Sunday, June 30, 2013

Chocolate Disaster and All-American Dolls

Actually, I started the morning with Blueberry Pancakes and a very interesting Brunch With the Beatles. A museum in New Hope was hosting a gallery of John Lennon's art work. Yoko Ono herself gave an interview on the show discussing John's art and how important it was to him. In between the interviews, they played John songs, from his years with the Beatles ("Ain't She Sweet," "A Hard Day's Night," "Help!," "Strawberry Fields Forever," "Come Together," "Revolution") and on his own ("Instant Kharma," "Mind Games," "Imagine," "Whatever Gets You Through the Night," "Woman," "Just Like Starting Over"). I tried calling Mom during the show, but  she didn't pick up - I figured she was either doing something with my nephews, or in the garden.

After I cleaned up breakfast, I put on the original cast album for Ain't Misbehavin' and changed the American Girl dolls into either red, white, and blue or American-themed outfits for the 4th of July. I left Felicity in the white dress with the blue flowers she was wearing, but I did give her a summer hat. Molly's now in her Camp Gowanigan uniform, with the cute sailor shirt and red shorts. Josefina sports her dark blue striped "school" skirt (actually, she never went to school - her aunt taught her), camisa, and red sash. I put Samantha in her sailor-themed Middy Dress. My modern doll Jessa just has a red T-shirt, jean shorts, and Springfield Collection socks and sneakers on.

I did finally get a hold of Mom later in the afternoon as I had a late lunch. Mom was, indeed, watching my nephew Skylar. She was baking blueberry cobbler as he played Wii. She was happy that Dad was out fishing and out from underfoot while she works on her garden and tries to decide what to do about that empty room.

It was just cloudy during Brunch With the Beatles. By the time I was dressing the dolls, we were in the midst of a full-blown storm. The storm calmed down enough by quarter after 2 for me to ride to work and only get a little wet.

Work was steady all afternoon; busy, but nothing like yesterday. We had plenty of help and no really major problems, especially once the rain ended and the sun came out. I actually got out a few minutes early.

When I got home, I thought I'd try to make cupcakes to take to work. I didn't have the time to make them from scratch, so I thought I'd use a cake mix. That was a mistake. I must have put too much batter in the cups. They overflowed and got too huge...and when I pulled them out to check them, they collapsed! And then I tried to make them less mushy by cooking them a bit more, but I got caught up reading and overcooked them. The bottoms are mushy and too sweet the tops are burnt. I can keep at least some of them, but I'm going to have to be more careful next time. Maybe I'll just see if I can make a plain old muffin from scratch tomorrow or Tuesday.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

In the Swim of Things

Started my early work day with the American Top 40. What I heard of it was in June 1985 this week. Hits from early summer included "Angel" by Madonna, "A View to a Kill" by Duran Duran (from the odd James Bond film of that title), "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" by Tears for Fears, "Things Can Only Get Better" by Howard Jones, "Raspberry Beret" by Prince and the Revolution, and "The Search Is Over" by Survivor.

I had to leave for work before I could hear the number 1 song. I worked at 9AM today. We were crazy busy all day. We were so busy, we had plenty of help, and the lines were still long. We're getting close to the beginning of the month and the 4th of July. It was also a gorgeous day today, sunny and warm but neither as hot nor as humid as previous days this week...and the few clouds seen were fat and low but not threatening.

I headed out as soon as my relief arrived. I spent some time on the computer for a little while when I got in. I was tired and considered a nap, but finally decided it was just too nice of a day to be inside. I changed into my bathing suit and rode over to Dad's for a swim.

The pool was quiet, empty, and incredibly warm when I arrived. The water temperature was 86 degrees! I was able to have a relaxing swim to myself. Dad and Jodie joined me on the newly repaved deck a little later. They were babysitting Khai, who had just spent the night at his other grandmother's house.

Poor Khai finally came in around 6. He'd tripped and smacked his head against his grandmother's coffee table and now had a rather nice black eye for a three-year-old. It didn't help that he was tired and very cranky. He cried when he was in the pool...and he normally adores the water. Usually, the only time he'll cry around the pool is when someone tries to take him out of it!

Khai calmed down a little when his Grandma Jodie gave him a good rub-down with his towel, and we all went inside for dinner. Dad made shrimp and scallops with tomatoes, broccoli, and angel hair pasta. Khai gulped his down as quickly as he could - the Mr. Softee truck was coming! Dad bought Khai a huge, rainbow-colored Popsicle and himself a caramel sundae. (Jodie said she'd share Khai's, and I had treats at home.)

We spent a little time on the porch after dinner. Khai ate the first two colors (red and purple) of his enormous frozen treat. The rest of us chatted with the nice older lady who rents an apartment from Dad. I left after she did; I wanted to get home before dark. I said good-bye to Dad, then stopped and got a cherry-flavored kiss from Khai as I went by him on my way down the street. (Jodie took him to play with some neighborhood kids.)

Friday, June 28, 2013

Come With Me and Escape to Madagascar

I started out the morning with a couple of episodes of Rick Steves Europe based in Germany before heading out for this week's grocery run. It was a big one, too. I needed a lot, especially since I work too early to get to the farm market tomorrow. Jersey peaches are finally in season; also grabbed apricots, blueberries, corn, broccoli, romaine lettuce, and cherries. (I love that the Acme has smaller heads of lettuce now. I don't need huge ones. I'm one person. It'll just go bad.) Ground chicken was on sale. Picked up a cheap container of shrimp for lunch. Jell-O pudding mixes were on a dollar sale; grabbed vanilla and cookies and cream for summer pudding pies. Restocked my single packs of fish fillets. Found balsamic vinegar, red wine vinegar, and canned diced tomatoes with Italian seasonings on the clearance rack. Bought marshmallows and a dollar pack of cashews (they were out of the dollar packs of peanuts) to make Rocky Road Brownies later.

When I got home, I ran That's Entertainment while eating shrimp, apricots, and cherries for lunch. Went for a short neighborhood run after I finished. The day was hot and sunny, but not quite as hot or humid as it had been. I strolled down to the Oaklyn Library to organize their DVD sections and get some work in on the kids' board book. Since I got there so late (I was in by quarter after 1....and they close at 2), I had the time to drop by WaWa for milk and an Icee and pretzel.

When I got home, I went on the computer for a little while, then tried to strip the sheets off my bed. This would have worked better if I hadn't realized my bed was wobbly. One of the legs just would not come together right, no matter how hard I pushed and shoved the bolt. I didn't really want to take the whole damn thing apart after it took me most of a day to get it together last year. I finally put the bolt in backwards and tightened the nut; that seems to have worked for now.

Dark, thick clouds had begun to gather as early as my walk. By the time I was fighting with the bed, thunder could be heard clear as day. It started storming again as I finally got the white summer sheets and the stuffed animals on. I still managed to get the vacuuming done, even as thunder and lightning raged and water poured down. It had begun to calm down as I started making chicken legs poached in lemon-white wine sauce, romaine salad, and Raspberry Flummery for dinner, with Rocky Road Brownies for dessert.

Ran Madagascar while I ate. This was Dreamworks' second shot at a franchise after Shrek. Marty the Zebra (voice of Chris Rock) seems to live the good life in the Central Park Zoo, but what he really wants is to roam free. His friends Alex the Lion (Ben Stiller), Gloria the Hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith), and Melvin the Giraffe (David Schwimmer) are perfectly content and think he's crazy. When they're all shipped to Africa after causing a ruckus in Grand Central Station, they get knocked off the ship hauling them and end up on the island of Madagascar. While Alex discovers his wild roots (and that his best friend is really suppose to be his dinner), the other three party with King Julien and his lemurs. Meanwhile, the pack of penguins who helped Marty escape in the first place are trying to find Antarctica, and will do anything necessary to get there...including taking over a ship.

Unlike Shrek and Ice Age, I can see how this started a series. Stiller in particular is interesting as the lion who has spent his life as a tame star attraction and isn't too happy to discover that in the wild, his meals don't come from a zookeeper. On the other hand, the penguins were amusing, but not enough for me to get how they ended up starring in their own TV show and several shorts.

If your kids love other funny animals stories like Finding Nemo or Bolt, or are fans of the Nickelodeon series, this one should be high on their list, too.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Farewell to Miss Victory and the English Refugee

Yup, after at least five years of speculation, Molly and Emily are finally being archived from American Girl. I feel a bit bittersweet. On one hand, Molly is the last of the original three American Girl dolls. (Samantha was retired in 2008, Kirsten in 2009). On the other hand, my sweet Molly is my favorite of the three dolls I got from Jessa during the summer of 2009. I found her stories to be a little dull as a kid. I enjoy them far more now that I'm into Molly's home front time period.

Thankfully, unlike Felicity and Samantha, I have most of the things I want for her. I do want her basic hat/purse/hankie accessories package (Jessa's was in lousy shape) and maybe one or two outfits that were originally her friend Emily's. (Em's purple Holiday Outfit may make a nice Easter outfit for my modern doll Jessa.) Otherwise, I'm all set.
Pirates of the Floating Icebergs

I spent most of the morning on the computer, especially after I got word of Molly's archival. I finally had lunch around quarter of 2. Made tuna while running some more summer-themed cartoons. Tom and Jerry were in the spotlight this afternoon. Jerry is on his own when he takes on New York in "Mouse In Manhattan." Tom uses Jerry as unwilling live bait in "Cat Fishin'," but the dog who guards the pond and a particularly toothy fish may keep them from getting a good haul. The duo hit the beach in "Salt Water Tabby." Tom wants to spend time with a pretty girl cat. Jerry has other ideas.

The bathroom and the kitchen both needed to be scrubbed. The bathroom was really grungy. I found ants in one of my cabinets in the kitchen. I couldn't figure out why that was the only place I'd seen them...until I dusted and found lots of dirt particles. They must have been carpenter ants! Miss Ellie told me she'd had problems with them on the roof. I haven't seen them since I put out the ant traps. They seem to have done the trick.

Ran Joan Jett and the Rolling Stones while I was cleaning. Switched to Ice Age: Continental Drift while finishing the kitchen and heating up a can of Italian Wedding Soup for dinner. Peaches, the baby mammoth Ellie and Manny had in the third film, is now a teenager who just wants to hang with the other mammoth kids. Manny's still overprotective of everyone he loves...which is pushing Peaches further away. They both come to regret their angry words when the continents start to split apart. Peaches, Ellie, and the possums remain on land and lead their neighbors to safety, while Manny, Diego, Sid, and Sid's somewhat senile Granny find themselves in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean on an iceberg. When the quartet run afoul of a group of pirate animals, it'll take all their wits to return to those they love, dodge the marauders, and convince the female first mate cat Diego has his eye on that their herd is worth joining.

If you liked the rest of the Ice Age series, this one was just as much fun. Wanda Sykes in particular was a riot as Granny. However, I still recommend that you begin with the first or second film to understand the relationships better - this is not a series you can come in half-way through.

Clouds were gathering as I headed to work. It did finally rain shortly after I arrived, but it was nothing like the thunderstorm we got yesterday. I almost wish it was. The customers were cranky and rude throughout much of the night. This may have been due to this being the last night of sales. There were people out changing the sale tags even as people brought sales to the front and complained when they couldn't use this coupon or that sale wouldn't show up the way it wanted. I was once again late getting out. Thankfully, the rain was long gone by this point. I arrived home perfectly dry.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Berry Big Rain Storm

Since I didn't have a lot of plans for today, I opted to sleep in. I ran the 2003 Strawberry Shortcake DVD Berry Blossom Festival, which I found at the Haddon Township Library's book sale shelves yesterday. In the first story, Raspberry Torte gets upset when she has to practice manners for the Berry Blossom Festival's tea party. She doesn't think that manners matter...until Strawberry invites her to two very different parties to prove that it is important to be polite and considerate of others. The Purple Pieman and Sour Grapes turn up in the second story in an attempt to win the Queen of the Berry Blossom Festival crown. Despite their cheating at every turn, the kids know that it takes more than a lot of brains or strength to make a real leader. (And I don't think I'm going to keep the DVD. No wonder the library got rid of it - the beginning and ending skipped like crazy.)

Spent most of the morning and early afternoon taking a look at my new laptop. I never knew there were so many apps out there. I don't think I even scraped the surface this morning. I took a look at some of the apps that came with my computer, including iCookbook (I may have to make those Rocky Road Brownies when  Mother Nature cools off a bit) and I Heart Radio. I looked at even more on Microsoft's main site. I'll look at even more over the next few weeks.

I got off with just enough time to have fried eggs for lunch and run a summer-themed Sailor Moon episode from the third season. While Serena and the other girls ogle hot guys on the beach, Serena's little brother Sammy ogles Amy. Tiger's Eye is determined to get Amy's dreams, even if he has to hurt Sammy to do it.

Work was quiet, much quieter than yesterday. It was once again hot, sunny, and steamy for most of the day. No one wants to shop in that. Besides, it's the middle of the week and the week before a major holiday and the beginning of the month. There were a few annoying customers, especially early on. Otherwise, there were no problems. I even got to help one of the new cashiers that just started today.

The clouds popped up around 7:30 this time. By the end of my shift at 9, we were once again in a full-blown storm. Thankfully, it started slowing down only a few minutes after I got outside. Though the thunder and lightning continued, the rain stopped long enough for me to make it home with only my sneakers wet after I stepped in a puddle.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Off to See the Counselor

Started the morning with more Mickey Mouse summer-themed shorts, this time color ones from the late 40s and 50s. Mickey and Pluto are riding the rails in "Mr. Mouse Takes a Trip." They have to dodge Conductor Pete when he insists that there are no dogs allowed on the train. Camping is hardly "Plutopia" when Pluto has to be kept on a muzzle outside Mickey's cabin and dreams he's in a bizarre world where cats are subservient and bones come from wells. Mickey and Minnie jump back to a gentler summer of vaudeville and wind-up Model Ts in "The Nifty Nineties." And Mickey's hoping to find "The Simple Things" during a day of fishing, but Pluto's encounter with a clam and a seagull intent on getting a fish lunch make his day off a lot more complicated than he planned!

It was another hot, muggy, and sunny morning when I headed out. Thankfully, there was a nice breeze that kept it from feeling even worse. Probably due to the heat, Newton River Park wasn't too busy around 10:30. There were a few dedicated joggers and fishermen and at least two flocks of ducks, and that was it. The river's starting to look green around the gills again, but the grass and trees are still fresh and green, and the wildflowers are beautiful.

Between the heat and this morning being Storybook Hour, the Haddon Township Library was a bit of a pain today. I had to get around kids while trying to organize the children's DVDs...and they needed it very badly. It wasn't hard to tell that I hadn't been in last week. The adult DVDs needed to be shelved and sorted through, too. And I thought one of the librarians told me to remove all multiple copies of titles from the children's racks to save room...but then another librarian said not to. I wish they'd make up their minds, before they have to buy new shelves for all these overflowing titles.

I did take out a few DVDs today, all animated. They just got in the newest Mickey Mouse Clubhouse title, The Wizard of Dizz. I never did get a chance to watch Ice Age: Continental Drift the last time I had it out. I still haven't seen the original Madagascar, never mind it's popular sequels or Nickelodeon show. I did see Monsters Inc. when it came out about a decade ago, but not since then. With Monsters University in theaters, I thought this was a good time to give that one another look.

Had a really quick lunch at a pin-drop quiet Wendy's. It was quarter of 12 by then, just before the lunch hour, and I pretty much had the place to myself. I had a tasty half-size Berry Almond Chicken Salad (blueberries, strawberries, almond slices, and chicken pieces on romaine and iceberg lettuce; not bad) and a Diet Coke.

Made it to Haddonfield around 12:30. I would have gone there today even if I didn't have counseling. The back tire on the bike is bald as an egg. The seat broke on one side as well and is extremely uncomfortable. I  needed to replace both. I left it with the boys at the bike shop and walked the four blocks to Mrs. Stahl's office.

We mostly discussed Lauren's eventful visit, my brush with recent technology, Keefe's surprise appearance and my parents' sudden extra room, and my plans for the summer. First on tap is getting a few things looked at - namely, a dental appointment and a breast examination. (Every woman I know has been after me to do the latter for years.) I haven't seriously gone through my media since I got the DVD recorder two years ago and dubbed almost all of my videos. The records, CDs, and DVDs in particular need a combing-through. While summer is a bad time to be job hunting here (many smaller businesses are closed or on limited hours or personnel during the summer months), I could start brainstorming ideas for an at-home business I could pull off. And I do have two new computers to figure out.

Mrs. Stahl pretty much says make those appointments, work on the emotional outbursts (which caused some trouble during Lauren's stay), and maybe try to save money to get together with some of your other friends. Kelly in Wildwood is in the midst of her busy season, but Amanda is on her summer break and may be up to  a day or two together.

Things went less well at the bike shop. Buying and installing a new tire and seat cost 91 dollars! I figured it would be more like 50. I'll either call ahead of time when I next need the bike to be fixed, or find a cheaper way to do it. For now, I really did need the tire and seat. They did their job; the seat was higher and easier on my rear, and the ride was much smoother.

I made a quick stop at the Haddonfield's PNC for money, then rode into Westmont. The steamy hot day practically required a stop at Primo's Water Ice. I was surprised the place wasn't more crowded. At 3PM, a lot of kids may have been outside, in a pool, or hiding in air conditioning at home. I enjoyed my White Russian water ice in the air-conditioned "Ice Box," their big room in the back where they hold parties. The only people there with me were a pre-teen boy and girl enjoying sundaes and a kid playing a first-person shooter video game.

Went straight home after I finished my water ice. I went on the computer for a little while, then put on The Wizard of Dizz while paging through the fruit desserts in the Better Homes and Gardens Dessert Cook Book. Minnie was in the spotlight this time as a pink tornado sends her and Pluto off to the magical land of Dizz, where bows fly and helping hands can be multi-colored cities. Goofy is the Scarecrow who wants brains. Mickey is the Tin Woodsmouse, who wants a heart to help him keep up with the others. Donald is the Cowardly Lion-Duck, who wants courage to be king of the jungle. Forgetful Good Witch Clarabelle gives Minnie magic green shoes...and Bad Witch Pete would do anything to get them!

The rain started during the cartoon. It began the same way it did yesterday. One minute it was sunny...and then suddenly boom! A thunderstorm appeared. Thankfully, this one wasn't nearly as long or frequent as yesterday's. It was gone by the time I was relaxing in a tepid bathtub, listening to Natalie Cole and reading Women Who Run With the Wolves.

The two bonus episodes are even more fun. Explorer Daisy O'Dare is after "The Golden Boo Boo." To find it, she needs to discover three puzzle pieces that'll show her where the statue is hidden. She and Mickey find themselves ducking around Safari Pete all the way! When "Goofy's Gone," it's "The Do-Gooders," Detective Minnie, Secret Agent Daisy, and Captain Clarabelle to the rescue!

Also included are ten episodes of the Minnie-centric Clubhouse spin-off Minnie's Bow-tique. Minnie runs the title clothing shop and has a bow for every occasion. She, Daisy, and Clarabelle are joined by Coco-Loca the cukoo clock canary (who sounds - and often acts - a lot like Sweetie Pie from Tiny Toon Adventures) and Minnie's adorable nieces Millie and Melody, making their animated debuts after years of appearing in the comics. Among my favorite episodes were "Flowers Fix" (Minnie has to repair Millie and Melody's flower costumes when they fall apart), "Dancing Lessons" (Daisy and Minnie teach Clarabelle how to do the Snowflake for her date with Goofy), and "Trouble Times Two" (Millie and Melody wreck havoc on the main floor when a poodle movie star arrives and demands a quiet shopping experience).

Monday, June 24, 2013

Caught In the Rain

It was just sunny and very hot and humid when I got up this morning. I ran several Mickey Mouse black and white summer-themed shorts as I had Cheerios and blueberries for breakfast. Mickey takes Minnie to "The Barn Dance," but discovers he has a lot to learn about fancy footwork when he keeps stepping on a non-plussed Minnie's toes. Minnie feels a lot better about her boyfriend after he rescues her from a bad undertow in "Wild Waves" and a runaway caboose in "Mickey's Choo Choo." Pluto joins Minnie and Mickey for "The Picnic" (where he's called "Rover" and seems to be Minnie's dog). Mickey and Pluto go "Fishing Around," but end up chased by a police goat when it turns out the pond doesn't allow fishing. Clarabelle and Horace come along for "The Beach Party." The gang has a lot of fun, until Pluto disturbs an octopus who has no trouble fighting back!

I headed to the laundromat, this time taking the cart, around 11:30. Despite the laundromat being nice and cool (thanks to their new-ish air conditioner), the place wasn't busy at all today. It was mostly just me, one older woman, and Channel 6 for an hour or so. 

When I got in, I checked my e-mail, put my laundry away, ate lunch, changed into my uniform, and hurried off to work. It was still sunny when I left, but just a half-hour after I got in, dark clouds began to gather. The thunderstorms have continued off and on for the rest of the night...and from the sound of things, are going to continue off and on for the rest of the week.

We were off-and-on busy, too, as people dodged the weather. It was still so busy at 8PM, one of the high school kids was sent in for me so I could go home. Not that I went home right away. It was pouring when I got outside. I heard an ear-splitting blast of thunder and saw an enormous, bright green bolt of lighting just a few minutes after I emerged. It looked like it was breaking up for a few minutes - a gorgeous dark orange sun briefly emerged - but it started again even as I left. I just rode home and got soaked.

It was slowing down by the time I did get home. I don't think it's doing anything now; if it is, it's at least not thundering anymore. 

Oh, and I picked up much-needed extra hours on Thursday. I'm not crazy about them being 6 to 10, but I was asked nicely and ahead of time, and it's only four hours. I'll live. 

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Rockin' On the New Moon

Started a cloudy, warm, and humid morning with Blueberry Molasses Pancakes and Brunch With the Beatles. "Rock and Roll Music" - that is, Beatles songs that were pure rock, or covers of earlier rock songs - were the focus today. Covers included "Twist and Shout," "Roll Over Beethoven," "Rock and Roll Music" and "Dizzy Miss Lizzy." Among the rockin' Beatles originals were "Paperback Writer," "I Saw Her Standing There" and "Revolution."

Called Mom while my pancakes were cooking. Mom was preparing lunch while my nephew Skylar played Kirby on the Wii. She generally seemed to be in a better mood than last week. For one thing, my stepfather was out riding on his motorcycle for the day. For another, she had a surprise visit from my brother Keefe. He took leave from the Navy for a week to attend the funeral of a beloved high school teacher. He also confirmed that he'll be taking an apartment with a couple of friends of his for a few months in North Carolina while he finishes his training and he wanted to take all the stuff left in his room with him. Evidently, he (barely) passed the written exams, but the hands-on parts of the testing are backed up due to three of the four prototypes they're supposed to work on being out of commission. He and his friends can get their apartment organized.

This means my parents now have a spare room to play with. It doesn't sound like they've decided what to do with it yet. Mom wants to get a new TV and DVD player to replace Keefe's sound system and possibly turn it into a den or playroom, or expand her office/workroom. Another idea is as a spare room for Dad, who tends to pass out in front of the TV downstairs instead of attempting to go upstairs to sleep.

I ran the Seekers' Georgy Girl record while fooling around with the laptop after breakfast and the Beatles ended. It was ok, mainly covers of 60s hits and kind of disappointing given I love the title song. Coupled with several scratches in the beginning that caused skips, I opted to put it in the back room to donate it to the local libraries.

The clouds had been building all morning. It was just starting to shower lightly as I headed for work. While it was fairly busy, especially early on, the rain kept it from being as crazy as yesterday. My relief was on-time, and I got out with no problems. Grabbed sponge cake dessert shells and Acme generic whipped topping to make berry shortcake when I got home.

I made an omelet with spring vegetables, then had my Raspberry Shortcake while listening to the New Moon record I found at Oaklyn's Town-Wide Yard Sale. This is a collection of recordings made for the original London cast of this venerable 20s operetta. I love it. It has far more music and more of the original stouthearted swashbuckler romance feel than either my shorter studio cast album on CD or the MacDonald/Eddy movie.

And I'd like to say a final farewell to Paul Mathis, a long-time and much-loved English, drama, and humanities teacher at Lower Cape May Regional High School, who died suddenly last week. I had him for Humanities my senior year, and was coached in the school play and musicals by him. He was the only teacher at Lower who let you choose and argue for your own grade. I remember him driving me home from school and the conversations about old movies and musicals we used to have. He will be much missed.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Baseball, Blankets, and Spelling Bees

Started off a sunny, breezy morning with this week's American Top 40. We jumped back a few years in the 70s to 1975. Country, folk, pop, and hard rock reigned supreme...but disco was the new sound that got everyone's feet moving. Hits in late June of that year included "Thank God I'm a Country Boy" by John Denver, "The Hustle" by Van McCoy and the Soul City Symphony, "Sister Golden Hair" by America, "Wildfire" by Michael Murphy, "I'm Not Lisa" by Jessi Coulter, and "When Will I Be Loved?" by Linda Rondstat. The Captain and Tenille became only the third husband and wife team to have a number 1 hit on the charts with their classic "Love Will Keep Us Together."

It was still fairly comfortable outside when I made my run to the Farm Market. They were busy with people shopping for produce for barbecues and birthday and graduation parties. No wonder - the summer harvest was finally out. While strawberries and asparagus are gone, they've been replaced by a heady array of the first cherries, grape tomatoes, patty pan squash, corn, raspberries, blackberries, and New Jersey blueberries of the year. I ended up with cherries, blueberries, two spring onions, snap peas, raspberries, and cherry tomatoes. 

I had just enough time when I got home to put everything away and eat lunch while I took another quick look at my new laptop. Ran Dr. Seuss specials all morning. The grouchy Grinch tries to get the best of Seuss' most famous feline in The Grinch Grinches the Cat and the Hat, but the wily Cat thinks of a way to turn the tables. The Hoober Bloob Highway takes us into the far reaches of space, where Mr. Hoober Bloob teaches a new infant pupil the ins and outs of what makes us what we are.

Work was busy for almost the entire afternoon. It was especially bad during the first half of my shift, as people came out of fairs and farm markets and into the grocery store. Some kind of fair or give-away going on in our parking lot only caused more confusion. Thankfully, everything had settled down by the time I left, though it was still so busy that I just barely made it out with no relief.

When I got home, I had leftovers for dinner, then worked on a crocheted dishrag while watching A Boy Named Charlie Brown. From a kite that doesn't want to fly to a dandelion-covered pitcher's mound to Lucy's constant torment, Charlie Brown just can't catch a break. That is, until he joins the school spelling bee. Suddenly, he's coming up a winner, and even Lucy's impressed. While he tries to keep the streak going - and retain the respect of the others - Linus is pining for his blanket, which he gave to Chuck for good luck. He misses it too much, so he and Snoopy go after it.

The first and by far best of the four Peanuts full-length outings is also the most purely Peanuts of the lot. In fact, if you want to introduce your kids to the Peanuts, you may want to pick this up before you go to the holiday specials. It's a bit more episodic and somewhat lighter in tone than most of the other Peanuts features, and the spelling bee story fits in better without getting too dark. 

If nothing else, I love the awesome jazz score by Vince Guaraldi (deservedly Oscar-nominated), with lyrics by Rod McKuen (who also sings the sweet title song). Guaraldi really gets to shine in three beautifully animated but rather bizarre extended numbers. Chuck, Linus, and Snoopy rehearse the rules of grammar in the catchy "I Before E." We get a series of psychedelic images as Schroder plays a Beethoven sonata and Snoopy ice skates and plays hockey in a sequence set at Rockerfeller Center. 

Recommended for Peanuts fans, animation fans, parents who want to introduce their kids to the Peanuts universe outside of the holidays, and those looking for well-written and unusual family entertainment. 

And I just discovered how out-of-date my last laptop was. Not only is Rough Draft discontinued, but so is Microsoft Works...and that's what the majority of my inventory databases are in. I'll go back on the other laptop and see what I can do about converting them to OpenOffice tomorrow.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Summer and Technology

First of all, I hope everyone enjoyed the first day of summer! It was a gorgeous day to start summer here, too, sunny, breezy, and warm but not uncomfortable. 

Started the morning with several black and white Silly Symphony shorts that revolve around summer, insects, and animals. "Summer" and "Night" are as simple as it gets - summer animals dance in time to the classical music, the latter during the evening hours. Later stories were a bit more exciting. "The Spider and the Fly," "Frolicking Fish," and "Bugs In Love" all revolve around the same concept - a larger animal (a spider, a crow, and an octopus) attacks smaller animals, until their friends come to the rescue using the often ingenious means at their disposal.

I didn't get to the groceries until about 11:30. The Acme was busy, but not overwhelmingly so. Good thing. I had a lot of restocking to do after Lauren's visit. The brown and white sugar both needed to be refilled. I used canned black beans and peaches last week and ate the canned mixed fruit this morning with blueberry muffins for breakfast. Grabbed Arm & Hammer Deodorant on one of the Acme's occasional dollar sales on that and Arrid. Needed sponges, chocolate chips, and wraps as well. Wanted to try the new 4th of July-themed Jet Puffed Starmallows. I found ants swarming around the whole wheat flour bin, which is up against the cabinet wall closest to the windows. Yuck! I was able to clean it off (and thankfully no ants got into the flour), but I did want to buy ant traps to make sure that didn't happen again.

The UPS truck pulled in at the same time I did. I arrived just in time to take my package from the truck driver. Yay! My new laptop had arrived from Toshiba. It's a beautiful Toshiba Satellite. It's smaller and lighter than my old Compaq, and runs three times as fast. I wish I could have had more time to handle it before I had to work. In fact, I was almost late because I spent so much time getting the laptop together, I was barely able to change or eat lunch!

Ironically, not only did I make it on time, but I was less late than yesterday. For once, I was glad. We were on-and-off busy all day. The Acme's going through some major changes, thanks to the company that bought them out a few months ago. We're putting major emphasis on lower prices (even the prices that haven't been lowered all that much). Most sales, except for some big promotions, no longer require the store card. The only reason a customer will need the card will be to get coupons on the machines. We're also emphasizing our genuinely good produce and meat. I know people (including Dad and Jodie) who say they shop at Acme mainly because we have the best meat prices and stock around. 

Went right back to the laptop when I got home. After I got the laptop synced to my internet, I bookmarked as many of my favorite sites as I could find. Alas, one I could not find was RoughDraft, which I've used as an editing-friendly alternate to Microsoft Word for years. It seems it's been discontinued since the last time I downloaded it. Lauren suggested OpenOffice as a replacement. I'll try it tomorrow. 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Back to Work

I began a sunny day with cereal, strawberries, and the Fleischer Brothers Superman cartoons. Superman and superhero comic books were all the rage in the early 40s and during World War II. Paramount capitalized on their popularity with Superman's first outings on the big screen. This was a huge challenge for the Fleischers. No one one had done animation that revolved around drama and pure action before. As it turned out, the shorts would the the Fleischers' last hurrah - they lost their studio mid-way through the making of the series.

Thankfully, the turmoil didn't effect their quality. These shorts are amazing, far more so than the shoddy prints on my public domain set would indicate. The art deco design is incredible, the scores are worthy of an epic three times longer, and the colors are gorgeous. I prefer the somewhat lighter shorts on the first disc, before the war and Paramount took over (and the depictions of the Japanese got offensive). If you're a fan of Superman or the superhero cartoons this inspired (like the 90s Batman and Superman animated series and Justice League), a full set of these are a must-have.

I wish I didn't have to return to work. First of all, it was really nice again today, slightly warmer but otherwise beautiful for late June. Second, we were on-and-off busy, and a lot of the crowds were cranky or refused to help with their orders. Third, the back tire on my bike was loose. It kept rubbing on the frame of my bike. By the time I figured out what the problem was, I had no time to fix it. I was almost late for work and had to walk the bike home. I did tighten the tire when I got in, and that seems to have solved things for now.

Finished out the Superman cartoons as I made Blueberry Muffins. Ran Duck Soup while my dinner of salmon, pan-fried potatoes, and snap peas cooked. The Marx Brothers move from the high seas to the high courts as they make fun of the ultimate lunacy - war. Mrs. Teasdale (Margaret Dumont) will only loan money to Fredonia if Rufus T. Firefly (Groucho) is put in charge. She gets her wish and promptly wishes she hadn't, as he proceeds to make a shambles of the government and upset just about everyone in firing range. Meanwhile, Chico and Harpo are spies for the country of Sylvania, hired by Sylvania's ambassador to find out just what Firefly's up to. When things go too far, the Brothers find themselves in the middle of battle without a pun to their names...or slapstick to spare.

Most people regard this as the Brothers' magnum opus. I just thought it was weird, even for this crowd. Politics and stagy decorum make for an uneasy combination, and it doesn't always mix well with the slapstick. The lack of sympathetic characters doesn't help. I believe this is the only Marx Brothers movie where no one finds time to play the harp or the piano, too, which should tell you something. There's enough classic gags (including the mirror scene and the running rivalry between Chico and a lemonade seller) to keep Marx fans happy, but newcomers will want to start with the movies before this one or the one after it (Night at the Opera).

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Four Nuts and a Fruit Cobbler

Lauren and I spent the last morning of her trip quietly watching Three Stooges shorts together. Lauren had a long trip ahead of her, and I'd had enough running around. Dad picked us up at quarter of 12. As it turns out, Lauren's fears of being late for the train were not only unfounded, they were a moot point. An announcer droned that the train to Philly was going to be 11 minutes late. I decided I didn't want to leave Dad waiting with the car still on and hugged my best friend "good-bye."

Spent the rest of the day very quietly. First on my agenda when I got home was figuring out what to do about my bike. The back tire deflated the day Lauren arrived. I'm going to need the bike for work tomorrow. I really do need a new tire, but I didn't feel like hiking all the way up to Haddonfield, especially since I'll be going there for counseling on Tuesday. I did manage to get the tire fixed and to replace the inner tube, once I got the chain back on and the tire pumped. The tire is still bald as an egg and will still need to be replaced, but it'll hopefully hold out until next week.

I went for a short bike ride around Oaklyn. It was a perfect day for it. Yesterday's clouds and humidity were replaced by a fresh, dry breeze, lots of sunshine, and temperatures in the lower 80s. Made quick stops at WaWa (for a Kiwi Strawberry Icee and to try that Limited Edition Nestle Crunch Coconut-Caramel Bar - good stuff) and CVS (didn't have what I was looking for.) I rode down Kendall, past Rose and Craig's house and through the developments. I saw many roving packs of kids enjoying their afternoon off from school (Oaklyn School kids won't be off completely until the end of this week), dog walkers taking their pooches for a stroll, and people mowing lawns and working on gardens bursting with color.

When I got home, I tried one of the recipes in that Better Homes and Gardens Dessert Book I picked up last week during our thrift shop trip. Most of the cake and cookie recipes are either too fattening or would take too much time, but some of the fruit desserts looked divine. I couldn't remember the last time I had a grunt or cobbler, so I whipped up a Peach-Berry Cobbler with fresh blueberries and strawberries and canned peaches.

Ran The Cocoanuts as I baked. The Marx Brothers' sound debut and debut as a unit is very, very much an early talkie musical. Groucho runs a failing hotel in Florida and hopes to get the wealthy Mrs. Potter (Margaret Dumont) to put money into his newest venture, a development in the swamps. Meanwhile, Mrs. Potter's daughter Polly (Pearl Eaton) is in love with a penniless architect (Oscar Shaw), but her mother would rather she married Yates (Cyril Ring). Turns out Yates and his associate (Kay Francis, in her second film) are jewel thieves who only want Mrs. Potter's diamond necklace. Harpo and Chico come into all this to wreck havoc on both Groucho's and the jewel thieves' schemes and reunite the lovers amid some pretty odd dance numbers.

If you like the Marxes and early talkie musicals, you may get a kick out of this. As in some of their later films, the singing ingenues were totally overwhelmed by the Marxes, Dumont, and their brand of lunacy. This was apparently intended to be even more of a musical, but most of Irvin Berlin's score was cut during previews. Considering that what remains is no great shakes, that's not a huge loss. If nothing else, it features Groucho and Chico's classic "Viaduct/Why a duck?" routine. Recommended for Marx Brothers fans who can handle the staginess and this being more overtly musical than usual (and the fact that Universal's print on DVD is not in great shape).

Went right into the bath after the Marxes finished and the Cobbler was out of the oven. It felt so wonderful after all the walking we did this week. I listened to my 20s RCA CD, read Simple Pleasures, and just enjoyed feeling the bubbles over my battered toes.

Did another Marx Brothers movie while eating tuna salad for dinner, then while baking my favorite Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies. (Lauren and I ate almost all of the strawberry ones I made a few days ago.) Monkey Business was the first Marx Brothers movie written directly for film, and it's unusual in a few ways. First of all, it's the only movie I can recall that had all the Brothers together as a team at the outset, instead of Groucho being in charge or a quack authority figure who comes in later. Second, it keeps the female ingenue (Ruth Hall), but gives Zeppo the male ingenue role. The quartet are here traveling as stowaways in pickled herring barrels on a trans-Atlantic cruise. After driving the ship's crew batty for the first half of the film, they spend the second half as bodyguards for a pair of gangsters as Groucho romances one of the gangster's wives (Thelma Todd). When the other gangster's daughter (Hall) is kidnapped, it's the Brothers to the rescue!

The early talkie staginess does still show here, but it's helped by better camerawork and direction. The plot is surprisingly strong for one of their films, especially when it more-or-less takes over in the second half. The Brothers playing announcers for the climatic fight scene is a riot. If you're a Marx Brothers fan, this is a must, and along with Duck Soup, not a bad place to start for newcomers who want to check out the Paramount/Universal Marx movies.

Oh, and Lauren dropped a line from the Yahoo!Messenger app on her smartphone about an hour ago. She was just rolling into the station. The train going to Philly was further held up by a bridge going up, but she had a two-hour layover in Philly, and there were otherwise no problems anywhere.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

A Walk On the Wet Side

It was only cloudy and humid when we headed out late this morning. The sign at Beneficial Bank said 83 degrees, but thanks to the humidity, it felt a lot warmer than that. We made a brief stop at WaWa for a pretzel (I forgot to eat before we left), but otherwise hiked straight down the White Horse Pike to Haddon Heights. My graduation present to Lauren was lunch at Anthony's, a fancy gourmet Italian restaurant on Station Avenue. I figured it was a gift that would be far more appreciated than some DVD.

We just made it. We'd been sipping water in their upstairs dining room for about 20 minutes when Lauren noted that the rain had started outside. And when it deluged. By the time we were eating salad for our first course (Lauren had Spinach Salad with bacon dressing; I had Warm Mushroom Salad), the rain was coming down in torrents.

And this time, it only got worse. It started thundering as we enjoyed our main courses. Lauren had Oven-Baked Tilapia with steamed vegetables. I had a Chicken Italiano Sandwich with "pub fries." The lights blinked briefly while we were eating dinner. The rain didn't do much to dampen anyone's spirits. Anthony's was busy with the lunch crowd, mainly older people and office workers looking for something better to eat than the usual hoagie.

The rain continued, even as we had raspberry sorbet for dessert. We finally decided we couldn't hang around in the freezing air conditioning for much longer. Not to mention, I spent my last money on our lunch. We dashed down the street to the big PNC Branch a few doors down. Their ATM machine seemed to be down or running slow, probably thanks to the weather, so I went inside to withdraw cash for the rest of the week.

Our next stop was the other area comic books store, over the tracks and down the street from Anthony's and PNC. The Comics Connection is smaller than Oaklyn's Comics Shop, but it's brighter, cleaner, and far better-organized. Toys and comics are displayed on shelves instead of being left in cartons and boxes, and it makes everything look so much better. I didn't get anything (I'm not really into comics), but Lauren bought four Voltron titles.

I've been wanting to show Lauren the Barrington Antique Center for a while now. Though it was still raining, it wasn't quite as hard as it had been, and we were closer to Barrington than to Oaklyn anyway. We explored the winding labrynths of the Antique Center for almost an hour, checking out toys, books, records, vintage clothing, and linens. I saw three American Girl dolls, Kirsten, Samantha, and Felicity in a display. I already have Sam and Lissie, and while I wouldn't have minded having Kirsten, they all cost 250 dollars each! The high price is probably because all three are retired. Even two of Lissie's dresses were $50. (I might have been more tempted on the dresses if I didn't already have the pink Birthday Gown.)

I did find the last Samantha book I didn't have, Samantha Saves the Day, and Garfield's Feline Fantasies, a comic book based after one of the last Garfield prime-time specials. Lauren did a bit better. She found a mini Pound Puppy and a bag of Garfield figurines. We both saw quite a few other things we wouldn't have minded buying, including several records, but we didn't feel like lugging them home in the rain.

Speaking of the weather, it was improving, even as we strolled beneath the highway overpass and back to Haddon Heights. While the rain was getting better, the traffic wasn't. I have no idea why rush hour traffic was bumper-to-bumper all the way down the White Horse Pike. It's Tuesday, not Friday, and the weather wasn't exactly conductive to rushing down to the Shore.

We got away from the long line of cars in Audubon. I originally planned on taking Lauren to the Barrington Coffee House after we finished at the Antique Center, but they were already closed by then. We ended up at the TreeHouse Cafe instead. The dim, burlap-hung room was nice and cozy after the rain and mess outside. Lauren had a berry smoothie. I had a Cookies and Cream Milkshake.

We finally made it home around 5:30. The rain had calmed down to a sprinkle; it's picked up on and off for the rest of the night, though never to the degree it was at Anthony's. We've spent the night playing Uno (Lauren won most of this round) and online, watching Recess: School's Out and Wreck It Ralph.

Lauren goes home at 12:20 tomorrow. I have to figure out what to do about the deflated back tire on my bike.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Hot Times Ahead

We once again slept in. By the time we headed out around 11, it was hot, sunny, and a bit humid, but breezy enough to keep it relatively comfortable. We started our day with a stroll to the Westmont Plaza. We headed past the shops on the White Horse Pike and the Clyde S Jennings Elementary School, smiling at the kids and their teacher enjoying an outdoor class in their Learning Gardens.

There really weren't too many stores left at the Plaza to explore. Lauren owns a Wii, so we took a look at Game Stop. The Game Stop at the Westmont Plaza is bigger and has a much better selection of games than the tiny one in Audubon. We also took a look at Tuesday Morning. I was hoping they'd have a pan (my smallest frying pan is really getting worn out), but I didn't see anything I liked that I could afford. We didn't end up with anything at either place.

Thankfully, we missed the worst of the teenage lunch crowd at the Westmont Bagel Shop. They've done considerable remodeling since the last time I was there. The front room and the doors are now painted in shades of periwinkle. The main room is done in mauve. All the sports memorbillia is grouped by sport on squares on the wall, instead of being spread around the room helter-skelter. To be honest, I kind of liked helter-skelter better. This place doesn't feel right gentrified. It didn't effect the taste of the food. Lauren enjoyed her pizza bagels. I loved my Monte Cristo with turkey, ham, and tomato. (I did give Lauren part of the ham. Pork tends to give me indigestion. The sausage yesterday was bad enough.)

It was so hot, we stopped at Kayla's for water ice on the way home. Lauren had cherry. I had chocolate chocolate chip banana fudge. We enjoyed our treats and tried to ignore the noisy, obnoxious pre-teen and young teenage girls who were chattering in the swinging booths. One of the swinging booths had come off its track; it sounds like the girls at least knew who did it.

We made a brief stop at WaWa on the way home. Lauren wanted snacks and drinks for her remaining two days here. After she bought her food, we went back to my place. We spent an hour resting and playing more Uno. Lauren's getting the hang of it. She won almost all the games this time.

Clouds were gathering as we headed back out. We both needed to get laundry done. I had a really large load, and Lauren was almost through the clothes she brought. We timed it very well. Action News on Channel 6 was fussing about storms even as we arrived. There was only one or two other people when we were loading up our washers. By the time our clothes were in the dryer, the place was packed, there were almost no washers left, and the clouds were starting to break apart.

When we got in, we ran Three Stooges Shemp shorts. I made Strawberry Spice Cookies with white cake mix, egg whites, spices, canola oil, and fresh farm market strawberries. When the cookies were done (and Lauren proclaimed them delicious), I made us both omelets with farm market veggies.

Right now, we're online, watching The Pirate Movie. Tomorrow, I'm going to take Lauren out to a fancy lunch at Anthony's in Haddon Heights.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Father's Day In the Pool

First of all, Happy Father's Day to all dads (including those dads whose children are four-legged or feathered).

It was cloudy and cool when we finally got up around 10ish. I made Peanut Butter and Chocolate Chip Pancakes for breakfast as we watched the remaining Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles episodes we started last night. I briefly called Mom. I was hoping Dad-Bill was at home, but he was at sea, and Mom was dealing with my oldest nephew Skylar. Lauren had more luck with getting her dad on her cell phone while I did the dishes.

The clouds were picking up as we headed to Dad-Bruce's house. He invited us over for a small family Father's Day party, like their Mother's Day party but mostly outdoors. And for once, it was small. It turned out to just be Dad, Jodie, Jodie's Aunt Colleen, some relatives of hers, Jessa, her boyfriend Bobby, Khai, and later Rose. Lauren and I chatted with Dad, Jodie, Colleen, and her relatives until Khai's dad Craig dropped him off. It was spitting off and on as we hit the pool, but it was mostly just chilly.

The pool was in the 70s - not freezing, but not that comfortable either, unless you're an excited three-year-old who loves the water. We played with his plastic trucks and an orange wind-up fish. Jessa, Bobby, and Lauren joined us on the side of the pool later; it was too cold for them to go all the way in. Jess and Bobby splashed Khai, much to his delight. In between, I took Lauren inside to show her the changes since the last time she visited.

We had dinner around 5PM, which is also when Rose finally arrived. Dinner was hamburgers, hot dogs, mild and hot sausage, cucumber salad, regular green tossed salad, macaroni salad, and deviled eggs. There were a Lime Cake made by Colleen and my Key Lime Mousse Pie for dessert. The older adults watched the US Open. Everyone else watched Team Umizoomi, The Fairly Oddparents, and Spongebob Squarepants on Nickelodeon. Everyone ate tons and really enjoyed it.

The sky was just getting darker. It just had to wait to burst until we were walking home. We ducked beneath the train bridge on West Clinton Avenue to wait out the weather. When we got in, I went right in the shower. The sun came out shortly after we got home. It looks like clouds may be building again. We'll see what happens.

Whatever happens, our only real plans for tomorrow is to get laundry done. We'll see what else we're up for.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Rock Hard and Cheesesteak On

No sleeping in today! Lauren and I began a busy morning with the end of the American Top 40. I was three months old in June 1979 when these songs were new. Hits during the first summer of my life included "We are Family" by Sister Sledge, "The Logical Song" by Supertramp, "Ring My Bell" by Anita Ward, "Just When I Needed You Most" by Randy Vanwarmer, and "Love You Inside Out" by the Bee Gees. Donna Summer's Bad Girls album was the unstoppable juggernaut that June, including its single "Hot Stuff."

We spent the morning wandering around Oaklyn, taking in their Town-Wide Yard Sale. I was a bit disappointed. While there may have been even more yard sales this year than there was last year, they had less interesting things on display. I ended up with a DVD copy of the first Peanuts movie A Boy Named Charlie Brown, the late 90s American Girl Postcard Book (looks like it came out just prior to Josefina's release), "Samantha's Stationary Set," and two records, a recording of the operetta The New Moon and John Denver's Poems, Prayers, and Promises. Lauren got a new pair of shorts and a vintage 80s Care Bears figure to go with her collection.

We did make it to the Farm Market around 11PM. It was as busy as ever. Even at that late time, people were still out in force, buying goodies for their Father's Day and graduation barbecues. I picked up strawberries, zucchini, spring onions (basically scallions with larger bulbs), spinach, and more North Carolina Blueberries.

We finally opted for Phillies Phatties a few doors down from Leo's Yum Yums for lunch. The place was pretty noisy, and not just because the Town-Wide Yard Sale was still going on. There was a group of noisy grade-school-age kids at the largest table in the room. I think they were there for a birthday party. The kids didn't bother us, but they also made a bit of a racket. We took our meal outdoors to the black metal tables on the sidewalk. I had a "Panzarotti," a small fried pizza turnover. Lauren had a pepperoni stromboli...that was a lot bigger than either of us planned. She ate two parts. I ate one. The rest is now in our refrigerator.

We walked around a bit more in the development behind the school before finally calling it a day. We were both hot and sweaty, and I was getting red. (I forgot to put sunscreen on this morning.) We put everything away, then played Uno for about an hour or so. (I creamed Lauren. I have more training. My family played Uno a lot well into my college years.)

Lauren got tired of sitting so much, and I realized I forgot to pick up milk on our earlier walk. We took a shorter stroll to WaWa around 4PM. At least it was a nice day for all the walking. It was sunny, dry, and hot, with a few fleeting clouds but nothing like the past few days. The gardens and parks, with their summer lilies and pastel rose bushes and wildflowers perfuming the air, are amazing right now. I did get my milk at a busy WaWa, too. Lauren got a Dr. Pepper with raspberry and vanilla syrups. I had Fuze Iced Tea with cherry and vanilla. We both had our annual Tastycake treat, this year the Reeses Candy Bar Cakes. (Which was really good - tasted a lot like a richer Funny Bone.)

When we got home, we watched Three Stooges shorts for a while as I made dinner. I loved that Tex-Mex Black Bean Dip I made back in the fall so much, I wanted to share it with Lauren. I also made spinach with mushrooms, an updated version of a recipe from the Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book.

We're now watching Tiny Toons Adventures episodes from my new set. The current episode is the show's second classic MTV spoof of the series, "Toon TV." We're just finishing Elmyra's hilarious version of "The Name Game."

Friday, June 14, 2013

Rain On, Rain Off

After all the walking we did yesterday, we both opted to sleep in today. It was cloudy and cool this morning,  but even as we were heading for the Audubon Crossings Shopping Center, the sun was coming out, and it was getting hotter. I brought the cart this time; we planned on hitting the Acme for groceries and for me to take money out of my account.

Our first stop was Marburn Curtains. I've been wanting to get a better rug for the rectangle of linoleum between the entertainment area and the bedroom. The beige bath mat that's down there now came with the apartment. It's shot. The plush is matted, and the rubber on the underside is flaking off. Lauren and I found a runner. It's only a slightly darker shade than the old rug, and it's a real rug, not a bath mat that just happens to fit the space.

The first trouble started when I tried paying. I'd forgotten my wallet. I felt so embarrassed. Lauren ended up paying the 10 dollars for it. Lauren finally said she'd go back to my apartment for my wallet and would meet me down at Avenue. I browsed in Avenue for about a half-hour before I got a call from Lauren...who did not have the key to my apartment. I finally just joined her half-way, and we both went back to my place.

I was upset, but I calmed down on the way. We put the rug down (it's a little long, but certainly looks better than the old one) and cooled off a little. Turns out I'd left my wallet on the living room table, along with my coupons. We grabbed them, ditched our jackets (it was sunny and getting hot by that point), and went back out.

This time, we went straight to Sonic to have a much-needed lunch. Lauren had a Philly Cheesesteak, a Coke, and Tater Tots. I had a Coconut Cream Pie Milkshake, onion rings, and a Grilled Chicken Club sandwich. It was a gorgeous day for what amounted to a fast-food picnic, too. At that point, it was still sunny and breezy. We weren't the only ones eating there, either. A family finished and left half-way through our meal, and there were quite a few cars in the parking lot and even more going through the drive-in.

Our next stop was Staples. I've been wanting to replace my laptop for months. I finally have plenty of money in the bank for it. My laptop is 8 years old, and in fact used to belong to Lauren. She gave it to me when the computer I had before that started to die. We looked at a couple of different models, but Staples didn't seem to have any of the ones I liked in stock. Lauren and I suggested at least three laptops under 400 dollars, and none of them were in stock.

I finally chose an HP that was about 570, expensive but not beyond all the abilities it came with. For the second time that day, I couldn't pay. My debit card wouldn't go through, despite the fact that I knew I had money. We finally bought the mouse we'd chosen (which I also needed badly) and hurried out. Lauren actually said she'd pay, but I told her "no" this time. I felt bad enough as it was.

We were both angry when we came outside. We leaned back, and I called PNC to figure out what was going on. Thankfully they were really nice once I finally got a hold of them. Turns out I did have plenty of money in my account. They put my account on hold because I'd never made such a big purchase at once before. They were more than happy to take the hold off.

Lauren and I finally came to the conclusion that we could find a laptop for a much better price and in stock online directly from the manufacturers. We went back across the street instead to buy some other things I needed. I got a cute floral sundress and a new bathing suit, a simple black-and-white one piece. Avenue was having a half-price sale on bathing suits. I got the suit for about 40 and the dress for 20.

Our next stop was Acme. I needed money, and we wanted food for the rest of the week. Lauren wanted to restock her soda, too. I told her I'd do all the buying here; she bought lunch and had pulled me out of a jam twice. Besides, I needed money for the rest of the trip.

The clouds were building up again, even as we had lunch. By the time we were in Avenue, it was showering again. The rain was gone when we walked  home, but it returned shortly after we got in. We spent the rest of the afternoon playing Uno. I made chicken burgers, Cold Golden Beet Yogurt Soup, shrimp from the Acme, and salad for dinner, and we watched Tiny Toons Adventures episodes and listened to my Disney kids' albums.

I really hope our trip around Oaklyn for the Town-Wide Yard Sale goes better tomorrow.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Me and Lauren In Philadelphia

I was awoken on a cloudy, humid morning by the sound of the garbage trucks...and remembered that I hadn't taken the trash out last night. Yes, I did make it in time. When I got back in, I read in my journal for a while. Thankfully, I did not wake up Lauren, who slept until about 9:30.

By that point, the clouds had grown much darker, and it had gotten windier and even more humid. Lauren was awake and I was having breakfast when the rain started coming down. We'd planned on heading out at 10:30, but the monsoon was really horrible. Thankfully, Lauren had weather apps on her iPad; they clearly showed that the storm was intense but small and fast-moving. We watched the Paris and French Riviera episodes of Rick Steves Europe until the rain calmed down enough for us to head to Collingswood.

We got into Collingswood by 11:30, which was only a little later than we'd planned. We had lunch at Tortilla Press, the Mexican restaurant in Collingswood, as we did last year. Lauren had pork tacos, rice, and beans. I had a chicken, cheese, and beans burrito and jicama slaw. We shared a basket of tortilla chips and salsa that were made on the premises. It wasn't really busy that early; there were only one or two other couples there.

We headed straight for the PATCO Station after lunch. The clouds had vanished, replaced by sunshine and humidity. A nice breeze kept it from feeling unbearable. We hopped on a full but not stuffed 12:50 train to Philadelphia. 

The 10th and Locust stop is literally only a few doors down from Russakoff's Used Books in Washington Square. We made that our first stop. They were the same wonderful, cramped jumble of books, DVDs, CDs, and records (though fewer of the last-named than there used to be). I ended up with Simple Pleasures, a book on finding delights in everyday small things. Lauren got a collection of Yogi Berra's many quips. 

We got turned around on our way to FYE. Lauren had to look up a map in order to get us to the one on Broad Street near City Hall. I took advantage of that buy two used items, get one free sale to pick up Warners' (non-public-domain) collection of the Paramount/Fleischer Brothers Superman cartoons, a box set of all five Paramount/Universal Marx Brothers movies (I know I already have two, but it's cheaper than buying the rest of them), and the stage musical version of The Secret Garden on CD. The newest Tiny Toons set and The Three Stooges Meet Hercules weren't on sale, but I'm trying to finish out the Toons, and Hercules is the last Stooge film of any interest to me (besides the public domain 60s cartoons). Lauren picked up the Toons and sets for Animaniacs and the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Macy's is less than five minutes from FYE. We didn't have nearly as much luck there. The cute striped dress I liked wasn't on sale and was more than I was willing to pay. Lauren's been shopping more often at her local Macy's and had pretty much bought the clothes that she wanted there. I bought an orange t-shirt and a floral one. 

We were going to stop at the Starbucks at the 13th Street corner of Macy's to get a cool drink, but the line was so long, we figured it wasn't worth the wait and just headed out. We hiked down 13th Street to the 13th and Locust PATCO stop. Surprisingly for around 4PM, the train going back to New Jersey was only somewhat full. (As I said to Lauren, if we'd waited even one more train, we might have been lucky to get a seat.)

Lauren suggested a snack and something to cool off at the Pop Shop when we got back into Collingswood. I thought it was a brilliant suggestion. The sun had once again been replaced by clouds, but it was still hot and humid. I needed something to cool off, and Lauren said she was hungry. I ordered butter pecan ice cream with honey and blueberries. I've had that before, and it was just as delicious this time around. Lauren had mozzarella sticks and the most perfect-looking chocolate ice cream soda in the world. Once again, we timed it well. It was 4:30 when we were having our snack. There were a few families there at that point, but it wasn't nearly as busy or noisy as it usually is during dinner hours.

The clouds were growing even thicker as we made our hot way across Newton River Park and past CVS. It just started to shower as we were a block from my apartment. Luckily for us, the shower waited until we'd been inside for 20 minutes to pick up speed. It's stormed on and off for the rest of the night.

I fiddled with my new Kindle Fire (Lauren gave me hers; she prefers Apple items she can sync to her Apple laptop) while we ran The Three Stooges Meet Hercules. This one spoofs the cheesy sword-and-sandals films that were popular in the 50s and early 60s. The Stooges, a nerdy young inventor, and a pretty chemist are thrown back in time on the inventor's time machine. The evil king takes the chemist for his wife and sends the inventor and the Stooges to the galley. When all the rowing builds up the inventor's muscles, the Stooges promote him as Hercules...until the real Hercules protests and challenges him to a duel!

One of the better movies made when Curly Joe was the third Stooge in the 60s. I still recommend newcomers start with the shorts, but fans will have a lot of fun with the great gags in this one. 

I switched to my larger laptop as Hercules ended. The rainy weather inspired me to put on Radioland Murders, and then Clue, which is just winding down it's last ending. I'm going to put on the somewhat similar Murder By Death next. 

Tomorrow, we're mostly going to do errands. I need to hit the grocery store and want to take a look at laptops at Staples, and we both need to do laundry. 

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Thrift Shop Adventures

I called Jessa after I finished breakfast this morning. She was delighted to take us to several local Goodwills and thrift shops she knows well. We watched Sailor Moon episodes while she took a shower; she finally picked us up around quarter of 11.

Our first stop was a big Goodwill in Cherry Hill. They had a room for furniture in addition to the usual clothes, toys, knick-knacks, ancient electronics, and media. I found a Wilton cake pan in the shape of a house that was shallower than usual. It looks like it was intended to make a flat gingerbread house shape. I also grabbed a 99 cent copy of A Pink Christmas (the Pink Panther was one of the few characters I like that I didn't have anything Christmas for). Lauren bought a lovely purple-and-black-striped shirt.

Our next stop was Village Thrift Store, a large independent thrift shop in Pensauken, near the Collingswood Diner. This was pretty much the same thing without the Goodwill branding. No interesting doo-dads here, but Lauren and I both got clothes. I found a pair of khaki shorts that had never been worn and a mint-green set of workout clothes. Lauren bought two nice shirts for work (she's the head teller in a small local bank in Pittsfield).

We headed down the Black Horse Pike to an enormous castle of a Goodwill. Jess said it was a Goodwill Outlet, and it works a little differently than a regular Goodwill. Instead of slapping everything with an actual price, they weigh your purchase and base it on that. Unfortunately, everything is in huge bins scattered around the vast main room. This is a nifty idea in theory. In practice, it just makes a mess. It's fine for stuffed animals or books or other things that can't break. Board games were scattered everywhere; records were scratched and broken.

We did seek a few interesting things out of the bins. I picked up a vintage Better Homes and Garden Dessert Cook Book, a beautiful old metal colander with a star pattern that looks like the one my mom still has, and a blue and green plastic tumbler for the bathroom. Lauren found a book for her dad. (My order came to 84 cents - they didn't even weigh the book!)

(I also saw something I didn't buy, but haven't seen in years. My sisters and I got the classic white, orange, and yellow Barbie Dream House in the early 80s. Anny used to crawl through it when she was a toddler, much to the annoyance of Rose and me. Mom and Dad thought it was hilarious. They didn't have any of the furniture, but otherwise, it was intact, missing only a window or two. I hope some little girl who has the room for it has as much fun as we used to.)

By this point, it was past 1. The traffic on the Black Horse Pike was picking up. We decided it was time for lunch. Jess drove past the Acme and into Oaklyn. We had lunch at Aunt Berta's, where I ate at the day before Easter. This time, the TV was on ESPN Sports Center, and we were the only ones there. I had the salmon cake and collard greens again, along with candied yams (this time in the smaller lunch portions that only came with one cake). Lauren had baked fish, corn, and macaroni and cheese. Jessa had turkey legs, green beans and potatoes, and the mac and cheese. We all ordered iced tea.

Mine was absolutely delicious. The salmon cake was even better than in March, more lightly breaded and golden in color. The greens were a tad spicy for my taste. The "candied yams" were basically mashed sweet potatoes, and as such, pretty tasty. The ice tea came in huge containers normally used to carry food. They were very sweet, but flavorful, probably home-made.

Jessa came up briefly after she dropped us at my apartment. I showed her the flamingo-themed outfit that I bought for her AG mini-me last month and finally gave her the scarf I crocheted for her birthday (in February). After we put away our remaining drinks and our finds from the morning, we went right back out again to enjoy the rest of the day.

It was sunny and breezy in the morning, but by the afternoon, the heat had gone up and it was getting a little hazier and more humid. Even so, it was still too nice to be inside. We visited various stores in Oaklyn and Audubon, starting with the House of Fun on the White Horse Pike. I didn't see anything I liked there. Lauren bought two Three Stooges figures (she couldn't find Moe), and The Three Stooges original Nintendo game. We made a brief stop at the comics shop next door. I petted a handsome calico cat, but otherwise we didn't find anything there.

After dodging the rush hour traffic on the White Horse Pike, we made our way to the local music store Abbie Road in Audubon. We chatted with Bob the owner as we made our selections. Lauren bought several country albums (including a Jimmy Dean CD for her dad) and two solo Davy Jones CD re-releases. I bought:

LP cast albums for the original stage version of Funny Girl and the Broadway revue Ain't Misbehavin', which covers the music of Fats Waller.

An LP collection of songs from film operettas (yes, including MacDonald and Eddy's) and CDs of the soundtracks from the MGM musicals Hit the Deck and The Unsinkable Molly Brown.

The Rhino re-release of the Monkees' album Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn, and Jones Ltd. 

After Bob finally finished chatting, we headed a few doors down to Desserts By Design. We said "hi" to the owner and picked up some snacks. I bought a Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcake. Lauren bought her favorite almond paste cookie.

We were finally worn out when we got in. We spent an hour or so playing Uno before dinner. I made steamed snap peas, pan-fried turnips with their greens, and the last of the pan-seared turkey steaks for dinner. We watched Meatballs, then Tangled.

Right now, we're online and watching One Crazy Summer. Hopefully, the weather will cooperate long enough to let us get into Philly tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Preparing For Lauren's Arrival

Since Lauren wasn't due to get into Cherry Hill until 7:40, I did some usual day-off chores. Volunteered at the Oaklyn Library first. They were surprisingly busy for such a nice day. Quite a few older people were using the computers and chatting with the librarian. I didn't want to disrupt them, so I kept it to organizing the DVDs and doing a quick go-over on the picture books.

I mainly needed cards at Dollar Tree. Lauren just graduated college courses; my stepsister Jessa graduated the Art College of Philadelphia. Father's Day is this Sunday, too. I needed something for both dads. Also grabbed vinegar and a new laundry bag to replace the one that was damaged yesterday.

Went to the Haddon Township Library next. They weren't as busy. There were only a few people on the computers, and a few more taking out books. I organized the still-overflowing DVDs and shelved kids' books and magazines. I was out of there in less than an hour.

Newton River Park was absolutely gorgeous today. The weather was as perfect as it gets in mid-June. The sky was blue, with some fat clouds overhead. It was warm but neither too hot nor humid. There was a nice, soft wind that kept bugs and heat at bay. I saw a woman clearing the algae off the river in a huge harvester-like machine even as I rode past.

My ride ended as I left the park and was going up the hill into Oaklyn. I realized my back tire seemed to be moving a little odd. I got off and checked it. It was going flat. I wasn't that surprised. I've had that tire for a while, since the last one blew in July 2008. I was frustrated at first, but when I arrived home, I realized this was an opportunity. Lauren and I will probably hit Haddonfield sometime this week or next. Lauren loves the British Chip Shop. We'll just stop at the bike shop there, too.

Spent the rest of the afternoon at my apartment, having the last of the turkey sandwich I bought for dinner last night at the Acme for lunch. Ran a Lois & Clark episode as I ate. "Honeymoon In Metropolis" isn't what it sounds like. Our favorite reporter duo are trying to figure out why a well-known senator and a notorious arms dealer are meeting in the building across the way.

Spent the next few hours finishing the cleaning. I finally vacuumed around the edges and under furniture (at least as best I could with my pulled muscles), which I ran out of time for on Thursday. I swept the porch as best I could in the wind. I made the bed. I put away things I wouldn't need for the week and brought out towels for Lauren to use.

I then took a nice long soak in the bathtub. That felt extra yummy. I keep finding bruises in places I didn't know bruises could be. I can't really lean on my left knee because of the bruise there. Really, other than the sore arms, it could have been a lot worse. Nothing seems to be broken, not even the sore arms.

I'd just gotten dressed and was about to poke into the refrigerator to find dinner when the phone rang. Jodie wanted to know if I'd like to join her, Dad, and Jessa for ribs at Dad's house. Dad would take me to pick up Lauren from there. Sure! My only dinner plans was leftovers.

I strolled over to Dad's. Jodie greeted me on the porch. Dad and Jessa were in the kitchen, working on the rosemary baked potatoes. I congradulated Jess on her graduation. We talked about Rose and Craig moving into their house, and I told Dad about the few plans Lauren and I had. Jess asked if we'd like to hit up a couple of local Goodwills and thrift shops with her. I loved the idea and told her I'd float it by Lauren.

Dinner was delicious, as Jodie's ribs always are. We had asparagus and garlic and the tasty red potatoes with real rosemary from the big bush next to the side entrance to Dad's house. The asparagus was sweet; the ribs were succulent and tender. Jodie was worried that the potatoes hadn't cooked long enough, but I thought they were fine.

After Jodie and Jessa cleaned up the dishes, Dad and I headed to Cherry Hill to pick up Lauren. I called her as I was going to Dad's, and she called me when I was there. Not only did we hit some traffic going to Cherry Hill, but Dad took the wrong turn-off after we went over the Cooper River and had to go all the way around to the Towne Center, past Concentra Urgent Care where I had my foot looked at last year to get to the train platform.

Thankfully, we were only slightly late. Lauren had a bit of a rough ride herself. Her first train from Albany to New York ran into trouble after an hour. She had to change trains. That train was late getting in, which means she had to trade tickets to get a later train. Thankfully, she said she had no trouble after that and was in Cherry Hill on-time.

When we got home and got Lauren settled in, we decided to enjoy the nice weather and go for a walk. (Lauren said her folks mentioned spotty showers in Pittsfield, but we never saw so much as a raindrop here.) There was a huge crowd around Leo's Yum Yums; from the way they were talking and laughing, most of them probably just came out of the Oaklyn Manor. I was full of ribs and just went for a small Cotton Candy Yum Yum. Lauren had a medium orange-vanilla water ice. We strolled home, enjoying our treats and the company.

We took a look at cookbooks to make menus for the week for a while, then went online. Tomorrow, I'll call Jess and see if she's in the mood for a thrift shop excursion.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Magic To Do In Manhattan

Began the day with a laundry run. It was a big one, too. I had towels and linens to do along with my regular clothes. Thankfully, they weren't that busy at all when I got in. I listened to Let's Make a Deal, read Women Who Run With the Wolves, and watched the manager and a couple of repair men fix the larger, front-loading washing machines.

It was after I left the laundromat that it happened. I took the bike to the laundromat in order to avoid any rainy weather. My laundry bag was perched on my bike basket. Shortly after I crossed the street, the bag suddenly fell off. I rolled over it before I could stop myself. The bag got caught under the wheels. One thing lead to another...and down I and the bike went.

I got really, really lucky. My sneaker got caught in the frame of the bike, but it was the thick back sole and didn't hurt at all. I have bumps and bruises (including two dillies on my upper thighs), my left knee was skinned and bruised, and I think I might have pulled a few muscles in my front left shoulder. My other knee and feet were fine, and I was able to ride home upset and shaken but not permanently damaged.

As it turned out, the only other things that were hurt were my cargo capris (which now have small blood stains and holes in the bottom) and the laundry bag, which is a hole-filled mess and will have to be replaced. The laundry itself was unharmed, as were the book (good thing I put it in a plastic bag to keep it from getting wet in case of rain), the detergent bottle, and my bike. The box of drier sheets got squished, but the sheets themselves look all right.

When I got home, I cheered myself up with lunch, then made Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies while watching Bell, Book, and Candle. This 1958 comedy takes us to New York, where curio shop owner Gillian (Kim Novak) bewitches handsome if staid publisher Shep (James Stewart) away from his obnoxious fiancee. No, really bewitches him. She's an actual witch, as are her eccentric aunt Queenie (Elsa Lanchester) and whimsical brother Nick (Jack Lemmon). Thing is, Gillian can't fall for Shep, as much as she'd like to. If a witch falls in love, they lose their powers. Not to mention, there's the writer (Ernie Kovacs) who is determined to sniff out witches among Manhattan's underground beatnik culture...and it doesn't help that Nick is more than happy to lend a hand.

While some of this is mildly dated (including what she gives up in the end), for the most part, this is still a fun and unusual look at how underground sophistication tends to clash with "normal" morality...and how hard it can be to let one in over the other. Although Stewart isn't bad as the befuddled publisher, it's Novak and the supporting cast who really shine, especially Lemmon and Lanchester as her magical family and Hermione Gingold as a colorful older witch. Great color cinematography, too, especially in the opening sequences set during Christmas.

Stewart was far from the only normal guy to find himself up against supernatural forces. Harry Stone deals with an older woman who may or may not have clairvoyant powers and gets her to lift a "curse" on the court staff in the second season Night Court episode "The Gypsy." In the third season Perfect Strangers episode "The Horn Blows at Midnight," a female medium predicts that Larry will die that evening. Larry doesn't believe a word, but Balki does, and then strange coincidences start happening...

Animated characters had their own bouts with the supernatural. Garfield chases a magician's dog around a magic shop in "Magic Mutt" and deals with a gypsy curse of his own in "The Carnival Curse." When obnoxious witch Emerald turns her powers and her annoying laugh on a local pastry shop, the Sailor Soldiers find themselves up to their ears in icing and danger in "Emerald Bakes Up Trouble."

It started monsoon-level pouring during Bell, Book, and Candle. I called Dad for a ride again. It wasn't raining when he picked me up at 3:30, but it didn't look great out there, either. The rain continued on-and-off all night...and scared off a lot of our customers. It was steady all night, and only once during rush hour was it more than mildly busy. I did have to get a manager to take my line so I could get out, though.

Today was my last day of work until next week. As of now, I am officially on vacation! Lauren will be visiting starting tomorrow night; before that, I have a lot of things to do, including this week's library volunteering run.

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Across the Apartment

It was a gorgeous day when I woke up this morning, sunny, breezy, and warmer than yesterday but not out of line for this time of year. I had Blueberry Pancakes and slices of cantaloupe while listening to Brunch With the Beatles. Let It Be, the Beatles' last album, was recorded as they were just beginning their painful break-up. Some of the discord did end up in the music, including "Get Back" and the title number. Other favorites from this album include "The Two of Us," "Across the Universe," "The Long and Winding Road," and the 50s rock-inspired "The One After 909."

Made my weekly call to Mom during the second half of the show. Not only was she at home, but she was in a far better mood than she was last week. Dad was out at sea; Anny took a day off to spend time with her sons. Mom had a rare day to herself and intended to spend it working on her garden and cleaning the house. She told me about her new Kindle and the math games she'd downloaded for Skylar (Anny's oldest son, who is almost 9). I told her about my upcoming vacation and how much I'm looking forward to it.

I had some cleaning of my own to do after I got off with Mom. I desperately needed to finish the dusting. Every couple of months, I go do a really deep dusting session and go under everything - books, DVDs, dolls, stuffed animals. I don't do it every month because it takes a while - I have a lot of those things! Even just doing the entertainment area (section of the living room where I keep the TV and DVDs) and my bedroom took two hours.

Ran a couple of Broadway cast albums as I dusted. All three were flop shows from the 60s and 70s that told tales of travel that didn't always go as planned. Do I Hear a Waltz? was the only show written by Richard Rogers and Stephan Sondheim. Pity they didn't get along, as there's some really lovely music in this adaptation of the play The Time of the Cukoo about a spinister who falls for a (married) local man on a trip to Italy.

The Grand Tour did even less well. The play that was musicalized here is Jablowsky and the Colonel, with songs by Jerry Herman. Joel Gray plays Jablowsky, the little Jew who convinces a haughty Polish colonel to drive him from Paris to England to escape the Nazis during World War II. Though it won a Best Score Tony for Herman, it's not considered to be one of his better shows and flopped rather quickly on Broadway. I don't know how this worked on stage, but there's some excellent songs in the score, including Marianne's "I Belong Here" and Jablowsky's anthem "I'll Be Here Tomorrow."

Sail Away was also a vehicle for a star and a composer, in this case comedienne Elaine Stritch and British wunderkind Noel Coward. Stritch is the activities director of a cruise ship who falls for a handsome young millionaire. She's not sure the relationship will work out on dry land, and his mother's completely disapproving of their age differences. This was the only original show of the three I listened to this afternoon, and the least successful. Critics dismissed it as old-fashioned in the early 60s, and even now, despite a good performance by Stritch and some decent material (including Stritch's big final song, "Why Do the Wrong People Travel?"), it mostly sounds rather dated and is a disappointing send-off for Coward.

Headed for work after a very quick lunch. Work was very busy all evening as people prepared for high school graduation and for other kids to be on their last weeks of school. It finally slowed down long enough by 7 for me to leave with no relief (which was a pleasant surprise, given that we were short on help with long lines for much of the evening).

Ran the 1977 New York Opera version of The Merry Widow as I had a quick dinner when I got home. This much-praised version of the venerable Austrian operetta has a translation by Broadway composer Sheldon Harnick that's considered to be one of the best English-language versions ever done. Beverly Sills shines as the Widow whose money could save her kingdom.

Saturday, June 08, 2013

Berry Sweet Spring Harvest

It was still cloudy, cool, and a little humid when I awoke this morning. The American Top 40 warmed things up nicely as we skipped ahead a decade to early June 1984. While my family and I were helping Mom prepare for the new arrival in the fall (who would eventually become my sister Anny), the rest of the country brought ballads, New Wave, pop, and R&B to the fore. Hits that week included "Against All Odds" by Phil Collins from the film of that title, "Hello" by Lionel Richie, "Breakdance" by Irene Cara (1984 was the height of the breakdancing craze), "Let's Here It For the Boy" by Denise Williams from Footloose, "The Reflex" by Duran Duran, "Jump (For My Love)" by The Pointer Sisters, "Oh Sherrie" by Steve Perry, "Borderline" by Madonna, "Sister Christian" by Night Ranger, and "The Heart of Rock n' Roll" by Huey Lewis and the News. Colorful Cyndi Lauper was on top of the charts that week with the ballad "Time After Time."

I went straight to the farm market today. I didn't really have the time or money to look around for yard sales, and Oaklyn will be having their town-wide yard sales next week anyway. Despite the gathering clouds, the farm market was elbow-to-elbow packed when I arrived. Thankfully, yesterday's deluge didn't seem to have done the farmers much harm. Strawberries and asparagus have been joined by an array of late-spring vegetables, including radishes, turnips, and snap and sugar peas. I ended up with snap peas, strawberries, organic romaine lettuce (the organic lettuce bunches are much smaller...and sized right for a one-person household), four turnips with their tops, scallions, and blueberries. (The blueberries are from North Carolina, but there just isn't enough Jersey-grown fruit available at this time of year.)

I had just enough time when I got home to put everything away, check a few things online, and watch cartoons while having pan-fried turnips and turnip greens with the last of the leftover Italian Chicken for lunch. One of the most bizarre Looney Tunes prime time specials was Bugs & Daffy's Carnival of the Animals. New footage of the two trying to out-do each other with animals rhymes joins limited animation music videos representing each segment of the piece and live-action sequences of a real orchestra.

Ran a couple of classical-themed shorts after it ended that were a tad less weird. An opera singer destroys Bugs' instruments when he disrupts his rehearsals in "Long-Haired Hare." Bugs is annoyed and decides to get even on the singer at his concert...which literally brings the hall down. "The Rabbit of Seville" has Elmer and Bugs performing the famous opera, right down to the shave and a hair cut. "Baton Bunny" pits conductor Bugs against a fly that's determined to wreck havoc on his performance.

Work was very busy early on, steady later. It did slow down a little later in the afternoon, as the sun came out and it became apparent that it wasn't going to rain for the time being. There were no really huge problems, and I was in and out.

Which was a good thing, as I had my own grocery shopping to do. Not a lot of it, though. I was mainly restocking my baking ingredients, including cake mix (Betty Crocker was on sale), flour, baking cups, brown sugar, and chocolate chips. I'm almost out of cereal. The store's having a good Quaker Oats sale; I went with the Cinnamon Oatmeal Squares. Needed melon slices, cooking spray, and paper towels, too.

It was so nice by quarter after 6, I decided to eat outdoors. I had a grilled chicken sandwich, cherry limeade, and those wonderfully crunchy onion rings at Sonic. It felt wonderful. I wasn't the only one who wanted to take advantage of the pale blue sky and soft breezes, either. Several families left their cars to eat.

When I got in, I ran a few more Looney Tunes shorts. Marvin the Martian made his debut (with a slightly different voice) in "Hairdevil Hare." Bugs once again has to save the Earth from Marvin's attempt to blow it to bits. In "Hair-Raising Hare," Bugs has his first encounter with Gossamer the Monster. Goss' creator wants Bugs to be his dinner! In the end, it's the least-likely creatures that finally send Gossamer fleeing.

Friday, June 07, 2013

Miss Redmer and the Very Soggy Day

I awoke to a heavy shower, though not as bad as I figured it would be. However, the shower hadn't let up by 10:30. There was no way I was going to be able to ride to work in this weather. I ended up calling Dad for a ride. Thankfully, he'd just gotten in yesterday and was more than happy to help out. He's driven in worse weather before. He spent 30 years dealing with Florida hurricanes.

Put on The Secret of NIMH this morning while I looked over my accounts on PNC's site. Since I'm currently in the midst of reading Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH,I thought I'd watch its film version. This is one time where they change a lot and I don't mind at all, as both versions, with or without magic, are equally enjoyable. In brief, Mrs. Frisby (Brisby in Secret to avoid legal problems) goes first to the majestic Great Owl, then to the very civilized rats who live in a rosebush to help move her family's home. The rats have a devastating secret of their that also concerns Mrs. Frisby and her late husband, Johnathan.

Don Bluth's first solo feature-length film is one of the most beautiful and haunting animated films of the 80s. I'm a huge fan of Jerry Goldsmith's gorgeous score, including the ballad "Flying Dreams." As much as I love the Watership Down-esque-realism in the book, I also enjoy the sword-and-sorcery fantasy in the movie (that last duel between Justin and Jenner is a stunner). If you're a Bluth fan or a fan of animation, the movie is required viewing; if you love realistic animal stories, the book won a Newberry Medal. I do recommend both book and film for older kids, though. They deal with some dark subject matter, including death, violence, and relatively graphic depictions of animal testing.

I spent the rest of the morning dusting. I had time to do the living area table and the music section of the living area. I call it the living "area" because it's so big, it's separated into three parts. I'll dust the entertainment (TV and DVD) section tomorrow or Sunday.

It was still just showering when Dad got me to work. The showers started picking up around 5ish until they were coming down in noisy, thundering torrents. Despite the weather, the store was on-and-off busy. It's still the beginning of the month, and people still need to shop, rain or no rain. I did returns during the down times.

The thunderstorms continued when Dad took me home. Good thing he spent 30  years living in Florida and knows how to handle monsoons. When I got in and got my wet clothes off, I made an omelet for dinner while watching the Looney Tunes prime-time special Bugs Bunny's Bustin' Out All Over. While this Chuck Jones-directed show is supposed to have a mild spring/early summer theme, it's really a showcase for Jones' characters. The first short depicts a very young Bugs as he dodges young Elmer's pop gun. The second takes Bugs into outer space to be a companion for Marvin the Martian's "pet" Hugo. The third is your standard Wile E Coyote and Road Runner chase through the desert.

And the rain is still going at press time, though I haven't heard the thunder in a while. It's supposed to be gone or close to gone by tomorrow. I sure hope so. I wasn't planning on doing any yard sales anyway, but I do want to get to the farm market.