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.

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