amid pastel wire Easter decorations.

Treated myself to a Cherry-Coke Icee from WaWa, then headed home. Ran a few cartoons after Sally ended. Felix the Cat owns "The Goose That Laid the Golden Egg" in the 1936 Van Beuren short. He gives her gold to the poor of the town, but ends up having to defend her when pirates want the eggs, too! The Three Stooges have more luck stopping a robber who is after toys in their 60s "Toys Will Be Toys" animated short.

Much to my surprise, given how busy work was this morning, it wasn't that bad when I got in. Everyone must have shopped in the morning and early afternoon. It was pretty much the same as last night, on-and-off steady with no major problems.

Oh, and I have a fairly decent schedule this week. Yes, I have Easter off...but after that, I don't get a day off until next Saturday! A lot of people went on vacation this week. Not only are most schools on spring break, but our vacation cycle starts over in May, and anyone who still has time left will probably want to use it soon.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Springtime Balance

I finally got up early enough to make it to the morning yoga class today. It was pretty busy with people wanting a good work-out before they begin preparing for the spring holidays. We mainly concentrated on variations on back bends...and I felt stiff and slow. You can tell I really haven't done much of this for a few weeks. Hopefully, I'll be able to attend class more frequently once my hours at work calm down a little.

After class, I rode over to the Oaklyn Library for this week's first volunteering session there. Perhaps because of the sunny, blustery day, it was very quiet. Other than the library now has a new TV set, there wasn't much going on. I re-organized a few kids' books and was on my way.

I'd settled into working on inventories, adding to my "simplify" list, and doing research on hobbies when the phone rang. It was the Acme. Could I come in at 2? For once, yeah. Computer work was all I had planned for the afternoon. I had to rush lunch and I still didn't quite get in until almost 2:15, but I did go in early.

As it turned out, I probably would have been better off going in at the original time. It was quiet when I arrived. It did pick up a little during the later part of rush hour, but it was never overwhelmingly busy. Action News mentioned that there were two major car and truck crashes, one on Route 42 near Bellmawr, one in West Deptford, that caused massive traffic jams and may have caused many customers to arrive later than usual or just skip the shopping and go home. Others may be waiting for their Good Fridays off or off early to shop. There were no major problems other than a few annoying customers, and I was in and out.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

My Sunny Oaklyn

It was once again sunny, windy, and in the lower 50s when I awoke this morning. I leisurely finished Look For the Silver Lining, had breakfast, and sent my brother's Easter card out in the mail, then headed to the laundromat to finally get this week's load done. It was fairly big and took a while. This wasn't helped by it being busy. There were tons of people around, getting their laundry done during their lunch hours and before the holiday rush. I just barely got a washer. I had an easier time with the drier, but by the time I left, most of them were full.

When I got in, I put my laundry away, then worked on Lemon-Chocolate Chip Bread while running another musical biography, Three Little Words. Despite featuring fewer classic numbers than the other films, this may be my favorite of the bunch. Fred Astaire and Red Skelton play songwriters and screenwriters Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby, whose main claim to fame were some successful tunes written for musicals in the 20s and a few early talkies, including "Who's Sorry Now?," "I Wanna Be Loved By You," "All Alone Monday," "Hooray for Captain Spaulding," and "I Love You So Much." Vera Ellen and Arlene Dahl are the ladies in their lives; Keenan Wynn is their agent. They also had totally different personalities and drove each other up the wall...but unlike Rogers and Hart, they usually came back to each other in the end, with and without their significant others' help.

That's pretty much all there is to the plot...but that's all there needs to be. I don't know enough about the real Kalmar and Ruby to be able to tell  you what's fact and what's fiction here. I do know this is one of MGM's most refreshingly modest musicals. The emphasis here is on comedy - two girls, three guys, and lots of fun vignettes. The only "guest stars" are Gloria DelHaven (playing her mother, Mrs. Carter DelHaven, and performing "Who's Sorry Now?") and Debbie Reynolds (singing "I Wanna Be Loved By You" with the voice of the song's originator, Betty Boop inspiration Helen Kane).

Fred Astaire called this his favorite of his films, and I can understand why. He gets to show what else he can do besides dance, including some great comic bits (like him and Skelton with the animals in the magic act). Skelton has fun on the baseball diamond. Vera Ellen joins Astaire for two big dance numbers, "Mr. and Mrs. Hoofer at Home" and the opening "Where Did You Get That Girl?" Arlene Dahl isn't seen as often, though she does get the sole big chorus number, "I Love You So Much." A must-see for fans of the four stars or MGM musicals, a lot of fun for casual viewers who run into it on TCM or on DVD.

I worked on making lists of things in my life I want to simplify and organize for a while before heading to work. Once again, clouds suddenly rolled in and it started raining on my way there, heavier than last night. It still didn't last long; the clouds were already moving out as I was heading into work. Work was on-and-off busy all night. I helped put candy away between customers.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Spring Is Here At Last

I finally awoke to a really gorgeous day, lower 50s and sunny. I celebrated it with several spring-themed episodes of The Yogi Bear Show. Yogi is "A Wooin' Bruin" when he competes with another bear for Cindy's affections. They keep bringing her increasingly lavish gifts taken from campers. Ranger Smith finally catches on when Yogi takes his car, but he holds his temper when he discovers romance is involved. Snagglepuss has less luck with his demanding girlfriend Lila in "Spring Has Hit a Snag." She keeps asking him to clean up and get her this and go get berries, please, even though there's hunters out there. "Easter Duck" pits Easter gift Yakky Doodle against a hungry cat who thinks he's a spring dinner.

Headed for today's errand run around 11. Began with a quick stop at Dollar Tree. I realized when I sent out my Easter cards this morning that I forgot to buy one for my brother Keefe in the Navy. I also bought a pack of ice cream-themed bubble liquid for my little nephew for Easter, vinegar, strawberry preserves, and a magnetic shopping list pad (I've needed one for a while).

The Haddon Township Library was busy when I arrived, but it was mostly parents with younger kids looking for DVDs. There actually wasn't much for me to do. I organized the kids' DVDs and shelved DVDs and kids' books. Didn't take anything out this week. I have plenty to watch for Easter and a lot of my to-do list.

Had a nice ride into Haddonfield for lunch. The bridge is still closed. I had to take the twisting and turning back roads in. Since I came out at the PATCO Train and Bus Station, I had lunch at the Italian deli on the next block over. They were very busy with the last of the lunchtime crowd. I managed to find a seat between the older women, kids and their folks, and executives who were enjoying soup and sandwiches. I had my favorite Italian Wedding Soup with a "Mummers' Roast Beef" hoagie (thick-cut roast beef with sharp provolone, spinach, and vinaigrette dressing - mine also had tomatoes). Even in the half size, the hoagie was still so big, I took part of it home for lunch tomorrow.

I had the time to take a peek at the Happy Hippo Toy Shop after lunch. Nope, still no new WebKinz. The store was busy with kids out of school anyway. I moved onto Shelly Stahl and this week's counseling appointment.

We discussed my difficult and stressful couple of weeks. It's hard to try to concentrate on being positive and making things happen when you're getting interrupted or the phone is the first thing you hear. I really have no idea of how to meet people my own age and lifestyle here. I never see single 30-somethings at the libraries or Acme or out and about. I don't know how to meet them. I'm not into bars. I tried that in Wildwood. I ended up spending the night dancing a little, then watching Fraiser re-runs.

It's just hard to feel positive when nothing seems to go right. I have tried for ten years to find a real job, and for even longer to lose weight. Not a single one of my ideas has worked. I don't really know what my skills are, besides reading, writing, organizing, and baking. I get so angry and frightened, the fear just builds up in my head, until I can do nothing at all. It's hard for me to push past that fear. It's just been there for so long.

Mrs. Stahl wants me to ask everyone I know what they think my good points and bad points are. She also wants me to try to brainstorm ideas for hobbies that'll let me meet different people. I haven't really had a chance to over the last few weeks.

I made a quick stop at the CVS in Haddonfield for bath salts after leaving Mrs. Stahl, then went home via the back roads and Newton River Park. (I was going to go down Haddon Avenue, but part of it was closed off by police cars. I have no idea what was going on there.) It was slightly chillier going back, and a bit windier. There were heavy clouds overhead. At one point, it actually sprinkled a bit. Thankfully, the clouds dissipated almost as quickly as I arrived, and I got home with no problems.

I spent a nice, quiet hour and a half in the bath after I got in, listening to the George Winston Vince Guaraldi CD. When I finally got out, I ran another musical biography as I made Flouder in Red Wine Sauce with roasted broccoli and spinach and greens salad for dinner. Look for the Silver Lining supposedly tells the story of Marilyn Miller, the sweetheart of Broadway in the 1910s and 20s...but in real life, Miller was a mouthy flapper with a deep-blue vocabulary and a tragic life that may have been too tragic for Hollywood in the late 40s. Here, she's played by dainty June Haver as a sweet thing who joins her family's vaudeville act, then runs into trouble when she makes Broadway and her first husband (Gordon MacRae) dies.

The biggest reason to see this is Ray Bolger as Miller's friend and mentor. If you only know him from fantasies like The Wizard of Oz or Babes In Toyland, his eccentric, enjoyable tap routines here are a revelation. Otherwise, this is an ok time-waster if you run into it on TCM or the Warner Archives, but nothing anyone besides musical fans need to see.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Where's That Rainbow? 

Ugh. What a bad day. I awoke to pouring rain and yes, snow...all at the same time. I decided to finish Sons of the Wolf and work on my journal instead. After I finally got out of bed, I put on Words and Music to try to cheer myself up on such a gloomy day. MGM's follow-up to Clouds Roll By presents the "story" of composer Richard Rogers (Tom Drake) and his troubled partner Lorenz Hart (Mickey Rooney). This time, the history is even more whitewashed, thanks to the fact that Rogers was notoriously private and Hart was a closet homosexual (which was hardly something they could admit in a movie in 1948). Still, this is worth seeing for some fairly well-done numbers, including Lena Horne's dazzling "Where or When" and "The Lady Is a Tramp," Mel Torme's gentle "Blue Moon," June Allyson and the Blackburn Twins having fun with "Thou Swell," and Ann Sothern leading the chorus through the lesser-known delight "Where's That Rainbow?"

Judy Garland was just about to start "Johnny One-Note" when I got the phone call. One of the managers at the Acme wanted to know if I could come in at 2; there had been call-outs. No,  not at 2. It was almost quarter of 1, and I hadn't had lunch! I'd have to put off the laundry as it was. I'd be in by 3.

Thank heavens the rain was slowing down by the time I did make it out the door, and the snow was rapidly vanishing. I arrived at work damp but not soaked. Turns out at least two people had called out, and another went home with a cracked tooth. While we weren't really that busy, they needed the help.

By the time we got to 9:30, the rain and little remaining snow (and fear of the roads freezing) had driven away our customers. The manager on duty actually asked me if I wanted to go home early; I did leave about 10 minutes early. When I finally got out, it was showering lightly, but nothing like earlier, and was actually too warm for snow. I don't think it's even raining anymore now.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Weathering the Cold Spring

Started today around 10:30 with reading, writing in my journal, and listening to Brunch With the Beatles. The theme today was "meanings and melodies." Beatles songs with "meanings" in the lyrics include "Revolution," "Baby You're a Rich Man," "Tax Man," John's political statement "Power to the People," George's "My Sweet Lord," Paul's James Bond theme "Live and Let Die," and Ringo's "No No Song."

By the time I was finally eating Lemon Pancakes for breakfast, the show was winding down, and I was calling Mom to say "hi." Since I just talked to her a few days ago, we kept it brief. She'd dealt with a cold-ridden Skylar for a lot of last night as well and wanted a nap. She was mainly worried about my nephew, whom she's seen quite a bit, and the weather, which was cold and cloudy. There were rumblings of snow down south; we didn't know if it would come here.

I spent the rest of the afternoon on my computer, working on a new, updated and expanded list of things I want to do or change. If I figured nothing else out last fall and this winter, it's that I need to update or simplify a LOT of things in my life. I've already made some steps towards this, such as switching my paycheck to direct deposit, returning to counseling, donating unwanted items, and dropping things that no longer work for me, like volunteering at the Collingswood Library. There's still a lot I need to do, up to and including figuring out what I'm going to do about the Acme.

Speaking of the Acme, it was busy when I finally made it there, and stayed that way for most of the night. One of my customers mentioned a friend of hers told her that Virginia and West Virginia were slammed by a snowstorm and that it was on its way here. She didn't believe we'd get more than an inch or two, and neither do I. First of all, while it is chilly, it's not that cold. Definitely not cold enough for it to stick. Second, it's supposed to get into the upper 40s-lower 50s by Tuesday. If we get any, it'll be gone in a few hours, like the snow has all winter long.

Oh, and at press time, as far as I can tell, it's still dry out there.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Busy Bunny Hop

I awoke to a beautiful, sunny, windy spring Saturday. Listened to this week's American Top 40 re-run as I read Sons of the Wolf by Barbara Michaels and wrote in my journal. We went deep into my childhood to cover late March 1987. I was 7 years old when these songs were on the charts, and I remember many of them well. Hits from the spring of that year included the lovely "Somewhere Out There" by James Ingram and Linda Rondstat (from the animated drama An American Tail), "Tonight, Tonight, Tonight" by Genesis, "Mandolin Rain" by Bruce Hornsby and the Range, "Jacob's Ladder" by Huey Lewis and the News, "Big Time" by Peter Gabriel, "Livin' On a Prayer" by Bon Jovi, "When I Think of You" by Janet Jackson, "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now" by Starship (from the romantic fantasy-comedy Mannequin), and the novelty "Respect Yourself" performed by Bruce Willis at the height of his fame on Moonlighting. The song at the top of the charts that week was a fun one, the bouncy remake of "Lean On Me" by Club Nouveau.

I had quite a bit to do today, starting with this week's grocery trip. Thanks to that direct deposit, I no longer have to do my grocery shopping on the day I get my paycheck. I did have to go to the customer service desk, but it was to cash the voucher from the Coinstar machine. I turned in a full container of coins and got 20 dollars towards my very big grocery list. I desperately needed a fruit and vegetable restock, and my baking items - flour, eggs, butter - were getting low, too. Good thing there were sales all over the place. I hit the I Can't Believe It's Not Butter sale especially well. They were $2.49, and I had a dollar coupon for two.

When I got home, I noticed a crowd at Veteran's Park next-door to me. Parents and their kids were gathered around two squares of hay for this year's annual Oaklyn Easter Egg Hunt. I made a Lemon Mousse Pie as the kids searched for plastic eggs to win gift cards to Barnes & Noble.

I headed out to run more errands just as the crowds were leaving. My first stop was the Oaklyn Library. I hadn't been there in a while. It just got too crazy last week! While the DVDs weren't too bad, the kids' books are going to need more than 45 minutes worth of attention to really get them organized. Also made a quick stop for milk at WaWa on my way back.

When I got in, I had leftover chicken legs and honey-glazed carrots for lunch and watched more Three Stooges shorts. "Three Smart Saps" find themselves invading a party in a corrupt prison when the warden, the father of their fiancees, ends up in jail. They're the ones in prison in "In the Sweet Pie and Pie," wrongfully accused and on death row. When three young women marry them to get their inheritance and they're pardoned, they show up and demand their wives. The women try to embarrass them in society to get them to divorce...but the party goers are the ones with cream on their faces during an epic pastry battle! They get "Some More of Samoa" when they head to the island of Rhum Boogie in search of a mate for a lonely tree and find cannibals and a hungry alligator!

Work was very busy tonight, not helped by us being short-handed and short-registered. The first three registers were being painted by baggers, and we had to use the ones in the back. At the very least, the time went fast and people were generally in a decent mood. I was in and out.

When I got in, I decided that since Lauren wasn't supposed to be in until very late anyway (she went to a concert in Albany), I would go online later and make my usual shower a bath. I'm very glad I did. I was only in there an hour, but it was just long enough to really feel nice. I used the exfoliate cream I got years ago as a Christmas present from some friend or the other, too. I feel absolutely marvelous.

Friday, March 22, 2013

The Rulers of Suburbia

I awoke to a phone call. Yes, it was the Acme. No, I didn't go in early. I was already going in at 11. I hadn't had breakfast or gotten ready for work yet at 8:30. I wouldn't mind the extra hours if they didn't put me on the spot so much.

I put on The Easter Bunny Is Comin' to Town to cheer myself up, then continued the spring theme as I got ready for work with the second 80s Strawberry Shortcake special, Strawberry Shortcake In Big Apple City. Strawberry is a finalist in the Big City Bake-Off. The Peculiar Purple Pie Man is the other finalist, and he'll do anything to make sure Strawberry doesn't win! Good thing Strawberry meets quite a few new friends who are familiar with the city and can help her out. The best thing by far about this one is some cute New York gags, including the title and references to "Sentimental Park" and "The Little Theater of Times Pear."

Finally made it to work at 11, when I was supposed to be in. I don't know why they tried calling me in early. It was busy when I arrived, but not overwhelming. In fact, it was on-and-off all day. Other than a few annoying customers, there were no major problems. The teenage boy who was my relief was right on time.

When I got in, I changed into regular clothes and ran Over the Hedge as I made salmon in wine sauce with honey-glazed carrots and spinach-arugula salad for dinner. We move from urban spoof to suburban reality in this DreamWorks action/comedy based after the comic strip. RJ (voice of Bruce Willis) is a fast-talking loner raccoon who is forced to find junk food by a bear (Nick Nolte) whom RJ tried to steal from. He ends up in a forest inhabited by several local animals, including slightly geeky turtle Vern (Garry Shandling) and wacky red squirrel Hammy (Steve Carrell). Part of the animals' forest was replaced by a new suburban development. Desperate for food for the bear, RJ convinces the animals to forage from the humans in the houses. The lady who owns the house isn't happy with the mess these invaders leave...and Vern doesn't like them having to rely on this human food that isn't really good for them. While Vern discovers his inner tough turtle, RJ finds that having a family isn't such a bad thing...and neither is loyalty to friends.

I'm going to go into this by saying that yes, I am a fan of the comic strip. I read it often when I find the Courier Post in the back room at work. That said, while this is really quite different from the strip (more characters, the family emphasis), I enjoyed this, too. If nothing else, this has one of the most ecelectic casts I've ever seen in an animated film. In addition to Willis, Shandling, and Carrell, we have Wanda Sykes as a sassy skunk, William Shatner as an overly dramatic possum father, and Eugene Levy and Catherine O'Hara are the mom and dad porcupine.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Organized Balance

Actually, I started today with a phone call. Yesterday was Mom's birthday. I called her late last night to wish her many returns of the day, but I kept getting a busy signal. She called me back this morning. As it turns out, my sister Rose and my brother Keefe called last night! She talked to both of them until 11. Dad did take her out to eat yesterday. He also gave her a Kindle. The trouble is, she doesn't have wi-fi or a data phone. She tried to hook it up to her internet but only ended up losing internet for 4 hours. (The internet connection in Cape May County is intermittent even at the best times of the year.) She says she suspects it'll just go to Dad.

(This isn't the first time Dad bought a present for Mom that was really for him. One of my earliest Christmas memories was the year in the early 80s when Dad bought Mom a waffle iron. Dad is the only person on the entire Cape May side of the family who can make waffles without burning them. Guess who ended up using it a lot more? When we finally got another waffle iron over a decade later, it went straight to Dad this time. He used to make the yummiest waffles for his big Christmas breakfast.)

Spent the rest of the morning doing things around the apartment. I'm still clearing out things that I don't need. This time, I swept through all of my media. There aren't too many cassettes left to get rid of, and I didn't see any CDs I didn't want, but I did pull records, DVDs, and paperback mysteries I don't read. They'll all go to the libraries I volunteer for. After I finished with the organizing, I did the budget and cleared the papers off the top of my printer.

Did a half-hour yoga YRG Yoga disc around 1PM, "Fat Burner." It was mainly simple moves to concentrate on the core and rear and just working up a sweat. I thought this would be a good work-out for my sore legs. I had to go really easy on the leg lifts, downward dog moves, and anything that involved knees. My knees feel stiff enough as it is.

I threw together a Bean Vegetable Soup from cans of pinto beans and tomato soup, brown rice, and whatever vegetables happened to be laying around my refrigerator for lunch while running Three Stooges shorts. The boys are "Nutty But Nice" when they try to cheer up a little girl whose dad was kidnapped by bank robbers. It's the little girl whose yodels turn out to be the biggest help of all. In "How High Is Up?," the trio end up on the 97th floor of a new skyscraper when they're on the run from angry riveters and discover that Curly's fear of heights is the least of their problems. The boys find that "No Census, No Feeling" when they try to take census numbers from everyone they know, including football players...during the game! And Curly goes "From Nurse to Worse" when Larry and Moe try to pass him off as crazy as part of an insurance scam and the doctor wants to operate on his mind.

Work wasn't too bad. It was on-and-off busy for most of the night, busier than last night, but not as bad as last week. The store is still in the midst of spring cleaning. They were scrubbing the bottoms of the registers. I had to abandon mine and do returns for the last half-hour. Other than that, there were no major problems, and I was in and out after picking up powdered sugar.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

First Day of Spring

Actually, I spent most of the first day of spring inside. I ran the 2-LP soundtrack from the first That's Entertainment movie as I updated inventories and did some computer work. Organized a few things around the apartment, too. I'm behind on doing household chores. I'm not used to working so much in March...but we don't usually have more than one major holiday in March, either. Not to mention, it was a lot warmer by this time last year. Last year, everyone was worried about it being so warm and dry so early. Now, everyone's worried about late snow.

Switched to Miss Spider and her crew as I had leftover crock pot chicken legs and vegetables for lunch. A Froggy Day In Sunny Patch introduces Felix, the vegetarian bullfrog who is a friend of the kids. The kids first met Felix when he got his tongue literally tied around a plant. After they helped him, he explained that he's a bit tongue-challenged and doesn't eat meat. The kids are delighted to have a huge friend who can hop and hide with the best of them. The remaining citizens of Sunny Patch are more worried. They heard that a family of frogs has moved in...and most frogs eat bugs! Spidercus in particular is determined to drive the frogs out of Sunny Patch. The kids do their best to hide Felix from the "Frog Watch Committee."

It was a beautiful day when I finally headed out for work. It was sunny and windy, but not too cold, probably in the lower-mid 50s. That could be why it wasn't quite as busy as it has been. It was on and off, really busy only during rush hour. Otherwise, I stood around a lot. I wanted to help shelve candy, but one manager did that, then the one who came in for her took over. She said "clean the registers." The registers were just cleaned last week! I was so happy when it was finally time to go and it was so quiet I could leave with no relief and no need for one.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Miss Redmer Takes a Bawth

It's just as well that I slept in this morning, then spent an hour or so reading and writing in my journal. When I got up, it was still pouring cats and dogs. By the time I was having breakfast, the rain had vanished, replaced by blue skies and somewhat warmer temperatures.

Ran cartoons as I ate and cleaned up after my meal. Quite a few of Disney's music video-esque Silly Symphony series of shorts revolve around springtime, including one of their earliest black and white shorts, simply titled "Spring." Other spring-y black-and-white Symphonies included "Playful Pan" and the adorable "The Bears and the Bees."

Spring turned up in several color Symphonies as well. "Birds In the Spring" is pretty much what the title says. A bird pair have babies, then fly to the rescue when one falls out of the nest. "The Goddess of Spring" is more ambitious. Practically a mini-opera, this take on the Greek myth of Persephone and Hades was Disney's first attempt to animate realistic humans. It's not entirely successful - Persephone dances like she's made of rubber in the opening scenes - but the color is beautiful, and the music is quite lovely.

It was past 12:30 when I finally made it out to do this week's laundry. I timed it well. It was still pretty busy when I got in. I noticed they had three new washing machines on the end of the line of the regular, cheaper top-loading models. They had buttons instead of knobs, and to my annoyance, the cold function was only for delicates. I decided to try it anyway, despite it costing 25 cents more. I don't know that it made much of a difference; my clothes didn't seem any cleaner than usual.

By the time I headed out at quarter after 2, the laundromat, which had gotten pretty quiet for a while, was getting busy again. Since it was so late, I went across the street to Amato Bros Deli for lunch. I had a tasty Turkey and Bacon Hoagie while watching the Phillies play the Yankees in pre-season baseball in Florida. My hoagie was tasty but a bit messy; the lady overloaded the Russian dressing. (Oh, and the Phillies eventually won, 4-1.)

When I got in, I put my laundry away, then went right back outside to sweep the porch and enjoy the weather. It was a gorgeous day, sunny, windy, bright, probably in the lower-mid 50s. I didn't have a lot to clean up on the porch, mainly sticks and the last of the sticker balls, but I'd put it off for a while and wanted to get it done.

I went right into the bath after I finished sweeping. I enjoyed my bath last week. It felt just as nice this week, if not nicer. It was wonderful to actually have the time to just kick back and soak while my 20s jazz CD played in the background. I was in there for so long, I didn't get out until the CD was done...almost 2 hours later. That's how much I needed a good, long soak!

My bath put me in too good of a mood for Torn Curtain, which is what I originally planned on watching tonight. I ended up with Till the Clouds Roll By instead. This is one of several composer and musical performer biographies the major studios doted in the 40s and 50s, this one revolving around long-time Broadway and film favorite Jerome Kern. The first half is charming. After opening with a mini-version of Kern's (Robert Wagner) most famous musical Show Boat, we learn more about his life, including the romantic way he met his beloved English wife and how he just barely missed sailing on the Lusitania. The second half is mostly contrived and little-related to the real Kern. Shame, because there's some nice numbers, including two for Judy Garland playing Marilyn Miller, "Look For the Silver Lining" and "Who?"

The huge cast is by far the saving grace here, along with some fairly realistic numbers. They're done the way they would have been in the real Kern shows they represent, from Dinah Shore's beautiful "They Didn't Believe Me" in a flowery Western landscape to June Allyson and the chorus giving birth to many college/school musical cliches in the two Leave It to Jane numbers. Garland's "Who?" with the male chorus is staged just in the way Miller often did her numbers - compare it to the real Miller's "Wild Rose" in the film version of Sally.

The numbers and the sweet first half are the saving graces. Not for those who expect strong plots with their music, but fans of the MGM/Freed unit movies or any of the stars will find much to like here.

Monday, March 18, 2013

A Love Froggy Day In Oaklyn

I slept in a little this morning, then finished The Sea Hawk and wrote in my journal until past 10. It was just as well. The view from my bedroom windows wasn't promising. It was cloudy and gray, almost as bad as last Tuesday, though not wet at that point. 

I ran the other Looney Tunes Easter special, Bugs Bunny's Easter Funnies, as I had breakfast. This one goes the more conventional route of mixing parts from shorts with a flimsy plot made from new material. The Easter Bunny has taken sick. When Bugs isn't available,  he and Granny look for a replacement among the Toons. The theme here is more "Oscar winners" than Easter. We have segments from "Birds Anonymous " "For Scent-imental Reasons," and "Knighty Knight Bugs," among others, but not a single Easter or spring short. Ok for major Looney Tunes fans or those looking for springtime entertainment for little kids, not necessary for anyone else.

Oh, and while I did enjoy The Sea Hawk, I didn't love it. I've had it for almost a year now, since my last birthday, and hadn't gotten to it. While the tale of a British nobleman who is betrayed by his weakling brother into slavery, then becomes an Arabian pirate, is exciting and filled with amazing historical details, it might actually be a bit too detailed for me. I was kind of hoping for more action and less loving details of everything in Algiers. I liked it enough to try other novels by Rafael Sabatini, but this probably won't be my favorite.

It was so late by the time I finally headed out, I decided to reverse my usual errands and start with lunch. Besides, it was also still gloomy, windy, and chilly. I made a quick stop at a surprisingly quiet for the lunch hour Capitol Pizza. I bought a bottle of Coke Zero and a slice of mushroom pizza - breakfast was late this morning.

Dodged the noon traffic next to run some errands at the Westmont Plaza. Dollar Tree was crazy-busy, with full aisles and a line across the front of the store. I was mainly there for Easter cards for the family and birthday cards for Mom (whose birthday is Wednesday) and my friend Kelly in Wildwood (whose birthday was last week). A quick peek at JoAnn's yielded nothing but the realization that they're pretty close to done. Most of the back of the store has already been cleared out, and they don't have nearly the spring decorations they usually have. I considered a spring-themed wreath, but decided I didn't need it and headed out. Dropped into Tuesday Morning and found a WebKinz Love Frog for $2.99. I also discovered they'd expanded the store considerably. The side of the store that had once been storage now held large pieces of furniture and Christmas leftovers. 

The Haddon Township Library was my last stop. It was probably just as well that they had plenty of help and not a lot for me to do. I organized the children's books and shelved some adult DVDs. The DVDs were all in the right places - nothing needed to be cleared out. I looked around for some books to give me ideas for hobbies, but it was getting late. I ended up taking out DVDs of Miss Spider's Sunny Patch Kids and the 2006 Angelina Ballerina cartoons, along with the animated movie Over the Hedge (I read the comic strip when I'm at work) and the Hitchcock film Torn Curtain with Paul Newman and Julie Andrews. 

It was almost 4 when I finally made my way across Newton River Park. It had begun to sprinkle as I left the Westmont Plaza. By this point, the sprinkle was fast becoming a light shower. It goes without saying I had the Park entirely to myself for once. Even the Canadian geese seemed to be fleeing the weather. 

Spent the rest of the evening at my apartment, making a Spice Cake and dubbing another Richard Chamberlain 70s swashbuckler, The Count of Monte Cristo. Once again, Chamberlain plays a man wrongfully imprisoned who wants revenge. This time, he's sailor Edmund Dantes who was thrown into prison by four men who wanted his ship, his money, and his wife. An old priest (Trevor Howard) teaches him about how to escape, but warns  him against vengeance.  An embittered Edmund ignores him and, with the help of the treasure the old man's map lead him to, becomes the nobleman of the title. He discovers just how harsh vengeance can be when it does hurt the men who slandered his name...but also the woman he had almost married who is now wed to his rival.

While I will admit that I did like the somewhat more lighthearted 2002 version better, this one was also interesting. At the very least, it remained truer to the original story, while still condensing an enormous, detailed novel. I will add that this can only, at press time, be bought as a Korean import on DVD in the US. You're better off digging around for the video or seeing if you can catch it on cable. 

Switched to Angelina Ballerina as I cleaned up from my dinner of lamb chops with scallions and mushrooms, green beans and almonds, and spinach and arugula salad with cherry tomatoes. In the "full length" episode "All Dancers On Deck," Angelina and Alice are thrilled when they and their dance class take a cruise to their teacher Miss Lilly's native country Dachovia. The cruise, however, is plagued by problems from the start. Angelina and Alice want to help Miss Lilly's nephew Yuri prove to the stuffy Captain that he's good enough to wed his daughter, but their attempts at helping only make things worse. Meanwhile, Henry is obsessed with boats and will think of nothing else, the Pinkpaws twins left their costumes at home, and poor William spends the voyage seasick. When the ship runs aground on an iceberg and the Captain blames Yuri, Angelina becomes determined to help...and prove that dancing can be very useful on ship.

Oh, and meet my Love Frog, my first (and likely only) Valentine's WebKinz, Amoura! Amoura's name is a variation on "Amour," which of course, is French for "love." Amoura is a poet and a writer with very romantic soul who lives in a small pink-and-magenta room on the edge of WebKinz World. I really only bought her to go with my Valentine's Day displays; after I pick up the Rockerz Fox later this month, I'm going to try to lay of WebKinz for a while. 

Sunday, March 17, 2013

With a Little Luck

Top o' the evenin' to ye! I hope you all had a great St. Patrick's Day. Mine was pretty quiet, especially compared to last year. I pre-empted the Beatles radio show in favor of Irish and spring-themed music. I finally did that Music of Spring record I picked up from the church thrift shop. It's a variation on the many Columbia Special Products Christmas record series, this one with spring-themed songs. Some, like "It Might as Well Be Spring" and "April In Paris," actually had spring in the title or referred to springtime in the lyrics. Others, such as "The Sweetest Sounds" and "Camelot," were tougher sells.

After I finished out the spring record, I switched to the soundtrack LP for the 1968 movie version of Finian's Rainbow. The soundtrack has "Necessity," a song from the original Broadway show that was cut from the film. It also has Petula Clark and Tommy Steele duetting on a fun "Something Sort of Grandish," and the last movie musical performance of Fred Astaire.

I called Mom while the first record was on. Mom was fine. She was just about to go in the shower. Her week had been relatively uneventful, but she had good news about my sister Rose. Rose and her boyfriend Craig have been looking for a new house for almost a year now. They currently live in an apartment in Audubon that's too small for two adults, a toddler, a pair of frisky dogs, and a cat. Not only did they find a house yesterday, but the one they settled on is on Kendall Boulevard here in Oaklyn, just a few houses down from the school and three streets down from me! I'm absolutely thrilled for them.

After I got off with Mom, I put on some cartoons as I cleaned up after my Irish Oatmeal Pancakes and blood oranges breakfast. Porky Pig has a close encounter of the surreal kind with a pack of vengeful leprechauns in the Looney Tunes classic "Wearin' of the Grin." Woody Woodpecker is no luckier when he finds a wee folk woodpecker who gives him three wishes. Woody wishes for gold, but when it turns out the gold comes from a bank, he finds himself evading the cops instead in "His Better Elf."

Switched to The Quiet Man as I finally dusted the apartment. I've been wanting to do it for ages, but I just plain haven't had the time. This takes former boxer Sean (John Wayne) to the Ould Sod, where he romances fiery local colleen Mary Kate Danaher (Maureen O'Hara) against the wishes of her brother (Victor McLaglen). He does finally marry her, but when the elder Danaher's attempt to court the local widow (Mildred Natwick) are rebuffed, Danaher refuses to give Mary Kate the money that's rightfully hers. Wayne doesn't care one way or the other, but Mary Kate insists she won't be a real wife until she has her dowry. Sean, fearing history repeating itself, won't hit Danaher...but when Mary Kate's finally had enough, he decides he doesn't have a choice. Their quarrel over the money eventually leads to a fist fight so big, half of Ireland ends up taking bets.

This was a very personal film for native Irishman John Ford, and it shows. The luscious color cinematography alone won an Oscar. Everyone's having a good time here, from bemused Wayne to spirited O'Hara, and especially Barry Fitzgerald as the local matchmaker. It may not be a realistic portrayal of Ireland, but it's a heck of a lot of fun, and by far one of John Wayne's best comedies.

Jodie called as The Quiet Man was winding down. She asked me if I wanted to come over for dinner. I couldn't, but I did get some more information on Rose and Craig's new house. It was official; they signed the papers yesterday. They'll be moving in at the end of April.

Since I wanted to get a Lucky Mint Coolatta for my St. Patrick's Day treat, I decided to take the long route and swing by Rose and Craig's new house. It's a small, white, one-story house with a yard and a big garage in the back. They'd signed the papers so recently, the Century 21 sign was still on the lawn (though it no longer said "for sale"). A short set of brick steps lead to an enclosed front porch. From what I could see, the front of the house needed to be painted, but otherwise, it looked fine. The yard was fenced in; I couldn't really see anything there.

It wasn't a bad day for a walk. The sun was struggling to stay out amid clouds, but though it was chilly and a little windy, it wasn't freezing cold. I got lucky. Duncan Donuts' seating area was full when I came in, but there was no line. Right after I ordered my Coolatta, a large group of people arrived to order lattes.

Put on the second season Moonlighting episode "Somewhere Under the Rainbow" when I got home. A young Irish woman asks Maddie and David to protect her. The catch is, she thinks she's a leprechaun, and she wants them to help her find and protect her pot of gold. Maddie thinks she's crazy. David thinks maybe she is, maybe she isn't. This, of course, instigates several arguments between the two about magic and belief in the things we can and can't see.

Several employees mentioned when I got in that it was very busy earlier in the day. By the time I started my shift, it was steady but not overwhelming. When I finished, it was quiet as can be. I was in and out with no problems.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Gloom and Snow 

For the second day in a row, I awoke to a ringing phone. The Acme wanted me to stay late, until 10. Someone called out sick. I wasn't happy about it, but I said 9:30. I know, I know, I should be taking all the hours I can. That would be a lot easier if I were used to working 40 hours. I usually work between 20 and 30 hours a week. I really wish they could be more consistent. It would be a lot easier on my legs and knees.

I spent the rest of the morning watching Snow White and the Huntsman. This was the other version of the original Snow White fairy tale that came out last year. The only things it has in common with Mirror Mirror are the bare outlines of the story and a stronger Snow White than usually seen in fairy tale adaptations. Here, the evil queen (Charlize Theron) is a beautiful sorceress who was found by a grieving king after he and his men slew an army made entirely of black stones. He's so bewitched by her loveliness that he marries her right away...but she kills him, takes over his kingdom, and imprisons  his daughter Snow White (Kristin Stewart) in a tower. Snow is horrified to discover that her stepmother is bringing young women in from the local villages and draining them of their youth in order to retain her beauty. She escapes from the castle, getting lost in the Dark Forest. The queen sends a drunk huntsman (Chris Helmsforth) to fetch Snow White...but he just can't do it. He can't let the queen take her heart and innocence. They band together with a group of dwarves (lead by Bob Hoskins) and Snow White's childhood friend Duke William (Sam Clafin) to convince William's father to lead a rebellion against the wicked Ravenna.

Not bad at all. Better than I thought it would be, actually. Stewart's a decent actress when she's not pining over sparkling vampires, and she does nicely here. The men don't come off quite as well. Helmsforth is too stiff for a roguish hunter; Clafin doesn't get enough to do. The dwarves don't turn up much, either, considering the emphasis on them in most versions of Snow White.

Once again, the Evil Queen steals the show. Theron relishes the chance to play a villain and goes to town as a woman who has been scorned by one too many men...and now just wants to continue taking beauty and power for as long as possible. The other stand out is the amazing, Oscar-nominated costume design. Theron in particular wears some awesome medieval get-ups, but everyone has at least one eye-catching outfit.

Definitely too gloomy and gruesome for anyone under the age of 13. This is a very dark fairy tale, with lots of fantasy violence and frightening imagery. It's also sags a bit in the middle, when Snow White is in the forest with the dwarves. For teens and adults who enjoy darker takes on fantasy, this is worth seeing at least once.

I switched to a couple of Hello Kitty fairy-tale shorts while making Chocolate Chip Cocoa Muffins to go with my bean soup leftovers lunch. Grinder is her only protector in "Snow White and the One Dwarf;" Chip the Seal is a far more cowardly huntsman. My Melody and her crystal ball replace the magic mirror. Kitty is the sweet beauty in "Kitty and the Beast." Catnip, for once, isn't the main villain, just Kitty's bratty sister. Catnip's mother Fangora is the villain here, a wicked witch who has turned Prince Sam (Tuxedo Sam the Penguin) into a beast.

The weather was almost as glum today as it was in Ravenna's kingdom. It was cloudy all day. It actually snowed this morning, but was long done by the time I finally headed to work. Work was crazy-busy up until about 7:30. After that, it died so fast and so much, I wondered why they even bothered keeping me late. I had no problems getting in and out.

Found out why it had quieted down so quickly when I got out and discovered a fine, soft mist falling around me. It must have snowed earlier in the evening; there was a very light dusting of slushy flakes on my porch when I got in.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Wreck It Ralph Fever

I awoke to the sound of a ringing phone. Yes, it was the Acme. Could I come in two hours early, at 3PM? No. Not after I worked 8 1/2 hours yesterday! I'd come in at 4PM. I still had grocery shopping to do, too. I just hurt so darn much. I had a lot of hours this week as it is.

Spent the rest of the morning after I finished with my journal watching Wreck It Ralph. This Oscar-nominated animated film was Disney's big movie for last fall. Ralph (John C. Reilly) is the villainous character in the 80s arcade game Fix It Felix Jr. He's getting tired of destroying buildings that Felix (John McBrayer) fixes, then getting thrown off the building by the residents. It's not that he doesn't like his job. He just wants  some acknowledgement from the other game characters. In order to get a medal - and Felix's attention - he flees first to the first-person shooter Hero's Duty, then to an anime-inspired racing game called Sugar Rush. Ralph's game isn't playable without Ralph, so Felix goes after him. While Felix encounters the gung-ho Sergeant Calhoun (Jane Lynch), Ralph befriends Vanellope Von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman), a rather bratty "glitch" in Sugar Rush who wants to race with the other characters. Meanwhile, a monster bug from Calhoun's game followed Ralph into Sugar Rush, and its ability to regenerate may allow it to do far more damage than Ralph ever could...

By far Disney's best movie in years. This is one of the few animated movies that felt like it really inhabited my history, my world. I was born just as video games were starting to take off. Growing up at the Jersey Shore, I wouldn't live more than 20 minutes from a decent arcade until college. Heck, when I encountered QBert again in the arcade in the basement of the Wildwood Boardwalk Mall, I had to play a few rounds, even though I've always been pretty bad at it. There's gaming cameos going out the wazoo - some of the ones I actually recognized in addition to QBert included Sonic, Pac-Man and the ghost Clyde, Bowser, and a couple of guys from Street Fighter.

The original characters are awesome, too. Reilly's lovable lug who learns a lesson in true heroics is well done. Silverman's feisty tomboy is annoying and hard to like at first, but I warmed up to her, especially once I started to figure out along with Ralph who she really was. Lynch was a riot as the queen-of-action-cliches Calhoun. McBrayer's Felix was sweet and very funny when paired with Calhoun and her temper.

Critics complained about some obvious product placement, especially in Sugar Rush. Honestly, I didn't really notice that much, and it's likely most kids won't, either. This may be the first Disney movie in years that can truly be enjoyed by all ages - little kids will love some mild toilet humor, teens who can be talked into it may relate to Ralph and Vanellope's misfit status, adults my age will enjoy the video game references, older adults might like the unusual plot. Highly recommended.

I finally made it to the grocery store around 1PM. I could understand the fussing earlier. It was mobbed. I was lucky to find a line that wasn't really long. First of all, we're still in the midst of spring cleaning. Second, St. Patrick's Day is Sunday; many people were probably preparing for their St. Patty's Day dinners. Third, we're once again having big sales this weekend. I made use of a dollar produce sale to pick up scallions, grape tomatoes, and small containers of pomegranate juice; also needed apples, blood oranges, and bananas. Found a salmon filet with a manager's coupon that was a decent price. I'd have it for lunch. Needed to replace canola oil, toilet paper, canned Italian wedding soup (thought I'd try the new Campbell's that's the least processed possible), and wraps. Since I actually have money now, I decided to return to using whole wheat flour for my baked goods; good thing Hodgeson's was on sale.

When I got home, I put everything away, made the Salmon with Green Beans and Almonds and sauteed winter vegetables for lunch. Ran a couple of spring and Easter-oriented Max and Ruby episodes while I ate. In "Max's Chocolate Chicken," Ruby searches for the eggs the Easter Bunny hid...but Max just wants to eat the chocolate chicken left as a prize. We have a similar scenario in "Max's Picnic," only this time, it's cupcakes that Max wants and can't have, and Ruby and her best friend Louise are bird-watching. "Max's Apple" is a sweeter variation. Max keeps asking Ruby for apples, disrupting the hand-clap game she's playing with Louise. We don't find out until the end why Max wants so many apples, although anyone who's been listening to the girls' game might have a good idea.

Work was, indeed, very busy tonight. It didn't help that we're not only short-handed, but short-registered. The first three and last few registers were being cleaned. It's a mess up front, with cleaning products and buckets of cleaning fluid everywhere. I don't know why they couldn't have found people to do it at night, when the store was closed, instead of trying to do it between customers two weeks before Easter. Thank heavens it slowed down enough by the time I was finished to go straight home.

I have a better schedule next week, too. While I do have one 7-hour day, it's not nearly as late as Thursday. I work much earlier as well - the latest I work is 9. I also have two days off, but we'll see how long that lasts. The last two weeks I've had more than one day off, I've been called in on the extra day.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Busy Spring Day at Work

Started a chilly, sunny day with finally finishing that crocheted scarf I've been working on for months and dubbing the Richard Chamberlain version of The Man In the Iron Mask. Phillipe (Chamberlain), a young man living in France in the 1600s, is carried off for reasons he doesn't understand. He's first kept in the Bastille, then on a remote island, and is forced to wear an iron mask that conceals his identity. It would seem that Phillipe is the twin brother of bratty King Louis (also Chamberlain), who cares more about chasing ladies of the court than ruling France. Louis' finance minster Fouquet (John McGoohan) conspire to keep him on the throne. His head minster (Ralph Richardson) and musketeer D'Arganan (Louis Jordan) want to see the gentler Phillipe rule. Sweet court lass Louise (Jenny Agutter) is the woman whom both twins love.

I love swashbucklers, but this one could have done with more swashbuckling and less talking. It does have a fine cast, though - McGoohan and Richardson do especially well as the scheming politicians who are determined to manipulate both twins. The ending was a little disappointing and perhaps a bit anti-climatic, and really, there are better versions of this story around. Best for fans of Chamberlain or the other British stars on display here.

Switched to Easter specials as I made Ginger Cookies and canned Italian wedding soup for a quick lunch. The episodic It's the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown is a favorite of mine. I love the subplot where Peppermint Patty continually attempts to teach her best pal Marcie how to color eggs. Marcie misses the point and keeps cooking the eggs instead.

Daffy Duck finally got a holiday special to himself in the early 80s. He's the focus of Daffy Duck's Easter Egg-Citement, one of five Looney Tunes prime-time programs to use all-original material. He joins Sylvester to chase a golden egg in the first segment. The second has him guarding a chocolate bunny factory from Speedy Gonzoles, who wants to get chocolate for all the kids in his village. Daffy's fully solo in the third, where he faces off against a recalcitrant horse in an attempt to find an easier way to get north for the spring.

Spent the rest of the day at work. Today was my very long 8 1/2 hour day, from 12:30 to 9! Much to my surprise, it was very busy all day. We were short on help, too. If people aren't being recruited to help with the store's spring cleaning, they're calling out due to funerals and family events. It was steady until around 8PM...and even after that, it was never really quiet. I'm glad they had pizza and bagels in the back. I really needed to keep up my energy today! I'm bushed, and my knees hurt something horrible. Between the cleaning, the holidays, and several employees dealing with deaths in their immediate family, I don't see it letting up anytime soon.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

I'll Take the Highlands, and You Take the Berry Lands

I slept late this morning and didn't have time for much else besides washing windows and running a few DVDs. First on the list was finishing the Rick Steves episodes. The tales of the ongoing trials and tribulations of Northern Ireland were alternately fascinating and sobering, but my favorite trip was to the gorgeous Scottish Highlands. From battlefields with sad back stories to the beautifully rugged terrain to the colorful Highland Games (and Steves' attempt to throw a caber - the thing nearly flattened him!), Scotland really is a lovely country. No wonder Pixar set their first fantasy story there.

I started putting up spring decorations as I began the Strawberry Shortcake set. The theme here is a little vague, but I think it's supposed to be working together and helping neighbors. One episode brings back Katie and Sadie Bug from an earlier episode. They want to start a "Good Citizens' Club" to help others. When Plum Puddin's membership badge is lost in the mail, she thinks she isn't a good citizen and asks the bugs to let her in. Katie and Sadie keep thinking up tests that are basically ways to serve them...until Plum calls them on it and Strawberry reminds them that being a good citizen involves helping everyone, not just them. Lemon Meringue and Raspberry Torte are the best designers in Berry Bitty City...but they can't agree on anything, including how to decorate the Baby Berrykins' Play Center. When their arguing results in nothing getting done, they have to stall the Princess and learn how to work as a team.

I didn't realize how late it was when I started doing the decorations. I hurried out of the house before I could finish and was almost late for work! As it turned out, work was really no problem, steady all night. I did have to corral a manager to finish a long WIC check order so I could leave on time.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

A Relaxing Bath and Other Rainy-Day Tales

It was already pouring this morning when I put on the 1938 MacDonald-Eddy vehicle Sweethearts. This is pretty much a modern romantic comedy crossed with a backstage musical. They play Gwen and Ernest Lane, the darlings of Broadway and the star of Sweethearts, a smash-hit operetta. They're tired of doing the same thing day-in and day-out and wouldn't mind trading the grind for Hollywood sunshine. Their producer (Frank Morgan) sees them as his meal ticket and is desperate to keep them in New York...even if he has to concoct a phony romance between Ernest and the duo's secretary (Florence Rice) to do it. 

This was MGM's first film in the new three-strip Technicolor, and the biggest movie factory in Hollywood pulled out all the stops. From huge chorus numbers (Jeanette and Ray Bolger's "Wooden Shoes" and the "Pretty as a Picture" song at the piano) to elaborate costumes that take advantage of MacDonald's red curls and Eddy's golden waves, this movie shows off a far more advanced Technicolor than what showed up at the end of The Cat and the Fiddle. My sisters and I loved the sequence where MacDonald parades in a line of gowns in what amounts to a mini-fashion show; we used to compare the outfits and decide which ones we liked best on her. 

This is also proof that the MacDonald-Eddy movies could be quite witty when written by someone besides studio hacks. Dorothy Parker provided the dialogue here, and it sparkles in a way that some of their other movies don't. While not my choice to start off with (that would be Naughty Marietta or Rose Marie), this is still a lot of fun for fans of MacDonald and Eddy or 30s musicals.

The rain still hadn't stopped by 11:30. There was no two ways around it. I really had DVDs to return. I rode to the Haddon Township Library and got very wet. Despite the weather, the library wasn't that busy when I arrived. It must have been earlier. There was a huge stack of DVDs to return. The kids' section needed to be organized, too, especially the overflowing S - Z rack. I was delighted to find a new set for the 2009 version of Strawberry Shortcake, as well as the first collection of episodes for last year's Care Bears reboot, Welcome to Care-A-Lot. Also took out the movies ParaNorman and Snow White and the Huntsman, and I found a disc of Rick Steves episodes that toured Ireland and Scotland in honor of St. Patrick's Day.

The rain was still coming down as I headed to the Westmont Plaza, though not as heavily as it did on my way there. I revised my plan for the day. Stopped at the Westmont Bagel Shoppe for a quick Pizza Bagel and fries. It was 1:30 when I had lunch; the only other people there were one other woman and The Chew on TV. Stopped at Rite Aid quickly for contact lens solution and Epson bath salts. And of course, the rain was down to sprinkles by the time I finally made it home.

There was a reason I bought those Epson salts. As soon as I got home, I filled my bathtub, dissolved the salts, and laid back for a good, long soak. I don't usually take baths. They take too long for someone who works a lot. Mom said it might help with my aching legs. My only other plans for today was cleaning and baking. I could still bake; I'd do the cleaning tomorrow. 

I stayed in that bathtub for a good hour-and-a-half. It felt wonderful. I read The Sea Hawk, ran my Jazz for a Rainy Afternoon CD, and just enjoyed the quiet time. In this case, Mother does know best. Not only do my legs feel a bit better, but I feel so refreshed. (My left foot is still sore, though. I must have pulled a muscle. Maybe I can find something at work that'll help with that.)

After I finally dragged myself out of the tub, I ran the Care Bears while baking "Curly's Clumsy Tummy Ache Birthday Cake" from The Three Stooges Cookbook. It's pretty much a Devil's Food Cake made with sour cream and pudding between layers. I replaced two of the three eggs with egg whites, the sour cream with plain Greek yogurt, and eliminated the need for the pudding by baking it in a bundt pan. Yum! It's moist and rich, the best cake I've made in months.

Welcome to Care-A-Lot is an attempt to return to some of the original Care Bears Family formula. Tenderheart is once again the Lead Bear; his deep voice suggests that he's also taken Gram's place as the elder parent figure. Wonderheart is Tenderheart's niece and is now the baby of the group. Grumpy and Funshine pretty much retain their resident mechanic and sports-lover status from the previous show. Harmony is a singer; Share is a baker. Cheer is around to loudly cheer on everything. Beastly of Family is back, but he's been redesigned as a fuzzy green critter and is now the head villain with lackeys of his own. He's still not all that bright, though he's been upgraded slightly since the 80s. Returning from Adventures are Bumblyberries and referring to the stomach symbols as "Belly Badges." (I wish they'd kept Oopsy - I kind of miss him.)

Another interesting thing about this series is it does something no other Care Bear show has ever done - acknowledged that sad feelings can be as helpful as happy ones. In "Sad About You," little Joy is not living up to her namesake emotion. She's so upset that her best friend moved away, she vows never to make friends again. While Grumpy explains that sometimes that everyone feels sad, especially after something bad has happened, the others show her that making new friends outweighs the fear of losing them...and you always have your memories. 

It also lets the Care Bears be something besides perfectly sweet. Share gets very upset and competitive when Grumpy's haphazardly concocted cookies seem more popular than her by-the-book goodies in "Jealous Tea." They both learn a lesson in jealousy when Share calls Beastly in to destroy Grumpy's stove...and a kid is blamed. 

Switched to Rick Steves while I improvised a dinner from The Three Stooges' Cookbook. Shemp's Stringy-Haired Spatting became Larry's Curly-Haired Pasta with rotini pasta instead of spaghetti (I don't have a pan big enough for string pasta), and carrots, mushrooms, and onions instead of zucchini (zucchini is out of season). 

Ireland is a beautiful country with a unique and often tragic history, and that's reflected in the first episodes on the Steves disc. I especially loved the fishing villages and seaside towns like Cobh, and the beautiful islands, including the lovely little town of Insmore that looked like something out of The Quiet Man

Oh, and while the rain was for all intents and purposes gone by the time I was in the bath, the clouds hung around until around 6....when the sun finally emerged long enough for a gorgeous red-and-gold sunset. 

Monday, March 11, 2013

The Family That Sings Together...

Started the day with Sparkle. Sparkle (Jordin Sparks) is a young woman in 1968 Detroit whose secret, innermost dream is to become a professional songwriter and a star. Trouble is, she's too shy to sing her own songs. Her older sibling Sister (Carmen Ejogo) is far from shy - she's the sexy bane of their strict, religious mother (Whitney Houston). Mama had been in the music industry, but didn't last and became an alcoholic before finding religion. She wants to keep her daughters away from the path she lead. The second oldest (Tika Sumpter) is fine with this - she really wants to be a doctor, not a singer. Sparkle and Sister, however, are determined to make it. Sparkle falls in with sweet Styx (Derek Luke) who becomes their manager. Sister becomes involved with Satin, a comedian (Mike Epps) who tells racist jokes to white audiences on television. Unfortunately  Satin not only turns abusive, but turns Sister onto drugs, too. Things come to a head when the other two discover what Satin's doing. When Sister sacrifices herself for the good of the others, Sparkle finally decides that it's time to let her own voice shine.

First of all, keep in mind that I've never seen the 1976 film this is based on, so I can't make comparisons there. It's a crying shame Houston didn't live to see this released late last summer. There's some really fabulous performances here, including Houston as the strong-willed matriarch, Epps as the comedian who gives up dignity for fame and fortune, and Ejogo as the doomed Sister. Sparks and Luke do less well - you'd never believe they were two crazy kids hoping to make it in the late 60s music business.

What I like here is the intimacy. Unlike Dreamgirls, this is really just the story of one family of strong women and how they cope with a tough industry and changing times. Houston has a grand time raising the roof with one of the two big numbers (the other is Sparks' finale).

It does have some harrowing scenes of domestic abuse that were hard for me to watch, and may be difficult for other people who have witnessed abuse to handle, too. The other big problem is the music. Other than Houston's rousing church number, it's just...blahh, and often feels more like late 90s-early 2000's Destiny's Child than 60s-early 70s Motown. Sparkle may be determined, but her music is flat.

Otherwise, I very much enjoyed this. The drug use and abuse sequences definitely make this for teens and adults, but if you're a fan of Houston, Sparks, Dreamgirls, or the original film, you may want to give this one a try.

It was past 1:30 when I finally made it to the laundromat. It was busy and noisy with people chatting over talk shows. I just barely got a washing machine! Thankfully, it had cleared out considerably by the time I needed a drier and was almost empty when I left.

I quickly put the laundry away and made leftover Bean Vegetable Soup for lunch while watching a second-season Sailor Moon episode that also involved performance. Raye turns her organizing her school's spring fair and talent show into a way to show off her own singing and songwriting talents. When a monster disrupts the show, Raye learns that it takes teamwork to really make a star shine.

Work was pretty much the same as yesterday - busy up until around 8, on-and-off steady thereafter. There were no major problems (other than I'm still really sore). In fact, I got a hug from a very sweet little girl after I gave her a sticker.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Golden Days and Fair Ladies

Daylight Savings really messed with my head. I didn't get up until past 11! Brunch With the Beatles was half-way through highlighting songs the Beatles released in the spring. Among the ones I caught while I was writing in my journal were "The Ballad of John and Yoko" and "The Long and Winding Road."

I tried calling Mom after my breakfast of Applesauce Pancakes with strawberry-orange sauce. Got Dad; they had Skylar and were busy. I finally did get to chat with her later. Not much going on in her neck of the woods, other than she's been dealing with my sister and her kids a lot. I'm just plain tired. My legs are killing me. My knees are sore. I don't mind the extra hours...but I'm not used to them. It's a literal pain to be standing up for as much as 8 hours a day.

Spent the rest of the afternoon making the bed, vacuuming, and running more musical CDs and LPs that were seen in Hollywood and on the stage. I listened to the original Broadway cast of Annie a while back; gave the soundtrack a go today. I've always considered the big-screen version of Annie to be underrated. While some of it is nostalgia (this was one of the first live-action movies I saw in theaters), there's still a lot to like. A great cast that includes Albert Finney as Daddy Warbucks, dancer Ann Reniking as Grace Farrell, Carol Burnett as Miss Hannigan, and Tim Curry and Bernadette Peters as her shady brother and his girlfriend have a blast with some nice numbers. I'm especially partial to Peters, Curry, and Burnett rocking "Easy Street," the orphans' version of "You're Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile," and Reniking's "We've Got Annie" with Warbucks' staff.

Annie wasn't the only musical movie that had a hard time living up to its fabled source material. My Fair Lady is still one of Mom's favorite movies. The girls and I loved it just as much as kids. I'm not as crazy about the film today. As good as Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison are, they're surrounded by a stagy, lumbering production. I've come to prefer the original 1956 cast, with Harrison and a sparkling Julie Andrews as Eliza. Beauty and the Beast reversed the problem; this time, a stage production had to live up to a wildly popular film. While I still like the movie better, there's some good music here, too, including a brooding ballad to define the Beast, "If I Can't Love Her."

Operettas weren't immune to transfer difficulties. The Student Prince was a smash hit on Broadway in 1924 and had done well as a silent with Ramon Novarro in the title role. The 1954 film was originally supposed to feature Mario Lanza, but Lanza's ongoing problems lead MGM to replace him with Edmund Purdom and use Lanza's vocals.

I just got out for work on time. Good thing I did. Work was really busy right  up through when I left. I'm guessing a lot of people took advantage of this weekend's gorgeous weather to have birthday parties and impromptu barbecues.

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Spring Cleaning

I began an absolutely gorgeous, sunny day with this week's American Top 40 re-run. Disco was all over mid-March 1978, as the Bee Gees and the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack continued their domination of the charts. They had six of the top hits that week, including "Stayin' Alive," "How Deep Is Your Love," and "Night Fever." That week's #1 song was the first of two smashes from solo Bee Bee Andy Gibb, "Love Is Thicker Than Water." Hits from other acts included "I Still Go Crazy" by Paul Davis, "Happy Anniversary Baby" by The Little River Band, "Lay Down Sally" by Eric Clapton, "Just the Way You Are" by Billy Joel, "Dance, Dance, Dance" by Chic, "Can't Smile Without You" by Barry Manilow, "The Name of the Game" by ABBA, and "Thunder Island" by Jay Ferguson.

Went into spring cleaning after the show was over. I did some things in the back room, then scrubbed the bathroom. Surprisingly, the bathroom was not that bad. I was mainly cleaning the shower and sink. The kitchen took a while longer, especially around the counter and stove.

Ran a couple of Easter specials while I got the kitchen done. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles did a real oddity late in the original 80s series. When Shredder turns all humans in New York into timid creatures, the Turtles split up to find a crystal hidden in a fairy tale dimension. They first encounter a giant...then tangle with a rabbit who thinks they want to race with him. The rabbit turns out to be instrumental in stopping pink alien brain Krang from using sonic waves to turn the entire world timid!

Yogi the Easter Bear made at least a little more sense. Yogi eats all the candy intended for Jellystone Park's big Easter Jamboree. The Ranger is furious! The Jamboree is a big deal. Not only will local kids be disappointed, but the head Commissioner is bringing his grandchildren, and he's a tough customer. Yogi and Boo Boo find themselves rescuing the Easter Bunny and Mildred the Easter Chicken from a strange pair of villains who are obsessed with giving the world plastic eggs in place of the Easter Bunny's real ones.

It was such a nice day, I went for a walk after I finished the kitchen. Given the long week I had, I figured I deserved a treat. I certainly got one from Mother Nature. It was about as perfect a day in early spring as one could wish for. The sky was a soft blue, without a hint of clouds. The sun was bright and gold in the sky. It was the nicest it's been here since probably October, up to at least the mid-50s. I strolled past garden with green stems shooting through the soil and kids playing outside. Saw the first yellow crocus of the season in a yard across from the Oaklyn Library.

I ended up with a tasty Lucky Mint Coolatta - probably Duncan Donuts' equivalent of McDonald's famous Shamrock Shake. I waited in a fairly long line for it, and it was worth it. Like most Coolattas, it was too sweet, but it had a nice vanilla-mint flavor that was refreshing.

Put on one more Easter special while eating the last of the Tuna Casserole for lunch. The First Easter Rabbit was the last spring special Rankin-Bass did, and the only one in regular 2-D animation. It's pretty much Frosty the Snowman crossed with The Velveteen Rabbit. A stuffed bunny named Stuffy who was beloved by a sick little girl is turned into a real rabbit by a fairy who says he's to be the representative of spring. With the help of Santa Claus, he brings Easter to his favorite girl and her mother and dodges grouchy Zero, who wants all of April Valley to be as cold as the North Pole.

My sisters and I adored this as children and would repeatedly ask to watch "Stuffy" over and over again, even at other times of the year besides Easter. Nowadays, I'm wondering why. It's charming, but not up to even the other two Rankin-Bass spring tales. The story shows its twice-told origins plainly...and it would be nice if the hero and the villain could have met more than once in the last few minutes.

Headed to work after First Easter Rabbit ended. Work was, despite the glorious weather, very busy all night. Many people were taking advantage of some really big sales this weekend. Others were stocking up for birthday parties or impromptu outdoor dinners. It was so busy (and I'd had such a long week), I was dead tired and hurting by the time I finally finished. Thank heavens it had slowed down enough by then that I was able to leave with no relief.

Friday, March 08, 2013

Twice-Told Mythology

Much to my surprise, it was snowing - and snowing hard - when I got up this morning. I actually rolled out of bed a bit early in order to go grocery shopping, but there was no way I was going out in that weather. I ran Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief while I waited out the storm.

This is yet another attempt at creating a fantasy franchise,  here based after a series of books. Percy, a New York high-schooler, can't seem to catch a break. He's dyslexic and has ADHD. He lives with his beloved mother and abusive, obnoxious stepfather. He's not doing well in school. The only times he's happy is when he's in the water, where he's a champion swimmer, and with his crippled best friend Grover.

Percy's life changes during a school field trip to a museum. He's attacked by a monster who insists he's the "Lightning Thief." Percy has no idea what it's talking about...but after the creature is defeated, he discovers that he's the son of the Greek god Poseidon and a human woman. Grover is a satyr (goat-human hybrid) who has been assigned to protect him. The museum guide is a centaur who is in charge of a camp for the human children of gods. Grover takes Percy there...but Percy's mother is abducted as they arrive. Percy, Grover, and Annabeth, the daughter of Athena, go on a road trip across the US to find the three pearls that will lead them to Hades to rescue Percy's mother, and then to Olympus to reveal the true identity of the thief to Zeus.

I heard this didn't do that well, despite it getting a sequel later this year. As with John Carter, I don't understand why. This was a fun fantasy tale with an interesting and creative premise. It also brought O Brother, Where Art Thou? to mind, with it's road trip and Greek mythology updating. This time, the trials of Perseus are seen through the lens of modern teen culture, complete with references to the current recession and High School Musical. Nice cast, too - Pierce Bronsonan is the centaur who acts as a mentor for the kid gods, while Sean Bean is Zeus himself.

I will add that a beheading, mild blood, and some fairly heavy fantasy violence makes this more for older kids and teenagers, despite the PG rating. For kids who liked the somewhat similar Harry Potter and aren't up to the darker Hunger Games, or for adult fans of Greek mythology, this is very much worth a look.

Finally made it to the grocery store around noon. It was still snowing rather heavily...but much to my surprise, the snow was melting even as big flakes floated to the ground around me. There was some snow on the grass, but the roads were just wet.

I was delighted to discover that I had no paycheck waiting for me at work. My direct deposit finally went through! No more waiting in line at the front desk every week to cash my check, or having to go to the bank to deposit it. I could go right into shopping. I didn't really need a whole lot. I mostly need fruits and vegetables - apples, blood oranges, bananas, mushrooms, bagged spinach and arugula on sale. I needed to restock navy beans, parchment paper, peanut butter, cooking spray, and tuna. I found bags of Ricola and Halls cough drops for 59 cents on the clearance shelves - bought two Ricola and one Halls. The Acme is having a big weekend sale, but the only items I needed were two sticks of Secret Deodorant for $1.88 each.

By the time I rode home, the snow was changing to rain...and the snow on the ground was becoming slush or disappearing all together. I spent the next hour putting everything away, making salmon with spinach and mushrooms for lunch, and watching a Bowery Boys movie, the last with original member Bobby Jordan, Bowery Buckaroos.

The rain was letting up a bit as I rode to work. This wasn't reflected at the Acme. It was busy when I was there shopping, and it was busy for the first half of my shift. It did die later in the night, enough that I was able to shut down quickly with no relief.

I emerged to nothing but wet. The snow was completely gone. It wasn't even raining anymore. The dry streets indicated that it hadn't rained in a while. It was too warm, even at night, for the snow to stick around.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Balance at Work

Since I had a long, relatively early day at work, I decided to just do yoga at home today. I used the DDP Yoga "Fat Burner" disc, which emphasized the stomach and rear muscles and continuous movement. Not bad. I probably needed to push a little harder to really break a sweat, since it was only a 25-minute DVD, but not only were my knees not up to it, I wanted to save some energy for later.

As it turned out, the worst of the winter storm missed us completely. By the time I was heading for work, it was sunny and windy, but dry. The ground was barely even wet. There certainly wasn't any snow. I've heard rumors of possible snow for tonight...but the weekend and most of next week is supposed to be in the 50s and nice as can be. If we get any snow tonight at all, it'll probably be gone by the time I go grocery shopping.

Today was one of my two 7-hour days. It was surprisingly busy for a Thursday. Today is the last day of our sales. I guess everyone wanted to grab some things while they still have beginning-of-the-month money. My day went very quickly, especially for such a long shift. Thankfully, it had quieted down enough that I was able to sign out with no relief besides a cashier who was late returning from break.