Saturday, August 31, 2013

Hot Fun On Labor Day Weekend

Started off a hot, humid Saturday with this week's American Top 40, as we moved ahead four years to 1986. While Rose and I prepared to return to school, the rest of the US finished their summer dancing to R&B, ballads, and breezy pop. Hits that Labor Day Weekend included "Stuck With You" by Huey Lewis and the News, "Mad About You" by Belinda Carlisle, "Sweet Freedom" by Michael McDonald, "Dancing On the Ceiling" by Lionel Richie, "Papa Don't Preach" by Madonna, "Friends and Lovers" by Carl Anderson and Gloria Loring, and "Take My Breath Away" by Berlin from the soundtrack of that summer's biggest movie, Top Gun. That week's number one song was the biggest solo hit for British favorite Steve Winwood, "Higher Love."

I just made a quick run to the Farm Market this week. It was cloudy when I got out, but the sun made it's appearance, even as I locked my bike at the rack across from the Senior Center. I nudged my way through heavy crowds looking for produce for their Labor Day barbecues. Those mini-melons were gone (there were plenty of the big ones left), but I did see the first winter squash and squash flowers of the year. I just opted for peaches, tiny Gala apples, a tomato, Chinese beans, and an onion. I forgot cheese at the Acme yesterday; picked up Cheddar With Herbs from the dairy booth.

I did see a scant few yard sales listed for this area, but I was tired and I spent a lot of money yesterday. I headed back to Oaklyn early via Newton River Park across from the CVS. Stopped at Dad and Jodie's to say "hi," since I haven't been there in a while. They were relaxing and watching Cabin In the Woods when I was there. They'd finally finished redoing the fireplace. The new mantel Jodie's dad made was up, and it had been stripped of the original white paint. It looked great, warmer and more rustic and in line with the house's natural setting. Dad also mentioned a neighbor was springing to remove and replace the ancient dock on the river that had been rotting away since I was a kid.

Spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon at home. I finished Weekend at Bernie's. I took photos of the two black DVD shelves in the entertainment area so I can decide what color I want them to be. I relaxed myself for an hour or so crocheting a dish rag and watching One Crazy Summer, a wacky comedy from 1987 featuring John Cusak as a high school grad looking for love in Nantucket during his summer break and Demi Moore as the tough guitarist he falls for. He and his nutty friends (including Bobcat Goldthwait) end up helping her earn the money to buy her house from the nasty owner of a seafood restaurant chain. Like Bernie's, this is a slightly off-beat comedy from the late 80s that used to run constantly on cable during my childhood. It's one of those movies people either get, or they don't. Give it a try if you're a fan of Cusak, Moore, or the "snobs vs slobs" comedies of the 80s.

I got a call from America's Best after I finished my leftovers lunch. My contacts were finally in! Great! I left a little early and picked them up quickly before work. The traffic wasn't even bad behind the mall. I thought everyone may have gone down to the Shore.

The Acme initially bore this out. They were quiet when I came in, to the point where I spent an hour organizing party items. Business picked up around 2:30, and it stayed busy until right before I left at 7:30. There were a few cranky beginning-of-the-month people, but otherwise lots of help and no major problems. I was able to leave quickly with no relief.

I won't be relaxing much next week. I work all week again - my only day off is Wednesday. While I do have a very long day Tuesday, the latest I work is tomorrow until 8, and Labor Day is only 1 to 5.

Friday, August 30, 2013

On the Boardwalk In Atlantic City

I started a cloudy day with this week's grocery run. I didn't need a whole lot. I was mostly restocking baking items - flour, brown sugar, butter. They had a sale on ground chicken and Acme's organic honey. It wasn't really busy there, either. I easily got into a line and out the door.

When I got home, I put everything away as fast as I could, and then rushed back out and over to the Collingswood PATCO. I just made the 11:32 train to Lindenwold. I'd been wanting to make a trip to Atlantic City all summer, but I either didn't have the time, the money, the energy, or a mix of two or more of those things. It was now or never. I flew to the station so fast, I actually had a stomachache when I arrived.

Thankfully, I caught all vehicles without a hitch. The PATCO train to Lindenwold was right on time, as was the train to Atlantic City. The 12:01 train to Atlantic City was fairly full, not surprising on the first day of the Labor Day Weekend, but I did manage to get a seat. (I'm glad I waited on the train this time. The 554 that I took to Pomona a few weeks ago would have taken two hours to get to Atlantic City. I didn't really want to wait that long.)

While I did take a look around the Disney Store at the Walk Outlets, that wasn't my main objective for this trip. I spent most of my four hours in AC on the world-famous boardwalk, talking in the sights and sounds. The sun was going in and out by quarter of 2, and it was windy and fairly chilly on the boards. It was no day for the beach, which along with the holiday weekend, explained why the boardwalk was bustling with rolling cars and showgirls in skimpy 20s-inspired costumes.

My first stop was a small eatery called Joe Rock Cafe near Bally's. I saw a sign outside that said they had breakfast all day and was hoping to find a decent meal for at least a bit cheaper than most of the other "name" eateries. I finally settled on a Belgian waffle with fresh blueberries smothered in syrup. It was a little chewy, but not bad. The blueberries were a bit better - I wonder if they'd been purchased from a local farm market.

I spent the next hour or two just exploring the boardwalk. I browsed in a few gift shops, including an old grimy favorite, Peanut World. I tried the crane games at Central Pier. One had WebKinz; another sported stuffed animals from the movie Rio. No luck with either.

I was delighted to note that Steel Pier didn't have a one-charge-pay-all admission. I was free to walk around without having to buy any tickets first. "The Showplace of the Nation" is really just a glorified amusement park, but it's the only such place in Atlantic City. The coolest ride is the Crazy Mouse roller coaster, which has rounded seats that fly around curves, instead of the usual car-like seats. Otherwise, it's your standard back-and-forth pirate ship (there called the Flying Dutchman), merry-go-round, kid's cars-on-track, Ferris wheel, "Rock n' Roll" fast music-playing around-and-around coaster, and tea cups. (The bumper cars said "coming soon" - maybe they were down for repairs?) I tried a water gun game, but I couldn't get my water to hit the spot properly.

My legs were really tired by that point, and it was getting later and windier. I started heading back. Made one last stop at Central Pier to try for those stuffed Rio birds (still no luck). I checked a few candy shops, including Frailinger's and James', for my favorite fruit slices. When I didn't see them, I ended up grabbing them from Peanut World.

After I left the boardwalk, I made a quick stop at the Bus Station for schedules for the Cape May buses for my trip down there in a few weeks. I browsed in Ashley Stewart and Layne Bryant, the only plus-sized women's clothes stores at the Outlets. Nothing I absolutely needed. I was tired and hot and sore at that point. I just headed to the Train Station a bit early.

The train was supposed to leave at 4:42. People started lining up at 4:25. Then someone saw a man go through the door. He wore a suit and looked official, so I guess people assumed that everyone was supposed to head for the trains. Wrong! They wouldn't be ready for another 10 minutes or so. I felt silly as a huge crowd of holiday weekend travelers stood at the doors and stared at the conductor and each other, wondering what was going on.

Thankfully, that was the worst that happened on the trip. Once we got out of the terminal, it was smooth riding all the way to Lindenwauld. The PATCO went even better. While the train to Lindenwold was very full, the PATCO to Collingswood was empty. There were only two other people on the train with me. I was off by 6 on the dot and back in Oaklyn by 6:30.

I treated myself to what may be my last Leo's Yum Yum of the season. They'll probably be open for another month or so after Labor Day - they usually close in late September-early October. I had my favorite Cotton Candy Yum-Yum. I tried to eat it on the bike, but a good chunk wound up on the street before I finally came to the conclusion that creamy water ice is best eaten sitting down.

When I got home, I put away my candy, then ran Weekend at Bernie's while making spaghetti and meatballs for dinner. This odd 1987 comedy is set on Labor Day Weekend. Two ordinary working stiffs (Andrew McCarthy and Johnathan Silverman) are invited to spend the weekend at their boss' beach house after they discover that someone's defrauding the insurance company they work for. It all seems too good to be true...until they discover their boss dead and hitmen on their trail. The more party-hearty of the two suggests making the dead man appear to be alive. They may not have a choice if they want to get off the island without ending up like Bernie!

This is one of the stranger premises in an era that was rife with odd comedies. Surprisingly, while no masterpiece, it still works quite well. Silverman and especially McCarthy are having a ball as the two guys who will do anything - including drag a dead man around - to prolong their vacation. Recommended if you love really odd, slightly dark 80s comedies or grew up watching this constantly on cable as I did.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

No Clowning Around

I'd just gotten up and was starting my reading when the phone rang. It was actually my sister Rose. I called her a few days ago, but she's a busy mother and lawyer, and I hadn't expected to hear from her for a while. She's been crazy with a new house and two jobs, but her law work is now done more at home than at the office. She's hoping to have some time with her son and to try more hobbies, including yoga to help her back. I wish her luck. We did yoga at Yogawood once, but we could never get our schedules together enough to do it again.

Finished out The New 3 Stooges cartoons as I ate cereal with some now-sour milk for breakfast. The Stooges must "Thimk Or Thriwm" when they're left to handle a car wash alone without their boss. They insist that "There Auto Be a Law" when Dirty Dan sabotages their entry in a car race...but it's Dan who finds himself behind when a bull butts the boys into first place! The "Tin Horn Dude" is Bo Nanza, a bank-robbing robot whose metal casing makes it tough for the Stooges to catch him.

(Incidentally, although these cartoons are very easy to find on any number of public domain sets, and there will be a full set of them released this October, I really don't recommend them to anyone but hard-core Stooges fans and fans of the limited Jay Ward/Hanna-Barbara style of animation of the 50s and 60s. They're kind of cute, but also repetitive and sometimes a bit annoying.)

Speaking of public domain sets, I also dubbed a few Disney cartoons from a video that was a part of the same series in the yellow box as my Felix the Cat and New 3 Stooges tapes from years ago. "The Spirit of '43" is a Donald Duck propaganda short from World War II. Donald has to decide between saving his money for taxes and spending it. Humphery Bear's attempts to catch a fish in his solo short "Hooked Bear" is more fun. My favorite of the trio is "Susie, the Little Blue Coupe," one of several cartoons Disney did in the 40s and 50s that told the life story of inanimate objects. (Others include "Johnny Fedora and Alice Bluebonnet" and "The Little House.") Susie is a sweet little car who goes through some major ups and downs as she moves from new car on the block to run-down used car hack to a junk yard and back again.

After trying to move the dolls' clothes to my closet in my bedroom (didn't work - not wide enough for their pewter rack), I headed out to run a few errands before work. My first stop was the Oaklyn Library. They were pretty busy, with two kids reading quietly in the children's area and almost every computer full. I organized DVDs and shelved some children's books. Stopped at WaWa on the way home for milk and a pretzel.

When I got in, I ran the Scooby Doo and the Circus Monsters DVD while having leftover chicken and Chinese beans for lunch. I skipped the first episode, a What's New Scooby Doo title I'd already seen, and went to the two older ones. "The Ghouliest Show on Earth," from the mid-80s show The 13 Ghosts of Scooby Doo, take Daphne, Shaggy, con artist kid Flim Flamm, and the two dogs to Dooville to meet Scooby's parents. They're surprised when no one comes to meet them. It turns out the Doos are at the Circus Fantastique. It may be their final show if Scooby and Shaggy can't save the others from an evil ringmaster! Fred and Velma join in for "Bedlam In the Big Top" from the original 1969 Scooby Doo, Where Are You? The quartet and their dog are determined to stop the Ghost Clown who is sabotaging a local circus. Once again, Daphne gets hypnotized, and the others rescue her. It's Shaggy, for once, who figures out how to put this clown out of commission.

Work was almost exactly the same as yesterday, other than being a bit busier during rush hour. We're coming up on the beginning of the month and the first major holiday weekend since early July. Things should pick up a great deal from here on in. Tonight, my relief was on time, and I was in and out with no problems.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Rainy Day Dolls

I slept in again. I was working late tonight and figured I'd sleep in while I had the chance. Besides, it was a mess out all morning. It rained until well into the afternoon. There was a pretty good-sized thunderstorm at one point. Needless to say, I spent the morning inside.

Went on the computer after breakfast. I finally heard from the career counselor from Stockton. She said that despite all my fears, I did a great job explaining my experience and skills. She also brought up the work/life balance that Mom and Mrs. Stahl addressed as well. I do some writing every day - I write in my journal offline and this blog online. I'm just not great at finding other things for me to do, especially with my shyness and difficult schedule. She also said that she understood my anxiety issues and that I shouldn't let what my next move should be overwhelm me - I have a lot to offer an employer. She revamped not one, but three resumes for different interests - writing, clerical work, and publishing and media jobs.

After I finished with her, I decided to dress the American Girl dolls in clothes more suited to late summer-early fall and the beginning of school. Samantha opted to dress up for her first day of class in her pretty pink and white Tea Dress with the removable collar and the white heeled shoes from Rebecca's Lace Dress. Molly wears the skirt and short-sleeved sweater from Kit's lavender Meet Outfit with her own white t-strap shoes and socks. Josefina wears her full Meet Outfit except for the leather moccasins (the worn laces on the ones I bought from eBay broke). I'm not entirely satisfied with Jessa's pink, black, and white faux-layered knit shirt over her new pink and blue denim skirt from the May Fair - I may switch the shirt sometime soon. Felicity's perfectly fine in her pale green dress and hat.

Watched more Stooges cartoons during lunch and as I got ready for work. I really felt sorry for the guys in this round. If they weren't being annoyed by Get Out of Town Sundown Brown, then they're being chased by the little boy who turns into an evil villain when the word "bad" is spoken. Most episodes end with them being ran out of town, often for no reason. Favorites from these discs include "The Plumbers' Friend" (the Stooges attempt to repair pipes...and end up causing a flood), "Hairbrained Barbers" (they get to practice their newly-minted hair-cutting skills on the mane of a rock star), "Curly In Wonderland" (Curly Joe gets quite an eyeful when he falls into the famous fantasy world and all the characters look like his two best pals), and "Three Wizards of Odds" (an ugly queen wants her royal Stooge wizards to make her gorgeous...or else!).

Luckily for me, the rain was gone by the time I headed to work. It was humid and cloudy, but not really that hot. The weather did keep the clouds at bay. It was slightly busier throughout much of the evening, but still not overwhelmingly busy. Most people are probably waiting for the weekend. I had plenty of time to shelve candy and was able to leave with no relief.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

A Place For Everything...Finally

I slept in this morning and didn't really have a chance to do much before work. Didn't do much at work, either. It was pretty much the same it has been all day - on and off steady, but never overwhelming. Weather that was a bit warmer and more humid but otherwise still nice for the time of year kept people outside and doing other things. My relief was on time, and I was in and out with no problems.

I had package waiting for me when I got home. I've been able to pick up bits and pieces for my Molly doll on eBay since Jessa gave her to me, and I really didn't want any of her clothes that are still available on AG's website. The beret Molly came with was really stretched, though, and she was missing the rest of her accessories. I bought her a new "meet" accessories set, along with a stack of much-needed hangers.

Each American Girl historical doll has a separate accessories package that matches the outfit she comes in and her time period. World War II-era Molly has a cute blue wool beret, a simple but roomy red vinyl messenger bag, an adorable handkerchief embroidered with her name on it, a reproduction steel penny, and her lovely locket. (Earlier versions of the locket came with a tiny picture of her dad to cut out and paste in it, but this apparently hasn't been included in years and wasn't to be found with mine.)

The hangers allowed me to pull the rest of the dolls' clothes out of boxes and storage. Most of them were put on the old pewter towel rack I use as a closet for the AG outfits. The only things that didn't fit were Felicity's Cardinal Cloak, Molly's yellow raincoat, and a white fur coat that came with the human Jessa's dolls. I'll probably pick up more hangers somewhere along the line for those, too, but this is fine for now. Molly and Jessa's separate winter pants and skirts were stashed in a bag and put in the plastic container along with their hats, pajamas, Christmas outfits, and Halloween costumes.

I made a tasty late summer dinner of Chicken Breasts with Mushroom Sauce and Ratatouille as I ran New 3 Stooges cartoons throughout the evening. Lauren sent me some discs of Stooges oddities last week, including these. These were made in the mid-60s, when the group was Moe, Larry, and Curly Joe, and while they're not classic, they can sometimes be pretty funny, especially the live-action openings with the real Stooges. Among my favorites were "To Kill a Clockingbird" (the Stooges wreck havoc on a huge mechanical clock in a short reminiscent of the Disney "Clock Cleaners"), "That Was the Wreck That Was" (the guys are told to knock down a building...and mistake a huge new skyscraper for the condemned property), "The Unhaunted House" (the Stooges play ghost busters in a house that isn't all there), "Bat and Brawl" (they're pitted against a German vampire during World War I), "Land Ho, Ho, Ho" (the boys go Gulliver when they're shipwrecked on Lilliputia), and "The 3 Marketeers" (they're workers in a supermarket, but the customers aren't happy when they do nothing but create chaos).

Monday, August 26, 2013

The Tooth of the Matter

I was just starting my journal when Mom called me back this morning. We talked for over an hour! She finally got a day off from taking care of her grandson yesterday and spent it running errands. I told her about my dental appointment and how stressed I've been lately. She pretty much said the same thing Mrs. Stahl did - try to live your life and get out and do something. We discussed how many people don't understand how we feel about bikes. For Mom and me, they're transportation, not just exercise!

I did make it to the dental appointment on time. It was really quick this time, just filling a cavity that was smaller than the last one. It took less than a half-hour. However, the next one will be for the root canal. Ugh. I am not looking forward to that. It's the reason I put off dental work for so long in the first place. I don't know if I should have scheduled it for the same day as my counseling appointment on September 17th (which is also the day before I leave for Cape May County), but I really want to get it over with. The last cavity will be filled on my final day of vacation, the 23rd.

The dentist's assistant mentioned that the Crystal Lake Thriftway was open in it's new location in the old Super Fresh building. I decided to check it out. I was in Thriftway once on a ride around Haddon Township, but I hadn't been there since. Their former building was small and kind of out-of-the-way. Though there were people shopping and stocking the shelves, they weren't entirely finished with their move yet. Many shelves remained empty. I did discover that they had good prices on their generic green tea (a 99 cent sale!), vinegar (79 cents!), cake mix, and cooking spray.

My next stop was the Haddon Township Library while the numbness in my mouth dissipated. I organized the children's DVDs, combed through the adult titles to remove kids' and foreign titles that didn't belong, and helped quite a few people find movies. I ended up taking out two relatively new kids' titles, the Scooby Doo collection Scooby Doo and the Circus Monsters and the second release from the new Care Bears show Welcome to Care-A-Lot, A Belly Badge For Wonder Heart Bear.

It was still sunny at this point, but hotter and slightly more humid than it has been. I cut through the park initially, but turned at Merrick Avenue and went home through Haddon Township. Since my mouth was still a little numb and it was a bit late by then, almost 2PM, I opted to buy a small turkey and spinach hoagie from WaWa instead of going out to lunch.

I went home and watched Belly Badge For Wonder Heart Bear as I ate lunch and let my mouth return to normal. As with many of the Strawberry Shortcake titles, this "movie" is really a series of three episodes, in this case revolving around curious cub Wonder Heart Bear. Tenderheart's sweet little niece is the only Care Bear who hasn't developed her powers yet, and she desperately wants to. She's so obsessed with her powers, she swipes "wish lockets" from her uncle to try to wish her way into Hugs and Tugs' talent show act in the first story. Hugs and Tugs aren't the only returnees from the late 80s shows. Gram Bear also makes a comeback (now turquoise and walking with a cane) to help Wonder Heart develop her powers in the second story. The third teaches Wonder Heart and her new human friend Isabella the value of responsibility when their goofing off almost gets them into trouble.

I took my laundry out around quarter of 4. I'd debated whether or not to do it today or tomorrow, but I finally decided I'd had enough of rushing chores. It actually worked out rather well. Clouds had covered the sun and, coupled with a nice breeze, made my walk more tolerable. The laundromat wasn't busy, either. One guy left as I came in, one couple came in shortly before I left. Otherwise, it was me, NBC's newscast, and the manager, who spent the hour I was there wiping down washers and driers.

When I got in, I swept the piles of nut pieces from my messy animal neighbors off the porch. I then put on the musical Summer Magic as I made Jam Tart Cookies from Samantha's Cooking Studio, replacing the jam with the lime curd I bought from the Acme's clearance rack on Friday. Summer Magic is Disney's second of four live-action musicals made in the 60s, and I believe the most successful at the time. A newly-widowed mother (Dorothy McGuire) and her children (including teen daughter Hayley Mills) move from Boston to a beautiful old yellow house in a small town in Maine in the early 1910s. When a snobbish cousin (Deborah Walley) joins the family, it sets up a summer filled with handsome teacher beaus, Ugly Bug Balls, and the discovery that the wealthy owner of the Yellow House isn't what everyone thinks he is, and nor is the town's postmaster who rents it to the Careys (Burl Ives).

If you're a fan of the similar nostalgic musicals Meet Me In St. Louis or On Moonlight Bay, you'll probably enjoy this one, too. (In fact, the screenplay was written by the same woman who did St. Louis, Sally Benson.) Recommended for fans of Mills or Ives, or grade-school girls and older who'll enjoy the leisurely story.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

In the Garden Park

The day remained beautiful and sunny when I finally got up around 10. I decided to try something different for breakfast today. Since I had part of a multi-grain loaf of bread left that I bought from the clearance shelves at the Acme last week, I made Almond Multi-Grain French Toast. (Almond because I only had almond extract left, and just a little of that.) Yum, it came out really nice, except for the last one, which I undercooked.

I didn't really know what to do with myself after I finished breakfast. I tried calling Mom, but I never did get through to her all day. I listened to rock and jazz records and did the dishes. That beautiful day was calling me, though. I finally decided to go for a short walk into the park next-door.

Ran into Richard, my next-door neighbor, as I headed out. He was cleaning out his garage. He and his wife didn't know who planted the garden, either. They found it about a month ago, when they saw people going in and out and wondered what was going on. He also said that he had a small metal table I might be able to use in my apartment.

Most of the garden was still overgrown when I strolled in. I avoided the marshy area in the back and concentrated on the already-finished squares. Joining the gourds, teeny tiny grape tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers were beautiful small cantaloupe and watermelon, herbs (including a large stalk of mint), and a flower garden designed for bees and hummingbirds.

After I left the park, I strolled down to the boat landing on the end of Goff Avenue. I'm surprised it was so quiet. I saw a few kids on bikes and one guy walking past with his Walkman, but that was it. I'm assuming a lot of people took advantage of this nice weather to work on their backyards or head out to the Shore before the kids go back to school. The view at the boat landing was breathtaking. I could see right to the Ben Franklin Bridge. The river was filled with what I thought was algae but seemed to be some kind of green grass when I lifted it with a downed branch.

I did a little on the computer when I got back, then had Blackberry Muffins for a quick lunch and headed off to work. Work was much busier than it has been the past couple of days, and alas, more frustrating. One woman paid for 16 dollars of her 18 dollar order in quarters. There's a coin-deposit machine right in the lobby. She could have used that and not held up the express line. A few minutes later, another woman kicked up a fuss because she couldn't buy two 12 packs of Coke and two 12 packs of Canada Dry. You can't mix and match the brands. Only the flavors. The three major soda companies do not like to play nice with each other. People don't like to hear that, of course. I was so happy when one of the college boys who was stocking shelves came in for me.

Things didn't go much better at home. I tried to make a dark chocolate cake with dark chocolate mix, club soda, eggs, yogurt, and vegetable oil. I guess I didn't let it cook long enough. It tasted ok, but it fell apart when I tried to take it out of the pan.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Blackberry Summer

Started a gorgeous late summer morning with this week's American Top 40 re-run. We skipped back two years to 1982, as pop, New Wave, country, and hard rock reigned supreme. Hits from late August included "Hurts So Good" by John Cougar (Melloncamp), "Abracadabra" by The Steve Miller Band, "Hard to Say I'm Sorry" by Chicago, "Wasted on the Way" by Crosby, Stills, and Nash, "Vacation" by The Go-Gos, "Love Is In Control" by Donna Summer, "You Should Hear How She Talks About You" by Melissa Manchester, "Love Will Turn You Around" by Kenny Rogers, and "Only the Lonely" by The Motels. The big hit that week also corresponded with that summer's big hit movie - "Eye of the Tiger" by Survivor from Rocky III.

I couldn't believe how nice it was outside. It was the nicest day I'd ever seen in late August, breezy, sunny, and mild, probably no more than the upper 70s-lower 80s, and not humid at all. It was a perfect day for running my Saturday morning errands. I started with a peek at a yard sale on the corner of Bryant Avenue and Kendall Boulevard not far from me in Oaklyn. I found a crocheting set for a dollar and three records for a dollar each:

The Monkees - Pisces, Aquarius, and Jones, LTD (in the original Colgems release, not the Rhino re-release)

Hall & Oates - Bigger Than Both Of Us

Johnny Mathis - Give Me Your Love This Christmas

Went straight to the Farm Market next. Given the glorious weather, you probably won't be surprised to hear that it was very crowded there today. Blueberries seem to be done for the season, replaced by acorn squash and more varieties of apples, plums, and grapes. I mostly needed fruit. Ended up with peaches, plums, tiny gala apples (the last quart the orchard booth had), blackberries, a tomato, one of those mini-cantaloupes, and a small lavender eggplant and zucchini to make ratatouille later this week.

I took a quick look at two yard sales on Oaklawn Avenue on my way home, but didn't get anything from either. When I got in, I put my Farm Market finds away, then gathered up the rest of my donations. The Logan Presbyterian Church Thrift Shop was open for the first time in two months, and I had a ton of stuff I wanted to bring there.

Considering it was quarter after 11 when I left, it was probably a good thing I ran into my landpeople Andrew and Linda at their house as I was walking down the street with the cart. Andrew offered to drive me to the church. I appreciated the lift. I really had a big load - two bags of stuffed animals, one bag of clothes, a box of Effanbee dolls I was clearing out, the popcorn popper I broke last year, a couple of records and DVDs that didn't make it to Haddon Township on Monday, and that electronic panda bear that moves his arms and makes noise when you squeeze his back I found at the Collingswood thrift shop about five or so years ago. I wound up buying two more records, these from Capitol's 50s and 60s series of holiday music from other lands, Christmas In Italy and Christmas In Poland.

Spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon baking Blackberry Muffins with my sugar-free baking book, using pomegranate juice to sweeten them. Ran more Get Smart episodes as I baked. Max and 99 go on "The Impossible Mission" to keep a musician from smuggling a formula out of the country. When the two of them are trapped, Max admits that he really does love his her a new reason to escape. It's a battle of cartoon spoofs and aviation gags as Max tries to stop KAOS from destroying Idaho's potato crop and meets 99's mother in "Snoopy Smart Vs. The Red Baron." Max accidentally runs across a KAOS smuggling ring when he's shopping for 99 in "Diamonds are A Spy's Best Friend." "The Secret of Sam Vittorio" pokes fun at the then-blockbuster Bonnie and Clyde. Max and 99 use their resemblance of a pair of famous bank robbers to convince the robbers' mentor to reveal where his famous money stash is hidden.

Work wasn't nearly as much fun. Actually, it was quiet for most of the night, not surprising given the gorgeous weather and it being a little bit more than a week before the beginning of the month and a major holiday. Most people are probably on vacation. I was able to shut down quickly with no relief and was in and out with no problems.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Summer Into Fall

Technically, we have just about a month before fall begins. You'd never know it from the weather. It was cloudy and cool when I got up this morning and put on Get Smart. Max and 99 have to dodge the hypnotic powers of "The Groovy Guru," a DJ who adds subliminal messages to rock music and puts all the teenagers in Washington under his control. Max ends up bringing his Army buddy Sid (Don Rickles) along for the ride when the two go after KAOS agents who have "The Little Black Book." (Rickles and Don Adams were good pals in real life. They had so much fun ad-libbing, they drove the episode over schedule and budget, and a one-part episode suddenly became a two-parter.) A mousy children's book writer is "The Reluctant Redhead," a shy beauty who has to be persuaded to pose as the missing wife of a man who holds the list of all known enemy agents.

Since I worked a bit later today, I was able to get my errands done in the morning. For the second week in a row, I didn't really need a big grocery trip. I had to restock chicken legs, canned diced tomatoes, single fish packs, olive oil, and sugar. Found the Acme generic canned mandarin oranges on the clearance rack, along with jars of lime curd and rose apricot preserves - I thought I'd try them.

Quickly went over to America's Best to try ordering contacts again, now that my paycheck is in the bank. This time, everything went just fine. My card went through, and my contacts should be here by next week.

I went home, put everything away, and had leftovers for lunch. Did things around my apartment (including taking a look at my paycheck), then went back out for work. Work was very busy during the 4-6 rush hour. Otherwise, it was almost as quiet as yesterday. Like I said, business probably won't pick up at the Acme for at least another week, when people begin to get ready for Labor Day, back to school, and the beginning of the month. The same older woman went in for me on time. I was in and out with no trouble.

My schedule for next week is ok, not as good as this week's but not bad for the time of year. I have Monday and Friday off (Monday for a dental appointment) and one day later than 7:30 (Wednesday).

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Heroes and Villains

It was sunny and humid when I finally pulled myself out of bed this morning, although thankfully not nearly as much of either as it was at this time last month. I had breakfast and watched more Get Smart. Max and 99 run into trouble in an amusement park when they accidentally pick up a Kewpie doll that's part of a KAOS plutonium drop in "The Wax Max." Max is heartbroken when 99 decides to marry Victor Royal, a man she met on vacation. Royal, however, is not what he seems, and Max is determined to keep his partner from making a big mistake in "99 Loses CONTROL." The popular drama The Fugitive is parodied when Max finds himself on the run after being framed for a bank robbery in "Don't Look Back."

Headed out for a walk to the Oaklyn Library around 11. It was still warm and sunny at that point, humid but not too bad. The gardens are still surprisingly colorful for this time of year, and the grass is much greener than it usually is. Normally, everything is dry and brown by late August. It was actually pretty quiet on the street, with few people around. I thought everyone must have gone on vacation.

The Oaklyn Library was very busy for them, though. Today was LEGO Club day. I dodged kids building houses and planes and parents and locals on the computer and reading newspapers to mostly organize the DVDs. I did do the kids' titles, but could only get to the board books. I couldn't get around the LEGO Club to look at the rest of the children's section.

The next thing on the to-do list when I got in was call Stockton. I still hadn't heard from Dayna DeFiore, the career counselor I talked to when I visited there. I got through to the Career Center's secretary, and she sent me an e-mail. She's catching up on work that's back logged from her vacation, including my e-mail. She'll contact me on Monday.

Spent the rest of the afternoon finishing the dusting. My bedroom was really bad. I don't know why the cobwebs have been so numerous this summer. I guess all the spiders are getting rained out of their usual homes outside. It was easy to tell I didn't get around to dusting last month. From now on, I try not to skip cleaning. If I have to put it off, I do, but I get it done sometime during the month. It just gets too grimy in here to skip it.

Dark clouds moved in as I swept piles of leaves and the remains of my animal neighbors' pepper nut feasts off the porch. I got in for a quick leftovers lunch just as the rain started. It poured...for about 20 minutes. It was just slowing down as I finally left for work and was done by the time I arrived. I got a little wet, but not too bad.

Between the weather and the time of the month and year, work was even more quiet today than yesterday. Once again, it was mainly busy during rush hour. My relief was the same lady as yesterday, and I was in and out. It rained rather hard again while I was inside, but by the time I was going home, the rain was gone and there was a beautiful orange sunset in the sky.

Oh, and the first of two items I ordered for the AG dolls arrived this evening. My yard sale Josefina didn't come with her original "meet" outfit, so I was delighted to pick it up in full on eBay. The seller even had the small bits that tend to get lost, like her sash, ribbon, and flowers.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

In the Heat of Summer Sunshine

Summer heat made a brief return today. I spent most of the day avoiding it. I did things online this morning and watched more Get Smart. "The Mild Ones" has Max and 99 posing as members of a super-polite knight-themed motorcycle gang who are suspected of having kidnapped the Bolivian Ambassador. The two go in search of an elusive oriental mastermind in a take on the first Bond movie, "Dr. Yes." "The King Lives?" is one of my favorite episodes of the entire series (and apparently was a favorite of Don Adams, too). In this spoof of The Prisoner of Zenda, Max poses as the king of a fictional European country so the king's dastardly brother Basil can't get the throne. Check out Max's dueling prowess here. For a man who was clumsy at just about everything else, Max was a heck of a fencer!

I wish work was close to that thrilling. In fact, it was very boring all day long. The early hours were especially quiet. It picked up a little during rush hour, but nothing overwhelming. It's probably just as well that my relief was one of the few older women who prefer to work late, and she was actually early.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Freezer Burned

I spent most of a hot but not humid day at work. Needless to say, it wasn't that busy. Even the usual 4 to 6 rush hour only had scattered crowds. I did stocking for the first hour and a half. I helped one of the head stock men move 24 packs of water from two relatively empty pallets to two that were more full. I shelved Bryers Ice Cream, which was on a big sale this weekend. Brrrr! I had to go back into the huge freezer to get what little Bryers we had left. It was so cold back there, there were icy patches on the floor! It took me the rest of the afternoon to stop feeling the cold in my bones. One of the regular stock people were nice enough to show me the few remaining Bryers containers. It was mostly odd flavors like Homemade Vanilla, Oreo Chocolate Cookies n' Cream Blasts, Coffee, and the CarbSmart Vanilla and Chocolate. (Ugh. I don't know why they still sell those. I tried the vanilla when it came out during the height of the no-carb craze a decade ago. It was gross, gritty and obviously artificially sweetened.) Things picked up a little bit during the second half of my day, but not enough to make things crazy. I was in and out with no major problems and no relief.

When I got home, I had leftovers for dinner while watching some more Get Smart, which I also ran this morning. Max is the "Witness for the Persecution" when KAOS tries to keep him from testifying against one of their killers. When a foreign diplomat needs to be protected, it's "Maxwell Smart, Private Eye" on the case. Max is once again protecting a lady in "One of Our Olives Is Missing." In this case, the lady is Ozark Annie (Carol Burnett), a country singer who has swallowed an olive with a KAOS radio in it. Max has to keep KAOS from getting their hands on the radio...and Annie's stomach.

After I finished dinner and the show, I slid into a cool bathtub. Ahhh. That felt really nice, especially on a day that was much hotter than the previous week. I spent a relaxing hour reading a book on the early talkies (The Speed of Sound) and listening to the CD of what I assume to be an Atlantic City crooner that I picked up while I was living in Wildwood.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Better Shop Around

Today is my only day off, which means I had a lot I wanted to get done! I started around quarter of 10 with a quick run to the laundromat. Much to my surprise, it was very busy. I had a harder time getting a drier than a washer. There were families and college students running all over the place. I read the Han Solo Adventures novel collection and ignored them.

When I got home, I quickly put everything away, grabbed the books, DVDs, and records I intended to donate to the Haddon Township Library, and headed out again. Stopped at Capitol Pizza for lunch. I had my usual slice of cheese and slice of mushroom with a can of Fresca. (They're the only ones who sell Fresca in single cans or bottles.) I listened to The Jeff Probst Show and all the lunchtime orders they were taking.

Went straight to the Haddon Township Library after lunch. I dropped the heavy bag of donations next to their head librarian's office, then worked on organizing and shelving DVDs. While I was able to do the kids' section (barely), the adults' shelves were overflowing. The M titles were stuffed in so tight, there were at least ten DVDs I couldn't get in there. I was able to help some people, including an adorable little girl toting a Rapunzel bride doll who was looking for Dora the Explorer.

As it happens, one of the buses to the Cherry Hill Mall goes right by the Haddon Township Library. I left my bike locked there, then picked up the bus to the mall around 2PM. The mall wasn't too bad for a Monday. I did see a lot of parents picking up back-to-school clothes for the kids, and teenagers who were probably somewhere between school shopping and bored.

The problem with the Cherry Hill Mall is those upscale clothes stores carry very little in my size and style. While fashions are a bit simpler than they were a few years ago and the waistlines are lower (pants and skirts sit on the waist; dresses aren't quite there but aren't empire-waisted, either), I'm still pretty picky about what I wear. The neon colors I saw in many stores, especially on sneakers, were ridiculous. What is this, 1986? I like my neon to be on marquees, not people.

Macy's had nothing I liked. Ashley Stewart had a few cute skirts, but I decided I'd rather get the work pants I needed badly first. Layne Bryant had some tops, but the prices weren't great. Most of the regular shoe stores had wedge-heeled dress sandals or the ones with the stiletto heels. I have never fathomed how women can wear those really high heels. Don't they kill their feet? The wedges were a tad more practical, but not what I was looking for. I really need sport sandals that can stand up to rain and weather.

The Cherry Hill JC Penney's is in the middle of remodeling. It took me forever to find their women's plus size clothing. I couldn't find it with the other women's clothing...because they moved it and the women's underclothes department to the closed-off area where their furniture once was! Not only does that make no sense whatsoever, but the place was unfinished and unpainted, with metal beams exposed. The clothes were at least organized and on racks, and perhaps to make up for the mess, there were tons of sales. I ended up with a pair of khaki Levis for new work pants and a red tank top for $30 all together.

I ended up getting my sneakers downstairs at Modell's Sporting Goods. I'm not entirely happy with the New Balance pair I bought for work, but they were the only ones I even remotely liked that weren't shocking pink or chartreuse or brilliant royal blue. They have some neon blue trim, but nothing offensive. My "errand" sneakers wound up being a simple pair of white Reebox Classics. Mom had a black pair like those when I was a kid. I borrowed them from her all the time.

Speaking of childhood memories, there's a Dairy Queen (paired with an Orange Julius) in the mall's food court. I haven't been to a DQ since I lived in Wildwood. Rose and Anny and I loved the Dairy Queen on the Washington Street Mall in Cape May. (Which apparently is still there, BTW.) Mom and Dad-Bill would give us money to spend at Dairy Queen on a summer's afternoon when they were spending time at The Ugly Mug a block away. My favorite treat was a Blizzard. Anny liked peanut butter sundaes. Rose would get hot fudge sundaes. In honor of those memories, I bought a Tropical Blizzard - soft-serve ice cream mixed with bananas, pineapple, and toasted coconut. Yum. Expensive, but very tasty, especially the creamy real banana pieces.

Took the 5:30 bus back to the Haddon Township Library, where I picked up my bike and rode straight home. I went right into baking as I arrived. I made a crustless Coconut-Lime Pie, then Dark Cocoa Brownies. Had Italian Chicken with Tomatoes and Chinese Beans for a quick, delicious dinner.

Lauren started watching Get Smart episodes to cheer her up after having her wisdom teeth removed. She's talked about them so much, I thought I'd put on a few from the second season myself tonight. Max finds himself cracking safes - or thinks he does - when he's "Maxwell Smart, Alias Jimmy Ballentine." While guests are killed one by one at a tropical resort, Max and Charlie Chan imitation Harry Hoo find themselves wondering "Hoo Done It?" And when KAOS steals a water-drying formula, Max goes after it and tries to keep his informant alive in the 3-part season finale "A Man Called Smart."

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Summer Cleaning

I slept until 10AM, right in time to switch on this week's Brunch With the Beatles. Their manager Brian Epstein was in the spotlight today. Epistein sadly died in 1967 and was mainly around for their early careers, which meant songs that were recorded on his watch like "I Saw Her Standing There," that were inspired by him like "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away," or were written for him, like "Baby You're a Rich Man." We also heard songs from other bands Epstein managed, including Gerry and the Pacemakers ("Ferry 'Cross the Mersey"), Silkie ("Hide Your Love Away") and the Cyrcle ("Red Rubber Ball"). I made delicious Blueberry Spice Pancakes for breakfast as I enjoyed the music.

Spent most of the rest of the afternoon continuing this month's cleaning. The apartment needs to be dusted badly. I never got around to it last month! I shouldn't have put it off. It's driving my nose crazy. I got the music and entertainment areas of the dining room done before lunch. I also went through the piles of things I want to donate in the back room. I pulled a heavy bag of records and books to donate to the Haddon Township Library tomorrow. Went through doll boxes, consolidating the remaining boxes into two larger wax-coated cardboard containers that were formerly used to ship fish. (Those sturdy containers have been used as storage and for moves for years in my family.)

I tried calling Mom earlier, but didn't get her. I finally got a hold of her as I ate lunch around 2PM. She was in a much better mood. Like Dad and Jodie, she's in the midst of remodeling. She and Dad-Bill finally got enough money to buy two easy chairs to replace the aging ones in the living room, which have been around since they lived in North Cape May. She wants to buy a day bed for the now-empty extra room, put in new carpeting, and paint it and the living room. I also told her that I plan on visiting them in the middle of next month for my second vacation. (And this time, I really would like to actually make it down there. I haven't been in Cape May County since Thanksgiving, and I haven't been there on my own in two years, since the last time I visited on vacation.)

Work wasn't as interesting. The gray clouds hadn't sprouted rain since early in the morning (if the puddles on my porch were any indication), but they kept the crowds at bay. It was busy early on, quiet enough when I was done for me to leave without a relief.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

A Fair Day for a Craft Show

Started off another sunny, breezy day with this week's American Top 40 re-run. Mid-August 1984 would have been a very busy time in my family, as I prepared to begin school in September and the rest of my family prepared for Mom's new bundle of joy. Songs I heard as I wondered about these changes included "I Can Dream About You" by Dan Hartman, "Sunglasses at Night" by Corey Hart, "Stuck On You" by Lionel Richie, "If Ever You're In My Arms Again" by Peabo Bryson, "Dancing In the Dark" by Bruce Springsteen, "Round and Round" by Ratt, "What's Love Got to Do With It?" by Tina Turner, and "When Doves Cry" by Prince and the Revolution.

It took a tune from that summer's blockbuster movie to knock Prince out of the top spot after five weeks. The title song of Ghostbusters by Ray Parker Jr. was every bit as popular as the much-loved supernatural comedy that ended up being the smash hit of the year. The song still shows up regularly every Halloween.

Headed out to run the usual Saturday morning errands after the show ended. Checked a yard sale in Oaklyn first, but that proved to be fruitless. There were a few interesting records and CDs, but nothing I couldn't live without. I escaped while the proprietor was showing a couple of young boys his fishing equipment.

Collingswood was far more interesting. The Farm Market was, surprisingly, busy but not as bad as usual. I saw deep purple Italian plums and beautiful Gala apples for the first time this year. Dodged the crowds to pick up peaches, Chinese beans, blueberries, a tomato, mushrooms, cucumbers, and those Gala apples.

I'd seen detours and unusual traffic around Collingswood all morning. I couldn't figure out why until I saw the orange cones blocking Collings Avenue, near the parking lot where the Farm Market's usually held. Today is the first day of Colllingswood's annual Fine ArtsFestival. It's pretty much the same deal as the May Fair on Memorial Day Weekend, only held over two days, and with no rides or car show. It's just food and crafts. I saw the usual assortment of jewelry and clothing booths. I saw the same elderly woodworker who was there last year, this time working on tiny mushrooms. I saw a photographer who had a booth set up to take pictures of families with a Collingswood backdrop.

I checked out two more yard sales in Collingswood and Audubon, but neither had anything really useful. I just headed home around 11:30. Spent the next few hours checking my account online and doing things around the apartment. I washed the windows. I cleared the cobwebs from around corners. (And there's a lot of them this summer. The spiders must have come in here to avoid the rain.) I made an omelet with farm market vegetables and a salad for lunch. I called America's Best to find out what's going on with the contacts. I called them at 1:30. They said they'd call back before 2:30. They never did, of course. If my phone is any indication, they still haven't called back. I'll check with them on Tuesday.

Work was on-and-off busy for most of the evening, busier than yesterday but nothing out of the ordinary for the weekend or the time of the year. If people weren't buying cakes and goodies for barbecues and birthday parties, they were going to or coming from vacation. It slowed down enough for me to leave without a relief at 8 and enjoy a beautiful lavender and magenta sunset going home.

Friday, August 16, 2013

A Quiet Girl

Started off the day with Broadway show CDs as I ate my Cheerios and watermelon for breakfast. I originally saw the Julie Andrews studio version of The King & I at the same North Cape May music store where I found By the Beautiful Sea in the mid 90s, but I never bought it. Pity, as Andrews does well as Anna and Ben Kingsley isn't bad as the monarch she clashes with.

Work wasn't bad, either. It was pretty much the same as yesterday - quiet to steady for most of the afternoon. It was only busy during the rush hours, and even the 4PM one could have been worse. In fact, it was so quiet during rush hour, I was able to get off on time with no relief. Between the unusually cool weather and this being the middle of the only month in the US with no major holidays, I doubt we'll be really crazy again until we get closer to Labor Day.

I didn't really have a lot of grocery shopping to do this week myself. The Acme is having a big sale on their store brand chicken this weekend. They had breasts in packages of two that cost as little as $1.18. Perfect! I only need two small breasts. The larger packs they sell can sometimes feed me for weeks! I also bought canned chicken for quick meals, toilet paper, Smart Balance butter sticks, bakery bread on the clearance rack, eggs, and my first Reese's Pumpkin of the year as a special treat. (They just put out the Halloween candy a few days ago. Yeah, it's too early, but I know Halloween fanatics who will be really happy.)

I continued with Broadway when I got home. This time, we moved from Rodgers and Hammerstein to Leonard Bernstein for Wonderful Town. A musical version of the movie My Sister Eileen takes us to bohemian Christopher Street in the heart of New York's Grenwich Village in 1935. Sweet Eileen Sherwood (Edie Adams) wants to be an actress. Her cynical older sister Ruth (Rosalind Russell) is dying to become a writer, despite her problems with men. Their adventures in the Big Apple range from being blasted awake by road workers at night to discouraging a wide variety of men who come looking for the former owner of their apartment to getting mixed up with conga-crazy Brazilian Naval cadets and landing in jail.

The second collaboration between Bernstein and Betty Comden and Adolph Green is just as much fun as their first, On the Town (and interestingly also concerns young people looking for love in Manhattan). Russell dominated the original show and its 1958 TV recording - listen to "Conga!" and "One Hundred Easy Ways" and you'll understand why. Edie Adams scores with the lovely "A Little Bit In Love," and we also get the awkward "Conversation Piece" and brassy "Swing!" and "Ballet at the Village Vortex" that sound perfect for the period.

Absolutely necessary if you're a fan of Russell, Comden and Green, and/or Bernstein. Folks who enjoy the original cast may want to look for the two recordings of the 2003 revival with Donna Murphy and Brooke Shields as well.

I made a Peachy-Plummy Crisp while the record was on. Added plums along with the peaches to the Peachy Crisp recipe from the Garden State cookbook. I also cut the sugar and added the last of the orange juice concentrate. Oh yuuuuummm. It's perfectly soft and gooey and absolute heaven.

Switched to radio comedies while making Poached Chicken Legs, Chinese Beans with Cracked Pepper, and fresh farm market Jersey tomatoes for dinner. I have a couple of episodes of Fibber McGee and Molly on LP that I picked up from a thrift shop a few years back. My favorite of the two I listened to tonight was "Picnic," presumably one of the last episodes from their final season in 1950. Molly talks Fibber into going on  picnic with her. This would be a simple affair...if they didn't keep eating on everything from a golf course to fox hunting grounds to a field that's about to be blasted for a highway!

Oh, and my schedule next week is almost as good, and even busier. Only one day off, Monday, but the days I work are slightly later accept for Wednesday and a bit shorter. It'll be tiring, but my next two paychecks in a row should make up for all the trouble this week.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Letting Go Of Perfect

Today was my early work day. It was so nice today, I wish I'd worked later. It was too nice to be in work for most of the morning and afternoon. Our customers realized this, too. It was only busy during the rush hours. I did pick up a bit later, but was never overwhelming. There were no major problems, and my relief was on time.

I went straight to America's Best after work, dodging the constant traffic in the shopping center behind the Acme. I've put off ordering my contacts because I either don't have the time or don't want to deal with the traffic in the back of the mall or both. I really couldn't put it off anymore. My last pair is down to their second week.

I was shocked when my debit card just would not go through. I could have sworn I had enough money in my account! I called PNC...and sure enough, no, I did not. I couldn't believe it. I thought I learned my lesson about being a spendthrift last year. I did have money in my savings account. I had to tell them I'd come back tomorrow or next week. Even though they said it happens all the time, I was still mortified. I should know better by now than to spend all my money.

I checked PNC as soon as I got home. Andrew had cashed my rent check a few days ago, which I did not expect. It usually takes him anywhere from five days to two weeks to cash my rent check. I was hoping he'd wait until I got my next paycheck, which will be tomorrow. And then, I bought things at CVS and online. I'm so wasteful. I have to stop buying things I don't need again and restrict myself to buying only what is necessary until I can build up my checking account again. (At least I still have money in savings. At this time last year, I was taking money out of savings to pay my rent.)

One thing I definitely needed was a bath. I went right into a long one as soon as I finished on PNC's website. I soaked my sore legs and feet for over an hour and a half while reading The Gifts of Imperfection. I really kind of fear imperfection. It's hard to open my soul to that kind of hurt and vulnerability. I feel like every time I have, my soul has just gotten trampled on. I wish I knew a way to do "meaningful work" and make money and open my heart without it being criticized and scolded for not being better and trying harder.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The World Must Be Bigger Than An Avenue

I couldn't believe how gorgeous it was this morning. I don't think it was even in the 80s. It was probably cooler outside than in my air conditioned apartment! I opened the windows immediately, then finished Stitches In Time and wrote in my journal.

I took advantage of the cooler weather to get things done in my apartment this morning without sweating to death. I shook out rugs. I made the bed. I vacuumed. I called Stockton to find out why I hadn't heard from the career counselor yet. Turns out she's been on vacation since the end of last week and won't be back until next week. Oh pooh. I'll try her again on Monday or Tuesday if she doesn't e-mail me by then.

As you can guess on such a lovely day, work wasn't terribly busy or exciting. It was on-and-off steady for most of the afternoon. A few people had prices that didn't come up on sale, and one man made a fuss when his Jolly Rancher bags weren't priced right. Other than that, there were no major problems, and my relief was on time.

When I got home, I realized I was out of cookies and decided today was a perfect day for baking. I made simple Blueberry Muffins from one of my British baking cook books and added coconut to my favorite Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookie recipe. While they all came out tasty, I'm wondering if I should have waited until tomorrow. Between a sinus headache and the allergy medicine I took earlier, I'm really tired. My arm accidentally brushed against one of the cookie pans when I was taking them out of the oven. Ouch! I have a nice little red welt on the side of my arm now. The whiting and salad I made for dinner came out a bit better (and without hurting me).

I've decided I'm going to give the TV a break this week and concentrate on making my way through my huge collection of music, starting with three charming Broadway cast albums. By the Beautiful Sea was a charming, old-fashioned vehicle for Shirley Booth and baritone Wilbur Evans in 1954 set at Coney Island in the early 1900s. I picked up the original Angel CD release at a now-defunct small music store in North Cape May in the mid-90s. It's been re-released several times and is hard to find now. While I do like some of the songs (Evans gets the lovely ballad "I've Been Alone Too Long," and Booth has the witty comic number "I'd Rather Wake Up By Myself"), this show is really no great shakes and apparently didn't have much of a book. It's only worth hunting down for fans of Booth or 50s musicals.

No, No, Nanette was a huge hit in 1925...and proved to be even more popular with nostalgia-starved audiences in its smash 1971 revival. The 1999 Broadway Masterworks CD was one of several relatively inexpensive cast albums I bought from the Borders near the Hamilton Mall in college, and it's become a favorite of mine. My favorite number was intended as an addition to the original show, but was dropped. That's a shame, because the wistful "Only a Moment Ago," performed by Keeler and Jack Gilford as they remember how they met, is not only really sweet, but manages to encapsulate what nostalgia is all about for many people.

Nanette was such a blockbuster, the producers followed it up with another revival of a vintage favorite two years later. Irene was the major hit of 1919, and it too was successful. This time, the star the show revolves around is Debbie Reynolds, who plays the sassy Irish piano tuner of the title who falls for a millionaire. Irene was so wildly popular in 1919, it spawned a series of similar musicals about modern Irish Cinderellas who get their men, including Marilyn Miller's Sally.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

East of the Sun and West of the Storm

BOOM! I awoke to a massive thunderstorm. It was really noisy. The thunder shook the apartment. The rain was coming down in torrents. It was a great morning to read Stitches In Time and write in my journal. The noise continued as I ate oatmeal and a peach for breakfast. Thankfully, it was gone by the time I headed out for today's errand run.

The Oaklyn Library was my first stop. While the rain was gone by 10:30, it was still cloudy, warm, and very humid. The substitute librarian (the regular one was worried about flooding and called out) had ABC on their new wall TV. Needless to say, they were all about the weather, though they were mostly discussing tornado warnings up in the North Shore. I did a little DVD organizing and fixed the Easy Readers, but with the place empty, there wasn't much else to do.

Made a quick stop back at my apartment next. I realized at the library that I left my cell phone in the living room. If the weather got bad again, I might need it. I pumped my tires while I was there as well.

When I went back out, I dodged traffic on Cuthbert Road and hit the Westmont Bagel Shop for lunch. Since it was a little early and I wasn't all that hungry, I had breakfast for lunch. I kept it to two scrambled eggs with cheese, fried potatoes, and an apple-cinnamon bagel. After lunch, I made a really quick stop at Dollar Tree for vinegar.

The Haddon Township Library was much busier than the Oaklyn Library had been. I had plenty of DVDs to shelve and organize. Had to weed adult titles out of the kids' section as well. (You'd think people would be able to figure out what's a kid movie and what's a grown-up movie, especially when they aren't animated.) I wanted to weed out the adult section, but there were too many people around. A librarian told me that a paid worker would shelve the children's books later. I just left after that. Didn't take anything out in either library, though I did find a book in the sale section on letting go of perfectionism, The Gifts of Imperfection.

Went straight to counseling after leaving the library. I just made it on time. We discussed the possibility of Mom and Dad-Bill coming up here, my trip to Stockton, and my shyness and difficulty with people. I haven't heard from the counselor at Stockton since I e-mailed her. I'm hoping her e-mail didn't accidentally end up in the spam and I deleted it. I'll have to call her tomorrow. I hope she wasn't upset about the e-mail being late.

My problems with meeting people are harder to solve. I've had anxiety issues since childhood. Mrs. Stahl pretty much said the same things Mom did. I need to try to connect with people who do the same things I love. This is hard when you don't love the same things as most people. The few local doll clubs are in Philadelphia. I'm not great at dealing with older people and don't know how I'd handle a nursing home. I feel awkward around organized religion and don't know much about churches.

Mrs. Stahl finally hit on volunteering the local community theaters when we talked about how I found Studio LuLoo. Not a bad idea. I do love performing, especially singing and dancing. The Ritz Theater's next musical will be the burlesque revue Sugar Babies in October. I'd love to see that. Mrs. Stahl mentioned a community theater in Haddonfield, and I think there's one in Collingswood as well.

By the time I made it out of counseling, it was a beautiful day. While still a bit hot and humid, the sun was shining and the breeze felt great. You'd never know there was a storm this morning if it wasn't for the puddles. I stopped at Primo Water Ice on the way home for a small mint chocolate chip ice. Whew! Was that strong stuff! Very tasty, but very minty! I loved it, being the mint fan I am. It felt bracing going down.

I looked in Walgreens and the Haddonfield CVS, but I couldn't find those hanging pocket containers I picked up last week. I wanted a few more for the dolls. Oh well. I just stopped at the CVS in Oaklyn after dodging joggers and a family biking in Newton River Park. I also picked up Palmolive dish washing liquid (which was on sale) and two soft-sided cloth containers.

Spent an hour when I got home going through the American Girls dolls' things. All of their remaining shoes and accessories fit in two hanging organizers. Some of their clothes stay in boxes in the large plastic containers. Their hats and extra linens went in the cloth containers. I don't have a lot of little accessories for them. Each doll gets her basic accessories package, and maybe one other that's necessary to her stories or an outfit. I don't have the room for tons of little doll items and dishes or furniture. The only piece of furniture they have is the bed that was for Jessa's dolls. The Sailor Moon dolls' things stayed in the yellow plastic crate.

Spent another blissful hour in the bath. I kept the water tepid, and it felt great. I really needed it. I've felt so stressed lately. While it's nice to get far more hours than I did at this time last year, I'm also not used to working so much or it being so busy in the summer. My feet are killing me, and I've been so depressed lately. I read The Gifts of Imperfection, listened to my Rodgers and Hart CD, and just kicked back and relaxed. After I finished, I had leftover burgers and a salad for dinner.

Monday, August 12, 2013

There's a Small Apartment

I mostly just did the laundry this morning. It was sunny and humid when I got up, but while the humidity remained, the sun disappeared behind heavy clouds for a little while. Though NBC insisted that several parts of the area would see scattered showers, the most rain I felt was a tiny sprinkle walking home. The laundromat wasn't too busy. I had no problems getting a washer and a drier. Good thing, since I had a lot to clean, including towels and dust rags.

I just barely made it back in time to put everything away, change into my uniform, eat two muffins, and rush off to work! This was not a good day to be late. Like yesterday, it was steady for most of the afternoon. There were a few annoying customers (notiably a fellow in a fedora who was not only rude to me, but to the woman behind him), but otherwise no problems. I was in and out; a manager went in so I could leave on time.

I went straight home from work to eat leftover beans and pasta with farm market tomatoes for dinner and finish Pal Joey, which I started this morning. Frank Sinatra is the title character of this 1957 musical, a heel of a night club singer who runs out on women and debts the moment things get too hot to handle. On a stop in San Francisco, he meets his match in lovely Linda English (Kim Novak), a sweet chorus girl, and Vera Simpson (Rita Hayworth), a wealthy, bored widow who was once a stripper. Vera wants to set Joey up in his own nightclub, but Linda is the one he wants to set up as an up-and-coming dancer. Joey has to decide what he really wants, and which woman really owns his heart.

This musical has had quite a history. Gene Kelly was Joey in the original 1940 Broadway cast; former operetta favorite Vivianne Segal was his Vera. Though it did well enough at the time, people were frequently turned off by a story that had a heel using and losing a rich woman and a nice girl down the street. A successful revival in 1952 (again with Segal as Vera) convinced Columbia head Harry Cahn that the post-War world was ready for it and it would be a perfect vehicle for Kelly and Rita Hayworth. He couldn't get Kelly from MGM. By 1957, Sinatra was now Joey, Hayworth had moved to Vera, and Kahn's newest discovery Kim Novak was Linda. Also, the story had lost much of its dark edges. Vera's now a widow (in the original, her husband was quite alive and Joey was basically being kept), Joey's somewhat less of a heel, and the end is still ambiguous but does allow for him to get a lady.

There's some nice, relatively laid-back numbers. Sinatra's "The Lady Is a Tramp" is one of the best recordings of that song ever; he also scores with "I Didn't Know What Time It Was." Novak gets "My Funny Valentine." Hayworth does the comic stripper number "Zip" and my favorite song from this score, "Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered." While it's not a traditional musical, the original wasn't, either. Most of the songs in the original show were also performed in the night club, part of the reason that subsequent revivals (including one as late as 2009) have had heavily revised books and haven't run for long. This is pretty much for fans of the stars or Rogers and Hart only. Anyone else is better off looking for Hayworth's 40s musicals or Sinatra's many recordings of these songs.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Secret Gardens

It was a stunning morning when I got up around 9:30. The sun was shining. The birds were singing. I wrote in my journal, then put on Brunch With the Beatles. The movie A Hard Day's Night was in the spotlight. Songs we heard from the Beatles' "day in the life" screen debut included the title song, "I Should Have Known Better," "If I Fell," and "That Boy." The peaches I wanted to use for pancakes aren't ripe yet, so I got rid of the last of the lime juice I used on Dad's pie a few weeks ago and made Tropical Pancakes (lime and orange juice and coconut). They were pretty tasty, a little too sweet (I shouldn't have added sugar to cut the zing), but plenty of zest.

Called Mom during the second half of the show. She was working on things downstairs while my nephew Skylar played upstairs in the current spare room. They're still trying to decide what to do with Keefe's old room. Mom says she wants to lay new carpet and paint before they figure out anything permanent. She's also pretty happy that Anny, Skylar's mom, is doing well at Lund's Fisheries and may be getting a better management position and a raise soon, hopefully enough to put her son in daycare and give Mom some time off.

After I got off with Mom, I did some things online and around the house. My right side has been sore for weeks now. I wondered if it had anything to do with the hasty job I did putting the bed together last May? I really should have asked someone, Andrew or Dad or a neighbor, to help. One side of the bed felt lower than the others. I raised it to be in line with the other sides of the bed. Hopefully, it'll feel better tonight. Since I fixed the bed, I made it, too. I moved the two larger Care Bears over to the bed and may move around other collections in the next few weeks.

Work was busy all day, surprising considering how nice it was. I figured most people would be at barbecues or birthday parties (we've sold a ton of birthday cakes all weekend). I was still in a rather sour mood, and being told to roll down my pants when I already had didn't help. (You try riding to work on a warm day in long pants on a bike.) I was very happy when my relief was right on time and I could get out quickly.

I made salmon in balsamic vinegar and mushrooms and a salad and watermelon for dinner. After I finished, I swept the porch, which was once again covered with a bumper crop of rock-sized pepper nuts and acorns. It was too nice to hang out inside, but it was too late and I was too tired for a long walk. I went for a short walk in the park next-door instead.

I was surprised to see a series of squares in the middle of the park when I arrived. Veteran's Memorial Park  in Oaklyn is really just a small piece of green land next-door to me that ends in a spectacular view of the surrounding homes. Normally, it's not used for much besides Oaklyn's Easter Egg Hunt, fishing, and the occasional rental event like the wedding last August or the Girl Scouts' Halloween games. It has no room for playgrounds or walking paths like the other local parks. I'll bet a lot of locals don't even know it exists.

As I strolled closer, I realized that the squares were filled with colorful shapes and winding ropes. The shapes! Flowers and vegetable plants. From the looks of things, thanks to the recent rain, they were flourishing. Watermelons and cantaloupes grew big and juicy in one square. Several yellow corn stalks created small sunbursts in another. Some vines sported tiny green peppers; others had gourds so fat, the stalks could barely hold them. The tomatoes weren't quite ripe yet, but the marigolds were brilliant and beautiful. I saw stakes squared off into several unmowed parts that will probably become even more gardens. There was even a little sitting area, with ancient wicker furniture and a bright yellow wooden chair on a stiff tarp surrounded by more flowers. Further up front, a stand of trees had been surrounded by rocks and landscaped. It looked very pretty.

I have no idea who put so much work into this, if it was the Girls and/or Boy Scouts, or if Oaklyn has a garden club, or if someone got a permit and decided the park could use some changes.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Harvest Delights

Started a cloudy, humid day with this week's American Top 40 re-run. Casey jumped back a decade to 1978, when disco and R&B ruled supreme. Hits that mid-August included "Baker Street" by Gerry Rafferty, "Last Dance" by Donna Summer, "Hot Blooded" by Foreigner, "Love Will Find a Way" by Pablo Cruze, "Copacabana" by Barry Manilow, and "Hopelessly Devoted to You" by Olivia Newton-John and the title song by Frankie Valli from that summer's blockbuster smash musical Grease. That week's number one hit was the classic Commodores ballad "Three Times a Lady."

I headed out for my farm market/yard sale run around 9:30. Briefly stopped and chatted with my landlord Andrew's wife Linda as I went by their house. First of all, Linda had some pictures drawn by my late Pop Pop, Dad and Uncle Ken's father. He was a wonderful artist; Dad has a lot of his work hanging in his house. Did I want them? Sure! I'd take a look at them sometime soon. Linda also confirmed that the bottom apartment is being painted and remodeled. Andrew still doesn't know what he's really doing about it. He may sell it; he may not. Under any circumstances, they say I can stay as long as I want. I'm a good tenant who doesn't cause any trouble.

The farm market was the busiest I'd ever seen it when I arrived in Collingswood! Perhaps it was the rapidly emerging sun that brought people out of the woodwork. I saw green beans and grapes for the first time today (but surprisingly, no apples). I was able to squeeze between elbows long enough to buy plums, white peaches (the ones I had last week were delicious), blueberries, Chinese beans, three tomatoes, two ears of corn, a huge head of romaine lettuce, and a green and a red pepper.

Made a few yard sale stops. Unfortunately, three decent-sized sales in Oaklyn and on the edge of Collingswood near Haddon Township provided no finds. Maybe it was just as well. I had an eBay order waiting for me when I got home. The beautiful pale celery green Quilted Summer Gown was supposed to belong to Felicity's best friend Elizabeth, but I thought it would look just as pretty on Lissie. It does; it's a great color for her. The fabric is cheap and delicate and has already snagged, but I think the sweet green bow and cute dots are charming. The silly heeled mules were so annoying, I opted to let Lissie keep her buckle shoes on instead. I do love the hat that came with it. It's a wide-brimmed straw saucer covered in soft white satin and trimmed with green ribbon and pink bows.

I looked up some things online, then had a quick Peanut Butter and Raspberry Preserves Sandwich lunch before heading to work. Work was busy again early in the afternoon. One of the managers pulled me off Express before I could even get started there. She said I wasn't fast enough for Express. I know she meant well and was only stating facts, but it didn't make me feel better. I always thought I was too fast! Nor did managers fussing about my rolling up my pants to ride to work. And I picked up hours next Saturday when a teenage boy asked me to switch with him without thinking about it. Yes, the extra hours will be nice, and I'll get my morning errands in with time to spare...but I was looking forward to a Saturday off.

Thankfully, it slowed down so much by the second half of my shift that I spent most of it putting away candy. I really need to find a job where I can work at my own pace. I hate being told I'm too fast or too slow. I do what I can, how I can. That's why I do so much alone. It's easier to just go on my own than have to wait for people, or have people wait for me.

Friday, August 09, 2013

Short Storms Stories

Started another humid, cloudy day with the last of the Care Bears episodes on the set (except for The Care Bears Nutcracker, which I already have). Hugs and Tugs once again play helpful native kids in a Gram story, this time aiding Spanish mapmaker Brave Heart in finding his way back to his ship and dodging greedy conquistadors Beastly and Shrieky in "Desert Gold." The bears have to deal with "The All Powerful Mr. Beastly," who has snared No Heart's shattered amulet to try to capture them, but can't control its magic. Birthday Bear is upset when he thinks that the others forgot his birthday in "Birthday Bear's Blues." When they're trapped in a maze by No Heart, he and a little rich boy who was shunned by the others learn that the best birthday party doesn't involve the amount of toys you play with, but the fun you have with friends and family.

Work, thank heavens, was easier to deal with than it has been for most of the past week. It was on-and-off busy, and most people seemed to be in a more decent mood. Perhaps they were happy they dodged the weather. There was a thunderstorm around 3:30. It was noisy, but it didn't last for very long. It was long gone by the time a manager went in for me so I could head out.

I really needed to do grocery shopping today, but I realized as early as the first hour I was there that I left my money at home. Oops. That was ok. An extra ride never hurt anyone. The painters were downstairs when I arrived, blasting "Bohemian Rhapsody." I head-banged along with them, stopping to pick up my money and change into regular clothes before returning to the Acme. Thankfully, by this point the sun was out. It was hot and humid and hazy, but the clouds above weren't really threatening.

Finally got my shopping in around 5:30-quarter of 6. It wasn't a big order. I mainly needed to restock meat. Picked up salmon and whiting single packs, chicken drumsticks, and ground turkey (the last named had a manager's coupon). Needed to restock brown sugar, cooking oil (Smart Balance was on sale), oatmeal, coconut, tomato sauce, navy beans, and peanut butter (I'm so glad the Smucker's Natural was still on a really good $1.99 sale - I may have to get more before it ends). The Acme's dollar produce sale included the 8 oz bottles of pomegranate juice. I bought those instead of the more expensive fruit concentrate.

When I finally got home, I listened to one of my Classic Disney CDs and made a delicious dinner. I really like how the chicken burgers came out. Ground chicken, poultry seasoning, wheat germ, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, and pepper...and ground chicken is far moister than ground turkey. I added corn on the cob, tomatoes, and cucumbers from the farm market for a simple summer dinner.

Oh, and I got a great schedule this week. It's definitely the best I've had in weeks. I work early all week - the latest I work is 6. I have Tuesday and Saturday off, Tuesday for counseling.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Care For Your Teeth

My dentist's appointment was 11AM. I just barely made it. The clouds of the past few days had stuck around, but the humidity had returned in spades. I was so sweaty from rushing when I got in. the dentist patted my forehead down with a cool cloth. Otherwise, things went very well. All they did today was fill a cavity in my right upper molar. I did need needles to numb my mouth, but it wasn't that bad. I was in and out in less than 40 minutes.

They even gave me some good news. The empty Super Fresh building is going to get a new tenant in a few months. The Thriftway on Crystal Lake Road is currently housed in a small store barely bigger than the Wildwood Acme. I don't blame them for grabbing the first larger supermarket they could get. I'm thrilled. I missed having a place to stop for small grocery loads on runs to the Haddon Township Library. (The dentists are thrilled, too. They apparently used to buy lunch at Super Fresh.)

I went in Dollar Tree and Tuesday Morning to see if I could find more hanging containers like the one I bought on Tuesday. Nope. They were all too expensive and big at Tuesday Morning, and they didn't have any at Dollar Tree. Stopped at Rite Aid for milk (their milk is $2.19 for a half-gallon of skim!), then just went straight home.

Spent the rest of the afternoon cleaning. The bathroom needed to be done badly. I put it off a week, but it was so grimy, it could not be put off anymore. The kitchen was almost as bad. I'll have to dust sometime this weekend or very early next week. I never even got to dusting last month.

Ran Care Bears all afternoon. The late-80s show was at its best in the first season. The first few episodes pick up directly from Care Bears II: A New Generation. No Heart has a more active role, threatening the Care Bears himself instead of just sending Beastly to do everything. We also see Bears and Cousins who don't turn up as much, such as Bedtime Bear, Birthday Bear, Proud-Heart Cat, and Gentle-Heart Lamb. There's brief glimpses of True Heart Bear and Noble Heart Horse of New Generation as well. Shrieky makes her first appearance as a bratty visitor at No Heart's who stays for the duration so she can impress her uncle.

My favorite episode from this batch was the sweetest of the entire series. The Care Bears discover a pair of Care Pandas, Perfect and Polite, living in what appears to be a tropical Shangri-La hidden in the Tibetian mountains in "The Long-Lost Care Bears." The rest of the crew takes them back to Care-a-Lot and gives them "belly badges." Perfect and Polite mean well (and Polite has a crush on Good Luck Bear), but they can't control their powers or catch up with the others. When they return to their valley and discover that the snow from the mountains has moved in, they learn that it's love that can help us grow...and the others find that everyone has a different Caring Mission and different ways of loving.

Some of Gram's stories were really creative. Brave Heart, Champ, Treat-Heart, and Cheer riff on "Phantom of the Opera" when they discover that the theater they're repairing may be haunted in "Mystery of the Phantom." "Frankenstein" gets the Gram treatment in "Dr. Brightenstein's Monster." Grumpy and Bright- Heart build a robot to be their friend. The robot befriends Hugs and Tugs, and the trio teach their German town a lesson in looking beyond appearances. Hugs and Tugs play Jack and Jill, who must rescue Mother Nature (Gram) from the Witch of Winter (Shrieky) in "Caring for Spring."

Other episodes with no story-telling were fun, too. Lotsa-Heart Elephant may be big and unwieldy, but she teaches Beastly and Swift-Heart Rabbit that slow and steady really does win "The Great Race." She does something similar for Brave Heart Lion when he says she's not good enough to play on the Cousins' basketball team in "Order In the Court." Champ, Cheer, and Bright-Heart are lured from their pie-baking duties by a fair...but when it turns out to be a Beastly and Shrieky trap, it's Gram to the rescue in "The Care Bear Carneys."

It had been clouding up since I was riding home from Rite Aid. The rain didn't come down until around 4:30-5ish. When it rained, it poured...for all of 10 minutes or so. It was even raining and sunny at the same time! I guess the real Mother Nature couldn't make up her mind. I decided I'd rather get wet in a relaxing, much-needed bath instead. I spent a glorious hour paging through cake decorating magazines and letting the warm water heal my poor, sore toes and heel spur.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Bear-ly Summer

I awoke to a dark, damp, dismal-looking morning, and it didn't get much better throughout the day. Work was a pain. It wasn't quite as busy, but we're still getting some annoying people. One woman came in with at least 100 items, counted each and every one and put them in perfect order before I could move them from the belt, then counted each of her 100 coupons for those 100 items...and then got upset because she couldn't use her coupons for her meat. The coupons were from Winn-Dixie, which is a supermarket chain in the southern US. She said her daughter sends her coupons from Florida. We aren't in Florida. The irony is, most of the items, except for some small juice bottles and the meat, were junk food - chips, cake mix, dip mix, energy drinks, packaged cookies and bread.

Here's a few suggestions for saving without holding up the line, making a cashier angry, or damaging your health. First of all, lose the junk food, or buy one or two treats a week and save your coupons for those. Shop in the back aisles and avoid the center ones unless you can't live without something from them. Buy staples - fruit, vegetables, meat, flour, milk, eggs, grains - and make real food yourself. I learned last fall that canned and dried beans can be your best friend when you're on a budget.

Thank heavens that it slowed down considerably after I got back from break. It was on and off for the rest of the afternoon, but once again, never as bad as over the weekend. Many people are shopping for kids going to college (or even back-to-school next month, as that one woman was). It slowed down enough by 5 for me to leave without a break.

I combated the gray, wet, unseasonably cold day with episodes of Care Bears Family and baking Peach-Apple Muffins. There's three formulas to the mid-80s incarnations of the lovable care-protecting critters. The first is the most basic - the bears and their critter Cousins come to Earth to help a kid who's having problems. The second has kindly Gram Bear telling a story to toddlers Hugs and Tugs that is usually a spoof fairy tale or folk story featuring the regular cast.The third is a full-on spoof set in space or the time of the cavemen (uh, bears), Gram story optional. Shrill Shreeky and dimwitted Beastly may or may not interfere in any of these.

As cute as the "helping kids" stories and the Star Trek and Clan of the Cavemen (bear) spoofs were, I liked Gram's fairy tales the best. My favorite was one of the few stories that dropped the villains to make the Bears themselves the problem. In "The Lost Gift," Gram tells the squabbling cubs about an Alpine village with a magical apple tree that could regrow fruit and keep their weather beautiful year-round. The kids want to give the tree a present for being so helpful, but are dismayed to find that the towns-animals thought the apples were disappearing and took too many. Now they have to learn a lesson in sharing and teamwork to restore their crops and their town.

Other fun episodes include "A Day Without Tugs" (Hugs is on her own when Tugs gets sick, but makes a friend out of her shadow), "Perils of the Pyramid" (native kids Hugs and Tugs try to keep careless Brave Heart from causing trouble when he rushes through a pyramid to find a golden crown), "The Magic Lamp" (Champ Bear and Beastly find a dragon in a lamp in a cross between Aladdin and The Fisherman and His Wife), "Beautiful Dreamer" (Gram helps Treat Heart get over her stage fright and go on for tone-deaf Shreeky), and "Hearts at Sea" (a little girl named Rebecca teaches old-fashioned sea captain Brave Heart that girls can do anything boys can do - and then some!).

While I find some episodes to be more tolerable than others, I really wouldn't look up any of the Care Bears shows unless you're a major fan of the franchise or you have very young children who are. This is the definitive little girl 80s show - the characters are sometimes witty but more often than not too sweet, and the morals are driven home with a two-ton pile driver. Anyone else is better off cuddling their childhood Care Bear stuffed animal collections.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

In the Not-So-Merry Land of Oz

I was awoken by a shrill siren downstairs. The men who are painting what was Miss Ellie's apartment must have accidentally set off her alarm. I was up until 3 last night. The alarm woke me up at 8:30. I tried to sleep, but finally just got up an hour later. I read Sleeping Murder and wrote in my journal until I was ready to greet a sunny, hazy, humid but not hot day.

My first stop on today's errand run was the Oaklyn Library. The adult and kids' DVDs badly needed to be organized. I did it as quietly as possible while a group of senior citizens watched Barefoot In the Park with Robert Redford and Jane Fonda at the main table. The kids' books weren't nearly as bad. I just fixed up the board books. I took out Pal Joey and Oz the Great and Powerful and was on my way.

The sunshine earlier in the day had been replaced by heavy clouds by the time I arrived at Simply Soups in Audubon. Evidently, I wasn't the only one who felt the day called for soup. It was about 12:30 when I got in, and the place was packed. I took a table in the front, next to the window. I had a good view of a train choo-chooing by as I ate my breadstick, Spinach Tortellini Soup, and drank my can of Diet Coke for lunch. It had quieted down considerably by the time I headed back out.

Rode across-town to the Haddon Township Library to volunteer there. It was also very busy, possibly because of the weather. There were little kids looking for DVDs and big kids looking for books to read for school assignments. There was plenty to organize and shelve, including pulling a pile of kids' DVDs and foreign titles from the adult rows. I took cartoons out here - the newest Mickey Mouse Clubhouse title Quest for the Crystal Mickey, the Dreamworks film Rise of the Guardians, and (almost) the complete series for Care Bears Family.

I cut through Newton River Park going home. Despite the gloomy, chilly-for-August day, it was busy there, too. I saw kids wandering in groups and fishing off the small stone bridge near Collingswood High School. I dodged joggers, other bikers, and families out with their smaller children. The wildflowers and deep green flora gave off a heady, earthy perfume as I went by.

I went straight down to the end of the park and over to the CVS on the border of Oaklyn and Collingswood. I mainly needed brush picks. They didn't have them the last time I was there. CVS's generic 100 oz laundry detergent was on sale for $2.99. I bought a hanging organizer for the American Girl dolls' shoes and small items. Grabbed scrub sponges from the dollar bins.

It finally started to rain as I went outside. It stopped as soon as I made it home, of course. It didn't rain very hard, more like a pleasant-smelling shower. To my knowledge, it hasn't rained since. In fact, the sun looked like it was trying to come out around 7ish.

When I got home, I put everything away, then started re-organizing the American Girl dolls' clothes and accessories. The hanging organizer really worked well. It was just the right size for their accessories and smaller shoes. I was able to consolidate all those boxes in the plastic container I use for their clothes, too. I'll have to see if I can get more at Dollar Tree when I'm over there on Thursday or stop at CVS again.

I put on the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse set as I made gingersnaps from the Pillsbury cookie cookbook Anny gave me a few years ago. In the title episode, Kansas City Mickey and the rest of the Disney gang find themselves on the quest to save the Crystal Mickey, the source of the Clubhouse's magic. If it stays away forever, the Clubhouse will disappear, too! They all go after Pilferin' Pete, dodging his traps along the way.

The other episodes were even more fun. Donald mildly spoofed Beau Geste and other Foreign Legion tales in "Donald and the Desert." He and the gang find Genie Pete on their journey to pick up sand for their sandbox...but Pete's wishes don't always come out as planned. The next episode, "Genie Donald," goes even further into this. Donald takes over Pete's job for a day...with results that don't seem appreciated at first. Goofy has his own go-around with fantasy when he plays knight to retrieve some Bubbly Bubble Water to help Willie the Giant's tummy ache in "Goofy's Giant Adventure."

Opted to stick to fantasy as I made pasta and beans (with added farm market vegetables) from the Clara's Kitchen cookbook for dinner. Switched to Oz, the Great and Powerful.  This prequel to The Wizard of Oz begins, as the 1939 movie did, in Kansas and in black-and-white somewhere around the 1910s. Oscar Diggs (James Franco) is a con-artist magician with a traveling circus. He romances local ladies, verbally abuses is only friend, and allows the girl he loves (Michelle Williams) to marry another. When the women he's seduced bring husbands around, he speeds away in a balloon...only to end up in a tornado and find himself in the Land of Oz. Nothing in this colorful land is as it seems - not the sweet little China Girl who is a lot less dainty than her fragile appearance lets on, or the three witches (Rachel Weiz, Mila Kunis, Williams) who help and hinder Oscar after he arrives. When he's attacked by the evil witches and learn that the people of Oz are counting on him, he discovers that, while being a great man can be important, what really makes you great is a caring heart.

It's pretty easy to tell that this was made by the same group that did the Tim Burton Alice In Wonderland a few years ago. I loved it. The visuals were absolutely drop-dead stunning. Franco had a ball as the huckster who sheds the tin around his heart, and the three witches were marvelous. This has gotten mixed reviews from people and critics who found it too elaborate or complicated or just too far from the source material. As with Alice In Wonderland, I recommend it to families and Oz and fantasy fans who are open to unusual interpretations of classic literature.