Tuesday, April 30, 2013

When the Sun Comes Out

It was still cloudy out this morning when I got up, but even as I headed out the door, the clouds were starting to break apart. By the time I arrived in Westmont, the sky was blue, the breeze was soft, and the temperature was climbing. My first stop was Dollar Tree. I mainly needed sponges and more orange marmalade. Bought a "welcome home" card for Rose and her family, too.

Next up was the Haddon Township Library. Not a whole lot going on there. The kids' DVDs are still overflowing, to the point where I didn't bother putting away the ones that came in after I did. Only had slightly more luck with adult titles. They really, really need to start weeding out their DVD collection. Either that, or they're going to have to buy more shelves or reorganize them. I did shelve some children's books, and I took out a few non-fiction titles. The library has the newest Garfield comic book, Garfield In a Pickle (literally on the cover) in. I also found the latest book by Sarah Ban Breathnach, the author of Simple Abundance, this one on money and thriftiness titled Peace and Plenty. There was a new job book called The 9-5 Cure that looked interesting.

I went down the hill to Crystal Lake Diner for lunch after I finished signing out the books. Despite it being lunch time, only the counter was really busy. I easily got a seat. Ordered a "Caribbean Shrimp Salad," which turned out to be a few small, bland shrimps on a bed of mango, carrots, and mixed salad greens. It wasn't nearly as good as the salads I've had the last few weeks were. From now on, I order sandwiches or meals at diners.

Doubled back to the library quickly to use their public bathroom (the women's bathroom at the diner was being remodeled), then rode out to Haddonfield. Got there just in time for counseling. I explained about my busy couple of weeks, the disappointing trip to Deptford, and Rose and her family finally buying that house. While I'm thrilled with that, I'm still frustrated about being chained to the Acme. What else can I do? I don't want to take any more online college classes for a while after the last ones I did wasted my time and money. I just can't figure out what else I can do.

So many of my ideas haven't worked out. I tried Weight Watchers to lose pounds. It worked...for most of 2008 and into 2009. By 2010, I'd dropped it. I got bored with figuring out the numbers and having to put them on their site every night. I tried Lucile Roberts. Dropped that when I couldn't afford it and got tired of having to do the whole "change into gym clothes/go to gym and use machines" routine. My job ideas keep going the same route. Barnes & Noble and Borders kept putting me off. The Library job I signed for last fall wanted more experience. I never heard from Staples. And if the writing market is overcrowded...what else is there for me? I feel like I've done nothing for a decade.

She said pretty much the same thing - try to stay positive. It's just so hard, especially at work, when I'm being fussed at by all sides. She also said to read the books I took out today - the two self-help titles might have some ideas. I hope so. I just feel so frustrated.

Made a few fast stops after leaving counseling. I quickly took money out of the ATM machine at the Haddonfield PNC. (And will have to remember to be careful when using their ATM - it's not only somewhat out in the open, but it's on the wall alongside the main building and next to the drive-in deposit stops. I held up a car getting my money.)

I had an easier time at Primo's Water Ice in Westmont. They were busy with a gaggle of pre-teen girls on their way home from school. I squeezed into the line and got a small Black Cherry Cheesecake cup. Not bad at all. The cheesecake pieces weren't all that big...but the cherries were huge, and the water ice itself was refreshing. I ate outside, letting the girls chatter indoors, then rode home via a busy, bustling Newton River Park.

When I got in, I went right into the bath. It was much-needed. I read Peace and Plenty while my Wynton Marsalis Joe Cool's Blues CD played brassily in the background. While I've never been in debt nearly to the extent that Ms. Breathnach was, I've never had much money, either.

After I got out of the shower, I put on the animated Wonder Woman while I made tilapia and asparagus in orange sauce for dinner, and then baked chocolate chip oatmeal bar cookies. One of the long series of direct-to-DVD animated films Warners made for DC characters puts their most famous superheroine front and center for the first (and to date, only) time as she travels from her native all-woman island home to bring cocky pilot Steve Trevor back to New York and retrieve Ares, the God of War who wants to rule all of humanity.

I haven't seen any of the other DC animated movies, so I can't tell you how it compares to the others, or how it fits with Wonder Woman's regular "canon." I do know this is pretty well-made for a direct-to-DVD animated film. There's a lot of violence, including two decapitations, so this is really more for Wonder Woman's older fans. If you love the character or other DC projects, you'll probably enjoy this one.

Monday, April 29, 2013

A Little Fall of Rain

It was damp and gloomy and showering when I got up this morning, and it continued to shower off and on all day. I slept in, then watched cartoons while having cereal for breakfast. After that, I did some things on the computer, mainly paying bills and going through old stories.

It was nearly 1:30 when I arrived at the laundromat. The rain still hadn't subsided, nor did it look like it would anytime soon. It was humid and warmer than I thought it would be, probably in the lower 60s. The weather must have scared everyone off. The laundromat was quiet all afternoon except for Steve Harvey's new show and one other guy who kept asking me to watch his clothes. Thankfully, I had a small load that didn't require much drying time. I was home within an hour.

Finished out the Disney shorts while I folded my laundry and made a quick lunch, then switched to some Wonder Woman. In the first episode of the third season, Diana Prince searches for a kidnapped rock star right before his big concert. In the second, she and Steve go after a Rolls Royce with a government secret in the hood ornament.

The Disney shorts had their own fun with traveling and adventure. Goofy, Donald, and Mickey are on the open road in "Mickey's Trailer." It's all smooth riding until Goofy accidentally kicks the trailer's hook off and Donald and Mickey and up taking a wild ride downhill. Goofy has his own problems when he takes a "Two Week Vacation" that turns into a disaster, and when he leaves his job to move to a tropical paradise in "Hello Aloha."

It was still showering when I headed to work, and it continued all night. We were busy during rush hour despite the weather; it is the beginning of the month. Things slowed down after rush hour ended, and it was pin-drop quiet by the time I left around 9:30. It was raining when I came home; I think it's supposed to continue through tomorrow morning at press time.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

You Say You Want a French Revolution

It was cloudy and a bit cooler when I awoke this morning. I spent a cozy hour reading The Philadelphia Adventure and writing in my journal. It was past 11 when I finally started Mixed Fruit Pancakes for breakfast to use up the canned mixed fruit from the other night.

Ran Brunch With the Beatles while I had my pancakes and clementines. The final US-only Capitol album, Hey Jude, was in the spotlight today. It was mainly a way to collect songs that had only been released as singles at that point onto one record, including "Revolution," "Old Brown Shoe," "The Ballad of John and Yoko," "Paperback Writer," and the title song. I tried to call Mom at this point too, but she wasn't there. I figured I'd try again later.

Spent the rest of the afternoon watching Les Miserables. The only thing this sprawling, intensely emotional film has in common with 2012's other movie musical, Rock of Ages, is an all-star cast that knows how to handle the material and a genesis in the 80s (Les Miserables came out in 1986; Rock of Ages is set in 1987 and uses music from the 80s and early 90s). The story follows the travails of Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman), who was sent to jail for stealing bread in early 1800s France. He escapes parole and buys a factory, where he encounters Fantine (Anne Hathaway), a fired worker who is selling everything she can, including herself, to earn money for her daughter Cosette (Isabelle Allen as a child; Amanda Seyfreid as a young adult). Valjean rescues her from the greedy Thenadiers (Sascha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter), then raises her as his own daughter. Now grown, Cosette falls for Marius (Eddie Redmayne), but he's involved with a student uprising in Paris and may not live to court her. Meanwhile, Valjean is still being hunted by Javert (Russell Crowe), a determined police man.

Wow. This was the most incredible musical I've seen in years. No wonder Hathaway and Jackson were both Oscar-nominated, and Hathaway won - they were amazing. "I Dreamed a Dream" is a killer moment. The rest of the cast is uniformly excellent as well, especially Crowe as justice-obsessed Javert and Redmayne as love-struck Marius. The director Tom Hooper also did the wonderful The King's Speech, interestingly another historical story in which sound, music, and speech play a major role. He insisted that the vocals be recorded live on-set, instead of in the studio. While the practice hasn't been used often since the early talkies, it helps to give a feeling of intimacy and immediacy to a sweeping story.

This show does have its detractors. While most people label it as a musical, it's really a full-blown opera, with very little speaking or dance. This isn't music breaking into the story; the music TELLS the story. If you can't handle that or don't do musicals in general, this is absolutely not for you. It's also not for people looking for a more typically light-hearted, glamorous romp. This movie is grungy and, for all of the singing, a fairly realistic representation of its time period. They didn't win a makeup and hair design award at the Oscars for making everyone look pretty.

If you're a fan of the show, you've probably already seen this. If you haven't, or are a fan of any of the stars or like your musicals meatier and more dramatic, this is an absolute must-see.

I ran a few Disney shorts before heading off to work. Work was very busy early on; they actually did ask me to stay later, but then said I could leave at the original time. It was just as well. Two of the new teenage bagger/cashiers came in around the same time the crowds started slowing down. By the time I left at 7, we didn't really need the extra help anyway.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Perfect Spring

The weather continued to be utterly amazing. Sunshine poured through my window as I switched on this week's American Top 40 and finished out The Jedera Adventure. Late April 1985 brought in pop, power ballads, dance tunes, and charity albums to the fore, with hits like "Rhythm of the Night" by Debarge, "One More Night" by Phil Collins, "Night Shift" by a Lionel Richie-less Commodores, "One Night In Bangkok" by Murray Head (from the smash London musical Chess), "Some Like It Hot" by Power Station, "(Don't You) Forget About Me" by Simple Minds, and "Smooth Operator" by Sade. The #1 song that spring was one I remember well. "We are the World" was made by some of the most famous musicians in the business for a good cause, in this case providing food and medical aid for starving citizens of Africa. It ran constantly on the radio that spring, and I remember seeing the video on MTV.

I finished breakfast and got organized for an hour while watching Popeye cartoons, then headed out to run errands. My first stop was the Logan Presbyterian Church's thrift shop, which was open today. I wanted to bring one last small bag of donations, including that mini sewing machine I could never really get to work. Someone else might have more luck with it. I don't really have the room for huge sewing projects, anyway. For now, I'm better off with crafts that require less equipment and space, like crocheting. It was far quieter there than usual. I didn't see anything I really needed and headed out quickly.

My next stop was the Acme for this week's grocery shopping trip. I didn't need much there, either. I was mainly restocking fruits and vegetables, including asparagus, strawberries on sale, and those sweet little clementines. Found ground turkey with a manager's coupon; I'll make spaghetti and meatballs or meatloaf later in the week. Stocked up on canned fruit, including mixed fruit and peaches.

Also picked up my schedule while I was at the Acme. Pretty par for the course for late April-early May. There's one slightly long day and a few too many late days, but other than that, I have two days off (Tuesday a request for counseling), and nothing major to complain about.

When I got home, I put everything away, then went right back out. The sun was shining. The breeze was blowing gently through the brand-new, lime-green leaves. The gardens were bursting with irises, lilacs, tulips, and pansies. People were trying to start lawn mowers in order to shear grass that had shot to Amazonian proportions in some places, thanks to all the rain we've had lately.

It was a lovely day to run errands. I made a short stop at the Oaklyn Library first. Mainly concentrated on organizing a messy kids' DVD section and the board books. I actually took DVDs out from there. They have last year's musical version of Les Miserables (which the Haddon Township Library hasn't gotten in yet). I also grabbed two cartoon sets, a collection of Disney action-themed shorts and two two-part episodes from the superhero-based cartoon Justice League.

My next two stops were short. I treated myself to a frozen chai latte from WaWa, as the Icee machine was being repaired. It was nicely spicy, but way too sweet for my taste. I didn't finish the whole thing before I went across the street to Family Dollar. I wanted to find a beach chair to lounge in on my porch. All they had were those "camp chairs" with the polyester bottoms. I don't think they'd be sturdy enough to hold me, not to mention not all that comfortable for reading. I went home empty-handed.

I had leftovers for lunch while finishing out the Popeye cartoons, then spent a blissful hour reading Simple Abundance on a felt blanket on my porch. It was a little uncomfortable on the thin blanket, but I couldn't find anything else that would work. It felt absolutely amazing. The sun was warm, but not too hot, and the breeze kept me from feeling sweaty. Since I was out there, I also swept the porch, which needed it badly, thanks to all the recent storms.

Went back inside when it felt like the back of my legs were getting burnt. I crocheted and baked an Orange Butter Cake (a variation on the Simple Cake from Clara's Kitchen, with the additions of orange juice, marmalade, and orange extract) while watching the Justice League DVD. What a difference two decades makes! This had almost nothing in common with the slightly goofy cartoon of my childhood. In the first two-parter, the current Green Lantern finds himself in a galactic trial for destroying a planet with billions of people. The Flash distracts the courtroom, while the others find out what really happened to the planet. Aquaman debuted in the second story, which had most of the League helping him rescue Atlantis and his family from his battle-crazed brother. I saw a little of this show during my years in Wildwood when I'd visit my folks, but never a full episode until now. Very interesting; I may have to seek out more, including the Superman show most of the same team did before this one.

Switched to dubbing the original The Land Before Time after the League ended. Little Foot is a baby brontosaurus who has been separated from his grandparents by an earthquake and lost his beloved mother to a "sharp tooth" (tyrannosaurus rex). He's joined by four other dinosaurs who were separated by the quake as well to lead them to the lush Great Valley, where there will finally be enough food for all.

If you have grade-school age and older kids who love dinosaurs, they should see this at least once. It was a huge hit in the late 80s for a good reason. The characters are well-drawn and the animation is incredibly lush, drawing you into this primeval world. This isn't for younger dino-lovers, though. The death of Little Foot's mother is every bit as traumatic as the death of Bambi's, especially as it comes after a huge confrontation between her and the T-Rex. My sisters and I cried over that scene when we first saw it; even my big macho stepfather wept openly.

This is a touching tale for kids who can handle the death and separation, and one of Don Bluth's best movies. If your children are younger, you may want to try them on one of the numerous sequels first.

Moved to something entirely less traumatic as I made Beans and Rice with carrots and corn for dinner. Daffy Duck's Quackbusters is the last of the 70s and 80s Looney Tunes movies based around bits and pieces of older shorts. Here, however, we have two entire new shorts woven in along with the original material and far more plot than usual. After peddling gag items to no avail, Daffy finally earns his fortune by making a famously grumpy financier laugh. When his provider kicks the bucket, Daffy gets the dough...provided he can start an honest business. If Daffy doesn't stay honest in his dealings, the financier's ghost proves that he can take his earthy goods with him. Determined to get rid of the ghost, Daffy hires Porky and Bugs to help him ferret out all manner of paranormal parasites, from a monstrous Tweety to a female duck who has been possessed by spirits.

Along with The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Movie, this is probably my favorite of the Looney Tunes "movies." For one thing, the mix of new and old animation is far more seamless than it is in earlier entries. Having an actual plot helps, too. Daffy's "commercials" sprinkled throughout most of the movie are especially funny. It's still no substitution for the real shorts (and I think most of these are on DVD), but if you're a fan of the Looney Tunes, Daffy, horror comedy, or the previous Tunes films, there's a lot to like.

(The copy of Land Before Time that I found at a yard sale last week was apparently taped off the Disney Channel, probably sometime in the early 90s, from the look of the logos. Since the movie is barely more than an hour, it came with two extra Disney shorts, the Goofy hunting tale "Tiger Trouble" and a favorite of mine, the sweet one-shot from the 50s "Lambert the Sheepish Lion.")

Friday, April 26, 2013

The Road to Deptford

It was an absolutely gorgeous day today, sunny, breezy, and in the mid-60s. Couldn't have been nicer weather for late April and for my first road trip in ages. I first stopped in at Dad's to say "hi" and see how he was coming with the pool. The empty dirt plots have now been filled in with grass; Dad will add more flowers and plants as the weeks go on.

Rode up to Barrington after leaving Dad's. I was just in time to pick up the bus to Deptford. I've been wanting to make a trip to Target and the Deptford Mall for weeks now, but I've been constantly interrupted or have had other things to do. The major item I needed at Target was underthings. I picked up some groceries that were cheaper there than at Acme or that the Acme doesn't carry, including Smuckers' Natural Chunky Peanut Butter (the Acme only has Creamy, and it's more expensive), cooking spray, batteries, and a limited-edition Pillsbury Pink Lemonade Cake Mix. (They also had cookie mix.) Found Daffy Duck's Quackbusters, one of the few Looney Tunes movies I don't own and have never seen, for $5.

I didn't have nearly as much luck at Deptford. I did finally buy Belle, the last Animator's Collection Toddler doll I wanted, from the Disney Store, and bought two pairs of cotton Gold Toe socks from Boscov's (they seem to be the only ones who carry the good cotton ones). I couldn't find anything else I wanted. No one seemed to have good plus-sized sportswear on sale, and Boscov's had no women's sportswear at all in my size. They don't have a Lane Bryant, either (I swear they did a while back; maybe I was thinking of Cherry Hill), nor any book or media stores.

(And...sigh. From now on, I hit Cherry Hill on the rare occasion I need a mall trip. It's not as pedestrian-friendly, but it's easier to catch a bus there, and it has far more stores and more useful stores. I'll only go up to Deptford when I need to use the Target.)

I picked up the 3:18 bus at the mall. Finally got in an hour later, making a quick stop at WaWa for a drink on the way. When I got home, I put everything away, then went straight in the bath. I needed a bath badly. I haven't had the time to take one all week. Today was my first day off since LAST TUESDAY. I ran my Bing Crosby: The Essential Collection CD and read Simple Abundance for a blissful hour under soap bubbles.

Listening to that CD put me in the mood for the Road To... series; I opted for Road to Morocco. Bing and Bob are shipwrecked and wash ashore in North Africa. Desperate for money, Bing sells Bob into slavery...but Bob protests a lot less when his buyer turns out to be the local Princess (Dorothy Lamour). She's dropped her original intended, a wily desert sheik (Anthony Quinn), to marry Hope thanks to a prophecy. When the prophacy isn't exactly what the boys think, they find themselves on the run from the chief and his men and having to rescue Lamour and her handmaiden.

Road to Morocco is my favorite of the Road movies, and possibly the most famous of the series. In fact, if you want to get an idea of what this series is about, this is an excellent starting point. If nothing else, it has some of the series' best music, including the hit ballad "Moonlight Becomes You."

Oh, and I love my new Belle. She's such a sweetie. She has the nicest hair of any of my Animator's Collection dolls, long, soft, and brushable. She's the only one who doesn't have curls, and subsequently will probably have the most done to her hair.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Balance On the High Seas

I just made it to yoga today. Slid into a fairly large class, including at least one child. We all mainly worked on strengthening our core (stomach) muscles. I did what I could. I really didn't feel like trying to force things, like I did last week. I did a little better, though I'm still not all that fast.

Made a few quick stops afterwards. I didn't find what I was looking for at Rite Aid, but I did pick up Entertainment Weekly's Summer Movie Preview. I've stayed away from those for the last few years, but they had the new Superman movie on the front cover. I so want to see that. There's supposed to be another Wolverine movie out later in the summer as well.

When I finally got in, I made a spinach-asparagus omelet for lunch and baked brownies while watching Romance On the High Seas. Doris Day made a smashing debut as singer Georgia Garrett, who desperately wants to go on a vacation despite being broke. Enter Elvira Pratt (Janis Page), who has tickets for a cruise but is willing to forgo it to keep an eye on her flirtatious husband (Don DeFore) and his secretary. She'll turn the tickets over to Georgia...provided she travel under Elvira's name and stay away from men to protect her reputation. Meanwhile, Elvira's husband has his own suspicions and hires a detective (Jack Carson) to follow his wife onboard. Carson falls head-over-heels with what he thinks is his boss' lady. Georgia would love to fall for him, if she didn't have someone else's name. Meanwhile, Georgia's guy friend (Oscar Levant) meets the cruise at Cuba in the hopes of wooing her, too.

If you love Doris Day, especially her early musicals, you'll probably enjoy this. The farcical plot is nonsense, and really kind of annoying. DeFore and Paige have so little chemistry, you wonder why their characters got married in the first place. Carson and Day have far more fun as the pair stuck in the middle, and even Oscar Levant is shown a little more sympathetically than usual. Day is surprisingly laid-back, especially given her later, sweeter reputation; some of her lines are a bit spicier than you'd expect for her, and it's refreshing.

The music is by far the main reason to catch this, besides a luminous Day. The score was a hit in it's own right, and no wonder. In addition to the blockbuster "It's Magic," we also have Day's frustrated "Put 'Em In a Box" when her relationships are driving her crazy, Carson's "Run, Run, Run" in Rio, and "The Tourist Trade" for a specialty performer.

Mainly for fans of Day. Musical lovers might want to check this out on TCM before they add it to their collection.

Work was quiet when I got in, and never got more than mildly busy during rush  hour. No wonder. It was gorgeous today, sunny and in the lower 60s, and is supposed to stay nice all weekend. I was in and out.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Salad Days

It was a gorgeous day when I got up this morning. The sun shown through my bedroom window, the sky was a rich blue, and it while it was still pretty chilly at that point, it was warmer than it has been. I finished off The Desert Song as I ate breakfast. I dubbed the 1953 film version of the 1925 operetta a couple of years ago. Professor Paul Bedard (Gordon MacRae) moonlights as El Khobar, the desert chieftan who leads the Riffs to victory in the Sudan and helps the natives against a scheming sultan. Bedard wants the French to listen to his views on helping the natives, but they just think he's a quiet little teacher...until the spirited Margot (Kathryn Grayson) appears from Paris. He becomes her tutor. She thinks he's a bore, but he falls for her. Can he make her see the appeal of the desert...and what the French and the sultan are doing to its people?

Fun stuff if you can find it. MacRae is much too stiff as the passionate desert leader, but Grayson is having a ball as Margot. Alas, neither this nor the 1929 and 1943 versions are available on DVD at this writing, though I believe a TV version with Nelson Eddy is. Keep an eye on TCM if you're a fan of MacRae, Grayson, or old-fashioned operetta adventure.

Headed out as soon as the movie was over. By the time I was in Newton River Park, it was far more spring-like, in the upper 60s-lower 70s, than it has been. I dodged just about half of Haddon Township this morning, and I can't blame them for being out and about. The park is gorgeous; the trees are all in flower, the riverbank is lined with yellow starbursts, and the grass is a vibrant shade of lime green.

The Haddon Township Library was much quieter when I got in, especially as this week's Storybook Hour had been canceled for some reason. I almost wish it hadn't. The children's DVD racks were overloaded again. No amount of organizing could fit everything in where it belonged. I had to leave some of it on the return cart. Just barely squeezed some of the adult titles in, too. There was nothing else to do there, so I moved on. Didn't take anything out again this week; I have plenty to read and watch at home.

I wanted a real lunch, not just a sandwich or pizza. I ended up at Friendly's. It was about noon by that point, and they were fairly busy. I still managed to get a booth up front. Since I enjoyed my Pear Spinach Salad so much last week, I ordered a salad this week, too. This time, I went with the Asian Chicken Salad. It wasn't quite as good as that Pear Salad last week, but it wasn't bad, either. The chicken was a bit spicy, and so hot off the grill, I had to let it cool down for a few moments. The additions here were almonds, wonton strips, and sweet mandarin oranges. It made for a very tasty meal; once again, I ate almost the entire plate.

Went straight home after lunch. I didn't have the time for any running around this week. I looked up dentists online when I got in. I haven't been to a dentist in a while, and my teeth have been acting up. I finished that with just enough time to get my things together, change into my work shirt, and hurry out to the Acme.

Probably due to the nice weather, work was pretty much the same as it was yesterday - quiet when I came in, quiet when I left, steady only during rush hour. There were no major problems, and I was in and out.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Animated Adventures From Around the World

I spent most of the morning dubbing some of the movies I picked up this weekend and over the last few months. Started with the one I knew the least about, The Snow Queen. TV and radio personality Art Linkletter introduces the US dubbed version of this Russian animated fairy tale. Unlike the Disney movie Frozen that's set to be released in November, Snow Queen more-or-less follows the same plot of the original story. The only really major change is here, it's the Snow Queen herself who causes the glass to get in Kay's eye after he claims he's not afraid of her, rather than some random goblin. Sandra Dee is the voice of the determined Gerda; Tommy Kirk is Kay.

I have no idea if this is available anywhere besides videos from the 80s at press time. If you run into it on video or on cable, it's not that bad. In fact, it kind of plays like a Disney film from the 90s with more limited animation. I especially loved Jan, the feisty kid thief who at first wants to keep Gerda with her "pets," then finally agrees to help her.

Watership Down takes us from Russia to England for a very different, and far more realistic, animated tale. A group of rabbits flee their warren after one of them has a vision of their extermination. Their journey to find a new home is fraught with danger, including attacks from predators and the discovery of a warren that hides a deadly secret. Even after they find the perfect place for them, they realize that they need females to populate their new land...and their attempt at bringing some from a near-by group pits them against the nasty General Woundwart, who runs his warren like a totalitarian state.

I was surprised and very impressed at how true to the original, equally realistic novel this 1978 production is. (The original author having a lot of control over it probably helped.) In fact, for many audience members, it's a little too realistic. A healthy helping of blood, lots of adult themes, and a fair amount of violence (especially towards the end) makes this absolutely NOT for young children, and even some older ones who don't handle blood and death well. For teens and adults who have read the novel, despite the somewhat limited animation typical of the time, this is a thoughtful, well-done adaptation with a fabulous cast (especially Zero Mostel as the helpful seagull) and is recommended.

Worked on things around the apartment while the movies ran. I baked Strawberry Muffins from my breakfast recipes cookbook. I cut the sugar to 1/3 cup from 1/2, cut down the milk, and added orange juice for extra zest and more sweetness. Lovely, not too tart or sweet, flaky and buttery. The honey mustard tilapia I made for lunch came out well, too. I also did some crocheting. I'm currently working on some new dishrags; the ones I'm using now are getting a bit old.

Work was pretty much the same as yesterday - quiet when I went in, quiet when I went out, and only really busy during rush hour. There were no major problems, and I was able to leave with no relief.

Monday, April 22, 2013

It's Not That Easy Going Green

My only major plans for today was getting the laundry done. It was so nice this morning, I dropped the laundry bag in Miss Ellie's old cart and walked to the laundromat instead of taking my bike. It was sunny and still chilly and windy, but slightly warmer than yesterday. The daffodils are just about gone, but the lilacs are almost out. I hope the frost they reported for the last few nights didn't do any major damage. Everything looked fine to me.

Thankfully after last week, the laundromat was empty when I arrived. The TV was on the Philadelphia NBC affiliate's 11:30 news show; they discussed Earth Day, flooding in St. Louis, and the capture of the Boston Marathon bombers. A few people did show up later, but by the time it was starting to get busier, my small load was out of the drier and ready to go.

On my way home, I thought I'd try something. Every yard, park, and patch of grass in South Jersey has at least a few sprouts of spring onions, long grass-like bulbs. When you pull them out, they look like mini pearl onions with scallion ends. I used to bring them home all the time as a child so Mom could use them in cooking. Mom didn't always appreciate it; she'd complain when I'd bring home too many, or that she couldn't figure out what to do with them.

I knew what to do with them. I plucked a bunch from the side path that leads to my apartment, along with some fresh dandelion greens. I washed them thoroughly, then chopped the onion and added it to tuna, light mayo, chopped celery, and dried tarragon. I put the tuna mix on a bed of spinach and dandelion greens for Simple Abundance Tuna Salad (named after the book I got the idea from).

Ran cartoons themed around Earth Day, Arbor Day, and conservation of our natural resources throughout the morning and early afternoon. The Lorax is the little orange man who speaks for the trees, but the greedy Onceler won't listen to him and continues chopping them down and destroying the forest, until both learn a sad lesson in the damage unchecked "progress" can do. The Sailor Soliders learn a similar lesson when evil magic turns the creatures of a threatened local park and the park's caretaker against them in the first season Sailor Moon episode "An Unnatural Phenomenon." The Pink Panther has his paws full trying to keep a camper who ignores his signs from making a mess of Mother Nature in the early 70s short "Keep Our Forests Pink."

Tiny Toon Adventures did several episodes on saving the planet and its creatures; I chose two from the later first season. In "A Whale's Tale," Buster and Babs save a baby whale from a clueless Elmyra and his mother from a female poacher who wants to use her blubber for cosmetics. "Pollution Solution" has Plucky trying to keep Elmyra from tossing her cans into his pond, Buster and Babs stopping a nasty rich executive from destroying the rain forest to build his front lawn, and GoGo the Dodo coming up with a creative way of getting the backwash from Montana Max's factory out of Wackyland.

The Peanuts take conservation of the Earth into their own hands, paws, and wings in It's Arbor Day, Charlie Brown. Sally wants to put what she's learned about Arbor Day and trees in school into action. The gang finds the perfect lot for a garden...Charlie Brown's baseball field! Chuck isn't thrilled with their beautification project, until it looks like it might actually help them win a game.

I went to work not long after the Peanuts and Pink Panther finished. Work was pretty much the same as yesterday - busy when I came in, quiet when I left. The time went quickly, and there were no major problems. I was in and out after picking up cherry tomatoes (on sale for a dollar), eggs (still a dollar - might as well stock up), and buttermilk.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Recipe for a Quiet Day

Though it was sunny when I awoke, it was also rather cold for April in Southern New Jersey, probably in the mid-50s. I snuggled into bed, read the lunacy that is Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, and wrote in my journal before switching on Brunch With the Beatles. "Beatles B-Sides" was the theme today, and we heard a great deal of them. Among the "B sides" of singles were such well-known hits as "I Saw Her Standing There," "Something," "I Am the Walrus," "I Should Have Known Better," and "Strawberry Fields Forever."

My breakfast didn't go as well as the show. I wasn't paying attention and accidentally burned my first Oatmeal Brown Sugar Pancake until it was tough and didn't cook the third enough. Oh well. They still tasted pretty good. I tried to call Mom, but she had my sister Anny and her son Skylar over; I'd call back after work.

Spent the rest of the afternoon doing things around the apartment. I went online to check my bank balance and see my paycheck at PNC.com. I'm going to continue to go easy on shopping. I really do need that laptop, and I don't want to spend myself into an empty account, like I did last year. (It also helps that I believe I've gotten more hours this year than I did in the winter and spring of last year.)

I also took another glance through that huge photo album of recipes. While the recipes themselves seem to largely be in good shape (especially the recent ones taken from the Internet), the album they come in is showing its age. The recipes aren't sticking to the pages any more, and the cellophane is coming off. While the clippings themselves are fairly well-organized, anything copied from a website or magazine was thrown in pell-mell. I do want to keep most of the clippings...but I'm going to find a newer album to put them in and integrate them with my recipe clippings from my own collection.

Since my Reading List is working out so well, I decided to apply the same principal to my massive collection of music. I have almost 400 records, over 270 CDs, and over 50 cassettes. I'm going to take time for the next few months to go through them on-and-off and see what I want to keep and what else can go. Of the three I listened to today, I'm going to keep the Air Supply album Now and Forever (I always did like a couple of songs on that album, especially "Even the Nights are Better"), but not Bread (the hit "Make It With You" is the only thing I like on that one, and I can get that elsewhere). Mickey Mouse Disco isn't quite as much fun as some of the later 80s "Disney has fun with fads" albums, but it does have some decent songs; my favorite is "Welcome to Rio" for Jose Carioca.

Work was crazy-busy when I got in, but that's kind of par for the course on even non-football Sundays. By the time I left at 8, it was dead. Other than a few annoying customers (including one grown man who thought he was being cute by asking for the stickers we keep for the kids; I told him no), there were no major problems, and I was in and out.

I did finally get a hold of Mom when I got in. She has Skylar over her house every other weekend. She enjoys the company, and Skylar loves visiting. His nana lets him do fun things like play with her Wii or cruise the neighborhood with her on his new bike (Mom gave him one for Christmas). Mom's glad that it sounds like Rose and Craig are settling on the house, but is worried about my brother Keefe. It sounds like he may flunk out of the Navy. He broke up with his girlfriend Vicki a few weeks ago. Without her, he has no one to support him, and Mom claims he's fallen in with a bad crowd, too. I hope he can regain some sense and pick himself up enough to do better.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Long Morning's Journey Into Haddon Heights

Started a sunny but windy and chilly morning with this week's American Top 40 re-run. I would have just been 7 years old in late April 1986, when these songs were rocketing up the charts. The tunes I heard on the radio included "Rock Me Amadeus" by Falco, Janet Jackson's first Top 10 hit "What Have You Done For Me Lately?", "Addicted to Love" by Robert Palmer, "West End Girls" by the Pet Shop Boys, and "I Miss You" by Klymaxx.

While Prince's second movie vehicle Under the Cherry Moon was a huge flop, the music from the film was not. That week's number one song was one of the more popular numberss from that soundtrack, "Kiss."

Left for this week's yard-sale run as soon as I could. Swung by Dad's first. I left the birthday cards I got from Rose and Khai at his house last night. Dad was working in the new flower beds around the pool. I said "hi" to him and saw how progress was coming with the pool.

After that, I headed right to Haddon Heights for their spring Town-Wide Yard Sale. While I didn't do too badly, I did run into some disappointments. A beautiful hutch that would have been perfect for my apartment was sold right before I arrived. Another sale that advertised American Girl items sold out well before I finally found them. Never found any really great collectible toys, like Butterbear last week.

I did make some good finds. Many of the sales were donating their proceeds to good causes. A sale for cancer research yielded six Wilton Cake Decorating yearbooks I didn't have (1985 to 1988, plus 2004 and a mint-condition Christmas book from the 70s). Two multi-family sales for the local Rotary Clubs on Prospect Ridge Road yielded 7 videos for dubbing - three Laurel and Hardy vehicles (Blockheads, A Chump At Oxford, and Way Out West) and a collection of spooky-oriented Laurel and Hardy shorts, the Will Smith vehicle Wild Wild West, and two animated films, The Snow Queen and The Land Before Time.

Found two records at a sale just off Prospect Ridge Road, the soundtracks for Dirty Dancing (replacing an aging cassette copy) and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

My best find of the day was back at the cancer research sale. A huge, heavy photo album had been stuffed into the crate with the Wilton Cake Decorating Yearbooks. I couldn't figure out why until I flipped through the book...and saw clippings of recipes from everything from old newspapers to 80s magazines to Betty Crocker.com arranged inside! I bought it for 75 cents. I'll go through it more thoroughly sometime next week.

It was even harder to explore Haddon Heights than it was to ride around in Audubon. Haddon Heights isn't called that because it sounds pretty. It's on steeper hills than most of the surrounding area, which makes it a hard slog on a bike normally. Coupled with high winds and heavy traffic in narrow old streets that weren't meant for it, and I was worn out when I finally made it home around 12:40. I quickly browsed through the photo album cookbook and ate the pizza leftover from last night and a spinach salad while watching Disney cartoons and the Dr. Seuss 70s special The Hoober Bloob Highway. The special was just winding down when I quickly packed my dinner, pulled on my uniform shirt, and hurried off to work.

Work was busy for most of the night. Rather frustratingly, this time, we didn't have enough help to deal with the crowds. They had to call managers to help, including one to come in for me for my break. Thank heavens it was just starting to slow down when I left at 8:30.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Spread a Little Happiness

Started a sunny, windy morning with oatmeal, clementines, and the Disney Aladdin. In this version of the Arabian Nights tale, Aladdin is a street urchin with a heart of gold who lives on the streets of Agrabah, stealing bread for him and his monkey Abu. The sultan's wicked vizier Jafar tricks Aladdin into retrieving a magical lamp for him...a lamp that contains a wisecracking genie who will grant the owner of the lamp three wishes. When Aladdin gets his hands on the lamp, he admits that his only heart's desire is to see the Princess Jasmine again. The genie turns Aladdin into a prince in order to win Jasmine and the throne. Jafar's livid, the Sultan is delighted to see his daughter finally admiring one of her suitors. When Jafar ends up with the lamp, Aladdin finally learns that it takes a lot more than magic to really win a girl's heart or beat a powerful sorcerer, and that one's true worth doesn't lie in lamps or diamonds, but in one's heart.

The follow-up to Beauty and the Beast was almost as popular and is considered to be one of the seminal movies of the 90s animation boom. It's not my favorite today. Though the movie is best known for Robin Williams' wacky improvisation as the Genie, many of his jokes are kind of obscure now. There's still some stunning animation, especially in the Cave of Wonders, Jafar's one of Disney's better male villains, and Aladdin and Jasmine are fun leads. The music, much of it written by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman before the latter's untimely death, is great too. The ballad "A Whole New World" won the Oscar, but I've always liked Aladdin's bouncy introductory number, "One Jump Ahead."

Thsi was released as a Platinum Edition way back in 2006 (I bought my copy from FYE two years later), but it hasn't been seen since then and is a bit harder to find than most major Disney films. Worth looking for, though, especially if you have a little boy who is put off by most other Disney "girlie" movies.

I worked unusually early today, from 11 to 5. I stood around for a lot of it, especially in the first half of the day. For once, we had tons of help and not much to do. It did pick up a little during the usualy 4-6 rush hour...but we still had enough help by 5 for me to shut down with no line.

I had one errand and a little grocery shopping to do. As soon as I left the Acme, I hurried over to America's Best to finally retrieve my contacts. When I got back, I did what little shopping I had to do. The Acme was having a big sale on eggs - a dollar for a carton of 12 large eggs! I had to get one, even though I don't need eggs that badly. Also picked up cooking spray, the inexpensive Acme generic canola oil, individual packs of flounder and tilapia (they were out of salmon), bananas, cake mix, and a bag of clementines on sale.

Called my sister Rose even before I got in the door. Today was my nephew Khai's 3rd birthday. I wanted to give him a birthday wish that was as sweet as the one he gave me on Sunday. I got his mother. She was just getting him up at Dad's house. Evidently, they were having a small party for him. Did I want to come over? Sure! I wanted to give him the present I bought on Tuesday anyway. I put everything away, changed out of my work shirt, signed the cards for Khai and Rose, got back on the bike, and rode to Dad's.

I got in at the right time. Khai was just getting up from a nap when I arrived. He wore the very tropical shirt with bright colored parrots on it that Nana Jodie brought him from Florida. Rose said that otherwise, he hadn't been too happy with his grandparents giving him bathing suits. His parents and friends gave him toys. I gave him two I Can Read books his mother can read to him, one from the Berenstein Bears, one from Little Critter. Finally gave Rose her birthday card, too. (It was the 7th.)

Jodie showed me the pool area. Her brother had apparently done the work on the concrete...and it looked amazing. He'd somehow made it look like the brick path that leads up to the pool. The spaces where additional deck chairs once were had been replaced by larger grass plots for Dad's beloved flower and vegetable beds. (If there's one thing Dad loves, it's landscaping the pool area.) The pool is even full now. You could swim in it...if it was warm enough. Evidently, Khai had stuck a finger in earlier and proclaimed it "just right." Needless to say, his grandmother and mother weren't keen on him swimming in mid-April.

The Mr. Softee ice cream truck always comes around Dad's house at about 7PM. You should have see how excited Khai was! He LOVES getting ice cream from the ice cream truck! Thanks to the wind, we could hear it for miles. Khai was so excited, he could barely eat his hot dog and Swiss cheese. He finally got a vanilla soft-serve cone with cherry coating. Jessa got a plain vanilla cone. I passed; I ate blueberry cupcakes when I arrived and had plenty of dessert at my apartment.

Khai finally settled down to watch Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs as the rest of us ate mushroom and plain cheese pizza for dinner. Clouds had been building up on the horizon since I picked up my contacts at 5, and they were only getting worse by quarter of 8. I finally headed home around 8PM in order to avoid the weather, taking a few slices of pizza with me.

Thank heavens the rain waited until around 10PM to burst. It did thunder for a while, but at press time it just sounds like a heavy but ordinary rain shower.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Balance and the Warrior Maiden

I finally got to yoga for the first time in weeks. I almost wish I hadn't. I'm so out of shape! I had a hard time keeping up with the class today. It wasn't even a big class. I can do pretty well when we're in the standing poses, like warrior. I have a hard time lifting myself or doing poses that involve more arm work, like upward-facing dog and many versions of headstand.

After class, I went around the front to see if Yogawood had next month's class schedules out yet. They didn't, but I noticed something else just as interesting across the street. DiBartalo Bakery was in the midst of remodeling the last time I was in Collingswood. They appear to be done now...and from the outside, they're almost totally different. The building still reeks 70s (not much anyone can do with that boxy design), but the dark maroon, brown, and beige exterior seen on the website has been replaced with bright sky blue and lemon yellow paint with white trim and no overhang. The interior has also been painted in lighter colors, but otherwise seems to be the same. I bought a tiny cupcake just a big bigger than my thumb. It was ok...but the thick icing was rich and delicious. I'm glad I just bought a small one.

Rode over to the Oaklyn Library next. There wasn't much going on there. I organized a few adult DVDs and some children's books, but I ended up reading more. It was mainly older people on the computer or reading the newspaper. When the library's internet down and most of the patrons decided to head out, I figured I'd do the same.

Spent the rest of the afternoon at my apartment. I had leftover Ground Chicken Vegetable Soup and made chocolate chip-oatmeal cookies. The remaining items from my birthday Amazon.com order, the Disney movie Mulan and the second-to-last Vesper Holly story (and the last one that I needed), The Philadelphia Adventure, arrived while I was eating. I ran Mulan while the cookies were baking.

Mulan is usually marketed as a Disney princess, but she's neither a princess, nor a typical Disney heroine. She's the daughter of an Imperial Chinese farmer and his wife who is smart and sensible but a bit clumsy. Her clumsiness (and the "lucky" cricket her grandmother gives her for a good-luck gift) gets her into trouble with the local matchmaker, who tells her that she'll never be a traditional honorable Chinese woman. To add to her troubles, her disabled father is inducted into the Army, and she embarrasses him by trying to keep him from leaving. To spare him more shame, she dresses as a man and goes in his place. At first, the other men on the Army mock her, including her handsome captain, until they see what she can do when she's determined. Will Mulan's courage and guts be enough to save her homeland and its ruler, before the Huns invade and her secret is discovered?

Mulan is a bit of an oddity in the Disney canon. While it does use some of the expected elements, like wacky sidekicks (Eddie Murphy is Mushu, the dragon who is supposed to bring Mulan home) and music that moves the plot along, they're shoved into what for Disney is a fairly dark story. The Huns aren't playing games. This is war, as Mulan and the other members of her unit discover the hard way when they encounter a village that's been destroyed. There's more action here than in any other Disney "princess" movie. Mulan herself is a great character. Unlike the other Disney ladies, she's clumsy and tries a bit too hard...but she's also very smart, sensible, and determined.

My biggest complaint here is the music. As I mentioned, it feels shoehorned in. This war-oriented tale didn't need to be a musical, and even when it came out, I wasn't a big fan of the soundtrack. (I had it on cassette for a while, but got rid of it ages ago and never missed it.) I do have a mild fondness for the goofy "I'll Make a Man Out of You," performed by Donny Osmond for the troop training montage. Otherwise, none of the songs here are terribly memorable, including the drippy "Reflections."

Beautifully done and highly recommended; like Brave, this is great for older girls who don't go in for the girlier stuff, or for mothers looking for an animated heroine who'd rather save the day than the man (though she does manage to do that, too).

Work was mildly busy all night, with no major problems and, unlike yesterday, more than enough help. One of the managers is training three of our recently-hired teen baggers as cashiers. I stocked spices while they practiced with customers. My relief, one of the few older woman who works later, was right on time, and I was in and out with no problems.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Summer Reading List

A phone call woke me up this morning. Again. Yes, it was the Acme. Could I come in at noon? No. I would come in at 1:30, an hour before I was scheduled. I'm completely aware that I should be grateful for the extra hours...and I would be, if they didn't disrupt my mornings and continually forget that some of us can't just automatically jump in a car and run to the store when they snap their fingers.

I spent most of the morning doing things on the computer. There were several lists I wanted to print out, including my reading list. There's a big pile of books I've bought over the years from thrift shops, yard sales, or used book stores that I've either never read at all (the Donna Parker books) or haven't read in some cases decades (I'm currently working on Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, which I probably haven't read since I was 11). They include the Carol Higgins Clark mystery Zapped, the remaining Vesper Holly young adult novels I picked up with my birthday Amazon.com card, The Celery Stalks at Midnight, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh, three Dear America books, and four show business biographies (of George M. Cohan, Joan Blondell, Louise Brooks, and Russ Columbo). The reason I'm doing this is to see which ones are worth keeping, and which ones I can donate to the libraries and church thrift shops.

(And this isn't even the whole list. It started in late February with that Dewey the Library Cat biography Linda gave me last fall that I didn't get to then. It just kept growing when I realized how many books I owned that I either hadn't read or hadn't read in a long time.)

I finally made it to work around 1:30. When I arrived, work was dead...which is what I figured it would be. Apparently, the woman in charge of the self-checkout line had called out, which would be less of a surprise if she didn't spend more time out than in. They didn't really need the extra help. The only time we were busy at all was during rush hour, when the lack of help was more of a problem. Otherwise, we were on-and-off steady, and I spent the down times shelving candy.

I was delighted to discover before I left that most of my Amazon.com birthday order had arrived! Mom gave me a gift card for my birthday...but before she sent it, I treated myself to a CD collection of songs from various musical versions of Cinderella, including the Rodgers and Hammerstein TV special, the Disney animated film, and the 1976 British film The Slipper and the Rose. It was made by Varese Sarabande, the same company that released the Lost In Boston and Unsung Musicals series. I enjoyed this one just as much as those. I really need to find more from that company; I think they may be long gone, which is why most of their CDs are currently hard to find.

Other things that arrived with the Amazon.com order - a USB drive (I'm out of them and they're cheaper on Amazon than anywhere else, including Staples), the Vesper Holly story The Jedera Adventure (which was in bad shape - I'll keep it, but I'd like to look around for a better copy), a new pair of capris (two of my old ones were too tight), and the Webkinz Rockerz Fox. The Rockerz Fox is a pretty beast - get a load of those huge eyes! She's by far the best-looking of the Rockerz pets. I named her Jetta, as in Joan Jett - her theme is hard rock. She naturally has a rock-themed room near Cyndi's on the edge of the house, where she mostly spends time in her private recording studio.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Building a Better Birthday

Started the morning off with the last of my "birthday"-themed cartoons that I didn't get to Sunday. Sailor Moon has a two-part birthday episode early in the third season. Serena isn't having the greatest birthday ever. It seems like her friends and her boyfriend Darien forgot her big day, and her new friends Amara and Michelle only make her feel a little better. Things look up when it turns out the other girls were holding a surprise party. Darien has a surprise for her, too...but Serena's happy birthday turns into a nightmare when the "surprise" is possessed by a monster who wants Serena's pure heart!

It was an absolutely glorious spring morning when I headed out around 10:30. The sun was out at that point; there were clouds and wind, but neither were heavy enough to bring rain. It was warmer than the weekend, but not as warm as a few weeks ago, probably in the upper 60s-lower 70s. The perfect weather was reflected in a busy Newton River Park. I dodged joggers, dog walkers, people out for a stroll, and other bikers as I admired the bright green grass, soft pastel trees, and river banks lined with brilliant yellow flowers.

The Haddon Township Library was holding its Storybook Hour when I got in. I mainly organized the kids' DVDs and helped them and their parents find movies. Otherwise, there wasn't a whole lot to do. I shelved a small pile of adult titles and four kids' books. It was too nice of a day for anyone to be hanging around in a library. I didn't take out anything this week. This was my only day off this week, and I just bought five DVDs from the Audubon Town-Wide Yard Sale, plus another with the Amazon gift card Mom gave me. I have plenty to watch and read at home.

Went straight to Haddonfield after leaving the library. I first made a quick stop at the PNC Bank on Haddon Avenue. I needed to put my birthday money from Dad and Jodie in the bank. I deposited $50 in savings towards that laptop, $40 in my checking, and kept $10 to treat myself to a decent birthday lunch.

I ended up right at the Bistro at Haddonfield, a basic American gourmet cuisine restaurant that's pretty tasty. Perfect. I hit the tail-end of the lunch hour, but it wasn't too bad. I sat outside and amused myself by listening to a pair of mothers and their adorable toddler and infant offspring, then after they left, a mother and her three slightly older children. My Pear Spinach Salad was delicious. It was roasted chicken, crumbled blue cheese, hunks of smoked bacon, caramelized walnuts, and slices of cucumber and pear on a bed of spinach. It was pretty big...but so tasty, I ate almost the whole thing. I don't normally like walnuts, but the sugary coating kept them from tasting as waxy as they usually do to me.

Stopped at The Happy Hippo Toy Store before I went to counseling. It took me a while, but I did find two books for my nephew for his birthday. He's a little young for them, but his mother can read them to him. (Alas, I didn't see any WebKinz. They only had a springbok and a few yetis.)

Counseling was next. The Happy Hippo is just a block from Mrs. Stahl's office. I told her about Easter, the possibility of Rose moving to Oaklyn, and how frustrating work was last week and for me in general. I also mentioned that I'd like to pursue three hobbies right now, all of which I already do to a degree - doll and stuffed animal collecting, casual (not race) biking, and crocheting. There's a bike share program in Collingswood I could talk to, not to mention the yarn store there I've already visited. The folks at AGPlaythings may have better ideas of where to find doll and stuffed animal collectors, and I can look them up online.

The problem is my inability to be positive. I can't help it. Old habits are very hard to break. I want so much to lose weight and get out of the Acme, but nothing seems to be happening on either front...and in fact, things are getting worse. I've been eating baked junk all winter long, whether my own or from the Acme. I put myself down so much at work. My co-workers tease me about getting upset over being called in or being given orders. I don't think they mean to be cruel, but they don't understand how much I was tormented as a child. Mrs. Stahl doesn't think I belong in a corporate environment of any kind, and I wholeheartedly agree.

If I can't work for a corporation, where can I go? I want to work for a smaller office or company, but most of them are still stymied by the economy and aren't hiring. The big thing I'm considering is getting out of New Jersey all together. I love my family and appreciate their support, but New Jersey has a high unemployment rate, one of the highest in the country, and I really don't feel like I belong here. Obviously, it's just an idea now, and one that I need to do a great deal of research on before I make any major decisions.

Mrs. Stahl says I pretty much need to work on being positive, especially at the Acme, and on being more assertive without being nasty. I'm too scared to be assertive. I was taught throughout most of my school years that if you ignore bullies, they'll leave you alone. We now know that life doesn't work that way...and that ignoring bullies can not only make them worse, but lead to damaging problems. Mrs. Stahl says I need to work on re-writing my story, and not continuing to write the bad chapter or let others write it for me.

Mrs. Stahl wanted to get coffee at Starbucks anyway, so she walked a block with me after our session was finished to the main shopping district at King's Highway. I waved good-bye to her at the Starbucks on the corner and kept going a few stores down to Cold Stone Creamery. Until I moved here, I had vaguely heard of but never seen this chain ice cream parlor, which is notorious for it's infamously fattening confections. While it's two Frozen Yogurt flavors, Chocolate Brownie and Banana Bread Batter, did sound good, I finally decided I couldn't resist an ice cream flavor called Oreo Creme Filling. I got the smallest cup they had, and it was very tasty, far richer and smoother than your usual cookies and cream. It was also more expensive; at $2.88 for a kid's cup with the ice cream and chocolate shavings (and with cheaper competition closer to home), this will be a rare treat on a special occasion or in the summer when I'm in the Haddonfield area.

I needed to make a few stops on the way home. I went to Walgreens first. I'm almost out of brush picks and of mouthwash, and they were having a good sale on hair bands (including some nifty metallic ones that were on clearance). Grabbed Crest ProHealth toothpaste on sale (mine is getting close to low). Turns out the mouthwash I grabbed was in the wrong place. I had to go back and get the right one, which held up a line. And, of course, I forgot what I'd gone in there for, which was milk. Had to stop at WaWa when I got into Oaklyn.

Went right into the bathtub as soon as I made it back to the apartment. My bath felt great after that long, windy ride. It had gotten a little cloudier by that point, and the wind had picked up...but not enough to chill the air. I had a warm, not hot, soak, and while it felt great, I realized towards the end that I was nodding off. I got out a little earlier than planned.

Ran One Crazy Summer as I made a simple dinner of steamed asparagus and salmon with lemon-wine sauce. Despite his nickname, Hoops McCann (John Cusack) isn't really interested in basketball and, in fact, is terrible at it. What he wants is to get into art school, but he needs to illustrate a love story to win a scholarship. Trouble is, he's a bit of a nerd and knows nothing about love. His best buddy George (Joel Murray) invites him to Nantucket for the summer. Hoops figures he has nothing to lose and joins George, his very protective kid sister, and her none-too-attractive dog for the ride.

Events very quickly go off the deep end when they rescue Cassandra, a rock singer and writer (Demi Moore) from bikers who want money from her. And they don't get any less loony from there. One of their friends, Ack (Curtis Armstrong), is thrown out when he tells his military-happy father that he isn't cut out for life in the Armed Services. The other two (Tom Villard and Bobcat Goldthwait) are nuts in general. Not to mention the richest man on the island (Mark Metcalf) and his jerk jock son (Matt Mulhern) wants to tear down Cassandra's grandfather's home. Hoops and his buddies are determined to help her keep her summer home, and learn a bit about life, love, friendship, and bad Godzilla suits in the process.

I've always loved this one. Like Weekend at Bernie's and The Goonies, it's one of those random wacky comedies that were shown constantly on cable during my childhood. As with many of those films, most people either get with the nutty vibe, or don't get it at all. I think it's hilarious, especially the wild first half with Hoops's rhino cartoons blowing up bunnies and Goldthwait stuck in a Godzilla suit for one classic chase scene. The second half, which has the group join the Nantucket Regatta to earn the house back, looks more like a teen version of the boat race in Summer Rental and feels a bit less imaginative.

A must for fans of Moore, Cusack, nutty "misfits fight the corrupt rich jerks" 80s comedies, or for people who grew up with it on cable as I did. Pretty much your mileage may vary with everyone else.

Monday, April 15, 2013

A Giant Peach In New York City

Started a gloomy, showery morning with a run to the laundromat. I wish I hadn't. Though I was able to get a washer, they were still busy, and someone had The Maury Show blaring in the background. Blech. How boring can you get? Why couldn't someone switch to the game shows or something? Thank heavens I didn't have a big load anyway. I got out as soon as I could.

I had to rush when I got home. I was up late and got up early. Not a good combination. I would have put off doing my laundry all together, but I really needed clean work clothes. I put away my load, put Butterbear on my dresser to dry (she really needed a bath), changed into my clean work uniform, packed my lunch, and hurried off.

Work was a pain and a half today. The continuing showers didn't help. They were never heavy, and they actually smelled pretty good when I was riding to the Acme, but they fell on and off throughout the day. I was dead tired and not up to dealing with annoying customers or managers who kept telling me to go faster in Express or help the old people better and didn't seem to notice how tired I was. I was so happy when one of the college boys came in for me and I could hurry out of there.

(And I heard about the bombing at the Boston Marathon during my break. I was half-reading the paper, half-listening to an uninteresting episode of The Doctors about testosterone levels when the show was interrupted for a breaking news story. I didn't catch much before I had to return to the registers, but I do know that this was a horrible thing, and I'm sorry for all the runners who lost family members or whose family members were hurt and for the people of Boston.)

Needless to say, I was not in the best of moods when I finally headed out. Instead of going straight home, I rode over to Dad's. I left my birthday card at his house yesterday. He and Jodie were at  home, doing yard work before the next round of showers came down. I joined them inside for mushroom pizza. They initially had Red Dragon on, but switched to Scoop not long before I left.

I continued to cheer myself up with the rest of James and the Giant Peach, which I started earlier in the day. James (Paul Terry) is a sweet young boy at the mercy of his obnoxious aunts (Joanna Lumley and Miriam Margoyles), who would prefer he stayed a servant for them forever. An odd man (Pete Postlethwaite) gives him a bag of crocodile tongues, which he spills on a peach tree. Suddenly, a tree that has never bourne fruit has one peach grow to gargantuan size. The aunts make it the talk of the town, but James has other ideas. He bites into the peach, climbs in...and finds himself among a group of talking bugs who don't like his aunts any more than he does. They finally push the peach into the ocean, sending themselves on a wild trip to New York City to find their destinies...if they can avoid the nasty aunts and the assorted other mechanical and skeletal monsters they encounter on their journey!

A strange but sweet tale of a boy with big dreams and odd friends who discovers that you can make anything happen with a lot of support and a little bit of magic, even standing up to your nasty aunts. The live-action opening with James and the aunts is rather slow, but things pick up once we're in the peach and switch to stop-motion animation. The voices for the bugs include Richard Dreyfuss as a fast-talking Brooklyn centipede, Susan Sarandon as a loner spider whom James rescued from his aunts, and a British grasshopper who plays the violin (Simon Callow). They're all having a lot of fun with the unusual material and the show-stopping songs by Randy Newman. My favorite was the touching "Family" and James' wistful introductory number "My Name Is James."

I enjoyed it, but there are some caveats, especially with that slow opening. It's a mite frightening for younger kids, but for kids James' age and older and adults who love Roald Dahl's books or movies based after them or unusual fantasy, this is actually quite charming and is recommended.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

"You Say It's Your Birthday..."

...And like I so often do, I awoke to a phone call. But this time, it was a most pleasant one indeed. My sister Rose was calling me early to wish me all the best of the day. She even put her 3-year-old son Khai on the line to sing "Happy Birthday" to me. It was the cutest thing ever. I just about melted. He's getting so good at talking.

Called Mom right after getting off with Rose. She was recovering from a nasty cold that had left her laid up for days. Other than that, she was not only fine, but in a good mood. She just heard that my stepfather would be at work for his boat, either down south or up in New England, for most of the summer...and out from under her feet.

I had Brunch With the Beatles on for a while, but I opted to switch to finishing Scamp's Adventure while eating Chocolate Chip Pancakes for a birthday breakfast. Scamp is the mischievous only son of Lady and the Tramp, seen briefly in the end of the first film. Here, he's slightly older and wants to live the wild life his father once did. When Tramp comes down hard on him for his pranks, he runs away. He falls in with a gang of street dogs, including bullying Butch (who was once Tramp's best friend) and sweet girl pup Angel. All Angel wants is a family of her own. All Scamp wants is to be a tough, wild dog. You can guess how they meet in the middle...and yes, spaghetti is involved.

While this had some cute moments, I can see why my friend Linda Young had problems with it when she saw this a few years ago. She was right. It's a gender-reversed rehash of the first film with dull songs, so-so animation, and a message about the importance of family that has all the subtlety of three anvils to the head. The irony is, this is one property that Disney not only could have done a genuinely decent sequel to, but has. Scamp comes from a  long-running Disney comic book series detailing his adventures. It's a shame they didn't put more thought into this one. As it is, ok if you're a fan of the Scamp comics or Lady and the Tramp, but as with most Disney sequels, completely avoidable for anyone else.

Went for a walk after the movie ended. It was an absolutely glorious day. The sun was shining, the breeze was blowing, and it was a bit warmer than yesterday, probably in the mid to upper 60s. Yesterday's few clouds were replaced by a soft, shy blue sky. The color around the neighborhood is absolutely amazing. The trees are really blooming now, their petals brightening the street with shades of pink, white, lavender, and pale green. While the daffodils are just about done, I saw the first ruffly, jewel-toned tulips of the season today. The sunburst discs of dandelions burst on every lawn.

Quite a few people were out and about, too. I passed several dog walkers and two young teens going for their own spring stroll. A little boy and his father raced each other, then happily wrestled together and rolled around in the grass.

My first stop was Dad's. He's still recovering from his surgery, but he felt well enough to give me my birthday card and a hundred dollars and show me the continuing work on the pool area. The interior of the pool has been cleaned and reupholstered. The new vinyl covering is a darker, mottled shade of cobalt blue that gives the water a pretty sparkling effect. They'll apparently be starting the concrete patio areas this week. He made me a delicious pork sandwich for lunch.

(And I left the card at Dad's after I got out of the pool area. Oops. I'll swing by tomorrow and pick it up.)

As it was getting late and I did have work, my next stops were a bit quicker. I hit CVS next, as it's a few blocks from Dad's house, but they didn't have the brush picks I needed. I thought of going to 7-11 because it's closer, but the people who work there are kind of scary and the store isn't the nicest in the world. I ended up at WaWa instead and bought a Frozen Cappuccino as a special birthday treat.

I watched birthday-themed cartoons throughout the day. Yogi Bear did three birthday shows during his brief solo series. Sweet little duck Yakky Doodle was the star of the first, "Happy Birthdaze." He "buys" a dinosaur bone for his bulldog buddy Chopper, not knowing he was really taking it from the museum. Yogi and Boo Boo cook up a surprise birthday party for Ranger Smith in "Slap Happy Birthday," but the Ranger thinks Yogi's working on another scheme. Yogi's the one who gets the surprise in the three-part special "Yogi's Birthday Party." He thinks he's going to appear on a TV variety show, but it's really a birthday party for him featuring Ranger Smith and all of the Hanna Barbara funny animals created up to that point.

Max and Ruby also did a three-part birthday episode, the only three-part story in the entire series. In the first segment, Ruby thinks she knows where her "surprise" birthday is going to be...until Max leads her on a merry chase to Grandma's house. In the second, Ruby and her girl friends play party games, but all Max wants is cake. And in the last segment, Ruby wants to keep the lovely wrapping paper from her birthday gifts, but Max finds a better use for it.

Mickey Mouse appeared in three birthday-themed shorts between 1931 and 1952. The first, "The Birthday Party," is one of the earlier "music video" shorts that basically features the cast singing and dancing and not much else. It does have a really cute scene of Mickey and Minnie singing a duet on the standard "I Can't Give You Anything But Love." "Mickey's Birthday Party" from 1942 is a semi-remake with more gags (including Goofy trying to bake a cake and Donald and Clara Cluck's rather jiggly dance routine) and Mickey on the dance floor alone this time. "Pluto's Party" is one of Mickey's last shorts; despite his face plate being in the beginning, it's really a Pluto short. Pluto's looking forward to his birthday party, but Mickey's rambunctious young guests make the party difficult for the orange dog.

I also dug up two "birthday" songs. The song "Happy, Happy Birthday to You" is the second on the Disney album Splashdance after the title number. And of course, the Beatles did their own rock n' roll birthday song on The White Album (which I mention in the title for this entry).

Work was very busy when I came in, despite the nice day. It cleared out so quickly, I spent the last 40 minutes or so doing returns. A lot of those earlier customers must have been shopping for last-minute barbecues. When I was shelving returned bread, I realized that almost the entire shelf of hot dog and hamburger rolls was completely empty. A customer confirmed this towards the end of the night when she asked me if the bread was going to be restocked. Geez, you'd think snow was coming instead of 70-degree temperatures.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Into the Wilds of Audubon

After the monsoon yesterday, I was just happy to see the sun shining when I got up this morning. I wrote in my journal, ready Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and listened to this week's American Top 40. I would have been just barely 3 years old when this episode was first run, and many of these songs were very much a part of my childhood. Songs on the countdown in mid-April that year included "Freeze Frame" by the J. Gelis Band, "Key Largo" by Bertie Higgins, "We Got the Beat" by the Go-Gos, "'65 Love Affair" by Paul Davis, "Do You Believe In Love" by Huey Lewis & the News (their first Top 40 hit), "That Girl" by Stevie Wonder, "Make a Move On Me" by Olivia Newton-John, and "100 Ways" by Quincy Jones with James Ingram on vocals.

That weeks' top song - and the top song for the previous five weeks - is one of my favorite hits from this era. My sisters and I used to belt "I Love Rock and Roll" everywhere we could, and for once, Mom joined in. She loved tough Joan Jett as much as we did.

I headed out as soon as the Top 40 ended. Today was Audubon's spring Town-Wide Yard Sale, and I didn't want to miss it. Unlike last year, I hit on some pretty sweet finds between quarter after 9 and quarter after 12. I eventually came up with five DVDs. Found Bell, Book, and Candle, Romance on the High Seas (Doris Day's first movie), the Spencer Tracy/Elizabeth Taylor Father of the Bride, and One Crazy Summer with John Cusack at my very first stop, a large yard sale with several boxes of DVDs and videos. One Crazy Summer was still in its plastic! Dug An American Christmas Carol with Henry Winkler up at a small yard sale later in the morning. I also found a bag of holographic cardboard butterflies to put on my windows for spring.

Of the four books I bought, two, a small chilled desserts cookbook and a vintage Lady and the Tramp children's book (the one with Lady holding a frilly pink parasol in her mouth on the cover - we had that as kids) , ended up being freebies. I found the 2005 Christmas With Southern Living and the 1974 Wilton Cake Decorating Annual at a large multi-family sale; the owner said her aunt had been a fine baker. They had a lot of the big Wilton cake pans, but not only do I not have the room for them, but I seldom make cakes that size.

I also discovered a video copy of Yogi's First Christmas here. It's available at the Warner Archive, but this is infinitely cheaper.

The most expensive items ended up being two of the three records - the first two were three dollars each:

Joan Jett & the Blackhearts - I Love Rock and Roll (Rather ironic, considering it was on the Top 40 this morning)

Journey - Escape

The Who - Live at Leeds 

The two CDs came from a yard sale on Merchant Street:

Bette Midler - Sings the Rosemary Clooney Songbook

Bernadette Peters - Sondheim, Etc. (live concert recording)

My favorite find of the day was at the first stop where I picked up those four DVDs. I saw a flash of bright yellow and a pair of familiar flower-shaped feelers in a plastic bag filled with ancient stuffed animals. I knew those feelers. I jumped over to the bag and tugged out Butterbear, one of the Wuzzles! The Wuzzles was a Disney animated show from the mid-80s about a group of creatures that were a mix of two different animals. Rose had Butterbear (bear/butterfly) when we were little. I had my favorite characters, Hoppo (hippo/rabbit with wings for some reason) and Bumblelion (lion/bee). Anny had sweet little Moosel (moose/seal).

I hadn't seen any of them in over 15 years. The Butterbear I found wasn't in great shape. She was faded, she was dirty, there was a small hole behind her left wing, and she was missing paint on her eye and on her feelers. I'll toss her in the wash, then see what I can do for the rest.

I ended up in the neighborhood behind the Audubon Crossings Shopping Center. Since I was there anyway, I thought I'd eat lunch there. I made a brief peek at America's Best to see if they had my contacts, but the line was so long, I just moved on.

Finally had lunch at Sonic's. I'm so glad they reopened a few months ago. I missed eating outdoors. I found a sunny spot in the back of the patio and ordered a grilled chicken sandwich, cherry limeade, and those tasty onion rings. The chicken sandwich was on an odd rectangle-shaped patty and was only ok. The onion rings were even bigger than usual, and just as good. And I've always loved that cherry limeade. It may be my favorite thing on the menu.

Went home after lunch. I hung around on the computer for a little while as I listened to the Bernadette Peters CD, then headed off to work. Work was busy during rush hour, mildly steady during the rest of the night. Though there were some stray clouds this morning, by 3PM, it was 65 and sunny as could be, perfect weather for April in New Jersey. There were really no major problems and plenty of help. I picked up corn meal, whole-wheat wraps, and more of the Oatmeal Squares on sale during break, allowing me to head out quickly with no major problems.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Scooby Dooby Superheroes

The day began promising, despite the rain. It was really coming down when I pulled the covers off around 8:30. I was glad my only plan I really needed to do was go grocery shopping. The rain was coming down so hard, I could hear it like boulders on my roof.

I ran Scooby Doo and the Mask of the Blue Falcon as I had "spinach pancakes" (spinach, eggs, and cheese - an old quick meal favorite from when I lived in Wildwood) for breakfast. The Mystery Inc crew is heading for California for a big comics convention. Scooby and Shaggy are thrilled that they'll get to see their favorite superheroes, the Blue Falcon and Dynomutt, the Dog Wonder (who appeared with the gang in their late 70s incarnation). Daphne wants to collect a series of pricey stuffed animals. Fred's just happy to be on an adventure. Velma isn't - superheroes and cutesy stuffed toys don't make much sense to a girl who relies purely on logic.

As it turns out, Velma's not the only one who isn't thrilled with the convention. The producer and star of the new, darker Blue Falcon movies only care about playing up to their audiences, not doing the character justice. The original 70s Blue Falcon seems to be a lunatic, raving over how the new owners won't allow him to play the character anymore. The owner of a comics book booth keeps wandering off under strange circumstances. And then, a villain called Mr. Hyde appeared...the main nemesis of the 70s Blue Falcon! When he tries to shut the convention down, Scooby and the others are determined to stop him, and to show the movie producers how to take a lighter look at their material.

By far the best Scooby film Warners has done in ages, a vast improvement over last year's so-so Big Top Scooby and Mark of the Vampire. For fans of animation in the 60s and 70s, this is a must-see, thanks to references not only to the Blue Falcon, but to earlier Hanna Barbara heroes like the Herculoids and Space Ghost. There's also a surprising amount of mild "bite the hand" humor, especially with regards to the Batman franchise (DC, after all, is also owned by Warners). Recommended for fans of Scooby and/or 60s and 70s Saturday morning favorites.

I got a call towards the end of the movie. Yes, it was the Acme. Could I come in five minutes ago? No. I had to call Jodie for a ride. (Dad couldn't drive me; he's still recovering from that surgery.) The rain was far lighter than it had been, but it was supposed to shower on and off all day. I left around 12:30; good thing Jodie had to go grocery shopping anyway.

I left in such a hurry, I didn't have the time to make lunch or my grocery list! I bought a hoagie and made my list between customers. Ironically, after all that fuss, work was the same as it has been, on-and-off busy, maybe a little busier than yesterday during rush hour. There were no call-outs. The manager pulled people from stock and the registers to clean again. He wants to keep the store much cleaner than it has been. That's all well and fine, but it shouldn't come at the expense of handling customers.

It slowed down enough for me to get off at 4:30, as I'd requested. I wanted enough time to get my grocery shopping done before Jodie arrived. The Acme was having a lot of really big weekend-only sales. I took advantage of them to pick up Cinnamon Oatmeal Squares (which is a favorite of mine), Acme generic whole-wheat elbow macaroni, and a can of Hunt's no-salt tomato sauce. I mainly needed to restock vegetables and fruit. Grabbed apples and bananas. Strawberries were on sale. Those clementines I bought last week were so good and sweet, I had to have another bag, even though they weren't on sale. I found more of those packs of chuck vegetables (asparagus and summer squashes this time). Was surprised at how cheap chicken breasts were. Found a lamb chop on sale that was the perfect size for my dinner.

When I got home, I put everything away, slipped the Apple Cinnamon Muffin batter I made before work in the oven, then went right in the bath after they came out. A warm, soothing bath with lots of bubbles felt absolutely fabulous after a long, trying day. I read that Oprah book I took out of the library and listened to my CD of music written by Jules Styne, just enjoying the peace and quiet.

The music felt so good, I put on the American Tail soundtrack during my dinner. I'm not a big fan of the weepy, sometimes frightening movie, but it does have some pretty decent music, both in the score and vocally. "Never Say Never," performed by a French cat who cheers up Fivel while he searches for his family, is especially charming.

And I just got my first birthday present. Mom sent me a $60 gift card for Amazon.com online. $60 bought me a new pair of capris (two old pairs didn't close to fit), the 2-disc set for Mulan (I don't want the one Disney just released - not only do I have no interest in the sequel, but the Haddon Township library has it for rental if I did), the WebKinz Rockerz Fox (I couldn't find it anywhere else), a 2GB USB drive (I'm almost out of the Durcells I bought on clearance from the Acme a while back), and the last two Vesper Holly books I didn't have, The Jedera Adventure and The Philadelphia Adventure. The gift card covered all but $5, which was probably the shipping on the capris (the capris and The Jedera Adventure were the only items I bought that didn't qualify for free shipping).

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Lands of Grand Discoveries

I spent most of today watching the Spain and Portugal Rick Steves' episodes. All I knew about Spain was flamenco, Columbus, and spicy food. I didn't know they were ruled by Moors during the Medieval period. While the rest of Europe was languishing in the Dark Ages, Spain was building giant castle-like fortresses and encouraging philosophy and the arts. They're also the home of tapas, a small plate bar crawl that takes night owls from small bar to small bar for little plates of what amounts to appetizers...which has become popular here as well with Americans seeking smaller portion sizes. My favorite outing was the fair where Rick made friends with a large group who rented a tent for a huge party. Ladies in awesome dresses, fancy dancing, lots of food? Sounds like fun to me!

Portugal had a somewhat similar history. With much of their country on water, the Portuguese are traditionally fishermen and sailors, and they're best remembered today for their major contributions to the discovery of much of South and Latin America in the 1500s and 1600s. I actually knew a little about the infamous Lisbon earthquake that destroyed most of that city in 1755 - it's a major part of the second half of the Broadway opera Candide. I especially loved the little fishing village that reminded me a bit of Cape May during my childhood.

Between episodes, I made a quick run to the Oaklyn Library to volunteer. Though the rain was long-gone, it remained cloudy and was much cooler and windier than yesterday. This wasn't a problem - yesterday was too warm! Today felt more like spring. Many people took advantage of the better temperatures to mow their lawns or mulch their gardens. Almost all of the trees are in bloom now, or at least showing signs of leaves. It's really pretty riding down Manor Avenue, like going through colored Easter eggs.

The Oaklyn Library was a little busier than last week, but still not anywhere near capacity. There wasn't a ton for me to do, either. I mainly organized the children's books. I don't think a lot of people concentrate on the kids' section. It almost always needs something done. I had to dodge city workers doing street cleaning around the library, too.

When I got in, I did some work on the computer, then watched Hello Kitty episodes and had leftovers for lunch before heading off to work. Work wasn't really much of a problem. It was quiet when I came in, steady thereafter. It went quickly for a somewhat slow night, and other than a few annoying customers, I was in and out.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Goin' Down

The day didn't start out badly. For once, I had time for a nice, long volunteer session in the Haddon Township Library. Newton River Park was busy with joggers and dog walkers and people pushing children in strollers two and three cars wide. No wonder - it's beautiful there. While there was some alge on the river, it was mostly green and shining. The trees are just starting to blossom, and the grass is so much brighter. There were carpets of smooth yellow flowers along the riverbanks.

Since I didn't have a lot of plans for today, I spent more time at the Haddon Township Library than usual. Did a lot of kids' DVD organizing. I arrived a bit early, so there wasn't much for me to do at first. By the time I finished with the kids' section, there were plenty of adult DVD titles and picture books for me to shelve.

I arrived at the library at quarter of 11...and didn't get out until 12:30. I took out a book on healthy cooking for kids with simple recipes I thought looked interesting, along with five DVDs - the newest Scooby Doo direct-to-home-media movie Scooby Doo and the Mask of the Blue Falcon, Lady and the Tramp II: Scamp's Adventure (Linda Young said in her blog a while back that it was pretty much a rehash of the original film, but I'm willing to give it a go after enjoying Bambi II and the Tinker Bell movies), the French animated fantasy The Triplets of Bellville, and the stop-motion animated movie James and the Giant Peach (I have several sweet songs from this film on my Classic Disney CD set and have wanted to see it for a while). I've enjoyed watching the Rick Steves DVDs this week so much, I decided to try another other; this time, I went with trips to Spain and Portugal.

My original plan was to stop at Dollar Tree for a few things, then go out to lunch. I still had to go to Dollar Tree, but I curtailed my lunch plans. I didn't have a lot of money on me, and it was really too nice to be sitting in a restaurant. I dodged a busy crowd stopping on their way from lunch at Dollar Tree to buy sponges, sweater storage bags for my winter scarves and hats, a large laundry bag to store my winter blankets in, vinegar, orange marmalade (they were almost out of the jars of those tasty preserves), and a birthday card for my sister Rose (hers was Sunday). I picked up a turkey and spinach hoagie from WaWa before heading home.

By this point, it was hot and breezy, well into the mid-80s. This was no time to be eating indoors. I enjoyed a small picnic on my porch, reading the cookbook and gulping my hoagie. This would have been a nice idea in late May or June, when the leaves on the trees around the porch were large and shady. Right now, they're barely existent or not there at all. I wound up going back inside for a while.

Did things around the apartment for a while. Loaded the scarves and winter things into one sweater bag; the other holds electrical cords that were taking up room in the living area closet. I'd really like to organize that more, but I think I'll need a couple of bins to do it properly. Loaded the blankets into the laundry bag. That worked great, and the bag was so big, it should fit my smaller deer-print blanket when I no longer need that.

Around 4PM, I thought I'd try to brainstorm hobbies. I switched on my Compaq laptop like I usually do...but while the computer did run (I could hear it humming), the screen wouldn't come up. It stubbornly remained blank, even after turning it off and on several times. To put it simply, I panicked. I called Rose and asked her if she knew anyone who knew something about computers (and to see if she ever got the call I made on Sunday). Then I called Lauren to tell her I might not be on tonight.

After all the fussing, I finally got on using Secure Restore. I'm guessing it was the updates last night that caused the problem; I don't know why, since updates never did that before. I just won't turn it off anymore until Lauren visits in June.

Rose actually returned my call just ten minutes later. She didn't return the call I made on Sunday because she's been very busy with work (she's a part-time waitress and a lawyer), and she and Craig are still negotiating on their new house, which needs a lot of work. Ironically, she said she also needs to find someone who knows something about computers, as she too needs a new laptop. While the problem with my Compaq is sheer age, she says she just needs one with more memory.

And I'm beginning to agree with her suggestion that there's a reason people own all these computer devices, like iPads and Kindles and what have you. The Compaq is all I have. My cell phone is so old, I can't do much more with it than text, take calls, and play games. Lauren owns four laptops she's bought at various times over the last decade or so, plus an iPad. She's still giving me a Kindle Fire for my birthday...and maybe it's coming at a good time.

I needed a bath. It was late, past 5:30, but I still did it anyway. Not only did it help me relax, but cooler water than previous soaks proved a great way to beat the heat. Alas, things went downhill from there. I tried to make Flounder with wine sauce and Corn Fritters from the cookbook I took out for dinner, along with a spinach salad...but doing that and chatting with Lauren at the same time took so long, it was 9:30 before I was finally making Dark Chocolate Mousse for dessert.

Mother Nature did not help. Of course, as soon as I realize I forgot to take out the trash, it starts pouring. I did it anyway. It's poured off and on all night. At one point, it was so heavy and windy, I had to close the window overlooking the park - the wind was coming in and soaking everything.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

I Love Rock n' Roll

Started out the morning with breakfast and more Rick Steves. Steves moves from France to Belgium to visit the headquarters of NATO in Brussels and a world-class chocolate shop and Flemish art in Bruges. This is one of my favorites of the Rick Steves episodes I own. How can you not love a country that takes chocolate, bike-riding, French fries (there called Flemish fries), waffles, and world peace seriously?

Switched to Rock of Ages while cleaning out the area under the sink, where I keep my pots, pans, mixing bowls, and leftovers containers. This goofy musical uses hard-rock and pop songs of the late 80s to tell the tale of a young woman named Sherrie (Julliane Hough) who comes to Hollywood in 1987 to make it big as a rock star. She meets Drew (Diego Boneta), who works in the famous rock club The Bourbon Room and is also looking for a chance for fame. The club's owner (Alec Baldwin) is deep in debt and may lose the venue to the city if he can't make money soon. He has high hopes for the last concert of Arsenal, whose legendary lead singer, Stacee Jackx (Tom Cruise), is leaving the band to go solo. Meanwhile, Los Angelas' mayor (Bryon Cranston) and his very religious wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones) are determined to clean up the mean streets of the city...and get rid of the rock and rollers for good.

I absolutely loved this. Everyone was having a total blast, from Cruise as the drugged-up Jackx, to Paul Giamatti as his sleazy manager, to Russell Brand as Baldwin's loony stage manager, to Mary J. Blidge as the owner of a strip club where Sherrie ends up at towards the end of the movie. This is the quintessential feel-good, guilty pleasure musical, not all that far removed from Xanadu or Grease 2 in the real 80s.

That said, I can also understand why it's received mixed reviews from critics and audiences alike and was a flop at the box office last summer. I haven't seen the still-running Broadway show this is based on, but it's apparently quite different, with a tougher plot and no happy ending, which may alienate fans. What plot is there is feather-weight and rather silly; it's basic boy-meets-girl. If you want a musical with a message or a meatier story, you might want to check out Les Miserables instead.

If you have fond memories of the late 80s, are a fan of the hard rock and pop from the era, or are into any of the cast, I highly recommend it. Give it a chance when you need a pick-me-up; I guarantee you'll be belting Journey with the cast by the finale.

I went for a walk around noon. It was still too warm, but otherwise really lovely. It was so warm, I wore sandals and shorts for the first time this year. The sudden rise in temperatures has been a boon to the flora. The trees are finally in bloom, with flowers bursting from every branch. Hyacinths have joined the daffodils, crocus, and jonquils in many gardens. Lawns are an explosion of pale green grass, sun-yellow dandelions, and tiny little white and blue flowers. The magnolia trees are just starting to show off their pink and white petals. I was originally going to volunteer at the Oaklyn Library, but it was so nice, I strolled around the neighborhood instead. I wasn't the only one out. I passed several dog walkers, and many parents played with their younger children in front lawns and on porches.

When I got in, I finished Rock of Ages, made a quick Taco Chicken Soup for lunch from the contents of my refrigerator and a can of tomato sauce, then went to work. Work was busy off and on, but not nearly as bad as it has been. Other than a few annoying customers, there were no major problems and plenty of help. I was in and out.