Saturday, November 30, 2013

The Collingswood Christmas Parade

Started off a sunny, chilly morning with the American Top 40 re-run. Casey leaped back a decade to 1976, as pop, hard rock, soul, and the beginnings of disco rule the airwaves. Hits during the last week of November that year included "Disco Duck" by Rick Dees, "Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word" by Elton John, "You Make Me Feel Like Dancing" by Leo Sayer, "Stand Tall" by Burton Cummings, "You are the Woman" by Firefall, "Nights are Forever" by England Dan and John Ford Cooley, "Beth" by Kiss, "Muskrat Love" by The Captain and Tenille, and "The Rubberband Man" by The Spinners. The number one song was one of Rod Stewart's most popular ballads, "Tonight's the Night."

Instead of heading straight out, I did a few things around the apartment and worked on crocheting after the show ended. Put on Frosty the Snowman as I worked. One of the most famous Rankin-Bass specials tells the story of the title snowman who comes to life thanks to a magical hat. When it starts getting warmer, he jumps on a car heading to the North Pole, joined by a little girl and a magician's rabbit. The rabbit's owner is a rather bumbling magician who wants Frosty's hat back, so he can actually perform magic.

Rankin-Bass would return to this well twice more, and there was an unrelated Frosty story in the early 90s that actually wasn't bad, but this is really the only Frosty you need. Like Rudolph, it's easy to find - it can be downloaded online and has been re-released on DVD every year for over a decade, first by Sony Wonder, then by Classic Media, and now by Dreamworks. I think it turns up on the networks, too.

I left for Collingswood around quarter of 10. I got there just in time. I parked my bike at the rack behind the Senior Center, then went across the street and parked myself in front of the Lumberyard Condos, between two families with little girls. The Collingswood Christmas Parade is the biggest holiday event in the eastern Camden County area. There's classic cars, motorcycle stunts, dancers from Ovations and the Ritz Theater in Oaklyn, and small teams of mummers in bright-colored, feathered costumes. There were at least three long-legged jugglers, one dressed as a toy soldier. There was an organ grinder with a very cold monkey wrapped in a thick blanket that kids just loved. There were high school marching bands - my favorite was Camden High School, with their high-stepping dancers in cute purple skirts. (But what on earth was with the neon yellow jumpsuits that the Collingswood High flag team was wearing? They looked like a neon sign.) The Boy Scouts had a camping themed-float; the Girl Scouts dressed as princesses in fancy gowns and tossed candy. Every local school had a float. Many businesses didn't even bother decorating and just drove with everyone else for the advertising.

And of course, I bought my annual pretzel from Collingswood High's wrestling team. They actually got into the parade themselves this year in addition to their food sales. Toward the end of the route, the wrestlers appeared in a small blue and white bus with their team name on it, singing an off-key but enthusiastic "Feliz Navidad."

I saw almost the entire parade. At one point, I briefly went across the street to GrooveGround to order a Peppermint Mocha. I don't normally drink coffee, but I was cold, and it was something I could get quickly. The parade was just about done by that point, anyway. I spent the last 20 minutes or so watching it at a sunnier spot a few steps from WaWa. The moment Santa arrived, I left.

I made a few stops on the way home. Since I was there anyway, I hit Rite Aid for their $1.99 sale on hair bands. Mine had been around for a while and were pretty stretched out. I also picked up a buy one, get one half-price sale on Christmas tinned hot chocolate for presents for friends. My next stop was The House of Fun in Oaklyn to finish my Christmas shopping for Amanda, who's visiting on Tuesday.

When I got home, I had the last of the Thanksgiving leftovers for lunch, then washed and dusted the windows inside and out. Ran Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol while I cleaned. The very first animated network Christmas special was this Columbia adaptation of the famous Charles Dickens story, featuring everyone's favorite lovable blind-as-a-bat old guy as a surprisingly effective Scrooge. The lovely score was by Broadway composers Robert Merrill and Jules Styne, who would go on to do Funny Girl a year later. I'm not even a Magoo fan, and I enjoyed this. Originally bundled with the Rankin-Bass specials when they were owned by Sony, Classic Media hung onto this one and re-released it with more extras and on Blu-Ray in 2011.

Work actually could have been worse. It was very busy through about 6PM, after which everyone went to dinner or shopping, and business died very quickly. I spent the last two hours shelving candy between customers. It was so quiet, I was able to leave with no relief and no complaints.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Beginning of the Holiday Season

I started this morning in bed. I really didn't feel like getting involved with Rose and Dad's long-winded conversation about politics at quarter after 7 in the morning. I read the novelization of the stage version of Annie and wrote in my journal instead. Dad was on his way out by the time I made it downstairs. I was able to give him a hug right before he left to get his boat ready for his next trip (he's the captain of a commercial fishing vessel).

Spent the next few hours the same way I did last night, chatting with Anny, Rose, and Mom and watching Khai and Skylar play with their toys and chase each other. Mom sliced the two loaves of bread I made this week for breakfast. We had them with coffee, tea, orange juice for the boys, and the last of the fruit tart and apple pie. The bread was a hit. Khai gobbled the slices of Cranberry he ate; Rose says he loves fruit bread of any kind. Anny enjoyed the pumpkin bread so much, she ended up taking the rest of it home with her.

At one point, Rose and I took the little boys outside to let off some steam. It was sunny, more so than even yesterday, and not windy anymore. It remained a bit chilly for this time of the year, though not nearly as much as yesterday, probably in the lower 40s. The wind having dissipated helped a lot. Despite the warming trend, the little boys complained about being cold and went inside to watch episodes of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and Spongebob Squarepants instead.

Rose, Khai, and I headed out around 10:30 in a car filled with leftovers from Mom and toys for Khai that Skylar and Collyn had outgrown. Once again, the ride was smooth sailing. Everyone must have been out shopping or sitting at home full. Other than a short stop in a WaWa parking lot so Rose could dig Khai's snack out of her bag, we went straight home. Khai rested. He barely made a peep the whole time. Rose and I talked about our family, and I helped Rose brainstorm ideas for Christmas presents.

When I got in, I had a quick lunch and took down the Thanksgiving and general fall decorations while watching A Disney Channel Christmas. This rare special from 1983 is a combination of two earlier Christmas specials with some additional material, including a sequence from the then-new Mickey's Christmas Carol and one of my favorite black-and-white Mickey shorts, "Mickey's Good Deed." We taped it off The Disney Channel sometime in the late 80s. I watched it every year for over a decade and was thrilled when I was able to dub it about two years ago.

Made a really short Acme run after lunch. I didn't really need much, since I didn't eat at home a lot this week. I just needed to restock a few baking items (like pumpkin and chocolate chips) and buy soup and canned fruit for quick winter meals. I was really there to take some money out and get my schedule. My schedule next week isn't bad. A late night on Thursday is the only real problem. Otherwise, I have two days off (Tuesday for my friend Amanda's visit and next Saturday) and mostly late morning and early afternoon hours.)

I passed the rest of the day at my apartment. I organized and swept the "pantry" (two shelves in the area between the pantry and the stove I use for boxed and canned goods) and the area under the sink I use to store Tupperware and pots and pans. I gave the kitchen a good scrub. I did a lot of vacuuming, including around woodwork.

Ran Barbie and the Magic of the Pegasus while I was cleaning the pantry and kitchen. One of the more unusual Barbie fairy tales has the famous doll as Annika, a rebellious princess who is upset that her parents won't let her skate off the palace grounds. When she defies them, she runs smack into Wenlock, an evil sorcerer who wants her for his bride. She's rescued by a Pegasus who turns out to be the sister she never knew. With the help of her horse sister, a young man living in the woods who has problems of his own, and an adorable orphan polar bear cub, Annika seeks three items to make the wand that is the only thing that can defeat Wenlock.

Switched to holiday documentaries as I ate a quick dinner of Thanksgiving leftovers and later as I vacuumed. Linda Young sent me three wonderful specials on Christmas history and customs in 2007, and it's become traditional for me to watch them every year as I prepare my apartment for the Christmas season. Christmas Past covers the holiday in England, with some wonderful stories about festivities in rural northern England, for the non-Christmas-celebrating Scottish, for the landed gentry, for poor children from London evacuated to the countryside, and for a female Father Christmas. Christmas Unwrapped is the History Channel's look at the customs on this side of the pond and at the history of the holiday in general. TV Guide Looks at Christmas covers the holidays on the tube, with everything from beloved animated specials to sitcom episodes to It's a Wonderful Life discussed. My favorite segment deals with holiday variety specials. I was born just as variety programming was starting to die out on TV. Seeing scenes from a Bing Crosby 70s special, the Judy Garland 60s show (I have the soundtrack to that on CD), and Perry Como's holiday celebrations in Europe were really fascinating.

After I finished the cleaning and the documentaries, I went straight in the bath. I needed a good soak after a busy couple of weeks, and Lauren wouldn't be online until later tonight. I read Annie and the Hanukkah stories in the children's anthology Told Under the Christmas Tree. The latter are in honor of the Jewish winter holiday, which began yesterday.  My favorites of the stories told of Hanukkah in modern (late 40s, when the book came out) times. One dealt with a teenager who cheered up a friend on his football team who was in an accident on Thanksgiving with his family's Hanukkah celebration. The other was about a boy from Europe who had been involved with World War II and had lost his parents to the Nazis. His family in the US takes them in, but their elaborate Hanukkah seems overdone after his lean years. It takes a special surprise to make him feel like he's part of the family.

Which reminds me, I do hope all of my readers who celebrate it enjoy their week of Hanukkah!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Giving Thanks For Family and Football

I spent the first few hours of a cold, clear Thanksgiving morning finishing the Carol Higgins Clark book Iced, then watching cartoons and TV shows as I got organized for my trip. Garfield's Thanksgiving becomes rather frustrating when Liz the Veternarian puts the fat cat on a diet, and then Jon invites her over for dinner. Peppermint Patty invites herself, Marcie, and Franklin over to Charlie Brown's house for dinner in A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. Trouble is, Chuck's family is going to his grandmother's to eat. When Peppermint Patty gets upset with the small toat and popcorn supper Chuck provides, Linus and Marcie reminds them that there's a lot more to be thankful for than food. The Peanuts gang joins the Pilgrims on their fateful voyage to America in the This Is America, Charlie Brown episde The Mayflower Voyagers. The Three Stooges do their best to defend the Pilgrims from not-so-peaceful Indians in "Back to the Woods." Balki and Larry have more problems with a turkey that may have swallowed Jennifer's wedding ring in the seventh season Perfect Strangers episode "Wild Turkey."

Rose picked me up at 10 AM. It was surprisingly quiet as we headed down the highway to Mom and Dad's house in Erma. There was no traffic, or even a line at the gas station we stopped at on the Black Horse Pike. We spent the time discussing the holidays and all the trouble our family on the Cape May side's been having. Rose's 3-year-old son Khai whiled away the hour and a half playing games on Rose's iPad.

We arrived around 11:30. Our sister Anny pulled in behind us just a few seconds later. With her were her boyfriend Jay and her 9-year-old son Skylar. Khai was thrilled to see his oldest cousin again. He talked about playing with him during the entire trip. Skylar is currently using the unfinished den/laundry room as a playroom. There's a blanket covering the bare wood floor. I sat down with them and set up a huge, winding Thomas the Tank Engine track while we watched Disney Junior cartoons like Jake and the Neverland Pirates, Doc McStuffins, and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. Dad put on the first football game of the day, the Green Bay Packers and the Detroit Lions. The Lions went on to dominate the game, 40-10.

We ate snacks as the kids played with the trains and Duplos. Mom always has a small appetizer spread to whet appetites until the main meal. This year, she made an especially good cheese ball from cheese bought from a fair at Skylar's school. The creamy ranch dip was really good, too. There was a basket of whole wheat crackers and a tray of broccoli, mushrooms, carrots, and celery sticks.

At one point, Rose and I noticed that the boys were chasing each other and wrestling on Mom's hardwood floor. We figured they needed to let off some steam, so we bundled them up and took them outside. The boys happily chased me around the yard, laughing all the way. Skylar showed off his biking skills as he pedaled through huge piles of leaves on the curb. Khai couldn't quite pull off the same feat on a tricycle, no matter how many leaves Skylar jammed into the compartment under the seat.

After they complained about being cold, the boys went back inside. I once again joined them in creating a huge, winding world of Thomas the Tank Engine wooden tracks as Skylar messed around with some of the buildings and Khai raced trains down the bridges. We switched the cartoons to some of the more eclectic offerings on Nickelodeon, like Spongebob Squarepants and Sanjay and Craig. When the boys got restless again waiting for Mom to take the turkey out of the oven, Rose and I put them back in their coats and took them in the backyard to toss frisbees and play catch. That didn't last long. It was just too cold, barely in the 30s.

We finally had dinner shortly after they came in, just as the big Cowboys-Raiders game was starting. Dinner was Mom's usual wonderful feast. In addition to turkey, there was sweet potato casserole topped with marshmallows (yum, my favorite - dessert at dinner!), honey-glazed carrots, pearl onions in white sauce, home-made stuffing (nothing boxed on Thanksgiving), mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce, and stewed apples with lots of cinnamon. It was all sooooo good! I had a little of everything but the mashed potatoes. As I mentioned with Mark and Vanessa's dinner, I'm not a fan of white potatoes.

While the boys ran around under the table, Mom, Rose, Anny, Dad, and I laughed as we recalled all the antics my sisters and I got into when we were kids. Rose and her childhood best friend Tiffany used to get into all kinds of mischief, from painting a neighbor's house because they left the paint out to Rose losing her shoe in a marsh when they were treasure hunting. We were in our young teens when Rose nearly set the house on fire while trying to barbecue alone for Tiffany and her guy friend Anthony. There was also the time when Rose and I were barely three and four and somehow managed to climb over at least three fences between houses in Cape May before Mom and Dad realized we weren't there. I generally tried to stay out of Tiffany and Rose's crazier adventures, but I was around the time Dad shaved his trademark mustache and scared us all half to death by showing up at the beach without it and tossing us into the water!

The boys and I returned to the den as Mom, Rose, and Anny had coffee and set up for dessert and Jay left for work (he's a sailor on a commercial fishing vessel). By this point, we'd traded the trains for Skylar's huge toy space shuttle and his large trucks and had switched to Cartoon Network's marathon of the odd fantasy-themed show Adventure Time. (Evidently, the marathon was honoring the balloon that represented the show in Macy's Thanksgiving Parade this morning.)

It was around 6:30 when Mom called us out for dessert. For once, I had no trouble deciding where to begin. Mom opted to make her lucious pumpkin and apple pies with a butter crust instead of shortening. I thought it was delicious, light and flaky. Anny helped Mom with the pumpkin pie. She complained it was too fluffy, but I thought it was just fine. Mom's chocolate chip cookie bars were nice and moist, too. Anny made these really cute cupcakes with caramel apple icing and topped them with sprinkles and nuts (with Jay's slightly embarassed help). She even stuck popsicle sticks in them to make them look like caramel apples! They were wonderful, just sweet enough, with a black sprinkle in the center of each to resemble a seed.

The game started to wind down as the little boys did. They'd been running and chasing each other and chasing me all day long. Poor Khai just would not go to sleep, no matter how tired he was. Not even after his mom put him in his new polar bear footie pajamas. He cried very hard when Skylar and Anny finally left. Rose and I finally got him to sleep over ABC's annual showing of A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. Khai didn't even make it to the Peanuts' toast-and-popcorn meal. I finished out Charlie Brown, then went online to wish everyone at Dinosaur Dracula, including its proprietor Matt, the best wishes of the day.

(Oh, and much to everyone in the Tri-State Area's annoyance, despite a slow start, the Cowboys went on to beat the Raiders 31-24. The Eagles are just barely behind them in the division now and are hoping to catch up to them this weekend.)

I hope all of my American readers had an equally fun Thanksgiving (and my Canadian readers enjoyed their Turkey Day last month)! I'm writing this at Mom's house. Rose decided this year that it's too much hassle to bring a three-year-old down here and take him home in one day. We'll be heading back to Camden County tomorrow morning.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

A Very Blustery Day

Started off a rainy, windy morning with breakfast, baking Cranberry-Orange Muffins, and watching the Rankin-Bass Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. I normally wait until later in December to watch this one, but since CBS did it last night, I figured, why not? Rudolph is a baby reindeer with a big problem - his nose glows red. He's taunted by other young reindeer and embarrasses his parents and Santa. Only pretty Clarice, a sweet and gentle doe, believes in him. Tired of the teasing, he runs away...and runs into an elf named Hermie. Hermie wants to be a dentist, but changing careers is apparently frowned on for elves. Helped by boisterous prospector Yukon Cornelius and an island filled with unwanted toys, Rudolph discovers that sometimes the thing that seems to be all wrong about us is the one thing that really makes us special.

While much of this is still sweet today, including dear little Rudolph himself, some of this has dated rather badly. Donner and Santa can seem kind of cruel early on to modern ears, and there's Donner's comments about "man's work." Not my favorite Rankin-Bass cartoon, but it was their first holiday show and is still one of their most beloved.

Moved to Max & Ruby as I got ready for work. In "Max's Thanksgiving," Ruby wants to make the table look beautiful for Grandma's Thanksgiving feast, but Max just wants her nut and cranberry stuffing! Ruby wants to have the best fall leaf project in school in "Ruby's Leaf Collection," but how can she find leaves when Max keeps burying her project book? Max is having fun with light in "Max's Shadow," but his newfound shadow buddy keeps disappearing every time the clouds cover the sun. Meanwhile, Ruby and her friend Valerie are trying to make a ballerina poster, but they need a steady model to be able to draw a really accurate ballerina.

Thankfully, the rain had come to a temporary standstill by 10:30, allowing me to take the bike to work instead of asking for a ride again.  It did start raining again as I headed down Kendall Boulevard, but the worst of it came long after I was behind a register.

Work was exactly the same as yesterday, only more so - steady when I came in at 11, insanely busy during rush hour, starting to clear out by the time I finished at 6. Other than a couple of grumpy people (including one man 10 minutes after I came in who fussed about Acme's new generic brand looking like Bottom Dollar's), there were no major problems, and my relief, one of the high school boys, was right on time.

I got lucky with the weather again after work. My customers and the NBC newscast in the back room had blared dire warnings about heavy rain and bad traffic all afternoon. By the time I got out, the rain was not only long gone, but the clouds were starting to break up. I had no problems riding over to Chick Fil' A for a quick dinner of a Charbroiled Chicken Sandwich, waffle fries, and a Diet Dr. Pepper. I made a really quick stop back at the Acme on my way home; I needed skim milk. Thankfully, the crowds had gone to dinner or hit the now-drier roads, and I was quickly able to get in and out.

When I got home, I put everything away, then worked on Golden Pumpkin Bread to bring down to Mom and Dad's tomorrow while watching Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. Neil Page (Steve Martin) is an ad executive who just wants to get home for Thanksgiving. Not only does he keep running into public transportation delays and break downs at every turn, but he keeps ending up with Del Griffith (John Candy). Del is a shower curtain salesman and a nice guy, but he's also a mass of bad habits who keeps driving Neil crazy. As the two make their way across the frozen Midwestern landscape, Neil learns about the importance of being thankful for what we have.

John Hughes was hoping this movie would help him finally climb out of the teen movie ghetto; it didn't work, but this does remain one of his more popular films. Granted, some of it is a little dated (a lot of Neil's travel troubles would be solved with a cell phone call or by checking an app today), and the film's left turn into sentimentality towards the end feels slightly forced. On the other hand, if you're a fan of Candy or Martin, this is a necessary movie - this is some of their best work.

Switched to Ice Age: A Mammoth Christmas Special as the pumpkin bread finished baking and I packed for my trip tomorrow. This odd little holiday tale revolves around a young Peaches (the baby mammoth born in Dawn of the Dinosaurs) who is looking forward to the holidays with all her heart. She's very upset when Sid accidentally breaks Manny's Christmas rock and he says that Sid is on Santa's "Naughty List," and that he doesn't believe in Santa. Peaches journeys further north with Crash, Eddie, and Sid to prove that Santa - and the Christmas spirit - really does exist, even in prehistoric times.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Takin' a Chance on the Weather

Began the morning with breakfast and Winnie the Pooh: Seasons of Giving. This direct-to-DVD holiday tale is really two episodes of The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh and the Pooh Thanksgiving special cobbled together with some new linking material. I have it solely for the sweet Thanksgiving special. Pooh and his friends are looking forward to a dinner filled with hot chocolate, honey, and haycorns...until ever-bossy Rabbit butts in and tells them that Thanksgiving is about tradition, and tradition means turkey and stuffing. With Pooh and Piglet scared of the turkey they're supposed to catch and Gopher making pumpkin pie with attitude, you know this meal isn't going to go the way Rabbit planned. Rabbit finally learns in the end that it's not the food we eat at Thanksgiving that matters. It's the friends and family we eat it with.

It was just cloudy and a little damp when I headed out. I wanted to volunteer at the Oaklyn Library and get a nice walk in now, since between work, the weather, and the holiday, I'm probably going to spend the better part of this week indoors. I wasn't the only one looking to escape. The Oaklyn Library was fairly busy with people on the computers and reading newspapers when I arrived. I organized the adult DVDs, then combed the kids' titles and looked over the children's section.

It was sprinkling when I headed home. I spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon inside, eating leftovers for lunch, then cleaning the bathroom. I dubbed Cabin In the Sky while I did my chores. Little Joe (Eddie "Rochester" Anderson) is a no-account gambler, but not really a bad guy at heart. He's adored by his devout wife Petunia (Ethel Waters). When he dies, he's initially going to be taken "down below" by Lucifer Jr. (Rex Ingram), but The General (Kenneth Spencer) sees how Petunia's grieving and insists he can be saved. Little Joe does try to mend his ways, but he can't help taking a look at that cute Georgia Brown (Lena Horne). The trio end up at a honky-tonk called Joe Henry's Paradise, where Joe has to really decide if he wants to be saved or not.

This isn't the easiest movie to discuss nowadays. While some of the script is considered dated and stereotyped in the 21st century, the wonderful cast overcomes this with their fabulous numbers. Waters knocks this score's best known standards, "Takin' a Chance On Love" and "Happiness Is a Thing Called Joe" (the latter an addition for the movie version) out of the park and joins Horne for "Honey In the Honeycomb." Duke Ellington and His Orchestra show up in the Paradise towards the end for some amazing jive dancing. Eddie Anderson does better with his jokes and dancing than with some rather croak-y vocalizing later on. Director Vincent Minnelli on his first major assignment provided some wonderful touches, including the rather dark finale.

I enjoyed it, but I understand that it's a product of its era (1943) and I love a lot of the cast. If you're a fan of jazz, the cast, or musicals of this time and aren't offended by the stereotypes, give it a try.

Tossed on some Backyardigans after the movie ended. Little Joe's not the only one seeing ghosts. In "It's Great to Be a Ghost," Uniqua and Pablo are having fun playing spooky tricks. Poor Tyrone is really more scared than spooky. When Tasha arrives and claims to not be scared of anything, it's the least-likely kid who finally frightens her.

Jodie ended up driving me to work. Jessa drove me home. It was still just showering when I went to work, but it was supposed to get worse later. It was crazy during rush hour, otherwise the same as yesterday - steady when I came in, dead when I left. The heavy rain wouldn't really arrive until about an hour ago.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Cold Candy Thanksgiving

It was 49 degrees in the apartment when I woke up this morning. As soon as I could make myself get out from under the five blankets and comforters on my bed, I called Andrew. He picked up right away. He had checked the heater on Saturday and had heard the noise then. He went to call PS&G.

I made warm oatmeal and a half of a grapefruit for breakfast while watching Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas. While most of the Disney direct-to-home-media movies were rehashes or just thrown together, I kind of like this one. Set during Belle's stay at the castle in the original film, Belle is determined to give everyone a nice Christmas. The Beast objects, and so does a manipulating organ named Forte who was once the castle's conductor (Tim Curry) and an angel ornament named Angelique (Bernadette Peters) who has had too many disappointments. An excursion to get a Christmas tree off the castle grounds leads to a lot of hurt feelings between Belle and the Beast. It takes a special gift and the Beast's discovery of Forte's deception to patch up their relationship. Recommended for fans of the original movie or folks looking for holiday Disney tales, enjoyable enough for anyone else who runs into it on cable.

Finished out breakfast with an episode of Faerie Tale Theatre. "The Snow Queen" holds far more resemblance to the original than the Disney movie Frozen that's set to come out on Wednesday does. A young girl named Gerda must follow her dear friend Kai, who has been taken by the Snow Queen (Lee Remick) to her kingdom, through ice, snow, reindeer and girl thieves. In the end, the icy ruler teaches the two a lesson about love and true friendship.

Moved to The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas while making Cranberry Orange Bread for my family's Thanksgiving feast. You read the name right. This 1983 musical was a film version of a hit Broadway show from the late 70s. The title bordello was a real place known in the Lone Star State as the Chicken Ranch. When the most recent proprietress (Dolly Pardon) and her business comes under attack by an obnoxious moral watchdog (Dom DeLouise), her boyfriend the Sheriff (Burt Reynolds) tries to come to her rescue by getting the state Governor (Charles Durning) to keep "another Texas legend" going.

Sex romps aren't normally my thing, but this one is actually rather innocent for a musical about a brothel. I'll admit that my sisters and I watched this all the time as young kids. We loved the twangy music and spirited choreography, especially the Aggies' dance routine in the locker room and the party dance in the ball gowns afterwards...and we had no idea what was going on between the numbers or what the ladies were doing at that nice farm house. Dolly Pardon and Burt Reynolds are having a lot of fun, but Charles Durning gets the film's best number as he shows how to "Dance a Little Sidestep" and avoid giving a political statement about anything. Your mileage may vary as to whether you can get away with showing it to your kids, but for teenagers and adults, especially country music fans, this is a blast to watch and is worth looking around for.

I rushed to the laundromat after the Cranberry Bread was finally out of the oven. I barely had enough time for the one rather large load I had. Good thing there were only a few people going in and out, a bit of a surprise given the weather we're supposed to get tomorrow. I was just barely able to throw my laundry in, yank it out, rush home, put it away, change, make dinner, and hurry out to work.

Work was steady for most of the night. It was pretty much the same as yesterday - busy, but not overwhelming. There was plenty of help during rush hour; by the time I left, they barely needed the one woman still on.

Andrew called during Best Little Whorehouse. PS&G had called and said they'd fix the heater between 4 and 8PM. They seem to have been true to their word. It was much warmer in the apartment when I got home, though not quite as warm as it had been before the heater went out, probably about 62 degrees. (It was 67 yesterday morning.)

Sunday, November 24, 2013

First Meal of Thanksgiving

I started off a sunny but windy and cold day with The Adventures of Robin Hood, then Brunch With the Beatles. George Harrison was in the spotlight today; he passed on around this time in 2001. Among his songs played on the show were "Don't Bother Me" (his first song written on his own), "Taxman," and the instrumental "Cry For a Shadow" with John.

I called Mom as I made Ginger-Spiced French Toast for breakfast. Mom sounded tired, but in a somewhat better mood than she was last week. She finally heard from Keefe, who received two $50 gift cards to restaurants from her for his 21st birthday so he could treat himself to a nice meal and drink. She was going to spend the afternoon at the grocery store, rounding up what she needed for Thanksgiving Day. Dad, Anny, and Skylar went to visit Dad's mom Ann in northern New Jersey. Grandma Ann lives in a nice house in a beautiful wooded area, but she's getting on in years, and Dad and his younger sister Mary who lives in Manhattan both keep an eye on her.

I walked to work shortly after. Jodie was picking me up afterwards to take us to an early Thanksgiving dinner at Mark and Vanessa's house. The wind was at my back for most of the way, and it was really a rather nice, brisk walk that I quite enjoyed. The scenery here was very pretty, with the blue sky and cyclone of orange leaves blowing every which way.

Work was on-and-off busy all day, mostly not as bad as I figured it would be. I assumed the lines would be across the store, especially given that the Eagles are off this week. The chilly wind may have kept quite a few people at home, or they may be waiting for tomorrow before the rain and wind is supposed to arrive. There was still plenty of food in the back room leftover from yesterday, too. We had plenty of help, and my relief was right on time. I was able to hurry in the bathroom, change into a regular shirt and sweater, and hurry outside.

Jodie was there when I got out. We went right to Westmont, where my cousins Mark and Vanessa live. This time, we were joined by Vanessa's college-age daughter Brittany and her boyfriend Patrick, a good-looking young man with a trim beard and a gentle manner. Dinner was delicious! Vanessa made a turkey breast that was as moist as any dark meat, macaroni and cheese with tomato slices on top (I ate the tomato slices), mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, green beans, and a very spicy sausage stuffing. There were store-bought pumpkin and apple pies for dessert. I had a little of everything but the apple pie (the pumpkin was enough) and the mashed potatoes (I'm not a fan of white potatoes). I also had creamy mint sugar sticks that Vanessa and Mark brought home from the Atlantic City boardwalk last summer. I love those. I don't see them that often around here.

We laughed and chatted, talking about jobs and shirts and family dinners of the past (Vanessa comes from a family with 14 kids!). Mark and Vanessa are going to Wisconsin to join most of Vanessa's family for dinner, which is why they're having one for themselves now. Brittany is staying behind to work at her job at the Starbucks in Cherry Hill; she'll apparently have dinner with Patrick's family in Pennsylvania.

Mark had football on all night while we ate. The Cowboys were mauling the Giants when Jodie and I arrived. By the time we were having dessert, the Giants had tied the game, 21-21. The Cowboys managed to pull off a last-minute field goal that just won them the game, 24-21. Mark was already annoyed over the Packers' earlier tie with their rivals the Minnesota Vikings, 26-26. 

When I got home, it seemed awfully cold in my apartment. I thought it was because the door to the back room had open (the draft in the back room blows it open when the wind's really bad), but the thermometer in the room said 54! The heater, which has been making noise for days, must have finally died. Actually, it's acted up for at least two or three years now. I'd tell Miss Ellie, and then Andrew, and they'd send someone to fix it...and then it would make noise again after a few weeks. I did manage to take a hot shower, so at least the hot water heater works. I'm freezing now, even in my robe, the shawl Mom gave me for Christmas a few years ago, slippers, a heavy pajama shirt, and thick knit pants! I'll have to call Andrew first thing tomorrow and see what he can do.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Last Day of the Fall Harvest

Started a sunny, windy day with this week's American Top 40 re-run. We jumped back to 1983, this time moving to late November for a round of pop, ballads, country, and New Wave. Hits that Thanksgiving weekend included "Islands In the Stream" by Dolly Pardon and Kenny Rogers, "Suddenly Last Summer" by the Motels, "Heart and Soul" by Huey Lewis and the News, "Total Eclipse of the Heart" by Bonnie Tyler, "Crumblin' Down" by John Cougar (Melloncamp), "PYT (Pretty Young Thing)" by Michael Jackson, "Say It Isn't So" by Hall & Oates, "Say, Say, Say" by Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson, and "Uptown Girl" by Billy Joel. The number one song was a favorite of mine from Lionel Richie, "All Night Long."

Today was the last day of the Collingswood Farm Market. They always end the weekend before Thanksgiving. I'm just glad I got to be there this year. This time last year, I would have been on my final week of being laid up with a fractured ankle. Despite the blustery cold, it was very busy with people buying produce, honey, eggs, and cheese for their Thanksgiving dinners and craft items for Christmas presents. I didn't really need much myself. I only bought a block of Colby cheese (I forgot cheese at the Acme yesterday), cauliflower (wanted to make mashed cauliflower again - last week's was really good), apples, a bag of baby spinach, and cranberries to make Cranberry Bread to bring down to Mom and Dad's on Thursday. I treated myself to two large, soft English Toffee Cookies from Springdale Farms and admired the pair of alpacas at the alpaca yarn booth just as you entered the Farm Market. The black and white patched alpaca decided to take a nap right there; the brown one just went on eating his hay brunch.

My yard sale runs are done for the year. It's too cold for people to be sitting outside and selling things, and most people's minds are probably on the upcoming holiday this weekend. I went straight home instead. I put everything away, then put on the second disc of Now That's What You Call Christmas! and dressed the American Girl, Sailor Moon, and Cabbage Patch Kids dolls for the holiday season.

All of the American Girl dolls have their own special Christmas outfits. Samantha wears her Cranberry Christmas Dress with the huge lace collar. Molly sports her cute green velvet Christmas Dress. Felicity looks stunning in her bright blue Christmas Ball Gown. Josefina is as elegant as a Spanish princess in her pretty yellow Christmas Dress and Mantilla. My modern doll Jessa wears the bright red and gold brocade Chinese New Year Outfit. (It's too nice to save for February!) I put the Sailor Soldiers in vintage fashion doll gowns from yard sales, thrift shops, and in two cases, dollar stores. (I got rid of most of the dollar store outfits I had because they were so cheap, but Lita's bright green dress with the puffed sleeves and Ami's cute ice blue gown with the elbow sleeves and star netting looked so good on them, I couldn't bring myself to give them away.) The Cabbies wear real Christmas baby dresses found in vintage shops.

I ran Very Merry Christmas Songs as I made a second batch of cookies for the Acme's Thanksgiving Employee Luncheon. The cookies were barely cooked when I tossed them in a bag, grabbed a coat, and hurried off to work so I could enjoy the festivities, too!

Work was busy all day long. I did just have enough time to eat when I arrived, and later when I finally got my break. There were two kinds of meatballs, sausage and peppers, turkey with or without gravy, green bean casserole, a noodle casserole with chicken and broccoli, brownies and mini-cupcakes from the bakery, cheesecake, little cupcake-like cookies with peanut butter cups in the center, a thick chocolate cake sprinkled with chocolate chips, my Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies, and almost every kind of soda the Acme carries. I had the turkey with gravy (too salty), green bean casserole (yum), noodle casserole (double yum), Diet Wild Cherry Pepsi, and cupcakes for lunch. Dinner was the meatballs, peppers, peanut butter cup cookies, Cranberry Canada Dry, and a slice of chocolate cake. I'm very full now. It was probably a good thing that it slowed so fast by 7PM, I was able to leave without a relief.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Turtle and Christmas Ghost Power

First of all, I'm going to mention the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy's death in passing. I was born sixteen years after it happened, but I've heard stories of that fateful day all my life, especially from my mom and my friend Linda Young. Linda has a wonderful essay about her memories of that day on her nostalgia essays page. Where Were You?

It was raining when I got up this morning, but by the time I was finishing breakfast, the rain had long stopped. It was just cloudy and humid when I went outside with my broom to sweep the porch. The porch was wet, though not soaked. Good thing the pile of leaves wasn't anywhere near as massive as it was last week.

After I finished there, I put the broom away, then went downstairs to do some raking. The shower we had this morning didn't seem to have penetrated the piles of leaves on the side path and in the front yard. Andrew had family members raking out there last week, but it hadn't seemed to do much. I started with the side path going up to my apartment, then kept going around to the front when I noticed Andrew finally bought a nice, new tarp. (The old one was incredibly shredded.) I got the whole thing done in about an hour and a half. It's not perfect - leaves kept coming down even as I raked them, and there's still tons of acorns out there - but it's as good as it'll get for now. We'll see if I need to squeeze one more raking session in before the trees are completely bare.

I went upstairs to a leftovers lunch after I finished, then went back out to run errands. My first stop was the Oaklyn Library. I mostly organized DVDs there. Somehow, a couple of kids' DVDs had landed in the adult section, despite the kids' titles clearly being labeled with translucent orange stickers over their call letters. (Although the titles being the teen-oriented Raise Your Voice and the first two Spy Kids movies did make the confusion a little more understandable.) I took out my favorite Thanksgiving story, Cranberry Thanksgiving.

It started showering again while I was in the library. Thankfully, it had ended by the time I made it to the Audubon Crossings Shopping Center. I needed to drop off some Thanksgiving cards at the Audubon Post Office and order contacts from America's Best. (Which went fine - I just got paid today, and the debit card went through perfectly.)

Dodged the endless traffic going to Wal Mart and the clothing stores as I made my way back to the Acme. I didn't have a huge order today. In fact, I was mainly at the Acme to get my schedule for Thanksgiving week. I mostly restocked baking items I'll need for holiday cooking - Smart Balance butter (buy one, get one, and I had a coupon), frozen orange juice, eggs, peanut butter, canola oil. I bought cough drops to keep my throat wet at work (working over the heat-spewing registers and constant talking can dry them out), more of those lightly breaded chicken breasts for quick dinners this week, and treated myself to a $5.99 copy of Arthur's Perfect Christmas from the bin with the budget DVDs in the front of the store.

(Oh, and my schedule is surprisingly good for Thanksgiving week. I have Thanksgiving itself and Black Friday off - they must have been able to corral enough college and high school kids off from school to work those days. I do work late Monday and Tuesday and long on Tuesday and Wednesday, but that's to be expected a few days before the biggest food day of the holiday. I actually expected much worse. The Eagles being off this week should help lighten the load slightly, especially on Sunday.)

Though it wasn't raining when I headed home, it was cloudy, humid, and relatively warm for this time of the year. I decided I wasn't going to take chances. I spent the rest of the day at home. Ran Arthur's Perfect Christmas as I put my groceries away and got organized. Arthur Read is an aardvark kid who is looking forward to a perfect Christmas of snow, presents, fabulous food, and a glittering tree. His best friend Buster is worn out by his frazzled mother waking him everyday, thinking it's Christmas and she has to make it great. Inspired by his buddy The Brain explaining about how Kwanzaa was created, he tries to get her to relax on the holiday instead. Muffy, the richest girl in school, holds a huge Christmas party, and is upset when her best friend Francine opts to attend her family's Hanukkah party instead. In the end, Arthur and all of the kids discover that perfection is in the eye of the beholder, and the holidays are what we make of them, whether they're the "storybook" ideal or not.

Arthur was a favorite of mine when I was in college. I caught this special on PBS towards the end of my college years, but I haven't seen it since. I'm glad I found this again. It's really sweet, especially if you do live in a town or come from a family where many different holidays are celebrated.

Moved to An American Christmas Carol while working on Cereal Spice Bars for myself and Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies for the Acme's Thanksgiving Luncheon tomorrow. I hadn't heard a lot that was good about this one, starting with a thirty-ish Henry Winkler at the height of his Happy Days fame playing the Scrooge character under ten pounds of makeup. While that is pretty jarring, the rest of it is surprisingly well done. The "Scrooge" here is Benedict Slade (Winkler), a nasty old man who repossesses out-of-work tenants' furnishings, then fires his assistant Thatcher on Christmas Eve. Naturally, he gets a visit from three "spirits" who look rather like his tenants that teach him just how important charity and looking to the future can be.

Much to my surprise, this was actually quite good. Winkler did better than you might expect as the old codger who started off with a bright future that went perilously astray thanks to a lot of wrong choices. The makeup was distracting, but the setting, New England in the 1910s and the Great Depression, was well-done. Oh, and look for Gerry Parkes (Doc of Fraggle Rock) as the Ghost of Christmas Present. Not something you need to go out of your way for, but if you're a fan of Winkler or like seeing different interpretations of A Christmas Carol, give this one a spin (it was released on Blu-Ray last year).

I switched to an entirely different kind of fantasy as I made tilapia in honey-wine sauce with carrots and spinach for dinner. The first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film from 1990 was a surprise hit in my family. Even Mom enjoyed the story of four turtles who are raised as ninjas by their gentle rat mentor and encounter a reporter named April O'Neal on the track of a mysterious crime wave in New York. While time has sanded down some of this one's darker edges (the Foot's hide-out looks ridiculously early 90s), it still remains the definitive version of the Turtles on film. Tougher than the subsequent two live-action movies, more fun than the animated one from later in the 2000s, this has not only great action, but a great deal of heart. Little guys will want to go to the current or 80s/90s show first, as there's quite a bit of violence here that isn't glossed over. For older kids and teens who are Turtles fans, start them on this one, then move to their choice of cartoon or later film.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

On a Fall Afternoon

I slept in this morning, something I haven't done in a while. I've been too busy for sleeping in! When I did get up, I read The Adventures of Robin Hood for a bit, then went online briefly to look up something. I was still on the computer when Rose called. She wanted to ask me if I was ok with the Cape May side of the family not doing a Secret Santa. She and Craig are still paying off their new house, and my other sister Anny just lost the job she got at Lund's Fisheries a few months ago. Mom's upset that Keefe won't be home from the Navy for the holidays, too.

I'll be honest. I'm disappointed. I understand that they're having financial problems, but I was looking forward to the Secret Santa. Unlike all of them, I don't have too many other people to shop for. And I'm getting a little tired of Mom refusing to come up here. I understand driving in traffic makes her nervous. I understand her eyesight is bad. Why doesn't she come up here in the late morning, when there's no traffic? Or just tell Dad to take a day off, sober up, and drive her up here? Or look up the schedules online and take a couple of buses, like I do? It would take her mind off Keefe not being here.

I put on The Backyardigans to cheer me up while I finally ate breakfast. "The Tale of the Mighty Knights" is one of their three hour-long special episodes. Here, the kids spoof rock operas and high fantasy as Knights Uniqua and Tyrone, Grabbin' Goblin Austin, and Tasha the Flighty Fairy chase an egg that Uniqua and Tyrone are supposed to be egg-sitting for King Pablo all the way up to the fearsome Dragon Mountain! They do their best to try to catch that very "runny" egg before he cracks himself!

It was still sunny as I headed to the Haddon Township Library for this week's volunteering session. They were fairly busy with people taking out movies and books before the festivities next week. I had a lot of organizing to do, especially with the kids' shelves. The D to G and S shelves were overflowing again. Thankfully, I did manage to get everything on. This time, the adult shelves were less full, and there wasn't as much to clear out. I didn't take anything out myself. I did see some interesting new cartoons, but I probably won't have time to watch or return them this weekend and next week.

By the time I headed out to the Westmont Plaza to run errands, the sun had vanished behind clouds. It did stay fairly warm, though, probably in the upper 50s. That may have kept the crowds at bay. Thriftway wasn't busy when I went in there to look at their peanut butter prices. I didn't like them, so I left with nothing. The Westmont Bagel Shop was about a half-hour from closing when I stopped in for a Vegetable and Cheese Quesadilla. A few people came to buy snacks, but I was the only one eating lunch. Dollar Tree was a little busier; I picked up Thanksgiving cards and vinegar there. Made a quick stop at WaWa on the way home for skim milk.

When I got home, I went right in the bathtub. I needed a good, long soak after all the trouble I've had over the past few days. I looked over Christmas catalogs, read The Adventures of Robin Hood, listened to my On A Winter's Night Christmas CD, and tried to ignore the knots that were still in my stomach, and had been there since last night.

I really needed something fun when I got out. I put on The Coconuts while having a simple dinner of fried eggs over easy, Cranberry Flummery, and an apple. This was the first Marx Brothers movie, debuting in 1929 as Hollywood was swept with a wave of stagey musicals and the people who appeared in them. Unlike most newcomers from the stage, the Marx Brothers worked on-camera right away. The plot looks something like their later films. Groucho is the head of a failing Florida hotel who wants to sell cheap land. Margaret Dumont is his only paying customer. Her daughter Polly (Pearl Eaton) is in love with a penniless architect (Oscar Shaw), but her mother prefers smarmy Yates (Cyril Ring). Yates, however, is a jewel thief, and he and another hotel guest (Kay Francis) steal Dumont's necklace and set Shaw up as the villain. The Marxes are a lot less interested in this than selling land and coming out the better of the deal.

No doubt about it, this is an early talkie musical, with singing lovers and sudden ballets popping out of nowhere. The Marxes have some great bits despite the staginess, including Groucho and Chico's "Why a duck?" routine. For fans of theirs or movies of the early talkie era only.

I got another call just as I was going online. It was Jodie this time, calling to invite me to an early Thanksgiving dinner at our cousins Vanessa and Mark's house in Westmont. It's Sunday evening; I hope I'll be able to go. She also told me something Rose had forgotten to mention - Rose is within spitting distance of getting her license. She may get it by Thanksgiving, and almost certainly by Christmas. That's wonderful! Even though it'll be a few years before she can practice law solo, at least she's a lot closer now.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Different Strokes for Different Business Folks

Started off the morning with The Backyardigans. "The Action Elves Save Christmas Eve" is their second, more holiday-oriented Christmas episode. The Action Elves are Uniqua, Tasha, and Pablo, who jump into action when Santa needs their help finding his missing sack. If they can't get the sack back, Christmas will be ruined! Meanwhile, the Abominable Snow Brothers, Tyrone and Austin, try to figure out exactly what this magical sack is. When the "elves" finally confront the duo, they find they're more confused than mean. They all have to get Santa's bag back...and soon, before take off!

Switched to Christmas music for the next few hours as I did some more household chores I'd been putting off. For one thing, the basket that holds catalogs was overflowing, and not just because of the recent influx of Christmas catalogs. I hadn't cleared that out in at least two or three months! I needed to scrub the bathroom and hall floor badly, too. I usually do that in late September or early October, but I just didn't have the time this year. The bathroom isn't big, and the "hall," a rectangle of linoleum between the entertainment area and my bedroom (with the bathroom leading off of it), is even smaller. They took less time to dry than they did in the spring, too, thanks to the heater being on and the lack of foliage on the trees allowing more sun to come in the windows.

Put on The Year Without a Santa Claus as I made leftovers for lunch. My favorite Rankin Bass special is this hilarious story of how Santa (Mickey Rooney) gets a cold one year and decides to take a vacation. Fearing there will be no Christmas, Mrs. Claus (Shirley Booth) sends two elves and a reindeer down to Earth to drum up some yuletide spirit. What she didn't count on was them ending up in the very warm and not elf-friendly Deep South...or having to deal with the Miser Brothers, who control the weather and refuse to cooperate with one another!

Went to a wintery episode of Sailor Moon as I prepared for work. In "Ice Princess" from the second half of the first season, Serena and the other Soldiers are thrilled to take free skating lessons from a pair of Olympic Gold medal figure skaters. They find themselves on thin ice when Lita falls for the male half, and they both turn out to be pawns of the Negaverse.

I did run into some trouble at work. I grumbled too loudly about people not helping with the baggging and was called in by Sebastian, one of the head managers, about it. While he said he wasn't going to write me up about it as long as I didn't do it again, he did want me to start telling people about the surveys they can take online to tell us about our performance. I hate having to talk to people anyway. I don't mind making speeches on a stage, but not one on one or in small groups. I get too nervous. I was already nervous about him asking me into his office and couldn't manage to get the whole speech selling the surveys out in front of him.

I tried to explain about wanting to stock, but he just told me that that's another step up the ladder, and I hadn't shown I could do it. I told him I prefer to be where things are quiet and I can think. I like it better when it's quiet. He said he likes it better when we're busy, because we're making money.

And that's when I realized why I dislike my job so much. I don't care about the money. I care about helping people and doing what I enjoy and what I'm good at. I want people to be happy. Sebastian didn't say that to be mean. It was his opinion...and he helped me more than he knew. He inadvertently confirmed my own suspicions that I'm not a salesperson, I don't want to sell people things, and I don't belong in retail.

After I got out, I went straight home. I finally ran Despicable Me while I made Broiled Salmon with Mustard Honey Sauce and carrots and leeks for dinner. Gru (Steve Carell) is determined to be the biggest and baddest of all villains. To that end, he's come up with his most elaborate plot yet - shrink the moon and steal it! Trouble is, a younger, geekier villain named Vector (Jason Segal) is stealing his thunder and has the shrink ray he needs. When he sees three orphan girls selling cookies get into Vector's fortress, he adopts them to use them as distractions. What he doesn't consider is the fact that these little girls are sweet kids with minds of their own who just want a dad...and the biggest, baddest villain in all the world might like being a parent.

I can see why the sequel was one of the biggest smashes of this past summer. This was really adorable. The girls were funny, the "minions" (Gru's loyal yellow workers) were funnier, and the animation was really nifty, especially some of the creative weapons and vehicles Vector and Gru came up with. Highly recommended to anyone with even a passing interest in animation or science fiction tales, whether they have their own little girls to share the popcorn with or not.

Returned to Sailor Moon after Despicable Me ended. There were three Sailor Moon "movies" (more like hour-long specials) released after the second, third, and fourth season. The one from the third season involves both winter and an unusual romance. Luna, Serena's talking cat, falls for a human scientist who has found a comet he can't identify. Turns out the "comet" is a crystal that will allow an evil ice queen to freeze the Earth...if Sailor Moon and the Soldiers don't stop her first!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Dance of the Job Hunters

Started out the morning by finishing the second Babes In Toyland. The 1954 broadcast was so popular, a second version was remounted a year later. Day was still Tommy Tucker, Wally Cox remained Grumio, and Dave Garroway was narrating the story as the Macy's Santa. The main change was a slight upgrade to the sets and costumes, different clowns, and a switch of Broadway ingenue. Barbara Cook took the role of Jane Piper in the 1955 version. Most critics seem to prefer Sullivan's version, but I'm going to give the edge to Cook's. The show is a bit slicker, the clowns fit a little better, and dainty Cook looks more at home in the fairy-tale setting than too New York-ish Sullivan.

Spent most of the rest of the morning working on job hunting online. I e-mailed Stockton again. I still haven't heard from Dayna DeFiore. I really don't know what to do next. I'm not sure what job I want or should go after. Mom says I should try for a big corporation....but I'm in a big corporation now, and I hate it. I'd rather try something smaller, but I don't know what that should be. I don't know if I should be in communications, or radio, or a secretary, or work for a museum, or work at home, or what. I really have no idea. I'm hoping Ms. DeFiore will have some advice. If I don't hear from her before Stockton lets out for Christmas, I'll e-mail again after the tumult of the holidays die down in mid-January.

Did two Peanuts specials as I had a quick peanut butter and jelly on multi-grain bread sandwich and broccoli and mashed cauliflower for lunch. In A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, Peppermint Patty invites herself, Marcie, and Franklin to Chuck's house for dinner, but is disappointed to find that Chuck has only provided pretzels, popcorn, jelly beans, and toast. It takes speeches from Linus and Marcie to remind their friends that we still have lots to be thankful for, no matter what we have for dinner. The Mayflower Voyagers goes further into the history behind the holiday as the Peanuts gang play kids and animals on the that history-changing Pilgrim voyage to the New World.

Work was very busy for most of the afternoon, much busier than it was yesterday! A colder day coupled with it getting closer to Thanksgiving and the beginning of the month probably brought people out of the woodwork. I wish they hadn't. There were a lot of people who were cranky, obnoxious, and just plain rude. Several folks refused to help bag their orders, and some wouldn't let me help out...and in both cases, there were long lines. My last woman gave me a hard time over the salsa she wanted not being on sale. I just managed to get out on time.

When I got home, I went back into holiday specials as I had roasted Brussels sprouts and a leftover chicken leg for dinner. Mickey's Magical Christmas: Snowed In at the House of Mouse is really an episode of Mickey's House of Mouse with Mickey's Christmas Carol in its entirety thrown in during the second half as filler. If you're a fan of House of Mouse, this is really cute, especially the hilarious spoof of "The Nutcracker" (you've never lived until you've seen Donald as the Mouse King). Otherwise, it's out of print and completely skip-able. "The Nutcracker" segment may be on YouTube; Mickey's Christmas Carol can be found in at least three other DVD releases and a Blu-Ray release earlier this month on its own.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Broadway Babes In Toyland

Started off the morning with The Adventures of Holly Hobbie, then moved on to Muppet Family Christmas while I had cereal and a grapefruit half for breakfast. The Muppets are getting ready to celebrate Christmas Eve at Fozzie's mom's farm. Mom's not happy - she was originally going to go away and rent out her farm to Doc and Sprocket (of Fraggle Rock). Ultimately, the Muppets and their brand of craziness win them over. The arrival of the Sesame Street Muppets and a detour into the Fraggles' caves add to the confusion. And meanwhile, Miss Piggy is stranded in a snowstorm and Kermit is awfully worried about her. I love this special, but due to three different companies owning the different Muppets, it's not easy to find today. Try You Tube or similar online sharing sites.

Headed to the laundromat after the Muppets ended. It was a gorgeous day for a walk. While slightly cooler than yesterday and very windy, it was still warm above average for this time of year. It was sunny and bright, showing off all that glorious fall color to good advantage. Needless to say, quite a few people were out and about, raking or blowing leaves off their lawns and preparing for next week's visitors.

The laundromat also reflected the beautiful weather. It was surprisingly quiet for 11AM on a Monday morning. Most people were probably trying to get outdoor chores done before the weather changes again. A few college students and older men were in and out, but it was mostly me and a couple of repair men fixing the doors. I ready Holly Hobbie and listened to The Price Is Right and the news show that came after and had no problems getting a washer and drier.

I had a couple of surprises when I got home, including a sweet Thanksgiving card from my friend Linda Young and the DVD I ordered on Amazon a while ago, Babes In Toyland. Vintage operettas were common on early television; a version of Toyland that appeared in 1954 was so popular, it was restaged a year later, with most of the same cast but the ingenue. Most shows in the 50s were filmed live, like the big version of The Sound of Music that's coming out later this month, and couldn't be rebroadcast.

Once again, we have the same plot of Barnaby coming between two Toyland lovers, in this case Jane Piper (Jo Sullivan in the first show) and Tommy Tucker (Dennis Day). As in the Disney version, Jane's siblings are lost in the woods, and Jane and Tommy go after them, only to fall into Barnaby's clutches. Interestingly, there's also some relation to the 1986 version. The framework that bookends each "act" has a Macy's Santa telling the story to a lost little girl who proves to be quite modern for her age.

For all the fuzzy picture, archaic clown vaudeville routines, and dated production, I found this to be quite charming...but I also like old-fashioned operetta. Only come here if you really like the cast or 50s TV musicals.

The weather also kept the Acme's customers at bay. Work was mildly steady for most of the afternoon. We were only busy during rush hour, but some of the customers were so cranky, I got fed up. Thankfully, it died so quickly afterwards that I was able to spend the last hour or so doing returns.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Warm Victory

It was sunny and a wee bit hazy when I awoke this morning. I put on Brunch With the Beatles while making Apple Pie Pancakes (apples, whole wheat flour, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, and a little sugar) for breakfast. The spotlight was on 1968 today; fine by me. I prefer the Beatles' later, more mature output, and this year was brimming with hits like "Hey Jude," "Lady Madonna," "Revolution," "I Will," "Helter Skelter," and "Blackbird." This was also the year that the Beatles launched their Apple Records line, and did it in fine style with two hits, Mary Hopkin's Russian-tinged "Those Were the Days" and The Ivies/Badfinger's lovely "Maybe Tomorrow."

Called Mom while finishing my pancakes. Though she was in a good mood today, there's been a lot going on at her house. Dad had to have emergency surgery on his hand after an accident with a heavy rope on the boat he works on (he's a commercial fisherman) left him with ripped tendons and nerves between his pinkie and ring finger. Plus Anny's birthday went badly when Dad caused some trouble. I'm not worried so much as I am annoyed. Not with Dad's injury - considering what I did to my foot last year, I'm hardly one to talk, and he does work at a tough job - but with his inability to behave himself. I know his job is extremely stressful, but can't he learn other ways to let off steam?

Went straight to work after the Beatles ended. Work was on-and-off busy, though not nearly as bad as last week. A good Eagles game coupled with unusually warm weather for this time of year kept a lot of people at home or out and about. The Eagles played the faltering Washington Redskins at home. They were kicking their rears 17-0 when I was on break and saw the last few minutes of the first half. They ultimately went on to win 24-16, their first win at home in over a year.

(At least they were able to play on time. The Bears-Ravens match-up was disrupted for two hours by the tornadoes that left a path of destruction in the Midwest. When they finally did play again, the Bears won in overtime 23-20. Talk about "Windy City." I hope everyone in the Midwest is ok.)

My night at home was quieter. I listened to Christmas music while having leftover broccoli and the last Salisbury Turkey Steak for dinner. I made Dark Chocolate Chip Brownies. I finished most of Amanda's Christmas present; I just need to crochet one more part.

Memories On Ice

My first encounter with the story of The Nutcracker wasn't in an actual ballet, but this ice skating version from 1983. It ran on HBO every year throughout my childhood. I'm delighted to see this for the first time in years on You Tube:

The Nutcracker: A Fantasy On Ice

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Take Me Home This Morning

I started out a cloudy, wet morning with this week's American Top 40 re-run. I would have been 7 years old in 1986, waiting for Thanksgiving weekend and our holiday visit to my aunt and uncle's house in suburban Washington DC. Songs I would have heard on the radio that mid-November included "Love Will Conquer All" by Lionel Richie, "I'll Be Over You" by Toto, "True Colors" by Cyndi Lauper, "Take Me Home Tonight" by Eddie Money, "Hip to Be Square" by Huey Lewis and the News, "The Next Time I Fall" by Amy Grant and Peter Cetara, "True Blue" by Madonna, and "The Rain" by Orange Juice Jones. That week's #1 song was one of the biggest ballads of the year, "Amanda" by Boston.

It was still cloudy and humid when I headed out this morning, but to my surprise, it wasn't really all that cold, probably in the 60s. I started with a trip to the Collingswood Farm Market. This is it's second-to-last day of the year. While the craft booths now far outstrip the food booths, there's still lots of fall vegetables and fruit to be had. I made my way through the crowds long enough to buy small Stayman apples, cranberries, leeks, a red pepper, and Brussels sprouts.

Spent the next hour riding around Westmont, looking for the one yard sale I was willing to ride to today. I went as far as Haddonfield and never did find it. Not only that, but as I was riding back through Westmont, the chain came off my bike! I pulled in at the patio of the closed-for-the-season Rita's on Haddon Avenue, but I couldn't get it back on. Good thing Rita's is only about a block from Ace Hardware and it's next-door neighbor, a car repair shop. The men at the car repair shop were nice enough to fix and oil the chain for me.

Made a few stops on the way home. I really needed contact lens solution. I didn't like the price at Walgreens, but I did get a Christmas present there. I picked up contact lens solution at the Rite Aid on Cuthbert Road, across from the Westmont Plaza.

When I got home, I ran another lesser-known Rankin Bass special as I had CranApple Muffins and Cranberry Flummery for lunch. The Stingiest Man In Town was originally a live-action musical version of A Christmas Carol that debuted in the 50s. Rankin Bass did a 2-D animated version in 1978, with Walter Matthau as Scrooge, Dennis Day as his nephew Fred, and Robert Morse as the younger Scrooge. Tom Bosley narrates as the insect B.A.H Humbug. I think this is one of the better late 70s Rankin-Bass specials, with Matthau and Day doing particularly well as the cheerful nephew and grouchy uncle. A decent score taken from the original live show helps too; my favorite songs are the opening number "An Old Fashioned Christmas" and Martha Cratchett's "Yes, There Is A Santa Claus."

After lunch, I went for a short walk to WaWa. It had clouded over again, but other than that and still being humid, it wasn't that bad. The trees are really beautiful now, all red and gold and amber. There were quite a few people out and about, doing yard work, or taking their children to what sounded like a football game at the Oaklyn School.

WaWa was fairly busy as people came and went from fall sports and local events. I needed skim milk rather badly, and it's cheaper at WaWa than at the Acme. I also tried a "S'Mores" latte. Not bad. While it was a tad watery, it did taste like chocolate and marshmallow.

When I got home, I pulled my broom out of the living area closet and gave the porch a much-needed sweeping. There was a long, high pile of leaves right down the center. I just haven't had the time to clear it off! It took me over a half-hour to get it all done, not helped by the right side overlooking the park and garden still being a bit wet.

I spent the rest of the evening inside, working on crocheting projects. Smuggler's Cove is another good Bowery Boys title from the late 40s. Here, Slip Mahoney thinks he's inherited a fancy mansion and brings Sach and the other boys along to check it out. Smugglers are using the old house for their hide-out and don't take kindly to the Boys' appearance...and then the banker who really inherited the mansion and his daughter turn up, with assistant private detective Gabe Dell right on his heels. While the Boys try to escape from the smugglers, Gabe sniffs out a case...and Mr. Mahoney just wants peace and quiet.

Winnie the Pooh: Seasons of Giving is three winter and fall-oriented tales from the 100 Acre Wood. The first segment has Rabbit, Pooh, and Tigger dressing Piglet as a groundhog to figure out whether or not it's winter. The second revolves around Thanksgiving. Rabbit learns a lesson in being thankful for what you have when he interrupts the others' feast and demands changes. Rabbit is also the main character in the third story. He raises a little girl bird named Kessie, but learns a hard lesson in letting go when she gets old enough to fly south for the winter.

I hit the bath after Pooh ended. I needed one, after riding around all morning. It was short, but very sweet. I kicked back and listened to my full CD of The Nutcracker while looking over some of my Christmas books.

Switched to 80s animation while making a delicious fall dinner of baked chicken legs, sauteed fall vegetables, and mashed cauliflower (the last a recommendation from a customer). Happily Ever After is a true oddity, the last project from 70s and 80s TV animation studio Filmation. Technically a continuation of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, this feels more like Snow White crossed with He-Man. The Prince is kidnapped by the Queen's equally evil brother, the Lord Maliss (Malcom McDowell). Snow White (Irene Cara) is determined to travel to the Land of Doom to rescue him. She's aided by Mother Nature (Phyllis Diller) and the seven "Dwarfellas," female dwarves with the power to control the elements. When they arrive in the Land of Doom, they encounter a helpful Orko-like "Shadow Man" who isn't what he seems, and a goofy comic-relief pair of birds who really don't do much besides blunder around.

I get a kick out of this, including the fact that Snow White is a bit more proactive in this version than she tends to be in most animated films. The animation is cheap, the music is awful, and the owl and the bat have no reason to be there except for as comic filler - they barely interact with the heroes except for briefly at the end. There is a really good cast, though, and some nice moments, including a great action sequence with a flash-flood in a cave. This isn't easy to find (I'm not even sure if it's on DVD), but worth a look if you're a fan of He-Man or other 80s high fantasy or Filmation projects.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Babes and Boys In Fantasyland

Once again, I spent the morning watching movies and doing chores. This time, I gave the apartment a quick dusting (I'll do a more thorough one after Thanksgiving) while watching the Disney Babes In Toyland. The plot is more-or-less the same as the Laurel & Hardy movie. This time, the lady in question is Mary Contrary (the late Annette Funicello); her swain is once again Tom Piper (Tommy Sands). Barnaby (Ray Bolger) is again after Mary and her home and money. There's a fat guy and a thin guy for comic relief, but they're Barnaby's men and on the other side of the law. The Toymaker (Ed Wynn) and Toyland have a lot more to do with the plot, including a rousing climax in the toy factory. I prefer the Disney version - the costumes are colorful, the musical numbers are fun, and Bolger is having the time of his life playing against type as a silent movie-style slick villain - but most people seem to like Laurel and Hardy's vehicle more. Your mileage may vary, depending on which one you run into and which cast you prefer.

After I finished dusting, I switched to crocheting while watching another bizarre lesser-known Rankin Bass special. One of the strangest of the 60s Rankin Bass cartoons was their first of two Charles Dickens adaptations, Cricket On the Hearth. Danny Thomas is a kindly toy maker whose daughter (Marlo Thomas) goes blind after her sweetheart (Ed Ames) is lost at sea. Roddy McDowell is the voice of the cricket of the title who befriends the family and does all he can to aid the lovers.

Did a Disney black-and-white short while eating the last of the rice and blackeyed peas for lunch and getting ready for work. "The Grocery Boy" has Mickey delivering food to Minnie for her big dinner. Things go musically well - Mickey even helps out with the food - until Pluto steals the turkey!

Work was pretty much the same as yesterday - off and on busy, with an occasional cranky customer but otherwise no problems. Thankfully, it slowed down enough by 5 for me to shut down, as my relief was going to be late.

I headed behind the mall for dinner. I couldn't remember the last time I had pizza at Tu Se Bella's, the Italian place a few doors down from Sonic. They make the area's best and most creative pies. I ended up with a slice of plain cheese, a slice of tomatoes, cheese, and olive oil, and a bottle of Diet Dr. Pepper. I enjoyed my warm and tasty meal at one of the tables in the front of the restaurant, across from the main counter.

Rode back to the Acme after dinner to do this week's grocery shopping. Since I spent most of the week eating leftovers, the majority of my groceries were baking restocks - whole wheat flour, brown sugar, white sugar, honey, canola oil. Land O'Lakes Brown Eggs were on a good sale. Since Jello pudding was $.79 a box and Cool Whip was a dollar, I bought two boxes of the pudding and one container of Cool Whip, along with a graham cracker crust, to make myself a Pumpkin Pudding Pie. I also got a start on my holiday shopping with gifts for my almost 5-year-old nephew Collyn and my 8-year-old cousin Faith.

I had a rare bit of quiet time when I got home. I'd already eaten dinner, and Lauren was working late tonight. I took advantage of this to work on my crocheting project for my friend Amanda while watching a few items. The Bowery Boys find a newspaper with 50,000 dollars in the street, but it turns out to be Jinx Money when it turns out to be coveted by a circle of gangsters...and someone with an umbrella is bumping off the gangsters. Garfield's Thanksgiving is anything but relaxing when Liz the Veterinarian puts the famous fat cat on a diet the day before the holiday, and then Jon invites her to dinner! And Uniqua of The Backyardigans wants to know "The Secret of Snow," but Ice Lady Tasha just finds her to be a nuisance and keeps sending her away to warm places. Uniqua, along with Cowboy Pablo, Tyrone of the Jungle, and Assistant Ice Maker Austin teach the bossy hippo girl that the real secret of the holidays is spending time with your friends.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Tales of Toylands and Stooges

I spent a sunny morning watching movies and making this year's Christmas Baking, Card, and Shopping Lists. My shopping is limited to my nephews and cousins and my sister Jessa, who has no kids and can make crafts for herself. I'm assuming we'll be doing the Secret Santa on the Cape May side again this year, too. It was certainly a big help to me last year. I'm in the midst of crocheting presents for Lauren and Amanda. Everyone else will get cookies, desserts, or baked goods. (I'll ask Rose if she'd like me to bring anything for her Christmas Day brunch when we get closer to Christmas.) I also went through my Christmas cards to make sure I have enough. Thanks to the half-price boxes of Christmas cards I bought last year, I have more than enough to give out this year, and probably next year as well.

I did fantasy-oriented holiday movies all morning. March of the Toy Soldiers is the Laurel & Hardy version of Babes In Toyland. Ollie and Stan are residents of Toyland who get mixed up in trying to save the mortgage on Old Mother Hubbard's shoe home and keep pretty Bo Peep (Charlotte Henry) out of the clutches of the wicked Barnaby.

They're not the only ones having trouble with moving soldiers. Clara (Gerry Kirkland) finds herself defending her beloved toy from an army of rats in the 1978 American Ballet Theater version of The Nutcracker. She gets quite a shock when the toy soldier turns into a prince (Mikhail Baryshnikov) and whisks her away to a land of dancing candy and snowflakes.

Switched to a Christmas short while having leftovers for lunch and preparing for work. One of the earlier Fleischer Brothers Popeye shorts was also the only Christmas short they did with the character, "Season's Greetinks!" Popeye and Olive are out skating, but Bluto interferes...and Olive is the one who ends up on thin ice.

Work was on and off busy all afternoon. There were a few obnoxious customers who were cranky and wouldn't help bag. Otherwise, they day went quickly, and my relief was on time.

When I got home, I made CranApple Muffins, then put on leftover Salisbury Turkey Steak with roasted Brussels sprouts and turnips and Cranberry Flummery for dinner. Ran Snow White and the Three Stooges while I baked and ate. While we still have Snow White (Carol Heiss) fleeing her wicked stepmother (Patricia Medina), here she runs right into the rented home of four traveling minstrels - the Three Stooges and their handsome adopted son (Edson Stroll). Though she falls for their son, the Queen and her henchman are right on their heels...

I know a lot of Stooge fans have problems with this, mainly because there's a lot less slapstick than usual for their movies. I think this movie is really cute, especially if you're a fan of big Technicolor musicals and can overlook the stiff leads.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Winter's On It's Way

Started a cold, sunny morning with the Miss Spider and Her Sunny Patch Friends holiday DVD Hum Bug. While only the first two episodes really had anything to do with winter holidays, that was still more than on the "Halloween" set. The title episode is set during the Winter Solstice. The bugs are all preparing for the arrival of the Dream Bug, who brings sweet dreams to bugs who do good deeds. Bounce wants to bring holly berries to a hungry family. Spidercus lies that he'll bring them for him, then eats them instead. The selfish arachnid discovers the Dream Bug doesn't mess around when his Solstice dreams are anything but pleasant!

"Dashing Through the Snow" deals more with the family aspects of the holidays. The Spiders are celebrating Jolly Holly Day (which seems to be more like Thanksgiving) with a big party for all the family. Miss Spider was out running errands with Squirt and Bounce and gets delayed by a snowstorm. They first spend some time with Stinky the Stinkbug, then get some unexpectedly bright help home.

Some of the non-holiday stories were interesting, too. Dragon also learns the importance of helping others when he aids a near-blind fire fly in finding his lost glasses in "Seeing Straight." Squirt is the best web rider in Sunny Patch, but he may have met his match in sassy girl spider Petal in "Best Bug Buddies." And in "Spider Mom," Squirt's disappointed when he ends up with his mother for a partner in the big bug games. Miss Spider's not much of an athlete. Squirt learns a lesson in competition when things don't work out as anyone planned, especially in the silly run race!

After Miss Spider ended, I headed out to run a few errands. My first stop was the Oaklyn Post Office. I've put off sending Lauren's birthday presents for weeks, and Anny and Amanda have birthday cards due, too. I also wanted to pick up stamps before the holiday rush begins.

I next rode over to the Oaklyn Library for this week's volunteering session there. I shelved regular fiction and romance novels, then did some quick organizing on the adult DVDs. The kids' DVDs were in better shape. I did the board books and took a short look at the picture books before heading out.

When I got home, I made steamed broccoli and cut up some kiwi to join leftover Salisbury Turkey Steaks for lunch. I ran a couple of lesser-known Rankin Bass Christmas specials as the steak cooked. The Leprechauns' Christmas Gold is the only holiday special I know of to blend Irish mythology and Christmas stories. Art Carney and Peggy Cass narrate the tale of a young Irish sailor who is accidentally left behind on a magical isle off the coast of Ireland. When he digs up a pine tree for Christmas, he unleashes a banshee who has been after the gold that belongs to the leprechauns who live on the island. If she doesn't have gold by Christmas morning, she'll turn into salty tears and be washed away by the sea. It'll take a lot of wee folk trickery and a Christmas miracle to keep the banshee from getting the precious metal.

'Twas the Night Before Christmas is another unusual tale from Rankin-Bass. While stage favorite Joel Gray is technically the star, the real narrator is George Gobel, as the mouse father of a brainy boy mouse who writes a letter that insults Santa. The clock maker builds a clock that he hopes will make Santa happy with them again, but the mouse gets into the works and ruins it. Can the mouse and the clock maker set things right, just in time for the famous holiday poem to come true?

Switched to Max & Ruby as I got ready for work. Ruby's been recruited to set Grandma's table as fancy as she can in "Max's Thanksgiving," but Max is more interested in Grandma's nut stuffing. And in "Ruby's Candy Store," Ruby is helping Candy the candy store owner sort things out in her shop. Max would rather be a taste-tester, but Ruby keeps trying to get him to eat sweet fruit that's good for you.

Work was pretty much what I figured it would be, in the middle of the week, the middle of the month, and two days after a major holiday - very busy during rush hour, otherwise steady-to-quiet. It died so quickly after 7PM, I spent most of the last two hours cleaning and doing returns. I had absolutely no problems whatsoever.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Tooth Talkin'

It was very cold for the first time since the spring when I got up this morning. I don't think it ever went above the 40s. The wind bothered me more than the cold did. It didn't make for an easy ride...and I had a lot of riding to do today. It flurried briefly while I ate oatmeal and a half of a grapefruit for breakfast, but the first snow of the season left no accumulation and was long gone before I headed out to Dr. Kernan's office for my 10 AM appointment.

My appointment was much simpler and faster this time. All they did was put the crown on, make sure it fit and didn't interfere with my bite, and polish it up a bit. There were no needles necessary, nor even wires. Took a little over a half-hour. They want me to come back for one more quick appointment to fix a final chipped tooth, but I told them I'd do it in January. The holidays are complicated enough without messing around with appointments. I got the big things fixed.

Went straight to the Haddon Township Library next. Though I ran smack into their Storybook Hour, I actually didn't have much trouble with the kids' DVDs. The S titles are still a bit overloaded. Otherwise, I was able to organize and shelve everything with no problems. Likewise the adult titles. I was able to clear out some kids' and foreign DVDs and shelve all of the foreign and adult DVDs but one.

After I ended up busy last week, I kept my own rentals to Despicable Me (didn't get to it last week), the Miss Spider and Her Sunny Patch Friends Christmas DVD Hum Bug, and the remaining three Kaya "core" books. (I'll take out her mystery after the holidays.)

My next stop was Collingswood. I'd put off a haircut for too long. I normally do it in late August-early September, but I ran into a combination of a lack of money, time, and my hair was cut so short after my last visit, it hadn't gotten that long. A nice fellow named Scott just layered it and gave it a trim, which is all it really needed. I didn't want to go as short this time, given we're coming up on winter. I made a quick stop at the Rite Aid next door after that for clips to hold back my hair while it dried. (I'm not a fan of blow driers.)

It was 1:30 by that point. The dentist told me to wait a couple of hours before eating. I figured that was long enough. Collingswood is filled with restaurants, but all I wanted was soup that would be easy on my new tooth. I settled for tomato soup and half of a chicken salad sandwich on thick whole wheat bread at The Pop Shop. The bread was so thick, I ate the chicken salad, lettuce, and tomato with a fork and did the bread separately. The tomato soup was especially good. It was thick, more like a puree, and so filled with basil and spices that it tasted more like Marinara Sauce Soup. The Pop Shop was quiet for them except for one mom and her adorable toddler daughter, and I had a lovely lunch.

Went straight to counseling after lunch. I ran into Mrs. Stahl going to the Starbucks a block away to get coffee even as I arrived 20 minutes early. I read the Kaya books while waiting for her.

When she came in, I told her about my busy couple of weeks and about how work is driving me crazy. I also explained about part of my problem. I've been thinking over a lot of things for the past few weeks. Mom says I'm disabled, but I'm not sure what my disability is, or who told her I had one. I'm assuming it's an emotional disability. She doesn't say this to be mean, but to make me aware of why I have problems. I really need to get her to give me more details, including who informed her I have a disability in the first place.

Another part of my problem is, throughout my school years, well-meaning people kept pulling me from this class or that school the moment I seemed to be having problems. Trouble was, I didn't fit in any better with the kids who had mental and emotional disabilities in the special ed school and classes than I did with the so-called "normal" kids. I never felt quite "special" enough or "normal" enough. I'd get along well with the teachers, but could never figure out most of the kids. Things did improve a bit in high school and college, where I got more involved with organizations and did meet some people my own age whom I had more in common with, but I still felt out-of-place. I never really felt right in Cape May County. I don't feel right here, either, but at least I have more opportunity to meet people.

Mrs. Stahl pretty much said "talk to Mom." She's really the only person who knows any details about my problems in school or what my actual disability is. Oh, and we're also going to wait for early January to get together again. I figured I'd save the 20 dollar fee for shopping.

After a brief stop of my own at Starbucks for a Peppermint Hot Chocolate, I headed home. It was almost 5 when I hit the quiet Newton River Park. Needless to say on such a chilly evening, the only other people there were two joggers and a flock of Canadian geese. I did see an absolutely amazing sunset, though. The clouds that had hung around all day were finally starting to retreat, revealing a glorious mass of purple, pink, and magenta. I'm glad I accidentally left my camera in my purse after I put it in there to get shots of Khai at Halloween. I snapped some great pictures of the sunset near Merrick, and another couple while going over the bridge on Bettlewood.

When I got in, I watched holiday cartoons for a while as I put together leftover Blackeyed Peas and Rice for dinner. Scooby Doo's done three Christmas specials over the years, the first being "A Nutcracker Scoob" from the early 80s. Scooby, Shaggy, Scrappy, Daphne, and Fred rescue an orphanage from a mean old miser who wants to tear it down to find a precious emerald and the Ghost of Christmas Past, who keeps appearing wherever they're looking for the emerald.

The Pink Panther's only Christmas special also first appeared in the early 80s. A Pink Christmas puts the famous rose-colored feline in turn-of-the-20th-century New York for the holidays. He's so desperate for a meal, he does everything he can, from shoveling snow to catching a bank robber, to get food or earn the money for a meal. Nothing seems to work...until he encounters a creature even hungrier than he is and is reminded of the real spirit of the season.

A touching tale, based after the O.Henry short story The Cop and the Anthem. I couldn't help feeling sorry for poor Pink, as nothing seems to work out for him here until the ending. Very sweet for fans of The Pink Panther, and even for animation enthusiasts and families looking for a nice, simple Christmas story.

Finished off my night in a wonderfully warm bath. I needed it, after all the running around I did today. I read over job search books, trying to figure out what I'm doing wrong. I wish they'd write job search books with all workers in mind. Most of the people the books talk about seem to be going from office job to office job. What about people who want to go from menial jobs to office jobs? Or from office jobs to something else? Not to mention, except for the writing I did for Helium last fall, I've been blocked with writing for years. Sure, I've written in this blog, my morning journal, and with Lauren, but I can't seem to get anything going on my own. I'll get ideas, but I either never get around to writing them, or I'll start writing them and never finish. I don't know what's wrong with me, or why I can't get around that block.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Superheroic Veteran's Day

First of all, I salute all veterans on this Veteran's Day, including my biological dad Bruce (Vietnam), my late uncle Ken (World War II), and two who are currently serving in the Navy, my friend Jen Waters and my brother Keefe Jackman.

I started off the day with the last of my wartime shorts. The controversy surrounding the Vietnam War and the younger audiences for animation in the 50s and 60s (not to mention the memory of the overload of World War II shorts) made many directors shy away from war as a subject for cartoons. One exception was featured in the Pink Panther series. Lured by a glamorous recruiting poster, Pink finds himself in the Vietnam-era Army, dodging land mines and cranky drill sergeants in "G.I Pink."

Superheroes were all the rage during World War II, but none were bigger than one who debuted a few years before the war - Superman! Also debuting just months before the war began was the Paramount Superman cartoon series. It was probably inevitable that Superman would fight the Axis in the cartoons, given the tenor of the comics of the day. Unfortunately, while the caricatures in "Japoteurs" and "The Eleventh Hour" are a bit less comic and obvious than the ones in the Popeye/Famous Studios shorts, that doesn't make them any less creepy or obnoxious. "Eleventh Hour" does have some really interesting, shadowy animation as Superman works to sabotage the enemy. "Secret Agent," the final short (and the only one to not feature Lois Lane), is better. Superman has to rescue a double agent who has flushed out a spy ring and is trying to get a list of their names to Washington DC.

Popeye and Bluto did one Army-themed short in the mid-30s. "I'm In the Army Now" was supposed to be the two of them explaining to the Army recruiter how qualified they are to join the ranks when Olive insists she loves men in uniform. It's really an excuse for a clip show of of segments from earlier shorts. Tom and Jerry's only wartime short was far more creative. In fact, "The Yankee Doodle Mouse" won the series' first Oscar for best animated short subject. Tom and Jerry start a war of their own when they take their cat-and-mouse antics to a stockpile of munitions and fireworks!

Headed to the laundromat after Tom and Jerry ended. It was a lovely day for a walk, blue and blustery, with just a few feathery clouds in the sky at that point. The laundromat was very busy, not surprising for noon on a major holiday. It was just as well that I didn't have a huge load. I was in and out in less than an hour.

I ran Care Bears Nutcracker when I got back in and organized my clothes and made a spinach-mushroom omelet for lunch. This was the only holiday special done for the late 80s Care Bears Family show. This variation on the beloved ballet takes the Bears and Cousins to a small town at Christmas. A young girl named Anna is upset because her only friend moved away. Her younger brother Peter only cares about having adventures. When a confused Nutcracker appears in their house with nasty rats hot on his heels, they both get more friendship and adventure than they bargained for.

Work was about what I figured it would be, which is to say, insanely busy until about 5PM or so, mildly steady thereafter. Today is a major holiday, and it's the last major holiday before Thanksgiving really kicks in the Christmas season. A lot of people are stocking up for the next few weeks and starting their Thanksgiving shopping. It had slowed down enough by 9 that I was able to leave without a relief.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Eagles Pack In the Packers

Began a cloudy, windy fall day with the end of the novelization of Grease and the beginning of Brunch With the Beatles. It's appropriate that "Rock and Roll Music" was the theme on Brunch today, with covers like "Roll Over Beethoven" and "Twist and Shout." Though Grease was written as a tie-in to the film (complete with stills and John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John on the cover), it has more in common with the original, somewhat grittier stage musical and with American Graffiti, and feels far more authentically "50s" than any of them. It's pretty much an expanded version of the same plot - a group of cool-yet-lovable "greasers" navigate the ins and outs of their senior year of high school in 1959. The head of the T-Birds falls for a sweet, virginal girl from the other side of town that the others don't approve of, especially the head of the local female greasers the Pink Ladies. (My only complaint about this book is the musical numbers are integrated rather awkwardly. My kid novelization of Annie from a year earlier did much better with making the music seem right in a literary context.)

I called Mom just as I was starting to make my Dark Chocolate Chip Pancakes. I didn't think I'd be able to get her later, and I was right. I barely got her then. She was just finishing the icing on my sister Anny's birthday cake and on her way into the shower. Anny's birthday's today, and she was bringing over her sons for a celebratory dinner. We barely had time to discuss my frustrating week and how much Mom misses Keefe, who will be shipping out soon and won't be home for the holidays this year.

Switched to cartoons as I finished out breakfast. When Paramount's new Famous Studios took over from the Fleischer Brothers, the world was now deeply into war. Famous Studios threw Popeye into the war even more than he had been before. Unfortunately, many of the results are rather uncomfortable to watch today. "You're a Sap, Mr. Jap," "Scrap the Japs," and "Seein' Red, White, and Blue" have such nasty racial caricatures, they've been banned from TV for decades. "Spinach Fer Britain" (Popeye fights his way past the Nazis in order to deliver food to a bombed London) and "Aloama of the South Seas" (Popeye and Bluto fight over an exotic Olive again, this time in the South Pacific) are a bit easier to swallow in the 21st century.

Donald Duck had less luck with joining the Army. Already an up-and-coming star in the 30s, the brash war years made him Disney's number one short-subject bread winner, a title he would retain through the 50s and early 60s. He made more cartoons in those years than any other Disney character, including Mickey Mouse, and it was only natural he'd turn up in the barracks. "Fall Out, Fall In" is fairly typical of Donald's war exploits. All Donald wants is dinner after a very long march. He's not allowed to have dinner until he sets up his tent...and when that fails, he can't sleep, thanks to the snoring racket his fellow soldiers make!

I listened to the Eagles-Packers game for about a half-hour before I went to work. Work, thankfully, was busy only for the first half-hour I was there. Otherwise, it was steady but not overwhelming the entire night, helped by another great game for Nick Foles. The Packers were coming off a tough game against the Bears last Monday that cost them their star quarterback Aaron Rogers, and they lost their secondary quarterback within minutes of this game. Foles was on fire again (though not quite as much as he was last week), with two huge touchdowns and one that was deflected right into DeSean Jackson's waiting arms. The Eagles eventually walloped the ailing Packers 27-13. 

When I got home, I had leftovers for dinner while doing a couple more war cartoons. One of Mickey Mouse's earliest shorts tossed him into "The Barnyard Battle." Mickey may be small, but that doesn't mean he can't whip the rears of the Hun-like cats who are attacking all the mice on the farm!

Walter Lantz did a few war-related one-shots in addition to Woody's "Ace In the Hole." "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy From Company B" shows what happens when an African-American trumpet player is drafted and gets his barracks swinging with his jazzed-up reveille. While the stereotypes in this short come thick and fast, there's a really nifty version of the title song, and it's one of the few wartime cartoons to depict minorities in the military. "Pigeon Patrol" also runs afoul of nasty caricature (pun intended). Homer is a country pigeon who wants to become a carrier to impress his girl back home. He's a skinny little fellow who can barely pick up the message to deliver...but pick it up he must when a carrier is hurt and he ends up delivering an important message while dodging a stereotyped Japanese buzzard.

Three of the most famous Looney Tunes of the 40s were also war-oriented. Bugs spoofs the superheroes in vogue in the 1940s when a scientist gives him a chemical-enhanced carrot that turns him into "Super Rabbit." When a rabbit-hating cowboy and his horse finally give him a run for his carrot juice, it's time for the appearance of a real Armed Services officer. Daffy, on the other hand, just wants to dodge the very persistant "Little Man From the Draft Board" in "Draftee Daffy."

My favorite of the Looney Tunes wartime shorts is "Falling Hare." It's also one of the very few shorts where Bugs goes up against a character who gives as good as they get. Bugs finds a tiny Gremlin sabotaging planes. Bugs does his best to keep the Gremlin from causing trouble. The Gremlin is a lot smarter than Bugs' usual protagonists and almost manages to knock Bugs out of a moving plane...until the two end up in a free fall...

Went right into the bath after Bugs ended. It was late and I wasn't in there for very long, but it felt so nice. I'm just hoping this week is a lot quieter than last week. I'd like to start working towards the holidays this week, including making my Christmas card, baking, and shopping lists. I have dental and counseling appointments on Tuesday, too.