Friday, May 31, 2013

Too Hot For Spring

Given it got into the lower 90s today, it was probably just as well that I slept in for a lot of the morning. I spent breakfast and part of the early afternoon watching more Sailor Moon. It was past 1PM when I finally made my way to the Acme to do this week's grocery shopping.

I wasn't the only one who thought it was too warm for a lot of running around. Much to my surprise, given we're at the beginning of the weekend and the beginning of the month, the Acme was quiet when I arrived. I mainly needed fruit. Strawberries and raspberries are on sale. Picked up bananas and the inexpensive packs of cantaloupe and watermelon slices. Found chicken drumsticks for a decent price, and a pack of Purdue ground chicken that was on sale and had a manager's coupon. Needed to restock chick peas, peanut butter, canned peach slices, and sugar. Crisco oil was $2.99 - I got my usual canola.

When I got home, I put everything away, then took a look at my bank accounts. Moved some money into savings, then paid a few bills. Even with the bills and a few things for Josefina and Samantha, I'm doing much better financially than I was at this time last year. Of course, I've had twice as many hours and haven't bought any large furniture or classes.

Finished out the Sailor Moon 4th season as I had scrambled eggs with farm market asparagus and spinach for lunch. A wicked, vain queen named Nehelania who had once been in charge of the Dark Moon in the past blames Serena's mother for destroying her chance to be forever beautiful. She was the one who captured Helios the Pegasus and turned the Amazon Quartet against them. She and her henchman Zirconium lures the Sailor Soldiers into a trap, then snare Rini and her golden dream mirror. It'll take Serena and Rini learning a lesson in teamwork and mother-daughter bonding to defeat Nehelania and prove that anyone can have a dream...whether they're young or old, beautiful or not so much.

I also got the lovely outfit I won for Josefina on eBay in the mail. I like for all of my American Girls to have something nice to wear for the Christmas holidays. Josefina crosses Regency elegance with Mexican flair in her very pretty yellow dress and lace mantilla comb and those cute pantalettes. If the white box with the burgundy band the outfit came in is any indication, this is an older version from before Mattel bought Pleasant Company, though it doesn't look that different from the current one offered on AG's site. I like that her dress is yellow. She's the only American Girl historical doll with a yellow Christmas/holiday gown, and it makes her stand out.

Work was slightly busier than earlier in the day or yesterday, but still not overwhelming. It was steady during rush hour, on-and-off quiet the rest of the night. We'll see if things stay that way when the beginning of the month people really start coming in tomorrow.

Oh, and my schedule is much better than it was last week. No very late or early days this time! The latest I work is 8PM; the earliest is noon. I have Wednesday and Thursday off again, like I did two weeks ago. Good. I have a lot of preparation to do for Lauren's visit on June 11th, including a ton of cleaning.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

A Late Spring to Remember

I spent the morning finishing out the last book I have in the Donna Parker series. There's three more I haven't encountered, including the next one on Donna's trip to California. I may have to look them up at used book stores and yard sales. I genuinely enjoyed the four books I have. I'm also glad Donna made up with Ricky, even if she had to be embarrassed to do it. I like how much growing up both girls and all their friends do in the course of these four books. As Linda said at a chat, they're "refreshingly normal," and it was all a lot of fun.

I originally planned to spend the remaining morning and early afternoon doing things online. I mainly looked up job support groups. Mom's been suggesting that I join a support group for years. I didn't have much luck. Most of them seemed to be religion-based or too far away. I need to talk to people about how to get started and what to do now. I still want to do something with writing...but if not actual writing, then what? I have a list of jobs I made last year, but I haven't gotten around to doing much with it. I'm not even sure I could do anything in the writing or publishing business if it really is that difficult of a job market to break into.

And of course, when I was at my most frustrated, the phone rang. It was the Acme. Could I come in at 4? A stock person called out, and they had to pull cashiers to take over from them. No, I didn't want to go in, but I'd do it anyway. I have vacation coming up, and I still want to replace my laptop. I need to make money.

I went for a walk to cheer myself up and just to get out of the apartment. Ever since Matt at Dinosaur Dracula discussed Chipwitches in his blog article a few days ago, I've been craving them. I bought something similar at WaWa from Good Humor. It was a bit cheaper than Klondike's version. I haven't had a Chipwitch in years. The cookies weren't all that great, but the ice cream and chocolate chips tasted pretty good. I do wish the cookies had been softer. Oh, well. It felt nice on a hot day.

I got an idea on my walk. Instead of going straight home, I headed down Newton Avenue to the Center, a group of art-based counselors and psychologists in Oaklyn. I tried one of their therapists when I was looking for one, but she never returned my calls. I didn't have much more luck today. Once again, there was no one around, and no secretary or anyone in the waiting room to tell me who was there or if anyone dealt with career counseling. One of the male counselors seemed to deal with career counseling...but if the specialties on everyone else were any indication, the Center mostly seems to help teenagers and families. I took his card anyway and may still try calling him.

Ran more Sailor Moon when I got home as I looked up The Center and had a very quick lunch of leftovers. Hurried off to work as soon as I ate, ignoring the blistering heat and the upper 80 degree temperatures we'd been having all day. I wasn't the only one - there were several people outside, doing their lawns, even during the heat wave.

Once again, I probably could have stayed home. It was on-and-off steady, busier than Wednesday but not overwhelming. It's the beginning of the month, and we had several annoying customers. Not to mention, we also had some managers from other Acme offices who were there, doing inventory and checking out the store. Some were in a rush to leave; others weren't all that pleasant. I just did four hours and hurried out as quickly as I could myself.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Summer On the Horizon

The day started fairly sunny, certainly nicer than yesterday. It was warm, but a pleasant breeze kept things from getting too bad. I began the morning with breakfast and an episode of Sailor Moon from its third season. Mina and Lita both fall for the handsome principal of an elementary school. Lita loves kids, crafts, and cooking, things the slightly ditzy Mina isn't good at. When she tries to show off her singing skills, the kids tease her. The girls' arguments over the difficultly of realizing dreams comes to a head when CereCere of the Amazon Quartet wrecks havoc on the school fair.

I had early work today, 11 to 5. To be honest, it was dead and fairly boring for almost my entire shift. It wasn't even all that busy during the lunch and dinner rush hours. It's the middle of the week, the end of the month, the week after a major holiday, and it was much hotter than it has been. No one's really up for a lot of running around anywhere. I was in and out without too much trouble. In fact, I had lunch on the store. There were a lot of extra people doing inventory today. They had soda and deli sandwiches in the back for them...and the regular employees got to share the feast, too.

I went straight home after work. I did a little online research, trying to come up with the number of Camden County College's career counseling offices without going to their main site. No such luck. I gave up around quarter after 6 and had the hummus and lettuce wrap I'd intended for lunch instead, then swept the remaining debris from yesterday's weather and the wind this week off the porch.

Ran more third-season Sailor Moon during dinner. JunJun of the Amazon Quartet helps Rini's friend Kelly with his fear of the vaulting horse in one episode. In another, the Soldiers want to help a starving artist who paints only the truth...but CereCere throwing money at him isn't the kind of aid he's looking for. And Rini, Kelly, and Rini's best friend Melody want to help a classmate who is trying to invent a flying machine...if VesVes doesn't get there first!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Rainy Days and Tuesdays

It was just cloudy when I got up this morning. I ran the remaining "Donald Duck in the Army" cartoons while having oatmeal and the last blood orange for breakfast. "Fall Out-Fall In" has poor Donald on the march with his unit. All he wants is sleep and a hot meal, but first he can't get his tent up, then his fellow soldiers' creative snoring keeps him awake! "The Old Army Game" is a little more disturbing today. Donald goes AWOL for a night on the town. He has to play keep-away with Pete when he's found out...but the game gets ugly when Donald thinks permanent damage has been done.

It started to rain as I ran more cartoons. I thought I'd just wait it out. I went in the back to gather up donations, mainly videos and CDs, for the Acme's rummage sale on Saturday. I also went through the dolls' things to see if there was anything there I could get rid of. The rain, however, didn't end. I just rode to the Haddon Township Library and got wet.

The Library was actually pretty busy, probably because of the weather. I had plenty of DVDs to shelve. Maybe too many. The kids' DVDs in particular are still overflowing. I did take some out this week, since I had no huge plans and it's supposed to get really hot starting tomorrow. Grabbed Mister Roberts, Mickey, Donald, and Goofy: The Three Musketeers, Scooby Doo and the Boo Brothers, and Moonrise Kingdom (which I didn't get to a few weeks ago).

By this point, the rain was coming down a bit harder. I didn't really have much money anyway, and I wasn't planning on making a lot of stops today. I just had lunch at Wendy's on the cliff under the Library. Good thing it wasn't busy, despite it being ten of 1 at that point. Wendy's has a new flatbread chicken sandwich. I tried the variation with honey mustard and no bacon. It was actually quite good, a little slippery but not too greasy, and there was plenty of meat, for once.

The rain finally let up as I left for Haddonfield, and I arrived at counseling relatively dry. I told Ms. Stahl about Rose's move and my babysitting Khai and about Anny's new job. I then went into the stress with my job, and how badly I wanted out of it. I just want to be a normal single 30-year-old with a normal job. I feel like I'm not getting anywhere, and never will.

She basically said that if I'm not going to be able to find a writing job (her son apparently started as a musician, couldn't find jobs, and ended up studying nursing), I need to find something else. The trouble is...I have nothing else. I read, I write, I edit, and I organize things. That's all. Those are my skills. I was really hoping to avoid returning to school and spending more money on expensive classes after the last ones I took were no help whatsoever.

She suggested looking into trades and talking to the Camden County College career counselors, which I haven't gotten around to because of work. The trouble with trades is, I don't think I'd be much of a plumber, electrician, or engineer. I do want to learn to do woodworking, but I'm not sure what kind of a carpenter I'd make. I don't know what I'd be good at.

I went straight home after that. It was raining again, and harder. I just got wet again. When I came home, I got online to look up trades and see if I could make an appointment with Camden County College's career counselors. I didn't have any luck with either. Like I mentioned, trades seemed to be too hands-on for me and require too much training. And Camden County College's page won't load. AVG keeps coming up with a virus, and did for Lauren later when she tried it, too.

Went in the bath after I gave up on that. I wasn't feeling very relaxed. Ms. Stahl says I set my standards too high, and that I'm always going to be disappointed because I do. Well, of course I do! When everyone says you're so smart and brilliant, wouldn't you expect more of yourself? Wouldn't you expect yourself to have a decent job, and a life around other 30-something singles you can talk to? Nobody ever told me I should be a plumber, or a carpenter. They said "you should be a writer." I just wish I knew what I could do with those skills, or in addition to those skills.

I made a very simple, fast dinner of a "tea quesadilla" - a burrito-sized tortilla cut in half, then spread with home-made hummus and farm-market lettuce and radishes. Ran the animated The Three Musketeers while I ate dinner and made slow-cooker rice pudding for dessert. This is one of the last direct-to-home-media movies Disney did, and it's by far one of the best. Here, the usual animated shorts gang spoofs swashbucklers and operettas. Mickey, Don, and Goofy want to join the fabled Musketeers after a childhood encounter with the original ones from the books. Trouble is, Don is a coward, Goofy's not the brightest character in Disney's stable, and Mickey's courage is a lot bigger than he is. Captain Pete, the dastardly head of the Musketeers, promotes them to bodyguards of Princess Minnie and Lady Daisy in the hopes of having an easier chance to off the royal mouse. While Mickey falls for Minnie and Donald annoys Daisy, Lady Clarabelle Cow gets in on the act to help Pete divide and conquer the would-be Musketeers for good.

While this doesn't have much to do with the original story, it's pretty cute on its own. I got a big kick out of it the last time I rented it, and I still enjoyed it tonight. Fans of the "famous five" or the classical music used will have a lot of fun here.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Animated American Patrol

First of all, I'd like to salute our troops on this Memorial Day, including my biological father Bruce (Vietnam), my late uncle Ken (World War II), and two who are currently in the Navy, my friend Jen Waters and my brother Keefe.

Second, I ran my annual Memorial Day marathon of wartime cartoons all day, starting during my late breakfast. Woody Woodpecker debuted in 1940 and quickly became by far the biggest star at Walter Lantz' studio. The war years were perfect for his wacky, noisy personality. "Ace In the Hole" has him desperate to become a pilot, but he ends up shaving horses. He doesn't exactly make himself popular with his sergeant when he finally does get up in the air! Lanz also made several one-shot wartime shorts. Despite its rather heavy African-American stereotypes, "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B" features a really swinging version of the title tune and is one of the few wartime shorts to depict minorities in the military. "Pigeon Patrol," the tale of a country bumpkin bird who becomes a hero, is a bit more typical of the era.

I got to the laundromat around 11:30. I assumed a lot of people would want to get their laundry done on their day off, but the place was quiet for almost the entire hour I was there. I had no problem getting my small load done as I listened to President Obama make a speech on the radio, then the French Open.

When I got back in, I put my laundry away, had a quick lunch of leftovers, and ran the "Donald Duck in the Army" shorts. Woody wasn't the only cartoon bird who became a star in the brash early 40s. Donald's popularity had begun in the mid-30s, but the war years made him Disney's number-one animated shorts star. Like Woody, he was desperate to fly - "Donald Gets Drafted" and "Sky Trooper" shows why he wants to get in the air, and what happens when he finally does. My personal favorite, "The Vanishing Private," has Don as a camouflage painter who finds a way to make a gun - and himself - really hard to see! The surreal Oscar-winning "Der Fuherer's Face" puts Donald inside Germany as the Nazis' demands nearly drive him loonier than he already is.

"Commando Duck," the eighth and final Donald army short, takes him into Japan, where he proceeds to "wash out" the enemy. Like the Popeye wartime shorts, the nasty Japanese stereotypes makes this a tough watch today, and it goes without saying that it doesn't turn up that often outside of the Walt Disney Treasures DVD sets. Audiences weren't all that amused, either. By 1944, many folks on the home front were tiring of the constant reminders of war and just wanted to get away from it all. Walt saw that, too.  Evidently, Disney planned far more wartime shorts than actually made it out, including several more on Donald's Army exploits and "How to be a Commando" for Goofy.

Work was very busy when I got in, quiet as a mouse when I finished. It was a beautiful, sunny, warm-but-not-hot day and a major holiday. Once the traffic on the Black Horse Pike settled down and people got home from the Shore, that was that. I was in and out with no problems other than spending the last two hours or so very bored.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

The Dolls In Pink Forever

I opted to celebrate Memorial Day Weekend with patriotic music as a backdrop to breakfast instead of the usual Beatles radio show. I ate some delicious Banana Peanut Butter Oatmeal Pancakes while listening to my 2-disc America the Beautiful record set. This 1986 collection was put out by Reader's Digest in honor of the Statue of Liberty's 100th birthday and restoration that year, and I listen to it on or near every patriotic holiday. My favorite of the symphonic numbers is "On the Trail" from The Grand Canyon Suite. That's so much fun to listen to, and I've heard it so many places, starting with A Christmas Story. (The ting-a-ling segment can be heard as Ralphie awakens on Christmas morning to discover a white world.) My favorite vocal number is an appropriately folksy "This Land Is Your Land."

Called Mom as I was finishing up breakfast; got my stepfather Bill. Dad was having a rare morning to himself, as his wife had just left to run errands. He was looking forward to getting things done at home in the morning and taking his grandsons to see the new animated film Epic this afternoon. He also mentioned that my sister Anny finally got a job at Lund's Fisheries on the border of Lower Township and Wildwood Crest. They're a seafood processing and distribution business that's right next to the Wildwood Crest Bridge. They have spectacular views of the marinas near the Cape May Bridge and of the Wildwood Islands...when you can stand the smell! It goes without saying that they constantly smell like processed fish. When the Cape May County Special Services Middle School was housed in Wildwood Crest, the Lower Township bus would have to go over the bridge twice a day. We all held our noses when the bus went past Lund's, even the boys who otherwise didn't care how they smelled!

After I let Dad go, I quickly changed a few dolls into slightly cooler clothes. Josefina and Felicity don't really have enough to change them into, but I wanted to get Jessa into her new flamingo outfit. She looks absolutely adorable in it, especially those shoes. (Which, unlike many Mattel-made AG shoes, fit her big feet perfectly.) I put Samantha into her pretty pink and white Lace Dress and the matching white heeled shoes over white Springfield Collection stockings. (Technically, the Lace Dress is a Rebecca outfit, but I thought it was so sweet, I bought it for Sam.) Molly wears the Floral Dress and beige shoes from Kit's collection. (I bought it for her a few years ago on eBay when all her summer outfits on AG's site were on backorder.)

I barely had enough time to change into my own uniform, have a very quick lunch, and rush off to work! Work was on-and-off busy, slightly quieter than yesterday but not bad for a holiday weekend. A windy but otherwise warm, sunny, and dry day was a big help. Once again, I was in and out with no problems.

When I got home, I had leftover Italian Chicken and Tomatoes for dinner while watching a few more wartime cartoons. The Pink Panther signs up for the Vietnam War in "G.I Pink," but finds basic training to be a lot less glamorous than he thought it would be. Bugs eats a chemically-charged carrot that makes him into a superhero in "Super Rabbit." Unlike Pink, Daffy's having none of that "glamour" stuff and will do anything he can to dodge that persistent "Little Man From the Draft Board" in "Draftee Daffy." Bugs returns to make sure a gremlin doesn't do too much damage to a bomber in "Falling Hare."

Finally got a hold of Mom after my shower. She joined Dad and the boys at the movies. They had a good time and said Epic was really cute. Mom confirmed that Anny did land a job at Lund's, but she didn't seem too happy about having to babysit her grandsons while their mother's at work again. She probably got used to a lot of quiet time to herself! She generally seemed to be in a good mood, though a little tired. She'd spent the week cleaning up her yard...and cleaning it again (including her car) when the winds started blowing pollen around.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

A Windy Day for a May Fair

I was glad to see the sun when I got up this morning, even though it was still very windy and cool. They've been predicting rain today all week. I guess we got it all yesterday. I warmed things up considerably with today's American Top 40. We marched into Memorial Day Weekend 1974 with "Billy, Don't Be a Hero" by Bo Davidson & The Heywoods, "Dancing Machine" by the Jackson 5, "Band On the Run" by Paul McCartney & Wings, "I Won't Last a Day Without You" by the Carpenters, "The Show Must Go On" by Three Dog Night, "The Entertainer" by Marvin Hamlisch from the soundtrack of The Sting, "Sundown" by Gordon Lightfoot, "Oh Very Young" by Cat Stevens, "Midnight at the Oasis  by Maria Muldaur, and "My Girl Bill" by Jim Stafford.

Comedy numbers spoofing current events or pop culture were all the rage in the 70s...and they didn't get any goofier than that week's number one song. Ray Stevens' "The Streak" poked a little fun at the weird fad of people running naked through events (it even happened at the Oscars).

I thought I saw a sign on for a yard sale on Kendall on my way home yesterday. Nope, there was nothing there. I just ended up going right over to the Collingswood May Fair. This is the big craft show/car show they do every Saturday before Memorial Day. It's so big, the Farm Market is even folded into it for the weekend. And it's always packed. Even when I arrived at quarter after 10, they were busy.

I walked around for a little while. The Car Show is always huge. There were some nifty models this year, including a whole fleet of classic GTOs and a few current vehicles at the start of the car area. Hit up the Farm Market, too. I wanted to stock up, since I won't be able to get there next week. I bought spinach, strawberries, asparagus, a small zucchini, organic green leaf lettuce, and golden beets.

By 11:30, the crowds were getting heavier and harder to slog through, and the wind wasn't improving, either. I decided to forgo walking around the "midway" area where the kids' rides are, since I don't have kids anyway, and just head back. On my way, I bought my modern American Girl doll Jessa a cute outfit from one of the two doll clothes booths I saw. Jessa is named for, and largely based after, my stepsister Jessa, who was raised in southern Florida. I saw the niftiest outfit that was perfect for a Florida girl - a white cotton hoodie with a flamingo embroidered on it, a pink and blue denim skirt, and a pair of flamingo-print sneakers. It was $20, not bad for a cute get-up that includes shoes. (And the lady said she and I weren't the only ones who liked that outfit - I bought her last one.)

Didn't have nearly as much luck with the two yard sales I hit in Audubon after leaving the fair. The proprietors of the first sale were nice enough to let me fill a bag with yarn for a dollar. The second sale had absolutely nothing of interest. I could have sworn a third sale was listed on Craigslist, but I couldn't find it. After that, I just rode home.

Spent the rest of the afternoon baking Zucchini-Spice Cookies, having leftovers for lunch, and watching Popeye wartime shorts. Popeye jumped into the fray in "The Mighty Navy" a month before the US even entered the war. While some of his Naval exploits, such as "Kickin' the Conga Around" (Popeye and Bluto show off their conga skills to exotic maiden Olive) and "Blunder Below" (Popeye is banished to the boiler room, but still manages to vanquish a submarine) are still fun to watch today, others are harder sells for modern audiences. "Scrap the Japs," "You're a Sap, Mr. Jap," and "Seein' Red, White, and Blue" have such offensive Japanese stereotypes, they've been banned from television for decades. (And it's a shame with "Red, White, and Blue." It starts so well with Popeye trying to get Bluto signed for the Navy that the two of them suddenly discovering a nest of Japanese spies almost seems tacked on.)

Work was surprisingly on-and-off steady for the entire afternoon. Several employees mentioned that they thought it was going to be much busier. I guess, despite the crowds at the May Fair, most people did go down to a rejuvenated Shore for the holiday. I was in and out with no problems.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Rushing In the Rain

I had just enough time to hurry to the Acme this morning to do my grocery shopping. It was really dark when I started breakfast, so dark, it felt more like 9 at night than 9 in the morning. It started raining about an hour later; by quarter of 11, the rain had calmed down enough for me to get to the store only somewhat damp. Good thing I had a very small order anyway. I mainly needed to restock meat. The chicken sale wasn't that great, so I bought turkey chops that a manager's coupon on them. Grabbed skewered shrimp for lunch and more of those dollar packs of fish. Pretty much everything else was restocking the larder - diced tomatoes (Contadina was on clearance), Acme's generic shredded wheat, oatmeal (Acme's smaller generic container was on sale for a dollar), a can of tuna (also a dollar), packs of cantaloupe and watermelon slices, and bananas.

Hurried home to have the shrimp and melon for lunch. Ugh. No wonder the shrimp had a manager's coupon on it, too. It was dry and bland. I ate it anyway. Ran some Three Stooges wartime shorts while I ate. The boys are stranded on the Atlantic Ocean and inadvertently find themselves on a Nazi submarine in "Back From the Front." They're "Higher Than a Kite" when they hide in what turns out to be a bomb...and wind up dropped in enemy territory.

Work was steady for most of the afternoon, and never more than mildly busy. I have the feeling most people may not have been able to get to the store. Several customers mentioned heavy traffic on the Atlantic City Expressway and the Black Horse Pike going towards the Jersey Shore. Sounds like a lot of people decided to ignore the weather and head to their weekends off. It was still pretty busy when I left, but a manager was nice enough to come in for me.

(And I said good-bye to Jade, one of the sweetest of the college students who worked at the Acme, today. She's done school and got a good job in Texas. I'll miss her. She's the one who always wore the great costumes and did the creative stuff for holidays. She was really good to me, and fun to hang out with.)

When I got home, I threw together some leftovers on a wrap for dinner while watching more war-oriented Stooges shorts. The boys are "Babes In Arms" when an angry husband ends up being their commanding officer. "They Stooge to Conga" pushes the usual violence to its limit as the boys fix a doorbell and discover a Nazi plot. "Uncivil Warbirds" puts the trio on the opposite sides of the War Between the States, with some pretty strange results. And in "G.I Wanna Home," the boys find themselves hit by the post-war housing shortage and forced to live in a vacant lot.

And I'm not terribly happy with my hours next week. While I have Tuesday and Thursday off and slightly more hours...I work until 10PM next Friday, and then work 10AM until 4PM next Saturday! Not only do I hate it when they pull that on me, but that means I'll have to miss Collingswood's Town-Wide Yard Sale and the farm market! I would give anything for a regular, normal schedule that's the same darn hours every week!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

On a Wing and a Prayer

I started a quiet morning with Rick Steves episodes on Scandinavia and Bavaria while having Lemon Muffins for breakfast. After I finished with Rick, I headed out for a short errand run. It was once again on-and-off sunny, but this time, there was a really nice wind that felt delicious after yesterday's heat. The local yards look great at this time of year. Irises are up, and some roses are too, while others are almost ready. A few folks have red, white, and blue decorations up for Memorial Day Weekend, but for most, Mother Nature's decorating looks just fine.

My first stop was the Oaklyn Library. I never made it there last week! Both the adult and kids' DVD sections looked dreadful. The kids' DVDs in particular were very out of place. The kids' books weren't too bad, even the board books that never seem to be in the right places. It was surprisingly busy there for a decent day, with lots of people doing things on the computer and reading newspapers. I was there for almost an hour.

After I left the Library, I went in the other direction. I stopped at CVS first, but they didn't have good prices on a large photo album. I want to replace the photo album that came with the all the recipe clippings I picked up at the Haddon Heights Town Wide Yard Sale. I have the feeling the cheapest place to find that would be online or at another yard sale.

Swung by Dad's on my way home to say "hi" to him and Jodie before Dad goes on a work trip tomorrow. They were baby-sitting Khai. The poor kid was taking a nap when I arrived. I couldn't blame him. He barely slept yesterday, which is probably why he gave me so much trouble. He apparently continued to give Rose more trouble when I left, trying to run down the block again. Rose couldn't have been happy that their much-coveted new refrigerator ended up not fitting into the spot they intended it for and had to be sent back, too. (Apparently, a new one will arrive next week. Thankfully, their new washer and drier do seem to have arrived intact. I doubt fitting would have been an issue in their basement, anyway. It's huge, running the length of the house. I chased Khai down there yesterday and thought I'd ended up in a SEPTA train station for a minute.)

Headed home after I talked to Dad and Jodie. I made a tuna salad on farm market bibb lettuce for lunch while watching the Looney Tunes wartime shorts on the Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume 6. More than almost any other studio except for the Fleischers, Termite Terrace really captured the spirit of the War years in wacky "skit" shorts like "Weakly Reporter," "Wacky Blackout," and "Meet John Doughboy." The regular characters jumped into the fray as well. Bugs goes up against the Nazis in "Herr Meets Hare," and Daffy takes on an entire Nazi squadron by himself in "Daffy the Commando."

After lunch, I went outside to do some spring cleaning. I first swept the porch. The small, thin "fuzzies" seem to be largely done. We're now on the larger, heavier greenish seed pods with the round pollen sacks. While not as easy to sweep, at least they're easier to see and less likely to end up looking like tumbleweeds on my porch.

When I finished that, I went back inside, filled my scrub bucket, and dragged my trash can, plastic and paper recycling canisters, and the vinyl air conditioner cover under the porch to be scrubbed. I should have done them at least a week or two ago, but between my crazy hours, the crazier weather, and the "fuzzies," I haven't had the chance. They were really starting to look pretty bad.

I got lucky. It had sprinkled earlier when I was leaving the Library, but didn't amount to much. It started again just as I brought everything upstairs...and this time, it was getting harder. I dove inside just as the rain really started to come down.

I was going to go to the 4PM yoga class today, but thanks to the heavy rain, I went nowhere else today. Even when the rain stopped and the sun came out, I didn't really trust Mother Nature. I made Blood Orange Cupcakes, then Italian Chicken and Tomatoes with sauteed zucchini and pasta for dinner while dubbing Memphis Belle to kick off Memorial Day Weekend.

This is a fictionalized version of the final mission run by the crew of the B-17 Memphis Belle. The boys are all high on their previous successful runs, but this one is a corker - a factory in Bremen, Germany that's surrounded by civilian buildings and is heavily guarded. Some of the boys are already planning on what they'll do when they get back. Others don't think they have a chance of making it. They all know how important this is, not just to them, but to their country...especially after they witness the destruction of some of the other planes in the air and are reminded of just how perilous war is.

I'm not normally a fan of war movies. Even some older ones are too dark and violent for my tastes. This one, however, has a great cast and is just light enough to not be depressing, but just dramatic enough to make you realize that yes, war is hell, even when you have some of the more popular young actors (and singers) of the early 90s in the cockpit. While Harry Connick Jr. mostly seems to be around so he can sing (including leading the group in performing two songs on the way to and from the plane), others have more to do, including Sean Astin as the neurotic, sex-obsessed navigator, Eric Stoltz as the sweet-natured young radio operator, and Billy Zane as the bombardier who claims he's a full-fledged doctor to get girls. John Lithgow is the public relations lieutenant on the ground who hopes the crew returns so he can promote the heck out of them.

Those who know more about the Memphis Belle and her real life crew (or have seen the documentary this is based after) will probably find it too "Hollywood"-ized. For other fans of this era, World War II, or any of the stars, it's one of the more interesting depictions of this time period from the 80s and 90s and is very recommended.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Little Boys and Libraries

Rose called me around 10AM and said she was ready for me to come over. It was still cloudy at that point, and very warm and humid. I grabbed my purse and a rain coat, just in case, and strolled over to their new house on Kendall. There was no car in the driveway, and I thought at first that they weren't there yet. I called Rose, who told me that Craig was inside with Khai, working on fitting their new blinds to the downstairs windows.

Khai is three years old, and, as his mother points out, a bit of handful. He was especially problematic earlier in the day, when everyone was hauling stuff in and out of the house and not paying much attention to him, and when his mother had to go run some errands and pick up hoagies from WaWa for lunch. First of all, he wasn't happy that I wouldn't let him climb around in his father and uncle's vans. Even after both cars were gone (Craig's brother helped out early on, but had to go to work), he ran down the block and tried to climb into the wide red strollers pushed by the day care ladies taking their charges out to the park! When he started roaming around in other people's front yards, I finally got fed up. I lifted him up and under my arm and hauled him back to his house and his father.

Thankfully, his mother got home shortly after, and Dad and Jodie arrived around the same time. We had those hoagies for lunch (mine was roast beef and provolone) and tortilla chips. Khai was a bit easier to handle with more people around. We went outside and blew bubbles. Khai pulled out his ride-on truck, and we went down the block together, looking at leaves and "helicopters" (seeds that can be tossed in the air to look like flying machines). We drew on their brand-new sidewalk with chalk.

By that point, the sun had come out, and it had gotten very humid, hot, and bright. Khai was as red as the Phillies outfit he wore, despite his mother coating him with sunblock while he was on his car. We went inside for a little while and played Hungry Hungry Herd (a Farmville version of Hungry Hungry Hippos), and Khai showed me his huge collection of Hot Wheels and Disney Cars.

When 3PM rolled around, I was worn out, and Khai was getting cranky. I decided it was time to head out. I had other things I wanted to get done today, anyway. I left Rose and Craig trying to put their son down for a nap while they waited for their new refrigerator to be delivered. Made a quick stop at Doria's Deli on the way back to say "hi" to Mrs. Doria and buy a much-needed bottle of Diet Pepsi. I was only at home long enough to change into shoes and socks and grab most of the books that needed to go back to the library before heading out again.

I made my way to the Haddon Township Library via Newton River Park. It was nearly 4 by then. Despite the heat, there were lots of people out and about. In addition to the usual joggers and dog walkers, I saw lots of families on bikes and running around the playground and high schoolers and college students sunning on the grass.

The library was quite busy when I arrived. It was well after school let out, and there were lots of kids studying and using the computers. The kids were distracted long enough for me to organize the children's DVD section as well as I could. There was already a volunteer putting the adult titles away, so I shelved non-fiction titles and kids' books instead. Took out two more books on money and saving it, 573 Ways to Save Money and Personal Finance For Dummies.

My original dinner plan for tonight was leftovers...but I was dead tired when I finally got out of the library. I decided I deserved a treat. I had a nice little dinner at a very busy Friendly's. Their Chicken Ginger Stir Fry was delicious, steaming hot chicken in a mildly spicy teryiaki sauce, with peppers, spring peas, carrots, and snap peas on a bed of white rice.

Stopped briefly at Rite Aid on the way home. Unfortunately  they were out of that inexpensive half-gallon of skim milk. I just ended up stopping at WaWa instead.

The apartment was hot as heck when I got home. I've been trying to put off turning on the air conditioner. I really don't like running that thing. It uses so much electricity and makes a lot of noise. I couldn't really put it off anymore. It was past 80 degrees in the living room!

As soon as the air conditioner was on and the trash was out, I went in a much cooler bath than I've been taking these past few months. It felt so very, very nice after a long, hot day. I leaned back, read 573 Ways to Save Money, and soaked. Some of the ideas in the book didn't apply to me (anything related to cars or kids, for instance), and some I already do (carry cloth bags, eat more beans, make holiday gifts, put sugar in cheaper sugar-less or low-sugar cereals). Others are genuinely useful (plan your weekly menus, only buy from the sides of the grocery store and not the middle aisles) or interesting (peanut butter does sound good on shredded wheat).

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

I Could Be Happy Baking

Yes, I spent most of a cloudy morning baking and watching The Boy Friend. This charming 1971 Ken Russell version of the British stage musical takes us behind the scenes at a small-time stage musical in the late 20s. When the star (Russell regular Glenda Jackson) breaks her leg, timid stage manager Polly (Twiggy) steps in. Thing is, Polly's no Ruby Keeler - she's just a scared kid who wants to get through a performance, ogle the leading man Tony (Christopher Gable), and go home. Everyone else, on the other hand, is competing for the eye of the Hollywood director sitting in the audience. They all want to be discovered...except for Polly, who only wants Tony to discover her. Her fantasies and their desperation coalesce into a series of amazing, Busby Berkeley-esque numbers.

This one has grown on me over the years. I didn't know what to make of it when I first bought it. Those who know the light, small-ish stage version of The Boy Friend may be dismayed with the rather excessive expansion of what was originally a small, sweet musical. In a weird way, it's the lighter flip-side of Chicago, which also contrasts show-business fantasy with grimy reality. Twiggy's adorable as Polly in her starring debut; stage dancer and director Tommy Tune does the second of his two movies as one of the title "boy friends." Cute and fun for those who like big 60s-70s musicals, Twiggy, Tune, Russell, cult musicals, or the real 30s Berkeley extravaganzas.

I pulled out my Lemon Muffins and Coconut-Dark Chocolate Cookies as the movie was ending. I barely had enough time to gulp fried eggs and spinach for lunch, then change into my uniform and hurry off to work.

As it turned out, the rush wasn't necessary. It was even quieter today than it was yesterday. I spent an hour early on putting returns on the shelves. It picked up a little bit during rush hour, but was never as bad as it usually is. We're coming up on a holiday weekend and the beginning of the month. Many people are probably waiting for next week to do their big shopping.

It also helped that we never got the rain they keep forecasting for us. In fact, the clouds were breaking up by the time I headed to work. When I left, the sky was clear and it was bright and sunny, if also warmer and more humid than it has been.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Ladies of the Fifties

Started a gloomy morning finishing out Donna Parker, Special Agent. An exciting ending to a fun story! Donna finishes her busy fall with a trip to a junior and senior high school newspaper convention in New York. She and Ricky meet the Count from the previous story again and have a run-in with a suspicious character. They also figure out what her uncle's really up to. I have to say, the Donna books have become some of my favorite yard sale finds. I've really enjoyed the first two and am looking forward to the next, On Her Own. 

Donna and Ricky are hardly the only female friend duo to run into problems in the 1950s. I ran two first-season episodes of Laverne and Shirley during breakfast that go into their friendship and problems with men. Laverne gets Shirley to go out on a date with her new guy and his cousin, but both men prove to be less than ideal boyfriend material in "Dog Day Blind Dates." Shirley's the one having man trouble in "Dating Slump." When Carmine seems to be going out with another girl, Shirley becomes a hermit, until Laverne convinces her to go out with her new date (Robert Hays of the Airplane! series) and his bullying buddy.

Thankfully, the laundromat was pretty quiet when I arrived there around 11, and remained so. Though a few men were in and out, it was mostly just me, my small load, and The View on TV. I easily and quickly got a washer and a dryer and was out as soon as the dryer finished.

When I got home, I had just enough time to put everything away, have a quick lunch while listening to Barry Manilow's "Music of the 50s" CD, change into my uniform, and hurry off to work. It was so quiet when I came in, I spent almost two hours helping the produce department shuck corn to wrap in plastic and put out for customers. Things picked up considerably during rush hour. There were a few annoying customers, otherwise no major problems besides it was still busy when I left and one of the boys doing stock had to come in for me. 

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Little Spring Showers

It was still cloudy when I got up around 10:30, but it looked like it hadn't rained in a while. I continued Donna Parker, Special Agent, then wrote in my journal. Put on the second half of Brunch With the Beatles while making Coconut-Pineapple Pancakes for breakfast. The theme was "Songs That Should Have Been Singles." Once again, this was a good, broad topic that could include everything from "Happy Birthday" to "Magical Mystery Tour" without seeming strange. I tried to call Mom; got her coming out of the shower. I'd call her later, after work.

While it hadn't really been doing much of anything but being cool and humid this morning, by the time I rode to work, it was misting. The weather didn't do anything to keep customers at bay. It was busy all day. There were a few cranky customers, but other than that, no really major problems. It slowed down enough by 6 that I was able to go home without a relief. Thankfully, the rain had calmed down into the barest sprinkles by that point, too.

First thing I did when I arrived at home was call Mom. She'd just finished her own dinner. She was enjoying some peace and quiet before Dad comes home from work. (His boat broke down and he wasn't happy before he went out to sea, so she's not looking forward to his arrival.) My sister Anny took her son Skylar to meet his father Jeremy for the first time in years. Jeremy works with computers in the Army and isn't often in the area. I saw the photos on Facebook and was a little worried about how it was going to work out, but apparently, everything went fine. Skylar enjoyed being with his dad, whom he very much resembles.

When I let Mom go, I made a quiet dinner of my own while listening to my three Elton John Greatest Hits CDs. Cooked salmon in the last of the black beans mixed with salsa, mushrooms, and home-made chicken stock. Threw in a salad of farm-market bibb lettuce and radishes with strawberry-balsamic vinaigrette and had myself a very tasty meal.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Lost In Haddon Township

Though it was cloudy, cool, and a little humid when I awoke this morning, it was neither as humid nor as gray as last Saturday. This week's American Top 40 was just as dark and soulful, as disco gave way to New Wave, British punk rock bands, country stars, and romantic ballads. Hits in mid-May of that year included "Another Brick In the Wall" by Pink Floyd, "Funkytown" by Lipps. Inc, "Love You Inside and Out" by the Bee Gees, "You're the Biggest Part of Me" by Ambrosia, "Little Jeannie" by Elton John, "You May Be Right" by Billy Joel, "Ride Like the Wind" by Christopher Cross, the classic duets "Don't Fall In Love With a Dreamer" by Kim Carnes and Kenny Rogers and "With You I'm Born Again" by Billy Preston and Syreeta, and the first top 10 hit from Aussie soft rock favorites Air Supply, "Lost In Love."

The top song that week had been number one for five weeks prior, and would go on to be the biggest smash of that year - "Call Me," one of the biggest hits of British New Wave group Blondie.

I had a long, busy farm market/yard sale run today. I started out at the Farm Market this time (after a quick look at a yard sale in Oaklyn produced nothing but a cup of lemonade). It wasn't quite as busy as it was the last two weeks. I still suspect many folks may have gone down to the shore this weekend. I didn't really need much under any circumstances. I just bought zucchini, a small head of organic bibb lettuce, and the first strawberries of the season.

After last week's weather disappointments, the Haddon Township Community-Wide Yard Sale defaulted to today. I say "community-wide," because Haddon Township is really several communities, including Westmont, Haddonfield, and West Collingswood Heights. I roamed around in Westmont, the Bluebird section on the edge of Collingswood, the development behind the Haddon Township High School, and the area near Ritz Theater. At one point, I found myself out at Cooper River Park with no idea of how I'd gotten there! Haddon Township is so meandering. I have a hard time figuring out the area even when I'm not dodging cars and treasure-hunters.

My haul included:

Three books, the Dear America late 60s story Where Have All the Flowers Gone?, and two Christmas books, the craft/recipe book Ultimate Christmas and a collection of stories on how many holiday customs got started, A Treasury of Christmas.

One of the earlier Scooby Doo direct-to-DVD movies, Scooby Doo and the Witch's Ghost.

The big find this time was 11 CDs, nine from a house in Westmont with a huge collection of more than 200. I'm glad I snapped mine up when I did. One fellow in a van that was blaring classic rock wanted to buy all 200 of them, but said he'd come back in an hour. I left with my stack ten minutes later.

Journey - Greatest Hits

REO Speedwagon - The Hits

Stay Awake - A collection of songs from earlier Disney films, performed by artists as wide-ranging as Bonnie Raitt and Ringo Starr

Harry Connick Jr. - We Are In Love (I actually had this as a kid; don't remember what happened to it)

Bangles - Different Light (cassette replacement)

Paula Abdul - Spellbound

Bruce Springsteen - Greetings From Asbury Park, NJ

Billy Joel - Cold Spring Harbor

Rod Stewart - Storyteller (2-disc set of Stewart hits from the 70s)

America: A Tribute to Heroes (9/11 tribute album)

(Incidentally, I passed the man who wanted to buy all of them as I was leaving the house. He was going through boxes and boxes of CDs in his van! Probably a professional eBay reseller.)

I rode home through the area near the Ritz Theater. While I had no luck with yard sales there, I did run into this year's Strawberry Festival at St. Mark's in Oaklyn, across from what used to be the PNC Bank. I didn't see any interesting used items, so I just bought strawberry cookies from their bake sale and headed home.

Though it hadn't rained yet when I got in, I'd been riding all morning and have had a long couple of weeks, not to mention it was getting more humid by the minute. I went nowhere else today. I made a Strawberry-Peanut Butter Smoothie inspired by an episode of Max & Ruby, "Max's Berry Patch." Ruby tries to get Max to gather berries for Grandma's surprise dessert, but Max would rather eat them! Strawberry Shortcake has her own "berry" big problems when she and the Purple Pie Man are both determined to win a big bake off in Strawberry Shortcake In Big Apple City. The Pie Man cheats at every turn, but Strawberry encounters a group of unusual urban pals who help her out.

Spent the next couple of hours dusting and chatting with Rose. She's still trying to get her new house settled. Supposedly, they'll be in there by the end of the month. We'll see how things go. She also wanted to know how my savings were coming. While I haven't been as regular about making a budget as I probably should have, I have been transferring between 20 and 40 dollars a week into my savings account. Rose says that isn't enough. I really should put more in. I think I'm doing fine, especially compared to what I was getting at this time last year.

I slid into the bath after I finished dusting the apartment. I needed a bath. My legs were so sore. I read Simple Abundance while I soaked in the tangerine-jasmine bubble bath and listened to jazz. The entry about job burnout hit so close to home, I started crying. I know I'm burnt out. I have been for years. I feel tired, worn, and frazzled. On one hand, I was so happy just being home last fall, I wish I could have done it indefinitely  On the other hand, I was broke and afraid that I'd never make any money. The things that I do just don't earn money, and I don't know what to do that will earn money.

I cheered myself up with a dinner of Sloppy Joes with real sauce and Caesar Salad with home-made dressing and farm-market fresh lettuce and radishes, with Strawberries n' Cream Mousse Pie for dessert and Scooby Doo and the Witch's Ghost. This time, Mystery Inc. is in New England, visiting the home of Ben Ravenscroft, a popular horror writer. The small town is agog over their big fall festival. Not only have they built a pilgrim town over the ruins of their old town, but a local goth-rock group, the Hex Girls, are going to be the main attraction. But are the Hex Girls more than just goth chicks? What's with the mayor and his sneaky activity around town? And was Ben Ravencroft's ancestor Sarah a healing woman like he keeps insisting...or was she really a witch? And is that her ghost that's terrorizing the festival?

This is probably my favorite of the early Scooby movies. While not as spooky or as horror-oriented as the previous Scooby Doo on Zombie Island, this is scarier than many of the later ones, and thus not for the youngest fans. For slightly older kids and horror fans, this one has some great moments, and an even better guest cast, including Tim Curry as Ben Ravenscroft. The Hex Girls proved to be so popular here, they would later turn up in several episodes of What's New, Scooby Doo? and Scooby Doo Monsters Incorporated.

Oh, and it did rain this afternoon...briefly and lightly. The heavy rain didn't arrive until about an hour and a half ago. It don't think it's coming down anymore at press time. Looks like it's pretty much going to rain all week, too.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Sunshine and Happy Endings

I slept in on a gorgeous, perfectly breezy mid-May morning and didn't get out to the Acme for this week's grocery run until past noon. Much to my surprise, it really wasn't that busy. I'm guessing a lot of people hurried off to the Shore for the weekend the moment they figured out it was going to be nice until tomorrow night. There were more people in line at customer service for that 600 million dollar jackpot than there were buying food! Thankfully, that allowed me to get the things I needed that much quicker. The Oteker mousse mixes and Acme's generic "Essential Everyday" whipped topping were on sale. I bought crust and decided to make a Strawberries n' Cream Mousse Pie. I needed to restock whole wheat flour, crushed pineapple, tea, pads, blood oranges, and bananas. They were having a really good sale on the Smart Balance sticks, and I had a coupon, so despite having bought one last week, I grabbed two more.

When I got home, I put everything away, then went online to get some ideas for my vacation and Lauren's visit next month. It doesn't sound like we're going to do a whole lot this time besides our annual trip into Philly and my treating Lauren to Anthony's for her graduation...and I'm kind of glad. We've both had a very busy winter and spring. As much as I enjoyed seeing ball games together, I think we could probably use the rest.

(And speaking of, congratulations to my best friend Lauren and my stepsister Jessa, members of the 2013 college graduating class! While Lauren's finishing some graduate courses in math and accounting, Jessa's graduating the University of the Arts in Philadelphia.)

I ran The Pirate Movie while having leftover chicken breast with black bean sauce and asparagus for lunch. Mabel (Kristy MacNichol) is a rather nerdy girl in Australia in the early 80s who chases the boy of her dreams...and ends up dreaming herself into the Gilbert and Sullivan musical The Pirates of Penzance. The object of her affection is Fredrick (Christopher Atikins), the boy obsessed with duty. The lusty Pirate King is determined to invade her father the Major General's palace and steal his daughters and his wealth. It's up to Mabel to step in and save the day...and remind us that, even in our dreams, we can take control of our lives  when we stand up for ourselves.

This is another movie that used to run frequently on cable back in the 80s. My sisters and I fell in love with it then, and I still adore it today. Ok, so it's cheesy, it's goofy, the new music doesn't really work with the original Penzance songs, Atkins is stiff as a board (though that kind of goes with the character), and some of the humor is pretty weird for a swashbuckler riff. That's what I like about it - think Airplane meets Pirates of Penzance by way of Pirates of the Caribbean, and you're not far off. Kristy MacNichol has an awful lot of fun as sensible, strong-willed Mabel. The gorgeous Australian location shooting is almost worth the ride alone.

It's not for Gilbert and Sullivan purists or straight action lovers, but if you like your swashbucklers on the goofy side, want to see a rare swashbuckler with a female hero, or enjoyed other campy 80s guilty pleasure musicals like Xanadu or Grease 2, give this one a look.

I was in a good mood when I went to work, and for once, my good mood didn't abate. For one thing, the Acme was steady for most of the night, never really dead or overwhelmingly busy. For another, most people were in equally good moods. There were a few tussles over prices, but nothing like last night. It quieted down so much, by the end of the night, the manager was showing us adorable movies on her phone of her new baby daughter.

Even my schedule didn't dampen my mood for once. I have the best hours I've gotten since at least last year. I'll be working 1 to 6 or 1 to 7 for most of the week except for next Saturday, when it's 2:30 to 7:30. Nothing later than 7:30, and Wednesday and Thursday off. Good. If the weather doesn't get as bad as it's supposed to next week, I'll see if I can get some outdoor cleaning done.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Making a Budget

It was pouring and thundering when I got up this morning. I decided I didn't feel like braving the weather for yoga. I wrote in my journal and read Donna Parker, Special Agent instead. I ran another Three Stooges shorts while having cereal and a blood orange for breakfast. In "Three Hams On Rye," Shemp, Moe, and Larry are extras in a play put on by a nervous producer (Emil Sitka) who's worried that a drama critic will give him yet another bad review. He first tries to get the boys to ferret out the critic. When that fails, they have to make the cake and salad for their act...after which cake and act go a bit up in the air.

After I finished the Stooges, I switched to The Muppet Show. The Muppets had several country music-related guest stars during the run of the series, but none were more legendary than Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, the King and Queen of the Cowboys. Rogers teaches Kermit how to yodel, while Fozzie realizes he has a ready-made audience for his bad jokes when the cows brought in for the finale somehow adore his new home on the range material.

I spent the rest of the morning working on a budget. I've had receipts from the last two months sitting around for a while. I have a lot to save up for. In addition to the much-needed laptop, my best friend Lauren will be visiting next month for my first vacation week. I'd also like to not end up as broke this summer. There being less going on right now should help. As I mentioned, I have no other major plans for the next few months besides Lauren's visit and a possible day trip to Atlantic City, and no one in my family is up to a lot of traveling or gigantic parties. This may extend to early fall as well if my hours are as bad this summer as they were last year.

I did come to the conclusion that something extra has to go. I'm making and saving more money than I did at this time last year, but while I'm not spending as much, there's still not that much left for needs after all the spending. I'm going to drop yoga class until after the 4th of July. I'll try to get more walks in on nice weather days. I'll do those DDP Yoga DVDs when the weather's bad or it's too hot for walking. I'll also try to hold off on anything health-related until July as well.

Went for a walk after I finished with the budget. It was sunny by noon, warm and humid, but not overwhelmingly so. A nice breeze helped keep things from getting too sticky. The bushes are flowering now, all pinks and whites and purples. The lilacs are gone; the irises are on their way out. The leaves on the trees are full and green and fat. I strolled by Rose's new house. I was hoping I'd see them moving in, but it looks like work is at least continuing on the exterior. They were working on the concrete on sidewalk in front of the parking space.

When I got in, I put on Tiny Toon Adventures' first season finale as I made a spinach and mushroom omelet and home-made hash browns for lunch. Although the title of the episode is "High Toon," it really has more in common with The Magnificent Seven and The Three Amigos. Buster and Babs accidentally find themselves in a real western town that's being terrorized by bandits (one of whom looks suspiciously like Wil E Coyote). They rope Plucky and Hampton into helping them retrieve their stolen property and help the townspeople clear out the bandits for good.

Work was a pain. While it was once again quiet when I came in and quiet when I left, the heat and humidity must have gotten on people's nerves. I had a lot of customers who were cranky, obnoxious, or just plain rude. I was so happy to be able to leave with no relief when my shift ended.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Late Sleeper

I can't believe I slept until 11:30 this morning. I guess I really do need rest. Yipes! That didn't leave me much time for a breakfast of oatmeal and a blood orange, the last of the bean-vegetable soup for lunch, or more Three Stooges western-themed shorts. Curly, Moe, and Larry are "Three Troubledoers" when they help Nell the blacksmith (Christine MacEntyre) rescue her father from bandits. Shemp returns for "Merry Mavericks," as he, Moe, and Larry protect a safe from a gang who intend to use a ghostly legend to scare them away from it. "The Tooth Will Out" was originally intended to be part of "Merry Mavericks"; when that short ran over, it became it's own short. This time, the trio find themselves dentists in a western town, where one very nasty bandit wants his tooth pulled...or else!

I did get one thing done today. The porch badly needed to be swept. It's the height of the "fuzzies" season, when all the little dried seed pods fall to the ground. They blow around like tumbleweeds, and the yellow dust gets everywhere. I've been seeing fuzzies in the apartment! I usually wait until the fuzzies are all down, but it was such a mess, I just couldn't put it off anymore.

Work was pretty much the same as it has been  - quiet when I came in, quiet when I left. It was only busy during rush hour, though it got really bad then. It showered a little on the way to work, but the rain was stopping even as I arrived. To my knowledge, it hasn't rained since.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Way Out West In Haddonfield

Started a gorgeous spring day with an early run to the Haddon Township Library. I had counseling at noon today, so I headed to the library around 9:30 to catch them as they opened. Newton River Park looked stunning in its shiny green carpet. I dodged quite a few walkers and joggers, too. I couldn't blame them. While it was still windy and a little chilly, the sun was warm, and it wasn't quite as cold as yesterday.

The Library was actually pretty busy for having just opened. I finished organizing the kids' DVDs as well as I could just as they started Storybook Hour. I couldn't even get all of the adult titles on the shelves. They're still overflowing. Another volunteer said they weeded out the A-L titles, but were told to stop before they did the S-Z and foreign ones. I had more luck shelving children's books.

I didn't take out any movies this week - I didn't watch two of the three I took out last week - but I did take out books. I found a book on dealing with the recession for women that was written when it started in 2008, Don't Get Caught With Your Skirt Down, a Josefina cookbook, and two AG books about best friend characters, Ivy Ling the Chinese-American gymnast in the 70s and Emily Bennett, the London evacuee during World War II.

Went straight to Haddonfield after leaving the library for counseling. We mainly discussed my busy couple of weeks, the discovery of Josefina, and my upcoming plans. It may be a good thing that I'm not getting together with Lauren until next month and have no major plans for this month. Last year, I got together with Lauren in May, when my hours were just starting to drop dramatically. A month later, I took three days off in a row, two of which were devoted to my brother's visit from the Navy. I doubt anything like that will be happening now. Neither set of parents have any money, one sister is still out of work, the other is devoting her energy to getting her new home together, and my brother won't have leave for at least a year.

I also explained how little I know about money. I come from an area where few year-round residents actually have any, unless they own a profitable business in the shore towns or are in government or health-related work. I grew up among surf bums, fishermen, teachers who had to take a second job during the summer, and people who either worked for small businesses or ran one of their own, like Mom. Shore towns do not have the world's most stable economies. Recession? Pffft. I've been in one most of my life.

Trouble was, what little money we had tended to get spent as soon as it came in, and my parents never had luxuries like health insurance. Though Mom had me start a savings account as soon as I was 16 and babysitting, what little money I had to put in there was either given to me by Dad or money from rare summer jobs. I briefly had a savings account in Wildwood, but I hardly touched it, and Crest Savings Bank eventually closed it for lack of use. I wouldn't have another savings account until 2011.

My parents have done a lot for me, but their finances aren't much more stable than mine. They all mean well, but my only parent who ever had a steady job was Bruce's wife Kaye...who died over a decade ago of cancer. Mom hated the steady job she had at Michael's. Bruce and Bill are sailors, a freelance cruise ship captain and commercial fishing captain respectively. Lucrative work when you can get it, but dangerous and with no health or retirement benefits, and not exactly steady income. Bruce is in his late 60s, Bill's in his mid 50s, and both still work regularly. They can't afford not to.

I need to learn more about handling money and how not to end up where I did in the fall again. That was not the first time I found myself broke after the summer doldrums. The reason I started that savings account in the first place was I was incredibly broke during the later summer and fall of 2010. The same thing happened in 2008. There isn't much I can do about my hours going down in the summer - we really aren't that busy - but I can teach myself how to make sure I can get through it financially.

After counseling, I rode over to the pizza parlor near the bus/train terminal in Haddonfield for lunch. I had a slice of cheese pizza, a slice of white broccoli pizza, and a bottle of water in a mostly quiet restaurant. There were two other gentlemen finishing their lunches, the employees, and that was it. After I finished, I went home the way I came, swinging by Dollar Tree for jelly, coconut, vinegar, and soap, before heading home.

Spent the rest of the afternoon baking. I experimented with that Alton Brown "Old School Muffin" recipe first. I once again reduced the liquid, replaced some sugar with fruit concentrate and some regular flour with whole wheat, and swapped the two eggs and egg yolk for two egg whites. Added coconut and sliced strawberries to make Coco-Berry Muffins. Oooh, yum! They came out a little softer than the last ones, but just as sweet and moist.

My Coconut Vanilla Cookies came out so well last week, I once again experimented with cookies from a cake mix. This time, I added egg whites, wheat germ, peppermint extract, and canola oil to a box of Dark Chocolate cake mix to make Dark Chocolate Chip Peppermint Cookies. I overdid the oil, but other than that, the cookies came out beautifully, soft and minty.

Ran the Bowery Boys movie Dig That Uranium while I baked. The Boys' second western begins more realistically, with a friend of theirs selling them on a uranium mine that may not be quite real. While the boys chase the uranium and imagine themselves as "The Lone Disarrangers," a group of local con-men overhear them talking and think they have a real mine on their hands. They follow them in the hope that they'll lead them to their claim.

This was the last series entry for Bernard Gorcey (who died in a car accident shortly after shooting) and Bennie Bartlett (who left show business). It's not the best episode in the world, but it does have some fun moments, including Louie's card game with the con men and Sach's "Lone Disarrangers" dream sequence.

I jumped right into the bath after the cookies came out of the oven. That felt so nice. I wasn't all that impressed with Don't Get Caught With Your Skirt Down. Written by the wife of an economist who owns her own business right after the recession tanked, while some of the suggestions still make sense today (like living below your means), others (like putting all your money outside of the US or buying everything in bulk) seem a little panic-y and unrealistic for people who don't have the room or need for huge purchases or the money to invest in any country.

Switched to a couple of Three Stooges western shorts while making flounder, steamed asparagus, and "calabacitas" (spinach, onion, and chili cooked together - I left out the chili, but it was still quite good) for dinner. Curly, Larry, and Moe are a couple of "Horses' Collars" when they head out west to help a young woman retrieve the IOU for her ranch. The trio move to the modern west when they think Curly's gold-finding machine will help them dig up a mine in "Cactus Makes Perfect." Shemp joins in as we go back in history "Out West." The boys head west in order to heal the bad vein in Shemp's leg, but they find themselves caught up in helping a young saloon owner and her boyfriend get her holdings back.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Chilled Laundry

Brr! It was chilly today for mid-May in southern New Jersey, barely in the upper 50s-lower 60s and very windy. I slept in and just barely had enough time to run my laundry to the laundromat. Thank heavens it wasn't busy at all. In fact, I only saw one other person the entire 40 minutes I was there. I didn't have that big of a load, anyway. I finished Peace and Plenty, loaded my clothes onto my bike (there wasn't time for walking), and rode home.

I was so late, I just managed to put everything away, have a quick bowl of bean vegetable soup for lunch, make dinner, change into my (now clean) uniform, and rush off to work as quickly as I could in the wind. Work was a little bit of a pain. While it was only busy during rush hour, we had a few annoying customers. One lady gave me a hard time about her pretzels being on sale, then fussed because her card only took money off the pretzels...the only items she bought that were on sale. The card just takes off sale prices. You don't "save points." It's a sale card, not a credit card. Later, a woman insisted she gave me a twenty dollar bill when I know she gave me a hundred; I just gave her what she wanted instead of arguing with her.

I found something infinately more pleasant on the porch when I arrived home. I found Josefina's Summer Riding Outfit for twenty-three dollars on eBay with shipping, which is about what it's original price was and much cheaper than the twenty-eight without shipping it costs now. The "leather" vest is cheap and looks it, but the dress itself is pretty and elegant. The red, yellow, and orange print looks very pretty with Josefina's coloring.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Blown Away

First of all, Happy Mother's Day to all moms, including those whose children are four-legged or feathered. : )

Second, actually, this was a fairly quiet Mother's Day for me. Not being a mom myself, I usually just call mine to wish her the best of the day. Started a sunny but windy and milder morning with a quick breakfast of Sweet Potato Cinnamon Pancakes while listening to Brunch With the Beatles. The theme was a favorite of mine, "Songs That Ask or Answer Questions." This theme is a favorite of mine because it's so broad - anything goes, as long as it's done by a Beatle and has the general idea. Group songs heard include "No Reply," "With a Little Help From My Friends," "Piggies," "Help!," "When I'm 64," and "Do You Want to Know A Secret?" Solo question-and-answer tunes included "Blown Away" and "What Is Life?" by George, "Woman" by John Lennon, and "My Love" by Paul McCartney and Wings.

I was quickly able to call Mom as I finished breakfast. I caught her at the right time. My sister Anny and her sons were coming over to visit. I told her about my rough week and yesterday's weather. She said they got rain all day on Saturday. We must have been in a pocket of some kind.

Went straight to work after I got off with Mom. Work was insanely busy through about 3PM. I still had a line when I was trying to get on my break! It died fairly quickly after that as people headed to their Mother's Day barbecues or home from brunches.

Jodie walked by my line quickly during the day and invited me over to Dad's house for her famous barbecue ribs. I figured, why not? I didn't have any other dinner plans. I rode home in the wind, changed into regular clothes, and walked to Dad's - it was really too windy for the bike.

It wasn't nearly as big of a party as Dad's Easter and Christmas Eve get-togethers. For one thing, my sister Rose, her boyfriend Craig, and my stepsister Jessa all had to work; Craig's parents were babysitting Khai. It was mostly Jodie's relatives, including her parents, her sons Jesse and TJ, a friend of TJ's, Jesse's girlfriend Dana, and Jodie's sister and her daughter. I ate asparagus, macaroni salad, and Jodie's famous, melt-in-your-mouth ribs, now joined by equally tasty chicken. We had a chocolate cream pie from the Acme's bakery for dessert.

When I got home, I went straight in the bath. I needed one rather badly. My legs are killing me. I spent a quiet hour testing my new pomegranate bubble bath and reading Peace and Plenty. While the bubble bath smelled great, it didn't last nearly as long as the larger container of Acme-brand bubble bath usually does. I'm glad I found it at the clearance rack. That would have been disappointing at the original price.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Where's the Rain?

Much to my surprise, it was merely cloudy and humid when I opened my eyes around 8 AM. We had some noisy storms last night, and we were supposed to have more of the same today. I put on the American Top 40 to enliven a gloomy morning. Although disco was the going genre in mid-May 1977, many of the songs in the countdown had more than dancing on their minds. Hits included "Couldn't Get It Right" by the Climax Blues Band, "Right Time of the Night" by Jennifer Warrens, "Southern Nights" by Glen Campbell, "Hotel California" by the Eagles, "Got to Give It Up" by Marvin Gaye, and "Sir Duke" by Stevie Wonder.

While Leo Sayer had a hit earlier in the year with the disco classic "You Make Me Feel Like Dancing," he slowed things down for his second #1 song of 1977, the ballad "When I Need You."

This morning was incredibly disappointing. Today was supposed to be Haddon Township's Town-Wide Yard Sale. I only saw two yard sales all morning. One was in Haddon Township, the other was in Collingswood), and neither had anything remotely of interest. The Farm Market, on the other hand, was once again packed, despite the road through and next to the parking lot where it's usually held being repaved. (It had been paved enough for the Market to go on in the usual place.) I didn't really need much, and the crowds were once again elbow-to-elbow. Just bought red potatoes and scallions. (I debated asparagus, but the Acme's having a big weekend sale on local asparagus, so I just picked it up there later.) Oaklyn's Spring Fling had been rescheduled to June, and many local festivals had been canceled or rescheduled as well in anticipation of the weekend's storms.

The storms never came. The sun even came out briefly later in the morning. The only drops of water I felt all day was when the high winds shook them off the trees. The irony of all the fussing is, everything probably could have gone on as planned with the application of tarps to cover wet ground or high tables. All the storms must have passed us. (And my later chat with Lauren revealed where they ended up at. She got rain in Pittsfield all day.)

I got home much earlier than usual and spent the rest of the morning cleaning. I'm putting off a lot of my major spring cleaning until Lauren's visit next month...and because I simply don't have the time for it right now. I did manage to vacuum the entire apartment and wash the windows inside and (as much as possible) out. I also had a decent lunch of home-made bean vegetable soup while watching Sailor Moon episodes.

Work was tiring, even at just four hours. While it wasn't as busy as last weekend, it was still rough on someone who was up late last night and early this morning and didn't have a great week. I was very happy when the manager said I could shut down without a relief.

Went straight home after that. I made salmon, red potatoes, and scallions with rosemary in olive oil with a spinach and radish salad for dinner while watching Monterey Pop. Despite the DVD booklet's insistence that this is a movie musical, it's really a concert documentary on the 1967 Monterey International Pop Festival. The predecessor of Woodstock has some really amazing performances, including Big Brother and the Holding Company (with an incredible Janis Joplin), Otis Redding really working the crowd into a frenzy, Jimi Hendrix's guitar-flaming "Wild Thing," and The Who's "smashing" version of "My Generation." It all ends with Ravi Shankar, bringing World Music to the fore and revealing why he was much admired by many musicians in this era, including George Harrison.

Along with Woodstock and Gimmie Shelter, this is a must-see film for fans of classic rock, the late 60s in general, or any of the artists in particular. While the library's copy is Criterion's later one-disc version, there's a three-disc set out there that apparently includes even more acts that didn't make it into the main film. Who fans who enjoy this will probably want to move on to the documentary on them made over a decade later, The Kids are Alright.

And I just went and checked, and yes, it's finally a nice, steady shower. I thought I heard thunder earlier, but it doesn't seem to have done anything at press time.

Friday, May 10, 2013

You Can Always Be Number One

I slept in this morning and didn't get to this week's grocery shopping until 11:30. Thankfully, the Acme wasn't too busy when I arrived. I didn't have that big of an order, anyway. Fruit won't be plentiful at the Farm Market for at least a month, so I bought bananas, strawberries (on sale), melon slices, and blood oranges (the clementines look like they're done for the season). I needed Drano for the bathroom sink, which has been running slow for weeks now. Restocked canola oil, wheat germ, wraps, white cake mix (good Betty Crocker sale this week), and chocolate chips. Found a can of Hunt's Diced Tomatoes and a bottle of good bubble bath soap on the clearance rack.

When I got home, I briefly went online to check and see if my paycheck was in my account yet. I also took a look at eBay to see what was available for Josefina there. Disappointingly, not much. Josefina has never had a lot the way of clothes. She's my only AG doll who isn't retired and is in no immediate danger of retirement, and unlike most of the 80s and 90s dolls, the majority of her wardrobe is easily accessible on AG's site. I did get her Summer Outfit for $23 with shipping, far cheaper than AG's current price of $28 without shipping, and I may try to get her Indigo Skirt and Camisa (dark blue striped skirt and white shift), "Meet" skirt and camisa, and yellow Christmas Dress there. Anything else, along with a few things from fellow AG Regency character Caroline, I'll get directly from the source during AG's occasional free shipping sales.

Ran cartoons on track, sports events, and being a good winner or loser as I unpacked and made a spinach, asparagus, and smoked cheddar cheese omelet for lunch. You're the Greatest, Charlie Brown pits Chuck against Marcie, Freddie Fabulous from Fremont, and the Masked Marvel (Snoopy) in the decathalon. Chuck and Marcie may both have a chance of winning...if Peppermint Patty's intensive training hasn't worn Chuck down.

Gentle Hotoru has her eye on a local athlete who has worked his way up from childhood illness in a third season episode of Sailor Moon. She too is plagued by illness and hopes to be like him when she's older. She writes him a letter, but is too shy to give it to him. Mimtete of the Witches Five is a fan of his, too...but she'd rather take his pure heart than give him letters!

The next episode also involves games, but of a somewhat less strenuous sort. Mimtete messing around with the evil Professor's chemicals results in a space warp being created in his mansion! He's shocked when he has to turn to the Sailor Soldiers to get rid of the time warp and get Rini and Hotoru out alive. The head of the alternate dimension is a game-playing monster that cheats to keep the Soldiers there. Hotoru hopes she has enough luck of the draw to win this game for everyone.

Work was on-and-off busy, with no really major problems, pretty much the same it has been all week. I wonder if some people may have gone down to the Shore to dodge the rain we're supposed to get here all weekend. The day managers had called me earlier and asked me to stay until 10. There was a call-out. I said I'd stay until 8 if they needed me. As it turned out, I had a relief, and there were plenty of baggers and younger cashiers to help. I went home at the original time.

And the rain didn't finally arrive until around 10PM. I hope it doesn't really continue through tomorrow. I at least want to get to the farm market before work.

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Ladies and Balance

The morning did not begin well. I overslept and was late heading out for yoga class. As I hurried down Manor Avenue, I went over a huge bump! My basket flew off, and I rode over my purse before I could stop. Thank goodness nothing was hurt, but I realized I'd forgotten my cell phone. Oh well. I wasn't planning on needing it.

As it turned out, that wasn't the only trouble the bump caused. I realized as I made my way through Collingswood that it was getting harder and harder to ride my bike. There was something wrong with the front tire. Yes, it was deflating. It was especially infuriating because the tire is new, only a year old, and my neighbor just inflated the darn thing on Sunday! I was very upset when I finally made it to class.

I didn't have an easy time concentrating. The class being another challenging series of back-bends didn't help. I just can't lift myself off the floor easily, like so many other people can. I can't keep up with most of the class, either. And I still can't get on my head or shoulders. It's frustrating.

I was still angry after class. I was so upset, I was in tears. I know, it's childish, but I was disappointed with how badly things had gone. A kindly classmate ended up driving me home. She was a nice older woman from near Boston who was visiting her mother in Collingswood. I told her my best friend was from Pittsfield; she mentioned knowing someone who owned a costume store there.

I liked her suggestion of having a nice cup of tea and taking an hour or so to calm down when I got in. I did just that, dubbing the Lady Lovely Locks video I won on eBay to make myself feel better. This very girly fantasy show was based after the popular doll line from the mid-late 80s. I've found the episodes on YouTube, but I wanted to have copies of my own. What I found was the first two episodes, bookended by introductions with a breathy live-action Lady with extremely 80s hair. In the first, Lady Lovely Locks has to take back her kingdom after evil Duchess Raven Waves has tricked her. In the second, the Lady learns that not everyone she meets is a friend when a handsome baron isn't what he seems.

Here's the second story on YouTube:

Cruel Pretender

I lead the bike down to the Dorias to see if they could help. As it turned out, no, they couldn't. Mr. Doria wasn't in, and Mrs. Doria didn't know how to work on bikes. I did buy a Diet Pepsi and sugar for her trouble, though.

Yes, I did finally end up fixing the flat tire myself. No one else was around. Most of my neighbors work during the day. That's part of why I have a hard time relying on them. It's nice to offer, but they're usually only around on weekends and during the evening. Actually, I think I did a rather good job on the tire. At the very least, it only took me a half hour to do, as opposed to the hour it used to take me to fix flat tires. (And actually, it was a deflated inner tube. I couldn't see anything wrong with it, but I changed it anyway.)

When I got back in, I made Chocolate Chip-Coconut Muffins while watching two more 80s programs about girl power and the trouble jealousy can cause. In the later Tales of the Gold Monkey episode "Naka Jima Kill," Sarah White's old college roommate Whitney Bunting, now a newsreel reporter, wrecks havoc when she inadvertently brings an assassin to the Asian-esque island of Nakoma. And in the second season Sailor Moon episode "Jealousy's Just Reward," evil Dark Moon witch Emerald learns a rough lesson when she begs the Wise Man for the power to make Diamond notice her, instead of Sailor Moon.

Thankfully, after all the earlier disasters, work was no problem whatsoever. It was a little busier, otherwise, it was pretty much the same as yesterday, quiet when I came and left, and only really busy during rush hour. There was plenty of help and no real problems.

Oh, and speaking of girl cartoons based after toys, here's a shorter-lived girl fantasy tale from the early 90s. I was too old for Peppermint Rose when it debuted around 1992, but it seems to be something of a cross between Lady Lovely Locks and Rose Petal Place. (Very early 90s - get a load of the rap number in part 2.)

Peppermint Rose Part 1
Peppermint Rose Part 2

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

The To-Do Lists

When I opened my eyes around 8:30, it was pouring. I could hear it plink-plunk on my roof. I closed my eyes and didn't open them again until quarter after 10. When I did finally get up, I read the first Donna Parker novel, At Cherrydale. I have to admit, only a few chapters in, and I find myself very much relating to Donna and her best gal pal Ricky. Yeah, I used to wait until the end of the year to clear out my locker, too. My mom is also a stickler for a good breakfast, and while I never had problems with that (breakfast is my favorite meal of the day) and my brother will eat anything anytime, my sisters did occasionally complain. Mom's an excellent seamstress. She said something almost similar to what Donna's mother did about doing better than ready-to-wear clothes just a few weeks ago. She made us clothes for years, not to mention several beautiful quilts.

I didn't do much for the rest of the morning. I made the bed. I ran cartoons. I did the dishes. I ran two Huey Lewis and the News CDs (Fore! and Four Score and Several Chords Ago) and Bette Midler Sings the Rosemary Clooney Songbook while I did a project I've been putting off. My "Reading List" has gone so well, I decided to apply the same concept to the remaining media in my household. It took me an hour to list all the records I haven't listened to yet! The problems with records is, I buy them insanely cheap at yard sales and thrift shops, sometimes for literal pennies...and then I put them away without actually listening to them. There must be at least a hundred records on my list. There's twice as many records as anything else. They took up three and a half pages of a notebook...both sides. The CDs, cassettes, and DVDs took barely 2 and a half. I need to get crackin'.

Making the lists took so long, I barely had enough time to eat lunch, pack dinner, change into my uniform, and hurry off to work. As it turns out, it was barely worth the effort. Work was only busy during rush hour, otherwise off-and-on steady. I spent a lot of the night shelving candy.

There was another storm somewhere around 5:30. I could see the buckets of rain out the front lobby windows. Thankfully, by the time I got home, it was just damp and cloudy. It started to sprinkle a bit as I was walking in the door, but I don't think it's doing anything now.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

An Evening With the Bath 

It was cloudy and cool when I finally headed out the door late this morning for this week's Haddon Township Library run. Despite the iffy weather, Newton River Park was busy with dog walkers, joggers, and even other bikers (and one lone Canadian goose). While the river is starting to get a little green around the gills, the park itself is beautiful, lush and colorful. The flowers are largely gone from the trees, but the leaves are bigger and greener now.

The Haddon Township Library was rather busy when I arrived. I didn't have much luck organizing the DVDs. Once again, both kids' and adult titles were overflowing, to the point where I couldn't get any more kids discs on the shelves. I did better with the children's picture books, which are fairly easy to shelve when you know what goes where.

I did take out three movies this week. I've wanted to see the 60s-set Moonrise Kingdom since I first heard about it last summer; it sounds kind of sweet. As a classic rock fan, I've always wanted to see Monterey Pop. And the Library finally got the most recent installment of the Ice Age series, Continental Drift, in. I also took out four of Josefina's books that I don't have, plus her short stories collection.

With the skies darkening, money lacking, and other things to do at home, I opted not to eat lunch out today. I first stopped really quick at Dollar Tree for sugar, coconut, and vinegar, then at WaWa for a small roast beef hoagie and milk. Surprisingly, neither place was terribly busy, and the traffic on Cuthbert and the White Horse Pike wasn't too bad. It actually started to shower a little on the way back to Oaklyn, but it stopped shortly after I arrived.

I wasn't going to take chances. I spent the rest of the afternoon at the apartment. I first dubbed the last Laurel and Hardy video while cleaning the kitchen. This one consisted entirely of four classic shorts with mild horror themes. The Laurel and Hardy Murder Case has Ollie pushing Stan into accepting an inheritance, but it proves to be more difficult than they expected when it turns out Stan's uncle was bumped off. The  two are forced to work aboard a ship that's supposedly haunted in The Live Ghost. Ollie almost loses his head to a woman who has killed seven men named Oliver and intends for Oliver the Eighth to be her next victim. The less gruesome Busy Work has the two employed as chimney sweepers for a mad scientist who is looking for a formula to reverse aging.

Since I'm low on flour, I decided to try something. I made Vanilla Coconut Cookies using coconut, white cake mix, egg whites, and canola oil, leaving out the water the cake mix calls for. They came out pretty well, delicate and crunchy. While I made the cookies, I ran an episode of Perfect Strangers from the seventh season. In "The Gazebo," Balki and Larry attempt to put together the title building from scratch. Their efforts are literally turned into a latter-day Laurel and Hardy short, including the "Time of the Cuckoos" theme, the black-and-white film, and the two in perfect costumes. (Bronson Pinchot made such a convincing Stan, he played him in a TV movie several years later.)

After the cookies were out of the oven, I went straight into the bath. Oh, did that feel good. I hadn't had a bath since my last day off. I read Josefina's short stories and Peace and Plenty while listening to one of my jazz CDs. I really needed the relaxation.

Made a black bean "Santa Fe" sauce for my seared chicken, along with asparagus and mashed sweet potatoes, while watching Yolanda and the Thief. This odd MGM musical from the late 40s has Fred Astaire and Frank Morgan as con-artists out to bilk naive heiress Lucile Bremer of her considerable fortune. Astaire pretends to be her guardian angel in order to get her to sign, but has second thoughts when he begins to see her as more than just a mark.

This unusual musical fantasy was a flop on first release and continues to divide audiences today. Vincent Minellei had a field day with the colorful, lavish designs and dance numbers here. I especially love Bremer and Astaire's jazzy "Coffee Time." Those of you expecting a more straightforward musical or Astaire vehicle may not jive with the fantasy, and Bremer doesn't really make much of an heiress. If you're a fan of Astaire or more adventurous musicals, look it up at the Warner Archive and give it a whirl sometime.

Monday, May 06, 2013

Two Guys at School 

Started out a cloudy, cool day with a walk to the laundromat. I had a really big load to wash, including towels. Thankfully, there was only one other person and a couple there when I arrived. By the time I left and Jeff Probst was nattering away on the TV, the building was quiet. I pushed the cart home, admiring the brilliant spring flowers and soft green trees.

When I got in, I started A Chump In Oxford while putting everything away, and then while having a spinach-mushroom omelet for lunch. This time, Laurel and Hardy are street sweepers who inadvertently rescue a banker from a robber. To thank them, the banker sends them to Oxford University in England for "the best education money can buy." The boys seem to be out of their depths among the rather obnoxious students who think they're good for a prank...until Stan turns out to be Lord Paddington, one of the most famous students ever at Oxford. When a clonk on the head makes Stan into the nobleman, he ends up making a very annoyed Ollie his butler.

I didn't enjoy this one nearly as much as Way Out West. Though Stan had fun as the pompous British lord (check out him taking on a mob of angry students!), the story takes much too long to get going (the opening with the boys employed as a maid and a butler has nothing to do with the rest of the movie), and the way those students treat Stan and Ollie would get them into more trouble than the scolding they got from the Dean today. Cute enough if you run into it, but not my favorite of their vehicles.

They had more fun in the short included on the video, the 1932 Helpmates. It's pretty simple. Ollie had a wild shindig while his wife was out of town. When the Mrs. says she's coming home by noon, he enlists his best pal Stan to help clean the house. Naturally, it looks worse than when they began by the time Mrs. Hardy does finally arrive.

Switched to more Lois & Clark while I brushed Josefina's very long hair, using lots of detangler. In "Witness," Lois is the only one who sees the murder of a prominent, if odd, scientist. She's not concerned at first when she's targeted for murder as well...until Superman has to rescue her several times. She, Clark, and Jimmy do research on what the scientist was trying to do while Clark tries to keep Lois alive.

Josefina is in gorgeous shape. Her hair will probably need to be washed and de-frizzed, but it came out well enough for now. I put it in a much neater ponytail until I have the time to play with it. I gave her a quick magic sponge bath. I'm guessing she's one of the more recent dolls made by Mattel. She's thinner and lighter than my older dolls, whom were released before Mattel bought the original Pleasant Company. She was a little dirty, but not horrible, with no spots or markings anywhere that I could see.

Since I was giving Josefina so much attention, I decided it was time to change all of my dolls. Molly wears her Birthday Pinafore. Jessa sports her original "meet" striped t-shirt, a pair of plain jean capris I picked up on eBay, and Springfield Collection socks and sneakers. Felicity was dressed in a pretty blue and white floral gown I found at a booth in the Deptford Mall one Christmas season. Samantha wears a hand-made turquoise dress with a white sash and white lace trim that was also an eBay find.

Headed to work shortly after I finished with the dolls. Thankfully, work wasn't anything resembling as crazy as it was yesterday. We were busy during rush hour, on-and-off steady thereafter.