Friday, February 28, 2014

"The Cold Never Bothered Me Anyway..."

I slept in a bit this morning, until about 8:30, then spent an hour or so reading Wings of the Falcon and writing in my journal. When I finally made it out of bed, I had breakfast and finished Three Little Words. It was past 11:30 when I finally made it to the laundromat. Thankfully, there were only two older women there when I came in, and it never got remotely busy. The cold must have scared people off. I was able to wash my large load, read, and listen to The View and the noon news in peace.

When I got home, I quickly put everything away, then went right back out again. Cold or no cold, I wanted to get to the Haddon Township Library. Despite the 23 degrees temperature listed on the new digital sign at Oaklyn's City Hall, it was actually a rather pretty day. The sky was a rich blue, the sun was warm, and the wild winds from yesterday had gentled into a mild breeze.

Stopped at Friendly's first for lunch. I still have a bunch of 20% off coupons to use. I got there around 1:30, and it was really busy, mostly with older couples and families. I went simpler this time and settled for a tasty Swiss (Cheese) Burger and fries. No ice cream; I just had ice cream earlier this week, and it's really too cold for frozen treats.

Went right to the Haddon Township Library next. No adult DVDs to shelve, but there were plenty of kids' and foreign titles to do. This week's wild weather was reflected in empty shelves. I had no problems organizing and putting away all of the kids' movies, even the overflowing S titles. No trouble clearing foreign and kids' titles from the adult section, either. I ended up with two animated movies from last summer I've wanted to see for a while, Planes and Monsters University.

I went home through Newton River Park to avoid the rush hour traffic on Cuthbert. Given the freezing weather, you won't be surprised to hear that the park was empty. The only other living creatures I saw were a flock of ducks looking for a frozen fish snack. The park was beautiful in its own way, though. The thick ice on the river sparkled in the late afternoon sunlight. The dry reeds bent in the breeze.

When I got in, I went online briefly to check the weather reports. Action News fussed about the possibility of a foot of snow or more on Monday...for Philadelphia. It looks like Southern New Jersey will be getting maybe 4 to 6 inches, a lot for early March, but nothing like a foot. It also appears that it'll be cold for a day or two next week, then go back to being in the 30s and 40s. More than likely, any snow we get next week will be gone within a week or two.

I jumped into the bath around 5:30. I needed that bath. I wasn't in there for too long, but it felt really nice. I just read Women Who Run With the Wolves and a book of fairy tales and listened to one of my big band CDs.

When I got out, I made breaded chicken breasts and roasted Brussels sprouts for dinner while watching the first half of Planes. A lot of critics complained about poor animation and a lack of originality; maybe they were upset that it was originally intended to be a direct-to-DVD release, but was switched to theaters at the last minute. At any rate, I've enjoyed what I've seen so far.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Preparing for Late Winter

I slept in a little this morning, then spent most of the morning working on my positive music project. I'm just about done listing songs from my collection. I just have to write down songs from the rock collections, type it all, and print it. Ran That's Entertainment Part III as background as I worked. Some rare cut numbers (including my favorite, Lena Horne's "Ain't It the Truth" in the bubble bath from Cabin In the Sky) are the stand-outs in this third selection of classic sequences from beloved MGM song-and-dance movies.

Work was much busier than it was yesterday, steady all day with occasional long lines. Not only is it supposed to get very cold tomorrow, in the 20s during the day, but we may be getting rain, sleet, and a little snow on Monday night and Tuesday (as of this writing). We did get some flurries off and on this morning; maybe that scared people. I managed to get a small bag of rock salt during my break, just in case it gets icy. It was still busy when I finished; a manager came in so I could go home.

When I got in, I ran the first half of Three Little Words during dinner. This MGM charmer has Fred Astaire and Red Skelton as songwriters Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby. The two men pair up by chance after Kalmar has an accident that ends his vaudeville career and because Ruby has a good song that needs decent lyrics. They continue to pair up through the years, even though they're two very different men and often don't get along. They also have no trouble playing matchmaker. Ruby and the boys' agent (Keenan Wynn) do their best to get Kalmar together with his old vaudeville partner Jessie (Vera-Ellen). Later, the Kalmars try to steer Ruby away from several women who want to use him. He finally ends up with an early talkie star (Arlene Dahl).

That's about it. This is the most refreshingly minimalist of the late 40s-early 50s composer "biographies," and probably my favorite. (It was apparently Fred Astaire's favorite, too.) The only guest stars are Gloria DeHaven (singing the team's best-known standard "Who's Sorry Now?" and playing her mother Mrs. Carter DeHaven) and Debbie Reynolds (singing "I Wanna Be Loved By You" with the voice of the song's originator, Betty Boop inspiration Helen Kane). Not for those who are expecting more plot or elaborate numbers, but if you're a fan of Astaire or Skelton or want a lower-key musical than usual for MGM in their heyday, this is recommended and really adorable.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Queen of the Snow Showers

It did snow again this morning. It was coming down even as I worked on my new story. This time, though, the snow was fine, soft, and powdery, not icy at all. I easily swept it off the porch and steps twice, shortly after breakfast and before I went to work. In fact, the sun was coming out, even as I sped down the Black Horse Pike. (The bike has been working so much better since I got the tire fixed. I should not have put it off.)

Work was, quite frankly, a bore for most of the day. We were so quiet, there wasn't even much cleaning to do up front. I spent the majority of the afternoon standing around, working on ideas for my story. Even when it did start to pick up during the 4PM rush hour, it still wasn't crazy, or even as steady as yesterday. Despite my relief being sent elsewhere, I had no problems getting out.

The snow was long gone when I headed home. The sun was out, the sky was blue, and either the sun had melted the snow, or the wind blew it away. There was nothing left on my steps when I arrived, and barely anything on my porch.

I ran The Snow Queen, a Russian animated film from the 50s, as I had whiting fillets in lemon-wine sauce with sauteed spinach and mushrooms and Apple Kuchen for dinner. This version of the tale comes far closer to the original story than the Disney movie Frozen. Art Linkletter introduces the story, telling it to a pack of kids at a Christmas party. Kai (voice of Tommy Kirk) gets a sliver of ice in his eye that was created by the Snow Queen, and loses his ability to feel or love. When he disappears with the Snow Queen, his dear friend Gerda (Sandra Dee) goes after him. Gerda's love for her friend knows no bounds. She dodges summer sorceresses, a pair of royal sweethearts, and a feisty girl thief (Patty McCormick) in order to find him and bring him home.

I don't know how easy this is to find nowadays (I dubbed my copy off a video from the 80s), but it's interesting if you do run into it. It feels like a Disney princess film done several years later with slightly more limited animation. Worth a look for fans of animated fairy tales.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Telling A Story

Started a cloudy morning with two more second season Monkees episodes. They think they're "The Wild Monkees" when they dress as motorcyclists to court a group of biker girls...but the girls' tough boyfriends don't like their intrusion one bit. Davy finds himself in an unwanted "Hillbilly Honeymoon" when he and the other four get caught between feuding southern families. A pretty hillbilly grabs Davy to be her husband, so the others try to show her boyfriend how to really court a lady.

I wish I'd stayed with the Monkees. Work was a mess for a lot of the day. People were rude. People were cranky. I was pretty cranky, too. I was tired and fed up with all the fussing over the weather. Apparently we did get snow here today...for approximately two seconds. The bigger problem was the return of extreme cold, which no one was ready for or wanted after the beautiful weekend. I ended up having to stay another hour as well when one of the college kids called out and all the people they'd normally ask to replace her were either at work or in class. (Some of the college kids who came in early had to stay longer, too.) Thankfully, we had enough help by 4PM that I was able to leave without a relief.

When I got home, I went on the computer and decided to try something. I've been working on a story in my head at work. No, not a story to go with the fanfiction Lauren and I write, or something to sell. It's a story for me. It's about an unhappy queen who hates being stuck listening to her subjects complain all day when she'd rather be reading or traveling. I haven't gotten much further than that. I haven't decide what will happen next. This is just something for me to vent and get a lot off my chest; I may not even post it online anywhere.

When I did get off the computer, I put on Casanova's Big Night while eating leftovers. In Italy in 1757, Peppo the lowly tailor's assistant (Bob Hope)  is sent to Venice, along with the beautiful grocery store owner Francesca (Joan Fontaine), to impersonate the great lover and swordsman Casanova. He's to get a certain petticoat from a young girl to prove she is unfaithful to her fiancee. Trouble is, the girl does actually love her fiancee...and the government officials who want the petticoat are hoping to incite a war. When Peppo gets caught up in more scheming than he can handle, he finally comes up with a plan to use his real skills to make sure that petticoat gets to the right person.

A fun vehicle for fans of swashbucklers or Bob Hope. As per Peppo's occupation, there's some nice costuming too, especially once they get to Venice and all the pretty girls start flocking to Casanova. I love the duel that Hope only thinks he wins (let's say he's not the one who finally takes his opponent out).

Monday, February 24, 2014

Late Winter Fiesta

I spent most of the morning puttering around the apartment. I went online briefly. I worked on writing down more songs for the positive music list that my counselor wanted. I listened to Schoolhouse Rock. This classic series of educational shorts taught two generations of Saturday morning viewers about grammar, American history, math, and basic science concepts. (A later Disney series would add more numbers on environmental concerns.) I didn't actually grow up with them - by the time I was old enough to pay attention to cartoons, the series had been discontinued - but happily discovered them in college. Linda sent me her video of the original Schoolhouse Rock releases from the 80s (with Glenn Close and a passel of kids introducing the shorts), and I dubbed that a when I got my DVD recorder.

Headed to work around 11. Work was a little quieter than yesterday, on-and-off busy, until it started to pick up during the 4PM rush hour. It should be busier this week than last week. For one thing, we're supposed to get more snow and cold starting tomorrow (though not nearly as much as we have been getting). For another, it's almost the beginning of the month. I finally grabbed the bagged spinach that they were out of yesterday before heading home.

There was a package waiting for me when I got in. My last online order for a while had arrived! I won Josefina's Feast Day Finery - aka her birthday outfit - for about $26 with shipping, nearly six dollars cheaper than it is on AG's site. And if the maroon box was any indication, it was an older version, possibly the original one from the late 90s. It's a gorgeous outfit, with a white and turquoise print skirt trimmed with green ribbon, a ruffled camisa (shift), matching turquoise mules, a wide orange sash, and red ribbons. (You're supposed to weave her braids into a bun, but I can't even manage braids, so I put her hair in pigtails and tied the red ribbons around them.)

I ran The Pirate as I dressed her, and then as I made Pasta, Vegetables, and Beans for dinner. This 1948 MGM musical is an attempt to combine Gene Kelly's specialties, the musical and the swashbuckler, with interesting results. Kelly is a traveling player in the Caribbean in the 1840s. Garland is a young woman from a small village who is about to marry the wealthy middle-aged mayor (Walter Sleazak). Her family needs money; he craves her status and family name. Garland only wants romance and adventure and to see new places. When Kelly gets her to admit she's in love with "Maccoco," the legendary pirate Mack the Black, he follows her to the village and poses as the mysterious buccaneer to win her hand.

This enjoyable romp was a flop on first release; audience just couldn't cotton to all the playing with reality and fantasy. Nowadays, it's something of a cult classic. Cole Porter's score introduced "Be a Clown" and "Mack the Black" for a hotter-than-usual Garland. Kelly's high points are his "Clown" dance with the Nicholas Brothers and "The Pirate Ballet." Definitely seeking out for fans of Garland, Kelly, or unusual musicals.

Tossed on an episode of The Monkees that also revolved around pirates as I cleaned up from dinner. In the early second season show "Hitting the High Seas," Davy, Micky, and Peter find themselves up a mast without a paddle when they get shanghaied onto a ship with a crazy captain who wants to rob a ship carrying gold. The Monkees do their best to stop him from causing any harm.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Promise Of Spring

I finished out El Dorado (and what I have of the Scarlet Pimpernel series) before moving on to today's Brunch With the Beatles. Though the first 20 minutes or so were devoted to the Beatles' third, briefer appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, most of this episode was devoted to songs by George Harrison. Favorite songs George did with the Beatles include "Think For Yourself," "I'm Happy Just To Dance With You," "Taxman," "Green Tangerine," "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," and "Something." Solo hits included "My Sweet Lord," "What Is Life," "Blown Away," "All Those Years Ago," and "Got My Mind Set On You."

Called Mom after finishing my breakfast of Pumpkin Dark Chocolate Chip Pancakes. She was enjoying a quiet morning doing outside chores. Dad's at work on the ocean; Anny took her sons to a local park to explore. I told her about my very long week and babysitting for Khai. We discussed the weather (they mostly got rain from the last round, not even the little snow we got) and looking up online courses on communicating better.

I still want to take some online courses. I think the problem with the last ones were I jumped too hard, too fast into something I wasn't even 100% sure I wanted to do. I should have done more research on the class and teacher before I started, too. Instead of committing myself to something as major as business, I want to learn more about smaller things learning how to talk to people and deal with some folks' rudeness.

I listened to 80s music while cleaning up from breakfast, then headed to work. Work was completely insane today. We had long lines all afternoon. We weren't the only ones, either. Mom said Cape May was elbow-to-elbow packed, with many bed-and-breakfasts scrambling for extra help. I ended up staying another hour. I suspect people were taking advantage of more gorgeous weather before it gets colder next week; there's also possible rumblings about snow.

I needed a few things after I finished. The other reason the Acme was busy today probably had to do with the huge weekend-only sales that are running. They were totally out of the dollar bags of spinach, but I did snare a container of Turkey Hill's divine Coconut Almond Fudge Ice Cream for $1.99. I also grabbed cheese (which I forgot yesterday), printer paper (I finally ran out), and a sympathy card for my friends Linda and James Young. Their beloved dog Willow finally passed away yesterday after a long, difficult illiness that was rough on her and both her owners. 

I listened to more 80s music when I finally got in and made a broccoli and cheese omelet for dinner. My sisters and I were big fans of Debbie Gibson during her late 80s heyday. Rose even had the black felt hat she always wore. I was delighted to find her hit debut album Out of the Blue about five years ago. It always brings back fond memories of all the fun the girls and I had as kids, dancing to our favorite cassettes and records.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Sunny Day, Sweeping the Clouds Away

It was absolutely gorgeous when I poked my head from under my blankets this morning. I read El Dorado and enjoyed the sunshine while listening to this week's American Top 40 re-run. We blow ahead two years to late February 1981, as country, R&B, New Wave, supergroups, and ballads dominate the charts. I would have been almost two years old then and remember many of these songs very well. Among the hits that winter were were "Keep On Loving You" by R.E.O Speedwagon, "Hey Nineteen" by Steely Dan, "Woman" and "(Just Like) Starting Over" by John Lennon, "I Ain't Gonna Stand For It" by Stevie Wonder, "Same Old Lang Syne" by Dan Fogelburg, "The Winner Takes It All" by ABBA, "The Tide Is High" by Blondie, "The Best of Times" by Styx, and "I Love A Rainy Night" by Eddie Rabbit. The #1 song was the Dolly Pardon title number from the hit comedy 9 to 5.

I hung around a little after the show ended, finishing breakfast and making my grocery list. I ran the fashion show finale of Lovely To Look At, then went with a couple of relatively obscure 80s animated specials I have dubbed on DVD. My Little Pony made its debut in the 1982 special later titled "Rescue From Nightmare Castle." This surprisingly dark action tale has normal little girl Megan helping several of the original Ponies rescue their friends from an evil demon who wants to create an endless night.

Snoopy falls head over paws for a pretty poodle and gets the Peanuts involved in his wedding in Snoopy's Getting Married, Charlie Brown. While the kids make various preparations, including bringing Snoopy's brother Spike to be Best Beagle, Charlie Brown reminds Snoopy of what he's getting himself into.

I headed into a very different world from the one that's lingered for the past couple of months. I could see all of my porch for the first time since December. The grass is completely bare in many places in direct sunlight. Even the dirtiest snow piles are much smaller than they were this time last week. I had no problems riding to the Oaklyn Library for this week's volunteering session there.

The LEGO Club was in full swing when I arrived around quarter of 11. I ducked around the kids building masterpieces and mainly worked on the DVDs. Other than the kids, there weren't too many people there anyway. It was too nice of a day to be hanging around a library. I was out in less than a half-hour.

I had no problems riding to the Audubon Crossings Shopping Center, either. The sidewalks on the Black Horse Pike that were still covered with ice and slush on Thursday were now perfectly normal. I needed a new pair of black work pants. I ended up getting them from Avenue, the same place I got them from last time. Rue 21 didn't have anything I liked. A stop at Marburn Curtains for a new shower curtain proved to be more difficult. There was a very long line, thanks to a customer taking forever with returns. I never thought I'd get out of there.

The Acme was surprisingly busy as well, given how dead it was earlier in the week. Good thing I didn't have a huge order. I needed to restock brown sugar, peanut butter, canned peaches (they're 75 cents a can for the 6 ounce ones this week - got apricots, too), cereal (Acme's generic Cheerios were 2 dollars), and butter. I also needed the usual grapefruit, apples, bananas, and chicken. Found some lobster cakes with a manager's special coupon that would be perfect for lunch. Grabbed the last box of that Pumpkin Spice Bar mix on the clearance rack.

My schedule for next week is pretty much the same as last week, including next Friday and Saturday off. I once again have one early day and one long day, but thankfully, nothing later than 6 this time. Perfectly normal schedule for the busy month of February. We'll see if things slow down once we get past the beginning of the month. They didn't last year, but there was more going on in March last year. Easter's not until late April - the only major events in March this year are St. Patrick's Day and March Madness.

I had a quick lunch of lobster cakes and salad with home-made balsamic vinaigrette for lunch while watching the second half of the strange French animated film Moon Madness. This tale of Baron Munchhausen and his friends discovering and ultimately defending the moon-dwelling Selenites is a little cheap-looking but has its interesting bits, including some nice visuals on the Moon and the memorable opening and closing song "The Secret of the Selenites."

I grabbed what's left of my broom and took advantage of the lack of snow to sweep my porch for the first time in months. By 2PM, there was only a small patch of ice left on the side of the porch overlooking the path, which gets less sunlight. Otherwise, the porch was dry, including the steps. (The steps are in direct sunlight and are always the first things to dry off after rain or snow.) I cleared off as many sticks and sticker balls I could, given how windy it was today.

Went for a short walk after I finished the porch. My original plan for today was to walk to Haddon Heights and Barrington and explore up there. After all the walking I did to work this week, I just wasn't up to another really long hike. I settled for a stroll down to the landing on the end of Goff Avenue. It was a beautiful day for a walk, probably into the mid-50s. The sky was clear and pale blue. I could see all the way to the Ben Franklin Bridge. Even so, when I tossed a stick onto the ice on the river, it sat on the ice rather than sinking. That ice is so thick, it'll probably be weeks before it defrosts all the way.

Despite the nice weather, I spent the rest of the day indoors. I was just too tired for any more running around. I ran more dubbed animated movies as I worked on the positive music project for Mrs. Stahl, starting with Yogi's Great Escape. Jellystone Park is closing down, much to Yogi's dismay. No more Park means no more tourists, which means no more picnic baskets! He, Boo Boo, and a trio of eternally hungry cubs hit the road to out-run Ranger Smith and a hunter and his dog who want to send them to the zoo. Along the way, they have close encounters with Quick-Draw-McGraw, Snagglepuss, Wally Gator, and a platoon of kid fans in various locations who help them along their way.

Hit the bath after Yogi ended. I really needed that bath. It felt sooo nice to just relax in hot water and bubbles, while the Schoolhouse Rock music played in the background. I was in the bath so long, it was nearly dark by the time I made it out.

Made herb-crusted steak with sauteed mushrooms and broccoli for dinner, then baked Apple Kuchen (basically apple coffee cake) from Kit's Cooking Studio while watching The Swan Princess. This take on Swan Lake introduces us to Derek and Odette, a prince and a princess who have been visiting each other every summer for most of their lives in their parents' hope that they'll eventually be wed. They do fall in love as adults...until a thoughtless comment from Derek leaves Odette wondering if he only cares for her looks. Odette is attacked by the evil Rothbart, who turns her into a swan. Now she has to get Derek to prove that he really loves her for her, with the help of her unusual animal friends Speed the Turtle, Jean-Bob the Frog (who is convinced he's a prince), and Captain Puffin.

I haven't bothered with the direct-to-video sequels or the recent Christmas special, but the original film is an old favorite of mine. It's too bad this was released into the same glut of animated fantasies in the 90s that also killed Little Nemo, Cats Don't Dance, and Thumbelina at the box office. There's some truly lush animation, and the music is fun - this actually feels more like a traditional musical than some of Disney's movies at the time. Some violence and scary images makes this appropriate for slightly older princesses from grade school onwards and their moms; fans of musicals and animation will find much to love as well.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Back On the Road

I slept in a little and spent a lot of the morning reading El Dorado and writing in my journal. I didn't really get going until around 10. I looked up some things online, then had breakfast while watching more Three Stooges shorts. Curly Joe is "The Classical Clinker" when Moe tries to pass him off as an opera singer by having him lip-sync to records. The Stooges do their best to dodge Dirty Dan Dimwitty, who has won every car race with his tricks, in "There Auto Be a Law." The Stooges are "Movie Scars" when they get jobs as stunt men in a big epic, but every stunt goes wrong.

I finally decided it would be easier to just catch a ride to Haddonfield and get my bike some professional help. Dad wasn't home when I called him. He called me back when I was already half-way down the street, on my way to the Collingswood Train Station. I met him at the parking lot across from the Manor Bar on West Clinton. It was past noon by then. The traffic in Haddonfield wasn't great, but we did make it there. He dropped me off on a side street.

It finally took about 20 minutes to fix the back tire, pump both tires, and give the bike some oil. I had a little time to admire the remodeling job they'd been doing at Freestyle. The jumbled mess was replaced by organized racks of bikes, gleaming new hardwood floors, soothing celery-green walls, and a longer and more elaborate counter.

I made a quick stop at the pizza parlor across from Freestyle for lunch. I wasn't that hungry; just grabbed a glass of Diet Pepsi and a slice of ricotta and cheese with spinach, tomatoes, and broccoli. The majority of the roads here are mostly clear, and I had no problems taking the back streets over to Haddon Township after I finished.

I made it to the Haddon Township Library at a good time. It was quiet there, probably due to the warm day and the clouds that were building up, even as I arranged the children's DVDs. By the time I was working on the adult titles and clearing out anything that didn't belong, it was pouring and thundering. Once again, I opted not to take anything out myself. I'm afraid I may not have the time (or the energy) to return them next week, given what this week was like.

It was still raining hard when I left the library. I ducked into Tuesday Morning to avoid the weather. Didn't find anything there, not even WebKinz. When the rain finally started slowing down, I got back on the bike, stopping only at WaWa on the way home for milk and money from the ATM machine.

After I got in, I went upstairs, loaded my laundry into a bag, and went right back out. I really had to get that done today. While the rain got rid of a lot of the snow and ice, it didn't eliminate all of it. There's still quite a bit of ice and dirty snow piles on the curbs. When I tried to get the rusty old cart over the ice, the front wheels broke off! I didn't have the time to do anything else or fix the wheels, so I just pulled the cart backwards.

The laundromat was busy when I arrived, mostly with college students who were doing loads between classes. I read El Dorado and listened to Action News mostly discuss today's warm weather and the cold front that's supposed to be coming in by the end of next week. I did have a big load, so it was nearly dark before I made it home.

I ran into my landlord Andrew on the way and apologized about the cart. Honestly, from what he said, I don't think he even knew the darn thing was there before. It probably belonged to Miss Ellie. I'll buy a new one as soon as I can get a new one home - this time, one that actually belongs to me.

I was too tired after my long week to do much more than put the clothes away, have leftovers for dinner, and watch the first half of Lovely to Look At when I got in. The semi-operetta Roberta is reworked for the 50s, as the two musicians of the original become a trio of show business pals (Red Skelton, Howard Keel, Gower Champion) who desperately want to get their show on Broadway. When Skelton inherits half of a Parisian fashion house, his buddies pressure him to sell...until they see that the owners of the other half are the lovely Kathryn Grayson and Marge Champion. Keel's dancer girlfriend (Ann Miller) throws a spanner into the works when she shows up looking for the boys. A producer who wants to put their show on Broadway after all may make even more problems.

Not bad, not great. There's some nice dance numbers from the Champions, especially the lovely "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes," and Skelton's "Go and Tell Aunt Rhodie" bit is still a riot. Fun for fans of fabulous 50s fashion (Adrian did the costumes for the elaborate finale), big MGM musicals, or any of the cast.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Big Fun With Little Boys

I'd only been up for a few minutes when I got a phone call. It was my sister Rose. Would I like to babysit Khai for an hour or so after work? She had a meeting, and Craig would be finishing work at Anthony's in Haddon Heights. Sure! My only plans for tonight were watching movies and finally getting the Valentine's Day decorations down. I don't get to see any of my nephews nearly enough. She'd pick me up after work and take me right to her place.

I did end up walking to work. This time, I made sure I left early enough to not have to rush. It was a beautiful day for a walk, too. The sun was shining, the birds were singing, and it was probably in the upper-40s-lower 50s, the nicest weather we've had since December. The snow is rapidly melting from all but the largest, dirtiest piles. It sounds like we might get a tiny bit of snow next week, but nothing like the last couple of months or so.

Work was almost exactly the same as yesterday - quiet when I came in, crazy when I left, with a lot of cranky people. It didn't help that my relief was late, and I barely made it out on time. I hurried into the bathroom to change into a regular shirt, then outside to meet Rose and Khai.

We were greeted at Rose's house by her two noisy dogs, Kelsey the miniature pincher and Toby the big, sweet mutt. Bob the black and white cat hid under a table before finally taking off for quieter parts of the house. Three-year-old Khai wanted hot dogs and French fries for dinner. We had Ball Park Beef Hot Dogs (good - pork gives me indigestion) and "Smiles," big French fries made from mashed potatoes molded into smiley faces. Khai was fussy at first and didn't want to leave his mommy; the food distracted him enough for her to head out.

We ended up spending the hour or so on our own watching the Nick Jr. shows Peppa Pig (British show about a pig girl and her family) and LaLaLoopsy (animated version of popular button-eyed dolls) and playing games on Rose's iPad. The first round were preschool coloring and number game apps we couldn't finish because Rose didn't own the full game, and I sure wasn't buying it for Khai that night. He finally switched to a Cars 2 game shortly before Craig came home. We continued playing as Craig had coffee and settled down. He and Khai took me home around quarter of 7.

When I got in, I finished The Desert Song while having the last of my chili for a more complete dinner. This 1955 TV version of the beloved 20s operetta is somewhat more faithful to the original than the 1953 movie I dubbed a few years ago. Here, The Red Shadow (Nelson Eddy), leader of the Riffs against the French in Morocco, is actually Pierre, the wastrel son of Captain Bierabeau. Margot (Gale Sherwood) is the fiancee of Captain Paul, who wants the romance of the desert...and gets more than she bargained for when the Red Shadow sweeps her off her feet and into the Riffs' camp.

While there's a lot more story and score here than there was in the 1953 Desert Song, it's hampered by the limitations of early TV and Eddy being far too old for the role. Not bad if you're into the cast or the score, but others will be better off looking for Eddy's acclaimed recording of the score with Doretta Morrow on CD or LP.

Ran a few Three Stooges 60s cartoons as I took down the Valentine's Day decorations. I don't usually leave holiday decorations up this late, but I've had a long week, and I put them up late. "The Little Old Bombmaker," the pilot cartoon, has the Stooges discovering a nest of German spies during World War I. Moe becomes "Dentist the Menace" when he does everything possible to pull Curly Joe's sore tooth but take him to the dentist. The Stooges hope it'll be "Safari So Good" when they're ordered to hit the jungle and bring back a beatnik "wild man."

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Thunder In the Snow

It was cloudy and warmer than it has been when I got up this morning. I was going to try to fix the back bike wheel and change the tire when I finished The Scarlet Pimpernel...but by 10AM, we were in the midst of a full-blown thunder storm, with lightning and everything. I opted to do stuff online and run some Backyardigans instead. Austin plays Inspector Poirot looking for Pablo, "Le Master of Disguise," on the Orient Express. News boy Tyrone tries to make an "Escape From Fairy Tale Village" when he thinks Wolf Austin, Giant Pablo, and Witch Uniqua are going to try to eat him.

The rain didn't start slowing down until 11:30. Unfortunately, that didn't prove to be enough time to fix the bike. I don't know how I can get the tire off. I pulled at it. I pushed at it. I yanked with the wrench. I coated the nuts and bolts with oil and WD-40. They just wouldn't come off. The tire wouldn't pump up, either. It got so late, I ran out of time. It wasn't raining or snowing by quarter of 1. I had no reason to call for a ride, so I walked and was 20 minutes late.

I could have been infinitely late. Work was dead again through most of the early afternoon. It didn't pick up until 4PM...and when it did, this time, it got really busy. It didn't help that I was upset about the bike and being late, and a lot of customers were cranky or upset themselves. By the time I finished, my stomach was in knots and I was ready to tear out my hair. It died again by 8; they had so little to do, they couldn't even keep me an extra 20 minutes to make up for being late.

I walked home. I should have called for a ride, but I really hate having to rely on other people. It's not fair to them. My feet got stuck twice in the deep snow piles on the side of the road. It took me more than 20 minutes to walk down the ice-covered sidewalks on the Black Horse Pike; it normally takes me about 5. Walking was much easier once I got on Kendall, where the sidewalks had largely been shoveled.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Snow Day Surprises

I expected to wake up to snow on the ground with more coming down. The National Weather Service said it was supposed to snow all early morning and into the afternoon. What I saw outside was about 2 inches of new snow...and clouds. The snow had ended by 7, much to everyone's surprise. There didn't look like there had been any rain, either.

I still called Rose for a ride to work. I wasn't sure what the roads were like, or what they'd be like later. Rose did drive me, but she also reminded me that she's hoping to get a full-time job with a law firm soon and won't always be able to haul me around. I need to figure out alternative transportation besides rides, walking, and the bike.

Work was very, very quiet for almost the entire day. Good thing, because I ran out so fast, I forgot my uniform shirt! I was still wearing the blue long-sleeved t-shirt I wore this morning. I had to borrow a new work shirt. That was not only the worst that happened today, but the most that happened. I spent almost the entire afternoon either doing returns or standing around. By the time the evening rush hour began and it started to pick up, I was on my way out.

When I stepped out of the Acme, I found a very different world from the one I saw at 9AM. Some of my customers mentioned it got really warm, into the mid-40s. They were right. It was so warm, I barely needed my coat, never mind the earmuffs and scarf. The sun was shining, and the snow was melting, including what we got this morning.

Rose drove me home again, after a stop at a very busy TD Bank for her to make some deposits. When I got in, I went right to the mail box. Yes, the package from American Girl had finally arrived! There were two other smaller packages as well. I hauled all three upstairs. Good thing the stairs are always the first place the snow melts from in the winter. They're in direct sunlight. There was no snow left of the stairs at all, and no snow or ice left around my door.

I opened the smaller packages before tackling the big one. One was Kit's Cooking Studio, the fourth and last American Girl "Cooking Studio" I want to buy. (I'd like to get Addy and Kirsten's cookbooks, but I don't think they ever received the hardback upgrades.) The other was the 1982 version of The Scarlet Pimpernel with Jane Seymour, Anthony Andrews, and Ian McKellen. I rented the video as a young teen and loved it, but never saw it again until it was re-released on DVD and I found it listed on Amazon.

The big item, of course, was my new doll. She is my first, and probably last, doll purchased directly from AG. I never bought one new before because they're expensive, but I got an exceptionally good tax return and didn't really need a ton of other things. She's one of the modern dolls, #58, and she's adorable. I named her Whitney McKinley and bought her the new Sparkle Sequin Outfit for Valentine's Day. Here's a photo story on her arrival, from the point of view of my other dolls:

Welcome Whitney!

After I cleaned up from the photo shoot, I made use of the new hangers I bought with Whitney to pull out the dolls' Christmas dresses and coats and get them on the pewter rack where I keep most of their clothes. The shirt and skirt Whitney came in and Molly's Miss Victory Tap Costume were moved to the separates dresser. Most of what was in the yellow crate went into the gray plastic container.

Ran The Scarlet Pimpernel as I organized and had leftover Chicken Vegetable Soup for dinner. A combination of the original Scarlet Pimpernel novel and the fourth book El Dorado, we once again have clever French actress Marguerite St. Just (Seymour) falling for seemingly ditzy Brit Sir Percy Blakeney (Andrews), only for him to push her away after they're married. Meanwhile, everyone wants to know who the daring Scarlet Pimpernel and his men are. Chauvelain (McKellen) would especially like to know. The League of the Pimpernel keeps snatching aristocrats out from under his nose. He's determined to make sure that the Pimpernel doesn't succeed in rescuing the little Dauphin, the heir to the throne of France. The Pimpernel is equally determined to see that the child is safe and out of France.

Still a lot of fun today, this is probably the definitive version of Pimpernel. Others, including the 1934 Leslie Howard version and a later TV show, aren't as detailed, passionate, or close to the original books. Andrews in particular is marvelous as Blakeney himself. Look around for this on DVD or cable if you're a fan of the books, the cast, or swashbucklers in general.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Return of the Edwardian Beauty and Other President's Day Tales

First, and most excitingly, I just heard some really cool news at American Girl's Facebook page. Evidently, this fall, along with completely revamping the historical line, they're going to be bringing Samantha out of retirement! It'll probably just be a brief limited edition thing, but even that's cool. I would love to buy her even one outfit new from AG. I didn't really start collecting for her until after she was retired. And if they re-release some of her old things (I still don't have her "Meet" accessories or her ice skates), that would be even cooler.

Other than that, this was actually a rather frustrating day. I was up late with Lauren (who works at a bank and won't have another weekend off until May) and didn't get out of bed until 9:30. I watched more Red Skelton, finishing out the Best of DVDs. Some of these were a little weird, and the only celebrities I recognized were Gene Barry (in a skit that had Skelton's Clem as a census-taker who gets between a husband having an affair and his very angry wife) and "Mama" Cass Elliot (a woman who is so desperate for a husband, she begs Red's "San Fernando Red" to marry her to a nonplussed firefighter).

I didn't have much luck with the bike tire. Even coating the bolts with W-40 couldn't make them move. I couldn't get the tire off to change it! I just pumped it and hoped it would get me there. It did...but it was deflating again, even as I arrived at the Acme.

Work was steady for most of the afternoon, actually a little quiet for the last major holiday for over two months. It didn't pick up until rush hour and people started seeing the weather reports. We're supposed to get snow again tonight. As of right now, they're saying an inch or two again...but after the last few storms, no one wants to believe it. Thankfully, my relief showed up on time, and I was in and out.

Walking home was a pain. For one thing, I was going after dark. I tried walking on the sidewalk down the Black Horse Pike, but the snow was still high there, and it was so cold. It took me almost an hour to get home, longer than it usually does walking.

I ran more Red as I made a quick dinner of leftover chili. In addition to the Best of sets, Lauren sent me five DVDs with clips of Red from YouTube. Among the ones on the first disc I enjoyed were the skit from the 50s that had George Appleby discover a murderer hiding bodies in the car he's fixing...then saving his wife from him. It also included the famous "Guzzler's Gin" skit from the movie Ziegfield Follies. Red plays a pitchman for the aforementioned liquor who proceeds to get very, very drunk on the product he's selling. It's a riot, one of the better acts in the movie.

Sunday, February 16, 2014


Started a sunny, chilly day with this week's Brunch With the Beatles and Pumpkin Apple Spice Pancakes for breakfast. In addition to hearing performances from the second Beatles appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show, the theme today was "songs that didn't make #1." Which pretty much meant anything that wasn't a #1 single, either here or in the United Kingdom. Songs heard today ranged from "Penny Lane" to "If I Fell," from "Mind Games" to "The No No Song."

Called Mom about half-way through the show. She was babysitting my oldest nephew Skylar, who was playing with a kid's engineering game online. He loves building with Legos. Evidently, seeing The Lego Movie really fired his imagination. We mostly discussed the weather, all the trouble I ran into yesterday, and my busy week. They got some snow in Erma, but not to the degree we have.

I went online briefly to check the weather next. It looks like we're getting another round of snow Tuesday. Once again, they're saying only an inch or two, nothing like what we've gotten since December. We're getting closer to the end of February. The last time we had a winter like this, 2010, the big snow storms abruptly ended in the middle of February. Any snow that came after that either didn't stick to the streets and sidewalks, or just made slush.

My porch was icy when I got out, but the ice was melting. I was able to get downstairs with no problems. The problem was when I made it downstairs. My back tire has been getting a little flat, no matter how much I pumped it. I was hoping it would hold off...but now it's a LOT flat. I had no choice but to ride to work on it. Between the bike and the ice on the streets, I just barely got in on time.

Turned out to not matter that much. We were surprisingly steady all afternoon. There wasn't nearly the crowd there usually is on a Sunday. Everyone either did their shopping before the storms this week, or are waiting for tomorrow. I was able to close without a relief.

By the time I got out of work, my tire was totally flat. I had to walk home, avoiding the ice and snow still clogging the sides of the streets, not to mention a lot of Manor and Goff Avenue. When I finally made it home, I went upstairs gingerly over the ice on the porch, then went into a desperately needed bath as soon as I could. That felt so nice. It was so warm, and I was so weary, an hour flew by while I relaxed and read the stories the new Chicken Soup For the Soul book about finding happiness I picked up a few weeks ago.

Ran some more Red Skelton while I made salmon and stewed apples for dinner. I was introduced to Junior, "The Mean Widdle Kid," in a sketch where he constantly wakes up his "mommy" (Audrey Meadows of The Honeymooners fame). I also liked the "Silent Spot" with Red as a Diamond Jim Brady type in a 1890s spoof.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Somewhere In the Snow

It was just cloudy when I put on this week's American Top 40 re-run. We jumped back a year to 1979, just two months before I was born. Hits that mid-February included "Somewhere In the Night" by Barry Manilow, "Lotta Love" by Nicolette Larson, "September" by Earth Wind and Fire, the live version of "Soul Man" by The Blues Brothers, "Fire" by The Pointer Sisters, "Every 1's a Winner" by Hot Chocolate, "Le Freak" by Chic, "I Will Survive" by Gloria Gaynor, and "YMCA" by The Village People.

That week's number one song was a favorite of my sister Anny many years later, "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy" by Rod Stewart. I have fond memories of her blasting that in her car as we'd drive back to my apartment in Wildwood a decade ago.

I went online to look up the weather as the radio continued in the background. It was still saying rain, then rain and snow, then a little snow. At that point, it was just starting to rain lightly. I decided I'd be fine running the errands I'd planned for today.

Headed to the Oaklyn Library for this week's volunteering session there around 10. They hadn't been open that long when I arrived. I totally forgot the Lego Building Club is today, though. I didn't have a lot of time to organize DVDs and take a look at the children's section before the kids arrived to make masterpieces. I made my way out less than a half-hour later.

I had over an hour before the bus was supposed to arrive. I stopped at Dunkin' Donuts and had a blueberry bagel and vanilla chai. (Their chai had some nice vanilla flavor and was sweet, but not as bad as WaWa.) I hiked down to Cuthbert in the rain and sat on the empty wooden risers stashed in the outdoor seating at Kayla's Garden Center/Ice Cream Parlor to avoid the worst of the weather. At this time of year, the place is closed - the only things there besides me was a truck and two leftover bales of hay from the fall.

Crossed Cuthbert to pick up the bus at quarter of noon. It finally showed up around 12:20. I had no problems traveling after that. There was surprisingly little traffic in Haddon Township or Cherry Hill. I got into the Market Place at Garden State Park around 1.

The Market Place is really a fancy "lifestyle center" with luxury apartments situated over big box stores. Among the businesses housed here are Bed Bath & Beyond, Wegman's, Best Buy, the Christmas Tree Shop, Dick's Sporting Goods, Talbot's, Nordstrom's Rack (probably for the cast-offs from the Nordstrom's in the Cherry Hill Mall) and one of the only remaining Barnes & Nobles in South Jersey. I started at Barnes and Noble, but it was a bust. They didn't have the book I was looking for, and I didn't see anything I couldn't live without. I did have lunch at their Starbucks. I had peppermint tea with half of a Grilled Chicken Pesto Sandwich and a very tasty bowl of spicy Mediterannian Lentil Soup.

The weather was getting uglier by the minute. By the time I got out of Barnes & Noble, snow was starting to mix with the rain showers. I kept the rest of my trips brief. I took a peek at two toy stores, with no interesting finds. I bought more color ink for my printer (the empty light for the magenta was on) and two inexpensive USB drives at Best Buy.

Dick's had a much better sneaker selection than the Modell's in the Cherry Hill Mall. The New Balances I bought there in September with the fabric sides were giving my feet such horrible calluses, I can't really walk in them anymore. I bought the kind I wanted in the first place, simple white leather New Balances with navy trim. (I still think the neon looks silly. I want to walk in my shoes, not look like a movie marquee.)

I forgot canned pineapple and peaches at the Acme yesterday. Since I was at Wegman's, I figured I'd just pick them up there. That was probably a mistake. The rain was slowly changing to all snow as I made my way a few doors down to the upscale grocery store. The place was packed to the rafters with people panicking yet again over the weather. I could barely elbow my way through the crowds. It doesn't help that Wegman's shoves all the normal food in the back, behind fancy health food brands and the kind of housewares that Bed Bath & Beyond sells for cheaper across the mall. It's probably a good thing I can't drive. Their parking lot is infamous for being impossible to navigate at the best of times, never mind during a nor'easter.

Their sidewalks weren't much better. I got soaked slogging through the slushy mess, especially around where the bus stop was. The bus, however, was on time, and once again, there were no problems getting home, even in the weather.

The snow was picking up - and sticking to the sidewalks - as I made my way home. I hiked over the hill where the train tracks is. I slipped twice going down, laughing both times. The first time, since I was down, I made a snow angel. I think I may have bruised my rear going down the second time, but it was still pretty funny.

I wasn't as happy when I got home. There was no package waiting for me. My American Girl shipment was supposed to arrive TODAY! I went online and discovered that my package was now listed as being delivered on Tuesday...which is when we're supposed to get the next round of bad weather, of course.

I dubbed Blood Alley and did chores around the apartment and made Whole Wheat Bread to cheer me up as the snow continued to fall. This 1955 action drama is pretty much The African Queen crossed with Casablanca in Communist China. A captain (John Wayne) who was imprisoned by the Communists is released by a village of fisher folk who are tired of the new Chinese rule and the daughter of an American doctor (Lauren Bacall) who is attached to China and its people. They want him to drive them all out in a leaky, temperamental old ferry boat - kids, adults, animals, even a Communist family who is only along so they don't get killed for letting refugees escape. Wayne ultimately decides he has no choice and takes them along the deadly Formosa Straits ("Blood Alley"), using a chart he concocted from memory to avoid the Communist gunboats and the bad weather and get them all to Hong Kong.

I liked it but didn't love it. While the intense story was interesting and the lush photography gorgeous to look at, the story is hardly original, and the Asian stereotypes and several main roles being filled by whites playing Asians didn't make things better. Wayne does better dealing with the boat and its occupants than with a frosty Bacall (he would come off much better with her over 20 years later in The Shootist). Mostly recommended for fans of Wayne or Casablanca-esque dramas.

Lauren sent me a couple of CDs of sketches from various episodes of The Red Skelton Show for Christmas. I finally ran two of the discs as I baked chicken breasts, carrots, celery, and lemon sauce in aluminum foil pouches. For twenty years, Red's sketch show was one of the mainstays of American television. Like Carol Burnett, I really wish I could have seen him in his heyday. Favorite skits on these sets included Freddie the Freeloader capturing a criminal who holes up in his shack (Raymond Burr) and George Appleby holding a garage sale to earn money to pay gambling debts, much to the annoyance of his wife Grace (Martha Raye).

Oh, and the snow was long gone by the time Red and his many personalities were swinging across my TV screen. For once, it looks like we got the originally advertised two inches. Let's hope Tuesday's weather, which is also supposed to be about 2-3 inches at press time, isn't bad either.

Friday, February 14, 2014

A Bear-y Busy Valentine's Day

I slept in a little bit this morning, finishing The Elusive Pimpernel and writing in my journal until 9:30. I ran a couple of Valentine's Day specials as I ate a quick breakfast of Cranberry Chocolate Chip Muffins and canned peaches. A very peculiar Cupid spreads love among the Toons, despite Bugs Bunny insisting he's meddling, in Bugs Bunny's Cupid Capers. The Pink Panther has less luck finding a Pink Panthress of his own and making Valentine's Day deliveries in Pink At First Sight.

Headed to the Haddon Township Library around 11:30 (after a quick stop at WaWa to use the ATM machine and get a drink). Much to my surprise, it was sunny, cloudless, and relatively warm, probably in the mid-40s. The gigantic piles of snow from yesterday were melting into ocean-sized puddles...and I was getting soaked riding down Cuthbert.

The Library wasn't too bad when I arrived. There were a lot of DVDs put away, and given how bare the shelves were, there were still more out and about. For once, I had absolutely no problem stocking and organizing either the adult or kids' titles. I again opted not to take anything out. Between my usual crazy February schedule and the recent weather, I'm not sure when I'd have the time to watch them or take them back!

I went across the street to the Friendly's in the Westmont Plaza for lunch. I thought I'd like an ice cream treat for Valentine's Day, and I have a couple of 20% off coupons for them. I had the choose-your-own meal that includes an entree, two scoops of ice cream, and a soda. My entree was a delicious Grilled Turkey Tips Avocado Salad, with blue cheese dressing on the side. The ice cream was Viennese Mocha Chunk drizzled with marshmallow sauce and topped with whipped cream and a cherry. Yum - that's my favorite Friendly's flavor. They were pretty busy for quarter of 2, mostly with couples or elderly people.

Friendly's has a play-until-you-win crane game on one side as you exit, next to the freezer with the individual ice cream containers for sale. It's expensive for a crane game, about 3 dollars, but some of the prizes are a pretty good size. I came up with an adorable tan teddy bear with round, shiny black eyes and curly sable fur. I named him "Sunny," after the lovely, sunshiny day and the 60s song "Sunny" that was playing at Friendly's as I was on the crane.

I headed across Audubon to the Acme to do a little grocery shopping and pick up my schedule. This time, I rode over to Merchant to avoid the mess on Cuthbert and Nicholson, going in the back way by Staples and America's Best.

The Acme surprisingly wasn't that busy when I got there around 2:30. I was expecting far more people to be shopping for Valentine's Day and President's Day Weekend. I guess everyone did their shopping before the storm. I didn't need much myself. I was mostly restocking fruit (grapefruit, apples, bananas) and canned goods (chicken, kidney beans, diced tomatoes). I was almost out of eggs and whole wheat flour. Picked up my usual holiday bag of York's Peppermint Patties. The Valentine's Day candy wasn't half-price yet, but the Yorks tend to disappear when they do go on sale. I'll get another bag if there's any left on Sunday.

My schedule next week is about par for the course during the busy month of February. That means there's lots of hours and long shifts, including two 7-hour days in a row. On the other hand, only two of those days are very late (and that just until 8) or very early. I once again have Friday and Saturday off. According to the manager who does the schedules, I get the weekends off because that's when all of the college and high school students who have school during the week have the time to work.

When I got home, I went upstairs, put everything away, then went right back downstairs. I had laundry that really, really needed to be done. I meant to do it yesterday afternoon, but the weather was so bad, I just opted to stay home after work. I got another surprise when I came into an empty laundromat. There was no one there when I arrived but me and Action News blaring about the nasty car pileup on the Pennsylvania Turnpike this morning. (Thank goodness no one seems to have sustained more than minor injuries, but a LOT of cars were damaged.) I had no problems getting another big load of laundry in and out.

I had a quick dinner of leftover chili after I got in, then ran more Valentine's specials while making Orange-Apple Muffins. The Peanuts never have much luck with romance, as their Valentine's Day specials can attest. Poor Charlie Brown fruitlessly awaits an avalanche of valentines while Linus gets a crush on his teacher in Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown. Chuck doesn't do much better asking the Little Red Haired Girl to a dance in A Charlie Brown Valentine.

The Tiny Toons are also attending a dance in the first season episode "Prom-ise Her Anything." While an impatient Babs waits for dance-shy Buster to ask her out, Elmyra cons Montana Max into taking her. Monty's less than thrilled with the idea. When he stands her up, the rabbits go and retrieve him.

In A Valentine For You, Winnie the Pooh and the gang in the Hundred Acres Woods are upset when they see Christopher Robin writing a valentine for a girl and come to the conclusion he likes her better than them. They try to catch the "Smitten" bug to end the romance. Christopher finally reminds Pooh and the others that no matter how many new romances you find, old friends always have a special place in your heart.

And speaking of...I hope you and yours had an equally fun and enjoyable Valentine's Day! : )

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Balance and the Winter Storm

It was raining and snowing when I got up this morning. There was already 6 inches of snow by the time I was out of bed...and it was still coming! I ran a couple of winter-themed cartoons as I had breakfast and got ready for work. Lita's on thin ice when she falls for a gold-medal winning skater with a jealous partner who may be part of a Negaverse plot in "Ice Princess," from the first season of Sailor Moon.

The Looney Tunes deal with cold weather in two classic late 40s shorts. Bugs rescues a baby penguin from an Inuit hunter when he gets lost while on vacation in "Frigid Hare." Tweety has to dodge two hungry cats who will do anything, even chase him through the snow, to get a poultry dinner in "Putty Tat Trouble."

Rose finally drove me to work. She shoveled the porch, path, and steps. I really need to get a shovel of my own. My next door neighbor used to do it, but I guess he stopped after Miss Ellie died. The snow continued to come down, even as we rode to work. It wasn't that cold, which meant that the ride was pretty slippery.

Goes without saying that work wasn't busy today, especially in the morning, when it was still snowing. It did pick up a bit in the afternoon. I ended up spending most of the day shelving four of the seven carts filled with returns. Needless to say, half the store called out, especially anyone who lived far away. There were so few people there, the manager treated anyone who did show up to free coffee and donuts. (I went with a creme filled donut. I very rarely eat donuts, and I'm not really big on coffee.)

I figured out why it got busy when Rose picked me up at 3. By that point, the snow had vanished and was replaced by a fine, rainy mist. The roads were now just slushy, but they'd be icy after nightfall, making me glad I'd worked so early. My steps were ok when we got home, but the porch was still a slushy mess. I borrowed a shovel from my next-door neighbor and shoveled a path across the porch to my door. When I finished that, I did two paths to the mail box for the mail man and Andrew.

(I also discovered why the steps and porch haven't been shoveled. When I returned the shovel to my neighbor, she told me Andrew hired an unfamiliar man to shove the path. That would explain it. He probably told the guy to just shovel the path, but forgot that wasn't the only thing I'd be walking on. I really need to pick up my own shovel when they start restocking snow removal items after the storm again. I should be doing this myself.)

Spent the rest of the day inside. When I got in, I did some at-home yoga. Put on my two-disc album of music from the movies of the late Shirley Temple to cheer me up on a gloomy day. I didn't have the book I took out of the library, so I did all the moves I could remember from class.

When Shirley ended, I switched to Sing the Hit Songs From Sesame Street as I worked on that positive music project for Mrs. Stahl. I bought this 1974 record a couple of years ago, but never got around to listening to it until now. Needless to say, it features some of the earliest songs associated with the show, like "Sing" and "C Is for Cookie," and yes, "Rubber Duckie." I don't know how kids nowadays would enjoy it, but I recalled a lot of fond memories. (For the record, my favorite Sesame Street character has always been good ol' Bert.)

I had leftover chicken soup for dinner, then worked on crocheting another dish rag while watching Mame. This adaptation of the musical from the early 70s puts Lucile Ball in the role of Auntie Mame, the madcap New York dillitante for whom every day is a new adventure. When she adopts her nephew Patrick, she takes it on herself to show him all the fun and delights of the Big Apple in the Roaring 20s. Even the Great Depression doesn't stop Mame; she just marries a handsome southern millionaire (Robert Preston). Mame is taken aback when Patrick grows up and claims he wants to marry a snobbish young woman from an obnoxious and bigoted family. Mame turns to her friend Vera Charles (Beatrice Arthur) and maid Agnes (Jane Connell) to show Patrick that life really can be a banquet when you open up your eyes to new people and experiences.

A lot of critics have problems with this one, complaining about the soft focus photography and Ball being miscast. I think she's fine, especially during the fox hunt after she's met the southerner's family. The hilarious "Bosom Buddies" number, with her and Arthur sniping at each other, is worth the DVD purchase alone.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Safety In Numbers

Started out the morning with finishing The Boy Friend and having breakfast. I also wrote in my journal and worked my way through The Elusive Pimpernel, the second book in The Scarlet Pimpernel series. (Oh, and my only movie purchases with tax return money were two variations on Pimpernel from Amazon. The 80s Pimpernel with Anthony Andrews and Jane Seymour was just re-released on DVD not long ago. I rented it in the mid-90s during my young teens and loved it, but I haven't seen it around since. I also broke down and bought the 1955 TV Desert Song with Nelson Eddy, which is more-or-less the same story with a Roaring 20s Arabian Nights setting.)

Work was slightly less busy than yesterday throughout much of the day. It was on and off busy until rush hour, not as consistent as yesterday's mess. After about 3:30, though, the crowds got crazy again. Some people reported that schools had already been closed, even as TV stations reported anything from 4 to 8 inches of snow to rain and sleet. I was getting tired of the whining over something that hadn't happened yet and that we have no control over. It didn't help that they had no relief for me, and anyone who conceivably could have gone in for me was in a register. I was late getting out and fit to be tied when I finally left.

I found Imitation Hazelnut flavoring on the Acme's clearance shelves and thought I'd try the Chocolate Hazelnut Crinkles on the back of the box. Ran Du Barry Was a Lady to cheer me up as I baked and had leftover chili for dinner. This 1942 musical comedy spoofs both Pimpernel-esque swashbucklers and typical musical romances. Gene Kelly and Red Skelton are a dancer and a hat-check boy at a night club who are both in love with the club's singer May Daly (Lucile Ball). Virginia O'Brian is the cigarette girl who wants to marry Skelton, Rags Ragland is Skelton's pal, Zero Mostel is Kelly's, and Tommy Dorsey and His Orchestra are just around for specialty numbers. When Skelton wins the lottery, he tries to use his newfound loot to essentially buy Ball's favors. He learns a lesson about the importance of marrying for love when he drinks a drugged cocktail and wakes up back in 1740 France. Now he's the king, Ball is Du Barry, O'Brian is her lady in waiting, Kelly and Mostel are revolutionaries. He has to save Kelly's neck from the guillotine, even as he saves his own hide from an evil count with designs on Ball (Douglass Dumbrille).

Originally a Broadway show in 1939 with Ethel Merman and Bert Laher, I'm afraid this one simply hasn't dated that well. There's too many references to the time period (including wartime gags and an entire number based around Esquire pin ups) for casual viewers to want to check this one out. Some of the musical numbers are worth a peek for fans of the cast, World War II, or the big band era.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Waiting for the Storm

I worked early today, at 9AM, and for 7 hours. It was total bedlam almost the entire day. What a mess! We're supposed to be getting about 2 to 4 inches of snow, plus possibly rain and sleet, Wednesday night into Thursday morning. I'm getting tired of all the freaking out over something no one has any control over. I like the winter. The weather doesn't bother me. The snow is fun and cozy. It's supposed to get into the 40s after Thursday anyway, and it's more than likely that whatever we get from this round will be gone by Monday. People were a cranky pain all morning and afternoon.

I was fed up and frustrated when a college girl finally went in for me at 4. I went into the bathtub as quickly as I could when I got in. Put on my Wynston Marsalis CD of jazz music based around the Vincent Guaraldi originals from the Peanuts specials, Joe Cool's Blues. Spent the next 40 minutes or so relaxing, reading The Elusive Pimpernel and my new Chicken Soup book, and trying to improve my mood.

I was jolted out of my reverie by the phone. It was my sister Rose. She was wondering if I'd like some flax seed; she bought a big bag for a recipe and had too much. Sure, I'd love to try it! She was also worried about me getting a ride on Thursday morning. That's when we're supposed to be hit hardest by the storm...and of course, is my other early work day. She has to work and take her son to day care and can't drive me. She'd figure something out if she needed to, but I'd probably need to contact Dad and ask him for help, too.

I did that after I got out of the shower. Dad wasn't as enthusiastic. He bought his van in Florida, and it doesn't have four-wheel drive. I felt bad about calling him in the first place. He'd drive me if the snow and/or ice wasn't bad, but if it was, I'd have to call a taxi. If he can't get out in the weather, a taxi wouldn't, either. If he can't drive me, I'll walk. Oh well. It's my fault for not being more prepared for bad weather.

I put on The Boy Friend to cheer me up while I had leftovers for dinner and turned a white cake mix into Tropical Bundt Cake (lemon juice, a ripe banana, and crushed pineapple along with the egg whites and vegetable oil). This salute to the big Busby Berkley backstage musicals takes us to an English musical touring the hinterlands of 1929. Sweet little Polly (Twiggy) finds herself thrown onstage with almost no preparation when the star (Glenda Jackson) breaks her ankle. While she navigates her way around the stage, the rest of the cast fawns over the director De Thrill who has come to see their show. Ken Russell's weird extravaganzas aren't normally my thing, but if you're a fan of Twiggy, Tommy Tune (who is one of the title "Boy Friends"), or the backstage musicals of the 30s, this one is worth looking for at the Warners Archive.

Monday, February 10, 2014

A Really Big Show

Started off today with breakfast and one of the Sailor Moon "movies," the fourth season's Black Dream Hole. It's right before Valentine's Day, and the Soldiers are preparing baked goodies for their loved ones and recalling their childhoods. The festivities turn sour quickly when they discover that there are children disappearing all over the world. The children are being kidnapped by dream fairies who want them for their mistress, an evil witch who is using their dreams to power her "black dream hole." When Tuxedo Mask is hurt and Rini is kidnapped along with the other kids in Tokyo, even occasional scaredy-cat Serena knows it's time to stop this nasty witch from claiming any more victims.

I did call Rose, but there really wasn't any reason. We only got about two or three inches of snow last night. The back roads were a little messy, but the main streets were perfectly fine. I was able to sweep the porch and steps with no problems at all; the snow was the powdery kind that blows quickly away. My ride to work went fine too, once I got off Manor.

Work was dead for most of the day. I guess everyone got their panicking in yesterday. We may be getting some snow and/or freezing rain on Thursday, but the next two days are supposed to be cold and sunny. As long as it doesn't drop back into the teens, I don't care what else it does. There were no major problems. Though it did pick up during rush hour, I was finally able to leave quickly without a relief.

When I got home, I finally got to dusting and putting up the Valentine's Day decorations while watching the first two Ed Sullivan Show episodes featuring the Beatles. Ed Sullivan had discovered the Beatles when he heard the screaming over them while he was in London. He saw what all the noise was about, and promptly thought he'd found some great publicity for his wildly popular variety show. He couldn't have been more right. This was one of the mostly popular TV show episodes ever.

As much as I enjoy seeing the lads play some of their earliest hits, what's fascinating about these episodes now is the sample of the culture of the early 60s that's on display. I do wish there was more than one sequence from a musical, but the one that's there brings in a bonus for Monkees fans - Davy Jones joins the original Broadway cast of Oliver, performing one of my favorite numbers from that show, "'I'd Do Anything For You." Some acts (Mitzi Gaynor's Miami nightclub numbers) are more fun than others (not all of the comedy skits work today). Worth looking around for if you love the early Beatles or want to see what people were checking out on TV, Broadway, and in nightclubs in the Mad Men era.

(They even include all the original commercials! I especially liked the Pillsbury ones. I wish they still made that creamy lemon cake mix and the pineapple frosting. I may have to see if I can make a variation on that Hawaiian Pineapple Cake...)

Sunday, February 09, 2014

"Ladies and Gentlemen...The Beatles!"

Started today with a very big Brunch With the Beatles. In honor of this being the 50th anniversary of the Beatles' historic appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, they played audio from all four of their performances, as well as an interview between George and a Philadelphia radio DJ. (Local broadcasting trivia - the only rock station in Philly during the early 60s was WIP...which is still around today as a sports/talk station. You know them well if you're a football fan - they play the Eagles games.)

Had a long, pleasant chat with Mom during the second half of the show. We discussed my busy week last week and this week, my counseling appointment, and the new addition to my American Girl doll family. I loved the stories Mom told me about the Beatles/Ed Sullivan broadcast. Yes, she saw them. She was 8 years old at the time, and she absolutely fell in love with them. She used to play us Beatles music, along with solo albums from Paul McCartney and George Harrison, all the time when I was a kid. She said she danced happily along with the broadcast, encouraged by her mother Martha, who also loved music. (She said Grandma Martha was a big fan of 50s and early 60s rock like "Rockin' Robin.")

I also asked to wish my stepdad Bill a happy birthday. Mom said he was coming home from work, and not happy about it. He needs the fishing trip, but it sounds like the boat he works on broke down.

I ran the first disc of the Beatles' "Red" (Greatest Hits Vol. 1) album as I cleaned up from my Chocolate Chip-Pumpkin Pancakes breakfast. It was just cloudy when I headed to work. Most of the snow from the last round is gone. There's still quite a bit on the over-saturated ground, but the streets and sidewalks are generally fine.

Work didn't reflect the calm outside. It was crazy-busy all night. Sundays are usually busy anyway, even outside of football season. For many people, it's the only time of the week when they can do any grocery shopping. I was grateful when it slowed down enough by 5 for me to leave without a relief.

A soft, sparkling snow was falling gently as I headed out the door. I noticed that it was bouncing off my coat, rather than sticking or melting, and brushing off a lot easier than the last time we had snow. I had no problems sweeping it off the porch and steps either, even as it continued to pile up on the steps behind me.

I spent the next hour and a half or so in a nice, calming bath. It felt really nice to kick back and read some of the self-help books I've bought or been given lately, especially with the snow still falling gently outside. I didn't want to get out, but I had to have dinner sometime. My original thought for dinner was chili; when I realized it would take too long, I improvised a "chicken stir fry soup" from a bag of frozen Oriental vegetables, chicken stock, canned chicken, the leftover bean and vegetable soup, and soy sauce while listening to the second disc on the Billy Joel's Greatest Hits I & II set.

(Oh, and it was still snowing the last time I looked out there. Don't know if it still is at press time.)

Friday, February 07, 2014

Double Caper Trouble

Started off the day with running Big Business during breakfast, and later while I worked on that music project for counseling. Bette Midler and Lily Tomlin play two sets of twins switched at birth. One set lives in New York and runs a huge corporation; the other is from a small town in West Virginia and lives the rural farm life. When it's discovered that the corporation is going to shut down the furniture factory that practically runs the West Virginia town, the country girls go to the city to keep this from happening. No one seems to be able to tell the two sets of twins apart, despite them being four very different women. Country Rose (Tomlin) is determined and bossy. Country Sadie (Midler) is sweet, naive, and desperate for city glamour. City Sadie (Midler) is the president of the company and a major brat. City Rose (Tomlin) is shy, quiet, and desperate for country charm. In the end, it'll take a combined effort to save the small town where they were all born, whether City Sadie likes it or not!

Tomlin and especially Midler shine in this hilarious farce. I think it's cute, but I like both leading ladies and goofy 80s comedies with lots of complications and obvious gags. If you're into Tomlin or Midler or have fond memories of encountering this on cable in the 80s and early 90s, it's still a lot of fun.

Work was on and off steady for most of the day. It was a little busier than it has been, but still not overwhelming. Once again, it picked up a bit during rush hour, but not enough that I wasn't able to shut down quickly without a relief.

Good thing, because I had my own grocery shopping to do. I took advantage of some good sales, notably on sugar (A 5 Lb bag of Domino's was $1.99) and cereal (Honey Bunches of Oats were also $1.99). I had a lot of items that needed to be restocked - grapefruit, apples, bananas, powdered sugar, pudding mix (both after making the whipped icing for the Super Bowl cupcakes last Sunday), tuna ($.88 each), olive oil, cooking spray,  honey, and yogurt. Found a bag of Green Giant Multi-Grain Sweet Potato Chips on the clearance rack. I'm not normally a fan of potato chips (too greasy), but I do like sweet potatoes. At a $1.49, I was willing to give them a chance.

I'm not as happy with my schedule this week. I once again work more than 7 days straight through - my next day off is next Friday! Two of those days are early, at 9, and one is 7 hours. On the other hand, I do have Friday and Saturday off, and nothing later than 5. Not to mention, it's February. I always get a ton of hours in February. If people aren't going away for winter vacations, they're preparing for Valentine's Day or bad weather or sporting events or the many birthdays that happen this month.

When I got home, the heater was making that annoying grinding noise again...the one it made before it died in November. It hasn't given me trouble since it was fixed. I wonder if Andrew just needs to bite the bullet and replace it. I called him; got his wife, Linda. She said she'd give Andrew the message.

I had leftover steak and a green salad with home-made balsamic vinaigrette (olive oil, balsamic vinegar, seasonings, salt, pepper) during dinner while watching The Great Muppet Caper.  The second Muppet film (and the only one directed by Jim Henson) takes Kermit, Fozzie, and Gonzo to London to interview Lady Holiday (Diana Rigg), whose jewels were stolen. Kermit mistakes Miss Piggy for Holiday, and Piggy naturally falls for him. But for once, Kermit has a rival - Nicky Holiday (Charles Grodin), Lady Holiday's mooching brother. When it's discovered that the thief is now after Lady Holiday's fabulous Baseball Diamond, the Muppets spring into action. Piggy, who has been framed for the crime, does her best to fly the coop and save her frog!

Not a bad entry. There's some really cute gags, including Kermit and Piggy's argument over who carries the film mid-way through, Grodin's crush on Piggy, and how they all get into the museum where the Diamond's being kept. Necessary for Muppets fans; great for families and fans of Rigg and Grodin, too.

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Road to the Library

I spent most of the morning online. I wanted to do some research and look over prices for the American Girl modern collection. Mainly, though, I wanted to check if my tax refund had come in yet. Nope! And not only that, but it looks like it won't be through until Monday as of now. Darn. When I got off, I had a quick lunch of bean-vegetable soup.

I didn't get out to the Haddon Township Library until past noon. It was a nice day for a ride, cold, but sunny and windless. The sun was melting the remaining snow in some places. Many sidewalks were still covered, including the ones in Newton River Park. I rode on the street, watching the sun sparkle off the thick ice patches on the river at a distance.

Once again, the Haddon Township Library was busy with people returning media they took out during the last storm. It was a testament to the recent bad weather that I once again managed to get all of the kids' DVDs but double copies on the shelves, for once. Did even better with the adult titles, shelving everything, including the non-fiction, and clearing out a bunch of kids' and foreign titles. I didn't take anything out this week. I didn't want to get caught with media that would be late due to weather shutdowns, and my schedule usually picks up in February. Not to mention, I have plenty of movies I haven't gotten to at home yet.

My only stop on the way home was at Dollar Tree. I badly needed sponges. I bought the regular ones for the dishes and foam ones to wipe off my dry erase board. I picked up cards for Dad-Bill and Jessa's birthdays (February 9th and 12th, respectively). I grabbed a bottle of vinegar.

Headed straight home after that. When I got in, I didn't even put everything away before I packed up a very full laundry bag and headed out again to the laundromat. It was past 4PM by then. The laundromat was busy, but I did get a drier and a washer quickly. Channel 6 news and several families and elderly people droned in the background while I read Chicken Soup For the Soul: Find Your Happiness.

When I got in, I started dinner, then put the laundry away. Ran Road to Utopia as I ate and did my chores. The fourth movie in the Road To... series, I figured this was appropriate for now as one of my few movies with a snowy setting. This time, Bing and Bob are two vaudevillians in 1890s Seattle who decide to head to Alaska to seek their fortunes and avoid the cops. (Well, Bing does. He has to trick Bob into it.) They steal the beards and clothes from two hoods in order to get off the ship...and are mistaken for the hoods when they land in Alaska. They've also taken a map to a gold mine that has a lot of people very interested them, including Skagway Sal (Dorothy Lamour), whose father originally owned the map.

Not a bad entry in the long-running series. I have no idea why Robert Benchley's narration was there - it's more annoying than anything. Otherwise, this is fun for fans of the series, the stars, or action/historical epic spoofs.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Raining In My Heart

I slept in today, for the first time in a while. When I awoke, it was pouring and not really that cold, probably in the 30s. I spent a lot of the morning finishing Chicken Soup For the Soul: Finding Your Passion and writing in my journal. I tend to go through passions quickly. I get into cartoons, movies, figure skating, musicals, or TV shows, but after a year or two, sometimes as little as a few months, it passes, and I'm bored again. I spent most of my childhood being made fun of for passion, for being interested in different things than the other kids and talking about it constantly.

I ran some romantic and Valentine's Day cartoons as I quickly ate breakfast and worked on making lists of positive music. Pink At First Sight has the Pink Panther delivering singing messages to those in love, but his messages aren't always received in the spirit they're given. Meanwhile, he continually fantasizes about a Pink Pantheress of his own to love. Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown has Chuck hoping against hope for even one valentine, Lucy and Sally bothering the men of their dreams, Linus trying to impress his teacher Miss Othmar, and Snoopy writing poetry and putting on romantic but messy "paw-pet" shows. Hello Kitty also discovers that love isn't always what it seems in "Kitty and the Beast," from Furry Tale Theater. She and her bratty older sister Katrina (Catnip) have to go to the home of a blue beast (Tuxedo Sam) in order to save their father (Chip). The Beast scares Katrina right away, but Kitty knows that all he really wants is a friend.

Dad finally drove me to work. By the time I started at 1, the rain was down to a sprinkle, but the roads were still rather sloppy with leftover snow. Thank heavens the only thing we seem to have gotten out of this round was rain. From what everyone said, there wasn't even any ice early this morning. Other parts of the Philadelphia area northwest and north of here did get a lot of ice, to the point where thousands of homes and businesses were still without power as of the 4PM news, including Villanova University.

The weather didn't slow down business. We were steady through most of the afternoon, a bit busier during rush hour. Some of the crowds may have been due to the promotion we started today. Despite the Monopoly branding, the new game is really the one we did in the summers of 2011 and 2012 with a different title. Buy items with the Monopoly tags on them, get stickers to put on pictures of grocery store items on a board, turn them in, and win prizes. The pieces you give people are a lot bigger than the ones used for the pans and dishes collections, and some of them come with coupons for anything from a free doughnut to $10 off your next order.

My relief was, once again, one of the women who works late and is usually on time. Rose and Khai arrived just as I came outside. They went to Chick Fil'A for dinner and told Dad since they were there, they'd take me home. Khai was a little disappointed that he hadn't been able to play in Chick Fil'A's playground, which was being cleaned.

When I got in, I ran the two Winnie the Pooh Valentine's Day tales as I made a vegetable omelet for dinner. Pooh wants to deliver A Valentine For You to Christopher Robin, but finds him making valentines for a girl he has a crush on.  Believing that their friend will abandon them for someone new, they look for the Smitten bug to relieve his romantic notions. "Un-Valentine's Day" is from The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, and is the first of several times someone in the Hundred Acres Woods tries to cancel a holiday. Rabbit tries to end Valentine's Day after Pooh deluged the gang with unwanted cards the year before. On Valentine's Day, someone gives Pooh a pot of honey. He sets out to find who broke their promise...and this leads to a wild Valentine's of flying honey and romantic plays that don't quite go as planned. But who did send the original pot of honey?

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Balance On Ice

I ran a Pink Panther animated special as I had breakfast and prepared to go to yoga with my sister Rose. Olym-pinks has everyone's favorite rose-hued kitty heading for the 1980 Lake Placid Games. He has a close encounter with a champion skier on the train to New York...and just keeps running into him as the two compete in the downhill and ski jumping...and to see who can get the most applause!

Rose picked me up at 9. It was difficult getting downstairs. The slushy snow on my porch and steps hardened overnight, turning them into a coat of ice. When I told Rose, she insisted on getting her snow shovel from her house and shoveling them herself when class ended.

It wasn't easy to find a parking spot in Collingswood, either. The roads are largely clear, but the sides and a lot of the parking lot were icy. Rose says she's still trying to figure out Collingswood's new meter system, too. The sidewalk in front of Yogawood was also ice-covered; we went in through the back door.

Erik, Yogawood's kindly maintenance man and teacher, was in charge of today's class. (Evidently, the regular teacher was on a trip to Italy.) With Erik, you mainly work on balance (he can do amazing things with his legs) and on the basic moves...but you do them very fast! Erik is quite advanced, and his classes can be a challenge to keep up with.

When we got back to my place, Rose did shovel my porch and my steps. The porch proved to be far easier to clear. The steps were still covered with packed ice and slush from my going up and down them to work yesterday. She borrowed ice melt from Dad to clear them more.

As soon as she was gone, I finally headed out to counseling. It took me a lot longer than I'd planned. The middle of the main roads were clear, but the sides were still covered with ice and snow the plows had pushed away. Some sidewalks had been cleared, but others hadn't. I cut through Collingswood to avoid the majority of the mess on Cuthbert. Haddon Avenue in Westmont is even narrower and was more of a mess. It being cloudy for most of the day didn't help.

I did finally make it there around 12:30. I wanted to find somewhere I could have a quick lunch. Venturing around the corner from the candy store, I found a little pizzeria, Nicky B's. They were small, but cozy and warm. I bought two tasty slices of cheese and vegetable pizza and a small soda. (They have free refills!) There was an old man who wanted me to join him, but as nice as he sounded, I wanted to collect my thoughts for counseling.

I arrived at Mrs. Stahl's office right on time. I gave her the folder with Mom's Child Study Team papers and told her about my relatively quiet couple of weeks (except for the weather). I told her about my conversations with Mom, the gift card I won from work, and the big tax return I had coming.

I want out of the Acme so bad...but then what? I don't know what I want to do with myself. I'm used to being told what I should do, by other people or the voices screaming in my head. I don't know what I want. I want to make friends, but I don't know how. I want a better job, but don't have the social skills required to get to the next level. I'm not good with joining groups. The yoga classes are active and usually small; the library volunteering is solo work. Mrs. Stahl suggested starting an online book group with my three closest friends. I was scared just of the mere idea. My friends don't know each other. They live far away. I could never bring people together! I wouldn't know what to say.

After I got nervous when she brought up the book group, she said that it was probably outside my comfort zone, and that was ok. I don't think I've ever been told that. I never seemed to be enough. I was always into the wrong thing, or saying the wrong thing, or too fat, or too different from the other kids. I was told I had to change, be an adult, act like an adult. Yes, I am an adult....but one who loves dolls and bikes and who doesn't deal with relationships as well as she should. It's hard for me to accept who I am, especially since I'm not sure who that is. It was a lot easier for me in high school and college, where I could join already-established groups that did more than talk and didn't require much more than I showed up, did my job, have fun, and leave.

I don't know how to get into the stuff my peer group is supposed to be into. I tried the bar scene in Wildwood, but it was really boring. I'd dance a little while, drink a mimosa or two, then spend the rest of the night watching Fraiser re-runs at the bar. I'd come home smelling like smoke and having had no meaningful conversations or met anyone that remotely interested me. How can you make friends when you can't hear them talk?

I want to make more friends closer to home, but it's really scary for me. As Mrs. Stahl put it, it's outside my comfort zone. I know I'm an introvert, but I've always been embarrassed by that. I never seemed to meet a lot of introverts as a kid. Most of the kids never had any problems making friends. I felt better about it in high school and college, but I don't know how to meet introverted adults.

I've been listening to the Frozen soundtrack a lot since I bought it last month. Elsa's song "Let It Go" really hits me hard. I quoted some of the lines from the song to her "Let it go/the cold doesn't bother me anyway." That must have given Mrs. Stahl an idea. She said my assignment was to find songs in my vast music collection that, like "Let It Go," I found to be positive or uplifting. Now, that, I can do. I'll probably work on it this week.

I'd always wanted to check out the little shops on Haddon Avenue between King's Highway and the entrance to Westmont. I was usually in too much of a hurry, but today, I had no other plans. I first crossed over to a lovely little yarn shop, Woolplay. I found "grab bags" in a bin upstairs. I bought a bag of tiny, colorful balls of yarn that would be great accessories for the dolls, and another bag of heavier yarn I could use for dishrags.

I went back across the street and a couple of blocks down to a row of stores. There were two thrift shops in this row, both concentrating on clothes. One had nicer clothes; the other was a larger store with a better selection. The old woman who ran the smaller store must have been really bored. She was a little pushy, trying to pull out this dress or that jacket. To her credit, she did finally find a nice brick red Eddie Bauer sweater I bought for $10, half off. I didn't have as much luck at the other store. Despite them also having a half-off sale, I made no finds.

I rode a couple more blocks down Haddon Avenue to a hoagie shop and a bakery. Since I already had lunch, I decided to get myself a sweet treat. There were blocks of their cookie bars on the long metal counter to try. I finally decided on the Apricot Bars, wanting something a little lighter after two Super Bowl parties in a row.

As the girl behind the counter put my bar in a container, I noticed two familiar faces modeling chefs costumes on a shelf to the right as you walk in. Two American Girl dolls (I think they were Kit and Caroline) were acting as adorable store mascots. I mentioned how cute her girls were, and told her about my collection as I savored my cookie bar. (It was a little too sweet, but otherwise not bad.)

My last stop of the day was the Rite Aid right before the bridge into Westmont. I needed more of that inexpensive milk. As I was leaving, I saw a display with Chicken Soup books. One of them was subtitled "Find Your Happiness." I feel like I've been trying to do that since college, with only occasional success. I bought the book, along with my milk.

It was a little easier to ride home. By 4PM, the temperature had risen enough that a lot of the earlier ice and snow was melting, or was at least slushy again. Even so, it was past 4:30 when I finally got in. My porch was clear, but there was still quite a bit of ice on the steps. I tried breaking them with the broom again, but that didn't work a whole lot better than it did last time. I went to Richard's house and then Andrew's house to borrow ice melt, but neither man appeared to be home.

I jumped in the bath after I gave up on the steps. I hadn't had a bath in a while. I wanted to relax, listen to the Frozen soundtrack, and have a chance to look over the books I'd taken out of the library and the new Chicken Soup collection.

I was in there for a half-hour when the phone rang. I jumped out of the tub just in time to take a call from Rose. She wanted to know if my porch was melted. I told her that the porch itself was fine, but the steps were still icy. She brought over more ice melt from Dad a few minutes later and reminded me about the rain and sleet we were supposed to get later that night.

I hadn't intended to spend the rest of the evening reading that Chicken Soup book. I moved a couple of WebKinz from my plush chair in the music area as the Frozen soundtrack finished. I'd take a look at just a few stories, for an hour or so. Soon, an hour turned into two, and it was almost 8 before I finally got to heating up salmon cakes and slicing half a grapefruit for dinner. I'll see if I can finish it tomorrow.