Monday, March 31, 2014

Writing Down Balance

I spent most of the morning writing and doing things online. I've been kind of stalled on the fourth story. The action seems too coincidental, and I keep re-reading the previous three stories and finding things that don't work. I changed the characters' occupations to be less high and mighty, and switched the setting from downtrodden 1937 to (relatively) upbeat 1987. I may even go further and move the whole thing from fairy-tale kingdoms based largely on South Jersey, New England, and the south, to most of the real-life South Jersey, New England, and the south. (Except for the fictional Jersey Shore islands.) I haven't decided yet. I try to just write, but I can't focus and end up online instead.

I looked up neuropsychologists on Independence Blue Cross' website...or tried to, anyway. It was running so slow, I finally gave up. It kept showing no results anyway, even for a hundred-mile radius. How could that be? There has to be one that accepts IBC somewhere in this area! We're near one of the largest cities in the US! I'll see if I can finally get myself to call them later in the week. I now think that Linda and Shannon were right and there probably isn't anything wrong with me beyond sensitivity, but I want to make sure.

Did yoga after I got offline. It was just a quick 40-minute session, as I was running low on time by that point. I'm mostly concentrating on my back. My upper spine in particular has been very sore, probably from all the sitting I've done this month as I've worked on my stories.

Ran the two remaining My Little Pony specials as I made leftover green beans and lamb chops for lunch. "The Runaway Rainbow" is a follow-up to "Princess Promenade." Here, we're introduced to Unicornia, which produces the first rainbow of the spring. Cheerilee is trying to teach little Princess Rarity how to use the wand that creates the rainbows, but Rarity would rather have fun than pay attention to her mentor. She accidentally ends up in Ponyville after an accident with the wand. The ponies - especially Rainbow Dash - are dismayed to discover that if Rarity doesn't get her act together and get back to Unicornia in time, there will be no rainbow and no springtime color!

Likewise, "Friends are Never Far Away" is a sequel to "Dancing In the Clouds" and also introduces a new set of ponies. Here, we meet the Pegasus ponies, who live in a tropical paradise...but they're so shy, they're afraid to go down below. Sky Wishes wants them to meet her friends, but the lively and extroverted Earth Ponies almost scare their flying counterparts away! It takes a daring rescue to break the ice and remind the Pegasus that it can be fun to try new things, even when you're scared.

I found these cute and colorful, but largely underwhelming. The songs are annoying, and they lack the action and characterization that made the original series and current Friendship Is Magic popular among age groups besides little girls. For the youngest fans only; older girls and boys will want to proceed to My Little Pony and Friends or Friendship Is Magic.

Work wasn't too bad when I got in. The cloudy morning had become a bright, sunny, warmer (if windy) day. Trouble is, that beautiful day encouraged a lot of call-outs (including one college boy who claimed he just "didn't feel like coming in"), and we were extremely short-handed all night. That, coupled with this being the beginning of the month, lead to a lot of cranky people. Thank heavens it slowed down enough by 9 that I was able to leave with no relief.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Rainy Days and Baths

It was pouring when I woke up this morning, and continued to do so as I read The Lion In the Valley and wrote in my journal. I only rode to work yesterday because it was so late; there was no way I was going to do it this time. I called Dad for a ride to work.

After I let off with him, I called Mom. She was quite happy. In good news, she did get that job at the Cape May Lewes Ferry that she mentioned she interviewed for. She'll start orientation next month. It sounds like she's going to do anything that'll require sitting down - taking reservations, taking phone calls, selling tickets. She says she especially wants to learn how to take reservations. In tourist-heavy Cape May County, that's one of the most useful skills a job-hunter can have. She's also spending time with my brother Keefe, who is up from the Navy base in Charleston on leave, and taking care of my stepfather, who has a nasty cold that's required two doctor visits and lots of medicine.

I made Apple-Cinnamon Pancakes while listening to this week's Brunch With the Beatles. We get psychedelic with one of my favorite Beatles albums, Magical Mystery Tour. I've heard the movie's weird as hell, but the album has some great numbers. I heard "Blue Jay Way," "Your Mother Should Know," "Baby You're a Rich Man," "Strawberry Fields Forever," "Flying," and "Penny Lane" before I had to head off to work.

Dad did drive me to the Acme and back. It wasn't raining when he picked me up...but even after the five minutes it takes to go from Oaklyn to Audubon, it was back to torrential downpours again. That could be why we were swamped all day long. We're in the midst of some really big four-day sales too, including that 88 cents for generic Acme frozen vegetables deal I bought on Friday. Not to mention, it's getting close to the beginning of the month. We were so crazy, a manager had to send a stock boy in for me so I could get out on time.

When I got home, I went straight in the bath. I desperately needed that bath, especially after last night. I read Writing Fiction For Dummies and listened to 80s and early 90s soft rock and the sound of the rain on the roof.

I passed the rest of the evening quietly. I made salmon with leftover green beans and the last of the pasta-vegetable bake for dinner, then had pineapple upside-down cake for dessert while listening to 80s soundtracks. I'm not a big fan of Flashdance or Dirty Dancing today; despite a smoldering Patrick Swayze in the latter and some fine dancing in both, they're really just overheated melodramas that haven't dated well. They do have outstanding soundtracks. "I've Had the Time Of My Life" from Dirty Dancing and "What a Feeling!" from Flashdance both won Oscars; other favorites of mine from these albums include "Imagination" and "Seduce Me Tonight" from Flashdance and "She's Like the Wind" and "Yes!" from Dirty Dancing.

(Incidentally, the rain has been off and on pretty much the entire day. At press time, it sounds like it's raining heavily again. It's supposed to peter out tomorrow and start up again later in the week - we'll see what happens.)

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Balance In the Rain

The rain was already coming down when I awoke this morning. I read The Lion In the Valley and put on this week's American Top 40 re-run. Casey danced back a decade to 1975, as country, folk, pop, and the newly emerging disco reigned supreme. Hits from late March of that year included "Express" by B.T Express, "Have You Never Been Mellow?" by Olivia Newton-John, "Don't Call Us, We'll Call You" by Sugarloaf, "Philadelphia Freedom" by Elton John, "(Hey Won't You Play) Another Somebody Done Someone Wrong Song" by B.J Thomas, "Black Water" by The Doobie Brothers, "Lovin' You," by Minnie Riperton, "Snookeroo" by Ringo Starr, "My Eyes Adored You" by Frankie Valli, and "Harry Truman" by Chicago. That week's #1 hit would be one of the biggest for Patti LaBelle - "Lady Marmalade"

My original plans for today were to go to the Oaklyn Library and then go for a ride up to Haddon Heights and Barrington. I never got to any of it. It rained steadily all day long. I spent most of the morning on the computer, writing and playing WebKinz World, since I knew I wouldn't be home until late.

I went downstairs around 12:30 to see if the mail had arrived. Yes, it had, and with it came my order! I badly wanted Frozen, and bought the musicals Gold Diggers of 1933 and Deep In My Heart to bump the order up to 35 and get the free shipping. I hurried back upstairs with the box snug and dry under my raincoat.

Started with Frozen as I had lobster cakes and leftover noodle and cheese casserole for lunch. Originally Disney's attempt at The Snow Queen, this movie has sat on the back burner as far back as Walt's lifetime. Elsa (Idina Menzel) and Anna (Kristen Bell) are princesses in a Norwegian-esque kingdom called Arendelle. Elsa has snow powers she once used to amuse her sister. When Anna is hurt in an accident, Elsa's told to hide her powers and Anna is kept away from her. Matters come to a head when their parents are killed and Elsa is crowned queen. Anna wants to marry Prince Hans, but Elsa refuses to give her consent - Anna's only known him a few hours. The argument between the two accidentally unleashes Elsa's full powers. She runs off, unaware that she's placed their country under a deep freeze. Anna goes after her; she's aided by a goofy ice cutter named Kristoff, his reindeer Sven, and Olaf, a sweet snowman whom the girls had made as children. Elsa wants to be alone with her powers; Anna just wants to be friends again. It'll take a deception and a heroic sacrifice to prove to these sisters that there's more than one type of true love in the world.

I'm glad Disney finally put this one out. That Oscar for Best Animated Film was deserved - this was fabulous, even if it has very little to do with its source material. It breaks with many Disney molds, from a (largely) sympathetic queen who is a major character to its sister duo to actually questioning the idea of true love, who can love, and whether falling in love in an instant is a good idea. It's also one of the few animated films I've seen where the comic sidekick had some real bearing on the plot. Highly recommended, especially for sisters, best gal friends, and musical fans (there's a reason I've been listening to the soundtrack all winter).

Joining Frozen in theaters and on DVD is the very odd Mickey Mouse cartoon Get a Horse! A spoof of the Mickey cartoons of the early 30s, this starts out with Minnie, Mickey, Horace, Clarabelle, and a couple of others out for a ride in a horse-drawn cart in black and white. Pete drives up in his car and isn't happy that he can't get past them...and then, he sees Minnie. He grabs her, Mickey tries to get her back, and the chase is on! It gets so wild, the characters literally tear down the fourth wall when they're shoved into the theater itself. Now, even the movie screen becomes a vehicle for Mickey to reclaim his girl and give Pete his.

Ok, this was...weird. Really, really weird. The historically accurate and well-done animation is probably the reason it got a Best Animated Short Subject Oscar nomination. As with Frozen, Disney's trying for something different here. It's not the most necessary viewing, but is worth checking out once, if only to see just how crazy a Mickey Mouse cartoon can get.

Switched to Deep In My Heart as I worked on crocheting a dish rag. The last of MGM's composer "biography" semi-revues takes us from the world of pop to operetta. Sigmund Romberg (Mel Ferrer) wants to write beautiful operatic songs, and even has a lovely operetta he wants to put out, Maytime. The Shubert brothers are interested in his music, but not the show. He writes basic pop tunes for them, but longs to see Maytime in lights. His friend Dorothy Donnelly (Merle Oberon) helps him make his dream come true. Maytime is a smashing success...but the need for money pushes him back to the Shuberts and their light-weight Al Jolson vehicles. When he falls for a pretty debutante (Doe Avedon), he finally has the inspiration he needs to write a series of romantic light operas in the 20s, including The Student Prince, The Desert Song, My Maryland, and New Moon.

If you've seen other composer "biographies," you know what to expect here - lots of big numbers by leading stars of the day that are barely related to the life of the composer in question. I don't know enough about Romberg to tell you how accurate this is. I can tell you there's some really fun numbers here. Gene Kelly is joined by his brother Fred for the vaudeville-esque "I Love to Go Swimmin' With Wimmin." Vic Damone and Jane Powell put over a gorgeous "Sweetheart, Will You Remember?" from Maytime. James Mitchell and Cyd Charisse dance a sensual "One Alone" pas de deux from The Desert Song.

The most notable thing about this one is some of the relatively rare material on display. My Maryland is almost never staged today, making Howard Keel's brief "Your Land and My Land" a fascinating bit of lost theater history. Though listed as being from the revue Artists and Models, Ann Miller's "It" dance routine was actually a comedy number for The Desert Song; it was dropped from all three film versions and is rarely heard in revival.

Switched to the My Little Pony specials as I did my basic yoga (mostly to stretch a back that's spent weeks crunched in a computer chair writing). Wisteria is looking forward to The Princess Promenade, which she organizes every year. When she and Pinkie Pie discover a cave under a weed, they encounter Spike the Dragon. Spike sees that Wisteria has taken his flower, which makes her princess. This is awkward for all concerned; Spike insists that Wisteria can't interact with her friends or get dirty or even sniff the flowers, while tiny Breezy wants to do the work Wisteria can no longer do, thanks to her duties. Wisteria finally decides that it's better to help out, whether one is a princess or not, and that being a princess doesn't mean you can't be yourself.

"Dancing In the Clouds" is a bit less frilly. Twinkle Twirl wants to come up with an extra-special dance for the Friendship Ball. She turns to her friend Sky Wishes for help. When Sky Wishes catches a kite, she makes as big of a wish as she can to help her friend...and meets a magical flying pony who can make her and Twinkle Twirl's wishes come true.

It was still raining when I had to leave for work, but I was working too late to call for a ride. I rode to work and got wet. I wasn't originally supposed to work tonight. I went in for a manager/cashier who had originally asked for today off to help with her father's birthday party, but for some reason, was given last Saturday off instead. I don't even need the hours. I was just doing something nice.

Work was a pain, especially early on. A woman gave me a hard time when I got flustered while I tried to call someone over to ask if we recycled other water cooler bottles besides our own brand. (We don't.) She said I had a bad attitude! I tried and tried to apologize, but I just ended up getting upset, and she moved the rest of her order to another line. I genuinely didn't mean to make her upset. I apologize because I feel bad and I did something wrong. Thank heavens things slowed down around 8; by 10:30, I was doing returns.

Friday, March 28, 2014

All Kinds of Help

Started off a gloomy day at work. It rained a little on my way, but nothing major. It was pretty much the same as it has been - off-and-on steady, only really busy during rush hours. There were no major problems (other than a few annoying beginning-of-the-month people) and my relief was on time.

I rode over to America's Best quickly as soon as I got out to pick up my contacts, then went right back to the Acme to get my schedule and do this week's grocery shopping. I had a lot of things that needed to be restocked, starting with sugar. The Acme's having a big four-day sale on their generic frozen vegetables; I got the small bags of peas and green beans for 88 cents each. Picked up Acme generic whole-wheat rotini pasta buy one, get one. (I normally avoid sales that require you to buy more than one of an item. I rarely need more than one of anything...but I was really out of pasta. I used the last of it on my pasta bake last night.) Needed to refill grapefruit, apples, Romaine lettuce, bananas, mushrooms, cheese (bought the generic Acme sharp cheddar block and the new small Sargento wedge of Parmentino), Cheerios, and parchment paper.

My schedule isn't all that much different than it has been all winter and early spring. In good news, I have two days off, Tuesday and Thursday (Tuesday for counseling). In annoying news, I have one late day (Monday) and two long days (Monday and Wednesday), though nothing as early as the last few weeks.

By the time I finished work, the rain was gone, but it remained cloudy and windy. This time, it didn't stop it from getting warmer. It was probably in the upper 50s-lower 60s. It was so warm when I got home, I opened both windows to let the apartment air out.

Finished out the newest Strawberry Shortcake set, Berry Big Help, as I put everything away and started lamb chops with "French Salad" (Romaine lettuce with home-made dressing) and the last of the Brussels sprouts for dinner. Helping each other - and the importance of helping out - is the theme of this set. In the first story, a Baby Berrykin has the ability to turn anything different colors, not just fruit...but he's so little, he turns everything different colors without realizing the confusion this causes. Strawberry finally gets him to understand that he has to ask before he uses his powers for others. The second story has Raspberry determined to make Strawberry a beautiful new dress all by herself. When the other girls see that she's wearing herself out, they act as "fashion elves" and try to make a dress for her. The final tale is a variation on the "kid adopts huge pet who wrecks havoc" story. The kid in question is Orange Blossom, who becomes attached to what she thinks is a fish. It's really a tadpole...and when "Tad" grows up, he proves to be far larger and more energetic than Orange can handle.

Switched to Charlie Chan In Honolulu as I made Pineapple Upside-Down Cake from a Betty Crocker mix that was on sale at work. The famous Asian detective (Sidney Toler in this one) is awaiting the birth of his Number One Grandchild, so his number two son and his younger brother take the call from a cargo ship where a man has been murdered. Was he after the money one of the women has stashed in her room? Was he a victim of a freaky scientist? Or was he eaten by the lion owned by a rather goofy little trainer?

I have fond memories of the Charlie Chan movies from when they turned up on AMC (and later, TCM) during my childhood and college years. This one is especially interesting because we get to see a little of Charlie's home life, including more of his kids than usual. Considering this series' reputation (and that Chinese Chan is played by a Swedish character actor), there's surprisingly little stereotypes of any kind - Chan's son-in-law is more "stereotyped" than anyone in his wife's family, including Chan. With minimal violence and lots of gags with the Chan boys, this isn't a bad introduction to Charlie's world, and a nice starter film for older kids, too.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Animal Crackers In My Hoagie

Rose called just as I was finishing the next chapter of The Lion In the Valley. We were going to have to take another rain check on yoga. She was called into work. That was fine. If I  had a dime for every time I was called into work and had to cancel plans, I'd be able to buy Yogawood. I had other things I wanted to get done today before the weather gets bad this weekend.

First on the list was the laundry. I didn't have a big load, but it had to be done, and I work too early and have too much to do tomorrow to do it then. I'm glad I did it today. It was really quiet, with only an older woman and a few college girls getting their loads done. I read Writing Fiction For Dummies while CNN continued to go into details on that Malaysian plane that disappeared. I was in and out in about an hour.

When I got home, I put everything away, then went right back out. I stopped at Amato Bros on the White Horse Pike for lunch first. I ordered a 6 inch "Mama's Turkey" hoagie (Swiss cheese, lettuce, tomato, turkey, bacon, Russian dressing), a can of Diet A&W Root Beer, and white chocolate-macadamia nut cookies. Enjoyed my lunch while listening to ESPN's Sports Center and watching people go back and forth, ordering hoagies or wraps for their own lunches.

The Library was surprisingly busy for 2PM when I arrived. The children's DVDs were a mess - you can tell no one organized them last week. Thankfully, they weren't overloaded, and I was able to get all titles, even the S sets, on the shelves. Was able to shelve all of the adult DVDs as well, and cleared out a few foreign and kids' titles. I ended up taking out a lot of DVDs for the first time I weeks. Shout!Factory just re-released some of the My Little Pony direct-to-DVD specials from the early-mid 2000s; I took out two sets, one with The Princess Promenade. Grabbed the newest Strawberry Shortcake set, Berry Big Help. Also went with three movies, the Shirley Temple vehicle Curly Top, Charlie Chan in Honolulu, and Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters.

When I got home, I went right into the bath. Ahhh. That felt nice. I read a couple of books on the 30s I took out of the library and listened to my RCA/Victor 30s CD. I haven't had much of a chance to relax lately, besides working on my story. I passed a very pleasant hour there.

When I finally got out, I ran Curly Top while making baked chicken legs and a noodle casserole with mozzarella cheese, vegetables, and tomato sauce for dinner. One of Shirley Temple's most famous vehicles was a riff on the book and movies Daddy Long Legs. Here, we get two waifs for the price of one, as little Elizabeth (Temple) and her older sister Mary (Rochelle Hudson) are rescued from a strict orphanage by a kindly trustee (John Boles). The trustee falls for Mary, but she's being courted by a handsome pilot. Elizabeth does everything she can to bring the two together.

Not my favorite Temple vehicle, as the whole waif thing does get rather sugary. On the other hand, this one features two of Temple's most famous dance routines, the hit song "Animal Crackers In My Soup" and her tap number on top of a piano. Cute and simple; not actually a bad "starter" Temple film to bring little kids into her sunny world, or for adults to discover her, too.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

They All Laughed

Started a chilly, windy morning with breakfast, making coconut macaroons, and watching one of the Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers musicals, Shall We Dance? Fred is renowned ballet star Petrov, aka Pete Peters, who just wants to tap dance. Ginger is Lynn Keene, a musical star who wants to give up the rat race to get married. Pete says he's married to get a woman he isn't interested in off his back, but everyone starts assuming Lynn's the secret wife when they're seen together. They finally decided to actually get married, then divorced to get everyone off their backs. By the time their agents (Edward Everett Horton and Jerome Cowan) are putting their shows together, they're starting to wonder if the calling off the calling off is a good idea...

The great Gershwin brothers music is by far the best thing about the seventh Astaire-Rogers vehicle. There's some really nifty numbers, including Fred's dance in an Art Deco ship's boiler room to "Slap That Bass," the roller skating routine to "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off," and the finale to the title song as Fred searches for the real Ginger among ladies wearing masks. As with most of the Fred/Ginger movies, the story is light as air,  and the whole marriage thing gets a little complicated after a while. Fun for fans of Fred, Ginger, or 30s musicals, but newcomers will want to go to Top Hat or Swing Time first.

As it turned out, we got less than an inch of snow. It never stuck to the street at all, and the rest of it was half gone by the time I went to work. I think the coast got the worst of the weather this time - the storm was off-shore. The real problem here wasn't snow, but wind. The wind was heavy and very cold! It didn't make it easy getting to or from work.

My long 8-hour work day was on-and-off busy for most of the evening. Even the 4 to 6 rush hour was never more than steady. Most people may be waiting for closer to the beginning of the month. I spent the down times shelving candy. Other than some annoying customers, there were no major problems. It slowed down enough by 7 that I was able to get home with no major problems besides the still-heavy wind.

I ran a couple of the 40s Superman cartoons as I made Italian Breaded Chicken Sandwiches with braised Brussels sprouts for dinner. Superman saves Lois Lane when she's hot on the trail of "The Mechanical Monsters," robots who have been programmed to rob banks. "The Arctic Giant" is a massive dinosaur that was found frozen in the north. When he accidentally defrosts in Metropolis, Superman has to keep him from playing Godzilla with the citizens of the city over a decade early.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Snow In the Spring

Actually, it was sunny when I woke up this morning, and sunny through the early afternoon. I was continuing the re-writes on my story when Rose called. I asked her a few days ago if she wanted to go to yoga today. She couldn't do it today...but she was willing to try it Thursday morning. That worked out even better. I'm off Thursday. I can just do yoga with her before I hit the laundromat and the Haddon Township Library, which were my only plans for that day.

I watched some Rick Steves Europe while having the last of the leftover chili for lunch. Scandinavia was the focus as Rick explored the laid-back lifestyle of Sweeden, Finland, and Denmark. His trips to Copehagen and the surrounding islands are some of my favorites of the entire series. Everything is so bright and clean and cozy, like something out of a Hans Christian Anderson story.

Work was mostly pretty quiet through the usual 4PM rush hour, after which the lines just got crazy. We were supposed to be getting about an inch or two of snow. Supposedly, it wouldn't stick on the roads until well after nightfall. It must have finally started coming down around 5PM or so; it still wasn't snowing when I went on my break at 4. Rose called me four times to tell me she would be driving me and my bike home. The roads were just wet, but the snow was coming down pretty well and visibility was low.

When I got in, I did some more Rick Steves while making French Toast Pizza with sliced cherry tomatoes for dinner. Rick went from Denmark to Berlin, the capital of Germany. Split into East and West (and Capitalist and Communist) sections during my childhood, it was reunited in 1989. I vividly remember watching the destruction of the Berlin Wall on TV when I was about 10. While Berlin today is a fairly modern and unified city, it still has some remains of its troubled past, including bits of a World War II bunker, a stretch of the Wall that's been turned into an outdoor art gallery, and a beautiful old church that was bombed during World War II and left standing as a memorial to the destruction wars can cause.

(Oh, and at press time, the snow is still coming down...but it's only sticking to parts of the porch that aren't covered by trees, and not to the street at all. We'll see how things go.)

Monday, March 24, 2014

I'll Be With You In Cherry Blossom Time

I opened my eyes when the alarm went off at 7:30. I closed them for just a few seconds. Naturally, "just a few seconds" turned into more than an hour. I didn't get to breakfast and a couple of episodes of Sailor Moon until past 9:30. The Sailor Soldiers are celebrating "Cherry Blossom Time" in this episode from the early second season. The aliens Ann and Allan consider the Cherry Blossom Festival to be a great time to collect energy. When they use one of their "cardian" monsters to absorb energy from the girls, Serena finds a way to upgrade her powers and decide just what she's fighting for.

Raye is in charge of her school's fair and talent concert in "Raye's Day In the Spotlight." She wants to turn the stage program into a show for her not-inconsiderable musical ability. Raye gets her wish and her time in the spotlight, until a cardian appears to steal the show.

I tried to do a little work on the fourth story in my series today, but I wasn't getting far. I was stalled introducing the villain, the evil Queen Julia. I couldn't figure out a way to bring her in that wasn't boring. I ended up browsing online instead before heading to work.

Work was on-and-off busy all afternoon. They're calling for snow once again, but it sounds like the same deal as last week - an inch or two of snow at night, maybe slight delays during the morning, then gone by the next day or the day after. It's supposed to be in the 60s by Friday! It's March. Even if we do get some snow, it won't be the big deal it was last month. Other than the fuss, there were no major problems, and I was able to shut down with no relief.

I even worked something out in my head. My story was stalled because my main character was in the wrong occupation. I'm not a queen; I know nothing about politics, nor am I interested in them. It'll only require slight re-writes to change Queen Kathleen into Kathleen Renner, a frustrated grocery store clerk who longs for adventure and a better life. I'll be keeping the 30s/fantasy setting, the "diesel punk" Art Deco feel, and the romance between Kathleen and a mysterious mercenary woodsman. One character will remain queen, albeit of an extremely laid-back island community that's supposed to be a cross between Wildwood, Jamaica, and 30s Coney Island. The others will be given more normal professions.

I had a surprise waiting for me when I got in. I won one of the harder-to-find Kit outfits, her limited-edition "Scooter Outfit" from the mid-2000s, on eBay last week. I've always liked this one. It's so cute. It's a sleeveless sundress in an adorable orange floral print that's supposed to look like it was made from a flour sack, with a ruffled skirt and a lovely "straw" cloche hat and darling yellow shoes. (It didn't come with the socks that were also a part of the outfit, but I have plenty that'll work, including the ones I got with Kit's School Outfit from the big AG sale.)

I'm making my way through my adventure movies and comedies that are either set in the 30s or were filmed then. The Phantom is based after the popular comic books from the 1930s. The title character is one of the earliest super heroes, here a Batman-type in purple spandex who follows a long line of do-gooders who protect a mystical jungle island (Billy Zane). An evil tycoon (Treat Williams) is determined to find three lost skulls that will give the bearer unlimited power. Diana Palmer, the globe-trotting niece of a wealthy newspaper owner (Kristy Swanson), is after the story of the man in purple who seems to be impervious to death. A band of female pirates (headed by Catherine Zeta-Jones) is after the treasure, too. It all comes together in an action-packed Indiana Jones-esque climax that reveals just how great a responsibility too much power can be.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Beginnings of the Spring Holidays

Started a cloudy morning with The Lion In the Valley (the next Amelia Peabody book I'm reading), Carrot-Spice Pancakes, and Brunch With the Beatles. The US-only Beatles Second Album was in the spotlight today. Don't worry, until I started listening to this show, I never heard of this album, either. Capitol apparently cobbled it together from earlier releases. It's main features were remakes of early rock hits, including "Money (That's What I Want)," "Shout," and "Roll Over Beethoven." Because it's also the shortest Beatles album at a little under a half-hour, they threw in a couple of tracks from a few early concerts to fill out the show.

After I cleaned up from breakfast, I decided it was finally time to take down the St. Patrick's Day decorations and put up the Easter stuff. I have a few more things for Easter than I did last year. Mom gave me some of her Easter decorations that she didn't want when I visited her in the fall. Her pretty quilted egg-shaped table runner went on the dining area table. The resin figure of the bunny holding the gardening tools went next to the small shelf with the rock CDs. The beautiful raffia garland with wooden painted eggs hanging off of it was hung on the window overlooking the path to the apartment. The mini-garland with the tiny wooden eggs, birds, and bunnies was draped around the top of the baker's rack. Two wooden cut-out tulips on raffia were hung on bare nails around the apartment. There's a few more tulips and eggs left; I'll see if I can find some ribbon to hang them up in the next few weeks.

I went to work shortly after finishing the decorations. Work was very busy all afternoon, which isn't uncommon on a Sunday. There's March Madness going on, along with a lot of birthdays. Thankfully, it slowed down enough by 5:30 that I was able to leave with no relief.

When I got home, I put Italian breaded chicken cutlets, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts in the oven to bake for dinner and called Mom. She was mostly in a pretty good mood. She had Anny and Skylar visiting when I tried to call earlier. She was a little annoyed that my brother Keefe had just called her from the Navy in Norfolk a few days ago and declared that he's coming to visit for two weeks. That would be great....if this wasn't late March. There just isn't much to do in Cape May County at this time of the year. Mom says he'll probably be there for five days, tops, before getting bored and leaving.

I went right in the bath after I finished eating. Ahhh, that felt sooo nice. My back is a little stiff from all the computer work I did last week. I really need a new computer chair. I've had the old one since I moved in. It moves stiffly now, and the vinyl is a cracked, broken mess. Dad said he had a chair I might be able to have; I'll have to ask him about that.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Balance On a Magic Carpet Ride

Started a sunny morning with the last two chapters of The Mummy's Case and this week's American Top 40 re-run. Casey hopped back a year to mid-March 1985, as pop, ballads, soul, and dance tunes dominated the charts. Hits that week included "Careless Whisper" by Wham!, "The Heat Is On" by Glenn Frey from Beverly Hills Cop, "Lover Girl" by Teena Marie, "One More Night" by Phil Collins, "Private Dancer" by Tina Turner, "Too Late For Goodbyes" by Julian Lennon, David Lee Roth's version of "California Girls," and "Material Girl" by Madonna. The #1 hit that week was one of the biggest for R.E.O Speedwagon, the ballad "Can't Fight This Feeling."

I spent the rest of the morning dusting the apartment, which needed it badly. Ran Easter specials and spring-themed cartoon episodes as I cleaned. The Easter Bunny Is Coming to Town is the last of the Rankin-Bass Easter specials, and the second devoted to the origins of the Easter Bunny. Here, the Easter Bunny is Sunny, who was adopted by the orphaned all-child residents of Kidville. He's determined to bring the kids' wonderful eggs to gloomy Town over the mountain, despite the laws passed by nasty Lady Lilly and the interference of grouchy Gadzooks the Bear.

Sunny wasn't the only animal having a busy spring. It's "Spring In Acme Acres" in the first-season Tiny Toon Adventures episode. The season of renewal brings thoughts of love with the wrong species, avoiding spring cleaning at Elmyra's house, and appearing on insane stunt-filled game shows to the Toons. It's spring in Jellystone Park as well on The Yogi Bear Show. Yogi's "A Wooin' Bruin" when he steals fancy gifts to impress Cindy Bear...until Ranger Smith catches on. Snagglepuss discovers that "Spring Has Hit a Snag" when the pink lioness of his dreams turns out to be a whiny brat who repeatedly asks him to risk his hide to get her berries. Duckling Yakky Doodle has more luck dodging an Alfred Hitchcock-imitating alligator in "Duck Seasoning."

One of the night managers asked me to come in an hour early today. Sure! It also meant I'd get to finish an hour earlier, which would give me more time to do my grocery shopping. Turns out they had their reasons. There were a LOT of call-outs, and we were very busy with people picking up food for birthday and March Madness parties. Thankfully, it had slowed down enough by 5 that I was able to shut down without a relief.

Which allowed me to go right into my shopping. My order was more expensive than huge. I had several big items that needed restocking, including all-purpose flour, yogurt, and eggs. Picked up chicken legs and that buy 1, get 1 spiced meat for meals sale, too. Grabbed more bananas and grapefruit. (The latter are now 4 for $5 after being a dollar each all winter, much to my disappointment.)

When I got home, I made "Cincinnati Chili" (chili with cinnamon and allspice and no beans) from Kit's Cooking Studio for dinner while I watched Aladdin to honor the opening of the stage version at the New Amsterdam on Broadway. The title character is a street urchin in the Arabian city of Agrahbah who may be a thief, but has a heart of gold. He's tricked into finding a lamp in a cave by the evil vizier of the sultan Jafar (Johnathan Freeman), who wants the lamp's power to take over the city. When he's trapped in a cave, Aladdin discovers that the lamp holds a shape-shifting, wisecracking genie (Robin Williams) who can grant him three wishes. Aladdin wants to win the heart of the rebellious Princess Jasmine, but fears she'll never love him if she knows he's a "street rat." When Jafar finally does get the lamp, it'll take all of Aladdin's cunning to rescue everyone and prove that even an urchin can be a "diamond in the rough."

Went straight into a short yoga session after dinner. I concentrated as much as I could on stretching my back. I've done a lot of sitting in front of a computer this week, and my back is sore. Hopefully, things will get better as the weather (and my schedule) stabilizes and I'm able to do more bike and walking trips.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Chocolate Bunnies and Bunny Scouts

Started out the day with a run to the laundromat. It was pretty busy for a Friday morning, though I thankfully didn't have a problem getting a washer or a drier. I read through Writing Fiction For Dummies and listened to people chat and CNN drone on. I didn't have a big load and was in and out in about an hour.

There was a large box waiting for me on the porch of the front apartment when I arrived. Yay! The items I ordered with American Girl's big sales and free shipment promotion had arrived! Jessa and Whitney are going to share the Hiking Set, and Molly will share Kit's School Outfit with them. Whitney gets the dress from Kit's Candy Making Outfit to herself - it'll be her "vintage" Easter outfit. It's so pretty on her. I love the floaty ruffles and cute bow. The accessories will be Easter decorations - they'll be stored with the other Easter items, rather than with the dolls' things. I especially love how the plastic "chocolate" bunnies fit perfectly into the basket and the "molds" and how real it all looks.

I ran springtime episodes of Max & Ruby throughout the morning. While Ruby looks for eggs, Max tries to sneak tastes of the tempting prize in "Max's Chocolate Chicken." "Ruby's Clubhouse" is for Ruby and Louise only, but Max keeps trying to get in. Ruby has to think of a quick way to make them and him happy. Ruby and Louise's apple pie-themed hand-clap game is making her little brother hungry for "Max's Apples." He keeps interrupting their game for more and more fruit...but for once, he has a very sweet reason for wanting so many snacks. "Ruby's Merit Badge" is supposed to be for first aid, but Max would rather have Popsicles than let the girls bandage him! He's an equally unwilling salon client in "Ruby's Beauty Shop," until he discovers his sister's fur dye.

Ruby and Max weren't the only ones who encountered a few surprises today! When I arrived at work, the back lounge area was set up for a party, with trays of sandwiches, fried and rotisserie chicken, containers of fruit, a huge cake, and bottles of soda set up on two tables. Today is apparently the one-year anniversary of the many changes made at Acme since we were purchased by a new company. Hey, it got me a free dinner. I didn't even need the sandwich and apple I brought - I'll save them for tomorrow.

Work itself wasn't too bad. It was steady for most of the evening and never overwhelming, even during rush hour. I was disappointed that the Acme's completely out of Frozen, even after only having it in for two days. It's probably the most popular film Disney's put out in over a decade, up to and including that Oscar. I'll see if it's in tomorrow. If not, I'll just pick it up online. I'd wait for my birthday, but I'm dying to see this. Otherwise, I was in and out, with no problems and no difficulty shutting down at the end of my shift.

Oh, and I did get my schedule tonight. Generally, it's better than last week's, with no late days or really early days. I do have one eight-hour day (Wednesday), and while I'll have to wait until Thursday for my next day off, I have Saturday off as well. I understand why Angie made me wait (the college kids can't work during the weekday - they have class).

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Welcome to Springtime

The first day of spring began partly cloudy and very windy. I worked on The Mummy's Case and wrote in my journal, then had breakfast. Ran another Rankin/Bass Easter special, Here Comes Peter Cottontail, as I ate. The first Rankin/Bass Easter tale shows what happens when the title character (Casey Kasem) oversleeps on Easter day and loses his Chief Easter Bunny status to nasty Irontail (Vincent Price). He has to travel through a year's worth of holidays to deliver his eggs and evade Irontail, with the help of eccentric narrator Seymour S. Sassafras (Danny Kaye) and caterpillar pilot Antoine (also Kaye).

I really didn't have much planned for today, nor did I really want to have much planned, considering how busy my week's been. I did volunteer at the Oaklyn Library, mainly because I didn't get to volunteering there last week. They had re-organized the children's books again, clearing out more older books and putting ones with similar themes (holiday books, storybooks) together. I mostly concentrated on the adult and child DVDs and the board books. There were several new adult DVDs that needed to have their stickers removed and be brought up to the main desk (where recently released DVDs are now kept). The board books were a mess - I had to almost completely re-arrange those shelves.

I rode around Oaklyn a little after that. A stop at CVS revealed that they'd pulled out their Easter candy, but didn't provide much else I couldn't live without. Picked up a turkey hoagie and a small bag of Pretzel Chips at WaWa.

While the sun was warmer than it has been, the heavy wind made it feel chilly, and the sun kept going in and out. Other than sweeping the porch briefly, I did nothing else outside today. Watched an episode of Tales of the Gold Monkey during my hoagie lunch. Jake Cutter transports a "High Stakes Lady" who wants to take part in a big poker game on an Oriental island to their casino, but it turns out that big bucks is far from the only thing she's after. When Jake is attacked by a group of Japanese men who turn out to be spies, he begins to realize that this poker-faced beauty is playing for far higher stakes.

I spent the next few hours online, doing the first lesson in my online communications course. So far, so good. I just had to take a quiz and write what my goals are for class and for communicating better. Simply put, I want to learn to get around my shyness and fear of authority and try to figure out how to talk to and empathize with people better. I'll never get the kind of job I want or the kind of life I want if I don't learn how to handle interviews and be more assertive and confident.

I next decided to go through the dolls' clothes and do some re-arranging, especially now that they have more things coming. I finally decided that the coats took up too much room on the dolls' pewter clothes rack and moved them to the box Whitney came in. Pajamas were moved to a large vintage box that once held Josefina's Feast-Day Outfit. Out-of-season separates were moved to the box Samantha came in. (Yes, I still have Sam's original box, in pretty decent condition, too. Jessa didn't have the boxes for Felicity and Molly, and the box the doll Jess came in had been crunched so badly, I finally decided it wasn't worth keeping.)

I changed the dolls into lighter outfits for Easter and spring. Samantha looks quite elegant in her pink and white Tea Dress with the big Bertha collar. Jessa wears the late 90s Birthday Outfit with the purple fruit-print jumper and t-shirt. Felicity also wears a birthday outfit, in this case her Pink Spring Dress and Pinner Apron. It's too cold for Molly's sleeveless Birthday Pinafore - she went in her Polka-Dot Outfit instead. Whitney's temporarily sporting the yellow floral Queen's Treasure dress I bought off eBay - she'll be going into the pink dress from Kit's Candy Making Set as soon as it arrives. (Though I will admit the headband from the Queen's Treasures dress looks awfully cute holding back Whitney's curls. I might have to find or make her some more headbands like that.) I left Josefina in her Feast Day Finery. It looks so pretty on her, and I really don't have much else to change her into.

Put on The Rocketeer as I made leftover steak and Brussels sprouts sauteed in honey-wine-butter sauce for dinner, with Dark Chocolate Chip Muffins for dessert. I love this 1991 adaptation of the comic book series of the same name. The title character is Cliff (Bill Campbell), a pilot in 1938 who discovers a secret jet pack hidden in a hanger. With the help of his friend Peevy (Alan Arkin), he gets the jet pack working, rescuing a friend from an accident at an airshow. While the rest of Los Angeles tries to discover the identity of "The Rocketeer," Cliff tries to find out who wants the jet pack and rescue his girlfriend Jenny (Jennifer Connelly) from smarmy movie star Neville Sinclair (Timothy Dalton). Sinclair turns out to be a lot more dangerous than either suspects...

I love this marvelous, old-fashioned adventure tale. If you're a fan of square-jawed 30s heroics, "diesel punk" science fiction, or tales of manly men and smart women doing battle on incredible inventions out of Flash Gordon, this is highly recommended.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Soft Spring Rain

I started a quiet, cloudy, warm morning with this year's first Easter special. The First Easter Rabbit was the second of Rankin/Bass' three Easter specials, and the only one that was a half-hour and done in traditional animation. Burl Ives narrates the tale of Stuffy, a beloved stuffed rabbit who is thrown out when his owner becomes sick. A fairy makes him "real" and anoints him the Easter Bunny who brings springtime joy to children everywhere. Stuffy wants to return to his little girl with baskets filled with Easter fun, but the evil Zero, who is in charge of winter, may not let him get out in time for the big Easter parade.

I spent most of the morning online, writing and looking around online. I just barely won a rare Kit outfit I've admired for a while. Kit's Scooter Outfit was a part of the "girls on wheels" historical outfit series in the mid-2000s that also included a bicycling outfit for Sam and a roller skating outfit for Molly. All of these outfits were only around for a few years and are expensive on the secondary market today, which is why I was glad to pick it up for about $32 with shipping. While this is a little more than it retailed for a decade ago, it's actually pretty cheap for the $40 to 70 I've seen it go for on eBay. It comes with all the pieces but the socks.

I also worked on writing. I just started the fourth "queen" story. This one is going to introduce the villain. I still haven't figured out exactly what her plot is, though. I'll have to work that out in my head some more.

Ran Whistling In Brooklyn as I turned leftover chicken and a cup of vegetables from the bag I bought last week into Orange Chicken Stir Fry for lunch. The third and last Whistling movie once again picks up from where we left off. This time, Wally "The Fox" Benton (Red Skelton) is on the lam after local police accuse him of being a serial killer. This idea is encouraged by Wally's chauffeur and press agent Chester (Rags Ragland) and a nosy reporter who wants a good story (Jean Rogers). Wally and his fiancee (Ann Rutherford) use their knowledge of baseball and recording to their advantage as she holds off the cops and he tries to stop a murder during a Dodgers game at Ebbott Field.

Maybe it's because I'm not a baseball fan, but I wasn't quite as fond of the third Whistling film as I was of the first two. There does seem to be more slapstick than plot at times, especially when Skelton hits the baseball diamond. On the other hand, the use of the record recorder was an interesting plot twist, and I still love how the women, especially agile Rutherford, are played as intelligent and just as good in a fight as the guys! Baseball lovers and Dodgers nuts may appreciate this one a little more than I did. Overall, I highly recommend the series for anyone who loves Skelton or a good comic mystery.

It rained lightly on and off all day. It was still raining lightly when I went to work, enough that I was able to ride my bike and arrive only slightly damp. Work was no problem this time, busy with rush hour when I came in, quiet as a mouse when I finished. It was raining much harder when I got off at 10, which may be part of what cleared out customers later. It was too late to call for a ride, so I just rode home and got wet.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

I Can (Almost) See Clearly Now

Started off the morning with a couple of Backyardigans episodes during breakfast. Uniqua wants to prove to Queen Tasha that she's worthy of being a real warrior (and eventually brings Pablo and Tyrone along for the ride) in "Knights are Brave and Strong." Uniqua, Pablo, and Tyrone go on a "Secret Mission" in a museum to return a mystery bone to its owner. They have to use all the spy gadgets and limbo skills at their disposal to get past the museum's security traps!

Work didn't start out so badly. It wasn't really busy this morning, while it was still cloudy and cool. Two classes of preschoolers came by on day trips. One group got to say "Thank you!" over the intercom. They were so adorable.

I wish all my customers were that cute. The nicer it got outside, the busier we got. By 2PM, we had very long lines of people who weren't able to get out during the storm yesterday (or had only just gotten out after partying yesterday). Although most customers seemed to be in decent moods, there were a couple that made me want to tear out my hair. One woman wanted at least eight gallons of Turkey Hill diet iced tea for $2 because the half-gallons that were a dollar weren't on the shelves. We DID have some in the back, but she couldn't be bothered waiting for them. She was in such a hurry! Later, another woman fussed at me because she was convinced that the 4 12-packs of Coke were 4 for 9 instead of 4 for 12. She thought the extra coupon took off from the 12 and refused to listen to reason - even when the customers in back of her tried to explain it! I had to go on break anyway, so I let a manager talk it out with her.

There was a mess getting out, too. I thought the manager said she would either go in for me or send another manager; the girl who was supposed to go in for me had to relieve one of the managers. Turns out she wanted me to shut down, which wouldn't have been possible with the long lines we had at 4PM anyway. She had to call a stock boy to finish my line.

I was stressed and tired and frustrated when I changed my shirt and finally headed to America's Best. The short ride and the nice day gave me a chance to compose myself. The morning's gloom had been replaced by bright sunshine, rapidly melting snow, and upper 40s temperatures by quarter after 4. Thankfully, after all the trouble at work, my eye exam went just fine. There was no one in the waiting room, and I only was only there for a few minutes. I had the same doctor I did last time, and pretty much the same result. The left eye was the same. The right eye had changed slightly, but not enough to change my prescription. I ordered my contacts and left.

Treated myself to dinner at Golden Corral, a buffet-style restaurant behind the America's Best/Pep Boys/Audubon Post Office building. I don't eat there often, but I didn't have much for lunch and was on that side of the mall anyway. I came in just as the dinner crowd was starting. I had a tasty salad with spring greens, carrots, and peas, pot roast (nice and juicy, but much too salty), their divine sweet potato casserole, sauteed mushrooms, and cheddar cheese drop biscuits. (The last-named weren't bad. I haven't had those since the last time I ate at the Red Lobster at the Hamilton Mall.) The raspberry cake with whipped topping I had initially tasted terrible, bland and dry. I opted for coconut macaroons dipped in their white and milk chocolate waterfalls and an icing-topped mini-brownie instead.

I called Mom when I got home. I didn't get a chance to talk to her yesterday, and I couldn't go to Rose's on Sunday. She enjoyed her trip up here with Anny and her boys and loved the card I brought her. She seemed to be in a pretty good mood; she was on her way to making dinner.

Since I already had dinner, I finished up the night in a desperately-needed bath. I looked over that book on the 20th Century I bought at a yard sale last summer and soaked in my rose-scented water as a jazz performer played in the background. It did help a little, but I'm still a bit frazzled. I'd feel better about the extra hours if they were more consistent...or if I could handle many of my customers better.

Monday, March 17, 2014

White St. Patrick's Day

Top of the evenin' to all of ye! I hope those of you who celebrate it had a fine St. Patrick's Day!

Yes, there was snow on the porch when I got up this morning. However, it was very much spring snow. The flakes were light and fluffy. They moved easily when I opened my front door. A good wind would have sent the majority of it to Canada. The streets weren't even really covered. I think most schools here were either on delay or just opened normally.

I watched the few Irish-themed shorts I have during breakfast. Porky Pig has a close encounter of the surreal kind with a vengeful pack of leprechauns who think they're after his pot of gold in "Wearin' of the Grin." Woody Woodpecker has his own trouble with the wee folk when a leprechaun gives him three wishes that get him into nothing but trouble in "His Better Elf."

I spent most of the morning working on my story and watching the snow fall. It actually stopped for a while, then started again around 10:30. It felt very peaceful, typing away while the snow came down and the birds chattered outside.  I'm now about half-way through my third story. I intend this to be a series of stories about the adventures of Queen Kathleen and the kingdoms by the sea. I'm hoping to continue it for as long as I have ideas for stories. The problems with my solo fanfiction is I tend to fall out of interest in the fandom before I can finish stories or series. With so many of the ideas here drawn from my real life, it should be a little harder to fall out of interest.

Ran two Backyardigans episodes with snow settings as I had beef, spinach, and mushroom stir-fry for lunch. Mounties Tyrone and Pablo guard "The Snow Fort" and the giant snowball it protects. They think there's someone outside that's after their snowball, but it's really just ski patrol members Tasha and Uniqua. The quartet spend the episode missing each other as they run around the fort, trying to find the intruders or the people who need rescuing. Then, Pablo leads Tasha, Tyrone, and Uniqua on a chilly chase through the Frozen North. Uniqua thinks they're following the tracks of "The Yeti"; Tasha is equally insistent that there's no such creature.

The roads were so clear by noon, I had no problems taking the bike to work. No one else had any problems getting where they were going, either. We were steady but not overwhelmingly busy all afternoon and evening, except during the usual 4 to 6 rush hour. There were a few annoying customers, and the first register I went in broke down and I had to move to the next one just two minutes after I arrived. Otherwise, there were no major problems, and I was in and out.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Day Before the Storm

I started out this morning by checking the weather reports. At that point, it was still just rain and snow, not a significant amount. I was on for an hour and had just gotten off when Rose called. Our sister Anny, her sons, and Mom were coming up here today to celebrate Mom's birthday. Rose told me ten days ago. She wasn't even sure if we were going to do it at that point. I like to have two weeks or more when I ask off for work; not to mention, there were enough people asking for time off this week as it is. When I got off with her, I listened to Brunch With the Beatles ("Songs That Came Out In the Spring" was the theme today) and had a quick meal of Buttermilk Whole Wheat Pancakes and grapefruit before I headed to work.

Work was very, very busy all day. First of all, we're short handed, thanks to all the people who had off this week. Second, Sunday is normally busy anyway. Third, the weather reports had gotten worse since I looked them up this morning. As of press time, it's back to all snow, though just an inch or two. It's supposed to be in the mid-30s tomorrow - we may not even get that. It was so busy, I just got off in time with no relief.

When I got home, I made Lemon-Orange Cookies with lemon cake mix and orange juice and had avocado-cherry tomato salad and sauteed flounder for dinner while watching Whistling In Dixie. The second Whistling movie takes us to Georgia, where radio detective Wally "The Fox" Benton (Red Skelton) and his fiancee Carol (Ann Rutherford) have accepted a distress call from a college friend of Carol's (Diana Lewis). She's worried that the guy who was studying in the old fort on her father's property may have been killed. While Wally and Carol help her figure out what the scholar was up to, Sylvester, one of the thugs Wally put in jail in the first film (Rags Ragland), is after Wally...and intends to use his good-guy twin brother Chester (also Ragland) to put him out of commission.

Other than some bad southern accents, the second go-around for The Fox was just as much fun as the first, with a great sequence in a vault filling with water, some great spooky atmosphere, and an even more interesting mystery involving Confederate treasure. Lots of fun for fans of Skelton or comic mysteries.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Whistling In Oaklyn

I opened a gorgeous, sunny day with this week's American Top 40 re-run. We jumped a little further ahead into my childhood and into the 80s with this episode from mid-March 1986. Hits that early spring included "Kiss" by Prince and the Revolution, "How Will I Know?" by Whitney Houston, "Rock Me Amadeus" by Falco, "Tonight Is the Night" by Loverboy, "Nikita" by Elton John, "The Sweetest Taboo" by Sade, "R.O.C.K In the USA" by John Cougar Melloncamp, and "Secret Lovers" by Atlantic Starr. The number one song that week was one of the prettiest ballads of the year, "Sara" by Starship.

I had several errands to run today, starting with a quick trip to the Acme for this week's grocery and schedule run. I had a big order, with a lot I needed, starting with the big dollar a bag sale for produce. I was almost out of a lot of things; picked up bananas, grapefruit, apples, celery, grape tomatoes, carrots, a bag of vegetables for stir fry, and an avocado. Had a coupon off a $1.50 for three bags of Nestle Chocolate Chips. I picked up two bags of dark chocolate and one of semi-sweet. Grabbed small cuts of round steak for a quick dinner tonight. Life and Cap'n Crunch cereals were $1.99 - I went with my favorite Cinnamon Life. Stocked up on butter, Smucker's Natural Creamy Peanut Butter, cooking spray, tissues, and toilet paper.

I was less thrilled with this week's schedule. I wouldn't mind having nearly 40 hours so much if Wednesday wasn't until 10...or if the reason I have all these hours is because at least 10 employees went on vacation this week from the front end alone, and many more from other parts of the store. Despite all the notices in the back lounge area explicitly stating for everyone to NOT go on vacation at the same time! I HATE it when they do that. Why can't they be more strict about when people go on vacation? I'm sick of everyone taking off at once and leaving a handful of people around to do all the work.

I was good and pissed off when I got in. I was originally going to go to the Oaklyn Library, but I decided to stay at home, watch cartoons, and make Carrot-Apple Muffins until I calmed down. I opted for shows with an Egyptian or exotic adventure theme to go along with the books I'm currently reading, the first three from the Amelia Peabody series. I started with a musical tale of ancient Egypt from The Backyardigans, "The Key to the Nile." The kids dance to Broadway showtunes-style music as they tell the story of bossy Queen CleoTasha, who is never polite to her pages Austin, Tyrone, and Pablo. When the Nile dries up, CleoTasha and her pages seek three presents to give to Sphinx Uniqua to convince her to tell them how to get the water back.

The Three Stooges did two very different Egyptian stories during their 25-year-run. "We Want Our Mummy" is a modern adventure that has detectives Curly, Larry, and Moe searching for a kidnapped professor and a priceless mummy while dodging antiquities thieves. "Mummies' Dummies" brings Shemp in. We return to ancient Egypt, where the trio are shifty used-chariot salesmen. When they end up in the court of the Pharaoh, they help him with his toothache, then stop some of his couriers from cheating him out of tax money.

Did a couple of shorts next. In "Genie Grinder and the Magic Lamp," Hello Kitty and Tuxedo Sam try to use the goofy bulldog genie to help them grant wishes and escape the grasp of the evil Sultaness Catnip. Trouble is, Grinder tends to take their requests literally! In "Tut Tut, It's Not Pharaoh," Danger Mouse and Penfold have to keep an ancient Egyptian medallion from Baron Greenback, who'll use its power to take over the world. Donald Duck and Goofy are "Crazy With the Heat" when they're stranded in the desert and keep seeing soda fountain and iceberg mirages.

Maxwell Smart had his own encounter with mummies in the second season Get Smart episode "The Mummy." CONTROL agents are disappearing from a local museum in mummy cases. Max gets really wrapped up in the case when he pursues a pretty curator's assistant who might know what's happening to them...and almost becomes one of the victims.

I made a quick stop at America's Best to make an appointment for my annual eye exam before hurrying to work. Work was busy when I went shopping earlier, and it remained busy this afternoon. In addition to all the sales, there's some fussing about possible snow on Monday morning. At press time, it looks like it'll be too warm (into the mid-30s) for it to do anything really horrible. Not to mention, it's supposed to go right back into the 40s and 50s by the end of next week. If we get anything, it'll be gone within a day or two. Thankfully, it had slowed down enough by 6 for me to leave without a relief.

Tired and frustrated, I went straight home. There was a package waiting for me when I got in. Lauren sent me the Warner Archives set with Red Skelton's three Whistling mysteries as an early birthday present. I ran the first, Whistling In the Dark, as I made beef rounds with the last of the leftover vegetable soup for dinner.

Here, Skelton is "The Fox," a popular radio detective who claims he can solve all crimes. A gang who head a phony spiritualist cult take him at his word, kidnap him, his fiancee (Ann Rutherford), and the daughter of his sponsor (Virginia Gray), and force him to create the perfect murder. He and the two ladies first try escaping through a secret passage. They then use the gang's radio to get a hold of their victim before the murder can take place.

I was actually quite impressed with this interesting comedy-mystery. There's a surprisingly good cast for a B movie; in addition to Skelton and the ladies, we have Eve Arden as Skelton's agent and Conrad Veidt as the head villain. The idea of using radio as a vehicle not only for "The Fox"'s profession but as a means to bring down the criminals is brilliant. I also appreciate that the women are far feistier and more useful than most "love interests" tended to be in this era - they both help Red with the radio and keep the thug watching them (Rags Ragland) off his back. I'm now very much looking forward to seeing what the other movies in this series are like as well.

Friday, March 14, 2014

A Day In the Wind

I slept in a bit this morning; read The Mummy's Case, then wrote in my journal for a while and fended off telemarketers. When I finished the journal, I had a quick breakfast of orange muffins and grapefruit sections while watching more Sailor Moon. After that, I went online for about an hour to take a look at my paycheck for this week. I noticed that American Girl was having a big sale on their site. I ended up buying two outfits that were on sale that I'd wanted - the Hiking Outfit for Jessa and Whitney to share, Kit's original blue School Outfit for Jess, Whitney, and Molly to share, and the new "Limited Edition" Kit's Candy Making Outfit for Whitney for Easter. (The smaller items in that set will be used for Easter decorations.)

It was cloudy this morning, but the clouds were breaking up as I headed out for today's errand run in Westmont. The wind from yesterday remained, however, which still made it feel a bit chilly. After a quick stop at the WaWa to use the ATM machine, I went to the Westmont Bagel Shop for lunch. I wasn't that hungry, so I stuck to creamy chicken soup with rice and half of a tuna salad sandwich for lunch. The tuna salad was ok, nothing out of the ordinary, but the soup was delicious. It was nice and thick and rich, with lots of wild rice pieces. I ate all of the soup and most of the sandwich. I'm  not a fan of potato chips; didn't even bother opening the bag that was there.

Next up was a quick stop around the corner at Dollar Tree. I mainly needed to restock sponges. Bought a pack of four regular sponges and six round scrub sponges. My friend Kelly's birthday is today, and Mom's is next week - I got cards for both. Bought a container of the strawberry preserves that uses regular sugar I love, and milk bath for the next time I have the time for a bath.

It was sunny and beautiful by the time I made it to the Haddon Township Library. Surprisingly, they were pretty busy for what was turning out to be a beautiful day. There were lots of DVDs to shelve and organize. The adult section wasn't really that bad, but the kids' shelves were a mess. Nothing was where it was supposed to be, and for once, there was plenty of room for everything. I even found a Sesame Street disc that had somehow wound up on the A-G shelf without a case; a librarian later confirmed that someone had tried to take out a title but the disc was missing. I debated taking out some DVDs, but ultimately decided that, the way my schedule's been lately, I probably won't have the time to watch them.

When I got home, I just grabbed my laundry and went right back out to the White Horse Pike. I really needed to get the laundry done. Thankfully, it wasn't quite as big of a load as last week. It was busy when I came in, quiet by the time I finished. CBS News blared reports of a possible snow storm on Monday. (Even if we do get any snow from this storm, it also sounds like it's going to go right back to being in the 40s and 50s by Tuesday. I doubt it'll be around for longer than a day or two, at most. Most people will probably just worry about their commute.)

When I got home, I made leftovers for dinner while watching A Day At the Races. The second Marx Brothers movie at MGM is one of their best-regarded, and features some of their most famous routines. Chico and Harpo work at a failing sanitarium and need to keep their wealthiest client (Margaret Dumont) from leaving. She insists on having Dr. Hackenbush (Groucho) examine her. When Hackenbush arrives from Florida, his methods prove to be dubious at best, and for a good reason - he's a veterinarian. While he tries to avoid the man who wants to buy the sanitarium and the sheriff, Chico, Harpo, and their friend Gil (Alan Jones) attempt to bring a horse Gil's bought up to racing condition. When Gil enters the horse in a steeplechase competition to earn the money for the sanitarium, the Marx Brothers become determined to make sure it any means necessary!

Some too-long musical numbers slow down what is otherwise a fun Marx Brothers movie. Some of the "All God's Chillun Got Rhythm" sequence may be considered offensive today (especially when the brothers briefly end up in blackface themselves). The slower pace makes this more for fans than casual viewers; newcomers will want to start with A Night at the Opera, the previous Marx movie.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Against the Wind

Though it was sunny when I awoke this morning, it was also cold, barely in the 30s, and very windy. I started off the day with breakfast, making the bed and vacuuming while running two Garfield specials on fantasies, mysteries, and the imagination. Garfield dreams himself into a life of Babes and Bullets when he imagines that he's private detective Sam Spayed on the case of the suspicious death of a history professor. And film noir isn't the only thing he dreams about. Garfield's Feline Fantasies takes his active mind everywhere from a magic act that makes Jon's blanket disappear to the search for the fabled Banana of Bombay that'll save humor as we know it!

I worked a little on the computer and on writing. I'm now on my third "queen" story. I'm hoping to continue these as a series of fantasy-30s stories in the near future. It's really more therapy than anything else. Like Kit in her Christmas story, it's more of an escape and a way to make myself feel better by doing something fun.

Work was on-and-off busy, not quite as bad as yesterday. It was only really crazy during rush hour, and even then, it could have been worse. The blustery wind probably had a lot to do with it. Thankfully, though we may be getting more rain early next week, the cold will be disappearing along with the wind after today. My relief was on time, and other than more grumpy customers and dull down times, I had no problems getting in or out.

When I got home, I made a spinach, mushroom, and cheese omelet for a quick dinner and ran an episode of Sailor Moon from the early fourth season. A friend of Lita's is a writer who seems to be blocked. The guy she had a crush on loves someone else, and she can't dream up a sequel to the best-selling romantic epic about a girl and a Pegasus that the Sailor Soldiers loved. Lita, Serena, and Rini visit her and try to help her find new inspiration...and save her from being the Amazon Trio's next victim.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Getting Ready For Spring

It was still very warm when I got up this morning - so much that I opened the windows for the first time in months to air the rooms out a bit. I ran spring-themed cartoon episodes and movies as I scrubbed the kitchen, starting with two Backyardigans episodes. Tyrone and his fellow explorers Tasha and Pablo "Follow the Feather" to mystical Tibet in order to find the Flying Polka-Dot Pony. Uniqua becomes a springtime superheroine when she gains "Flower Power" and uses her newfound abilities to rescue Garden City from the nefarious Gloom Meister (Austin).

Switched to Sailor Moon for an hour long "movie" based around their second season. The Promise of the Rose has the five Sailor Soldiers fighting an alien flower that wants to drain the energy from every living thing on Earth. She's brainwashed another alien who was once a friend of Darien's to do her bidding. The alien wants to renew his friendship with Darien, but that doesn't sit well with clingy Serena. When he kidnaps Darien and takes him to an asteroid filled with evil flowers, the Soldiers follow in the hope of putting his and the flower's plans to bed for good.

When I finished the kitchen, I hit the bedroom to work on my story for a while. I just started the third one. I'm hoping to make this a series of fantasy-oriented stories about the queen and her adventures, some comic, some romantic, some epics. I'm just sort of writing and seeing where it all takes me.

I went downstairs around 12:30 to see if the mail had arrived yet. Yes, it did...and it brought three packages with it. The smaller ones were new eBay finds for the American Girls. I finally picked up the the Ready For Fun "meet" outfit from 2004 after bidding on it for years. This is one of the most coveted AG modern outfits for its versatility and looking like something a real kid would wear. It consists of a t-shirt with flower in the center, nifty beaded jeans, white sneakers with blue elastic laces, striped socks, and the reason I bought it, a nice reversible windbreaker in bright pink, purple, and turquoise. My modern dolls Jessa and Whitney could both use a light jacket. I also got Felicity her second accessories set, the one that matched the lavender dress that the doll wore as a "meet" outfit from the mid-2000s through her retirement in 2011. It comes with a round-eared cap with a lavender ribbon, an embroidered purse, a stretchy lavender choker, a cute little lace-edged handkerchief, and a replica "bit" coin.

My favorite find, though, was an Effanbee doll. I know I said I wasn't going to buy any more of those, but I found a truly unique doll. When the International Line was revamped in the 80s, some dolls looked exactly the same (like my Russian doll Sonia), while others got completely new outfits. Miss USA, who seems to have originally just worn a red, white, and blue version of the same fancy gown the other dolls sported, was now dressed as a cowgirl in a red checked shirt and a "denim" vest and skirt. The 80s Miss USA dolls seemed to have been released in both Caucasian and African-American versions. The African American Miss USA is very pretty, with her soft black hair and amber eyes. Maybe I'll find her a little lariat or six-shooter somewhere.

I ran Silly Symphonies shorts as I had leftovers for lunch and got ready for work. "Spring" is your basic "animals frolic in time to classical music" early music video. "Playful Pan" has the title character playing to bring out the sun...and then helping the animals flee a fire in the forest. Two adorable cubs only want some honey, but inadvertently get help from the bees when a bigger bear steals their find in "The Bears and the Bees." A baby bird falls from the nest and runs into a heap of trouble on the ground in "Birds In the Spring." And Disney turns the Greek myth of how Hades took Persephone into the underworld and brought winter into being into a full-blown opera (and a mini practice run for Snow White) in "The Goddess of Spring."

Work was busier than yesterday, though still not overwhelming for most of the night. In good news, I got a 50 dollar gift card from the Acme, thanks to my "great customer service" card being chosen from the box in the back this week. In bad news, my customers were rude and annoying all night. Mother Nature didn't help. It started pouring somewhere around 3:30 and was only just starting to let up as I arrived at the apartment. At press time, it's dry but very windy.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

A Little Bit of Sunshine

I had an early work shift, so I just squeezed in a couple of favorite Dr. Seuss specials while eating breakfast this morning. Dr. Seuss On the Loose is an anthology of three shorter Seuss tales. "The Sneeches" are yellow creatures who live on the beaches. Sneeches who have green stars on their stomachs snub those who don't have them. The arrival of an ambitious salesman and his machine that promises to give and take stars finally teaches the critters a lesson in equality. The world won't stand still for "The Zax," no matter how much one stubbornly refuses to move for the other. Sam I Am just wants one poor guy to try his "Green Eggs and Ham," and will go any length to push his favorite food!

The Hoober Bloob Highway takes us into the far reaches of space, where Mr. Hoober Bloob and his overly enthusiastic mandolin sidekick are preparing another infant charge for the trip to Earth. They show the little fellow a movie that gives us all the ins and outs of being human, from quiet days to education to asking the big questions.

Work was...very boring. It was quiet for most of my 8 hour shift. It apparently got into the 60s today, too nice of a day to spend inside shopping. Not to mention, it's the middle of the week, we're past the beginning of the month, and we're between holidays. Most employees were doing spring cleaning in the store. My relief was just on time, and I was able to get out and in with no problems.

By the time I got out, it was cloudy but still warm, probably in the upper 50s-lower 60s. Since I hadn't gotten to spend time outside all day, I decided to have dinner outside. Sonic wasn't too busy at 5PM; they picked up even as I ordered my Honey Mustard and Swiss Chicken Sandwich, tater tots, and Diet Dr. Pepper. The sandwich was slippery and mess, but the tater tots were good as always, and it was nice to just kick back and enjoy the view of the Black Horse Pike and partly sunny sky over the Audubon Crossings Shopping Center.

When I got home, I went right in the bath. I really needed one after my long shift. I listened to one of my Lena Horne CDs and read Women Who Run With the Wolves, enjoying the peace and quiet.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Creating My Fantasy World

Actually, I spent most of the morning inside, online and writing. I intend to turn these stories into as long of a series as I can draw them out. They're about a young queen who is tired of her duties, and her adventures in her kingdom and those around her. They're supposed to be set in a kind of fantasy 30s, with the cars, radios, movies, and clothes of that era...mixed with fairy-tale aspects like dragons, demons, evil sorceresses, enchanted soldiers, wacky witches, and good-natured general store clerks. As of right now, these stories are for me to vent and do some kind of writing. I may show them to one or two other people whom I trust, but they won't be going online at the time being.

I decided to give my DVD player a rest and listen to soundtracks while I made leftovers for lunch. Xanadu and Annie both came out in the early 80s, and they're favorites of mine. Neither have ever been popular with the critics, but their soundtracks are outstanding. There's some fun additions to Annie's song stack - my favorites are "We Got Annie" and the hilarious "Sign!," the latter for Carol Burnett as Miss Hannigan and Albert Finney as Oliver Warbucks. There's also Burnett joining Tim Curry and Bernadette Peters for an awesome version of "Easy Street" and Burnett's classic version of "Little Girls."

Xanadu is a bit more problematic. The trouble isn't in the music. There's a fine disco/rock score at work here. My favorite numbers are the fun "All Around the World" for the Electric Light Orchestra, the gorgeous ballad "Suspended In Time" for Olivia Newton-John, and her charming duet with Gene Kelly "Whenever You're Away From Me." The movie itself makes no sense whatsoever. Annie at least had its stage pedigree and decades of comic strips to draw on. Xanadu was an attempt at an original story - a muse (Newton-John) comes down to Earth to inspire an artist to create a roller disco. It's a fun flick if you can get with the cheesy vibe and ignore the plot holes, but most people will probably be perfectly content to buy or download the album (or the Original Cast Album for the stage version, which switched things around by playing it as the kitsch it is).

Ran the soundtrack for Thoroughly Modern Millie as I prepared for work. As much as I get a kick out of the movie, the soundtrack is really for Julie Andrews and Carol Channing fans only. They're the only ones heard on the soundtrack, besides James Fox introducing "The Tapioca" and an older woman later in the movie performing "Rose of Washington Square." That said, there's some really cute numbers here, including Channing wailing through "Jazzy Baby" and "Do It Again" and Andrews introducing the title song.

Work was pretty normal for a Monday - steady, not overwhelmingly busy except during rush hour. The nice weather may have helped. It got into the lower-mid 50s here and will be getting even warmer later this week. It did slow down enough by the end of my shift for me to head out with no relief.

Sunday, March 09, 2014

A Hint of Spring

Thanks to Daylight Savings, I didn't get up until 10:30 this morning. Brunch With the Beatles was devoted to Beatles songs, solo and together, that won awards. I came around in time for some of the later Beatles winners, which included "Something," "With A Little Help From My Friends," "Revolution," and "Let It Be."

Called Mom even before I ate breakfast. I wanted to catch her before she went outside to do her chores. Apparently, I caught her as she was coming in. She was in a very good mood. Dad was out fishing; Anny was taking advantage of unemployment money and help from her new boyfriend, a fisherman who may be taking over as captain of his ship, to spend more time with her sons. She went to a job fair at the Cape May-Lewes Ferry, the boats that carry passengers from North Cape May to Lewes, Delaware. She was interviewed for a position as a customer service representative and ticket taker. She's really hoping to get the job. She said the interviewer seemed impressed with her, especially how she mentioned her years as a mother raising four children and doing many household jobs on her own when her commercial fisherman husband was at sea. I'm hoping for her, too. It'll be good for her to get out and talk to people and make her own money beyond Dad's.

She thinks seeing the neuropsychologist might not be a bad idea. Even if there's nothing wrong with me other than extreme shyness and sensitivity, it might help rule out some possibilities. She also gave me some explanation to some of my troubles. Evidently, I was a normal baby who did all the normal things babies did and developed normally...until the winter and spring of 1980, shortly before I turned one. Then, in rapid succession, Bruce and Mom split up (with him eventually going back to Florida), Mom had Rose, and Mom's mother Martha got very sick and was ultimately diagnosed with Alzheimer's.

Mom said I was very close to Bruce and Grandma Martha for the first year of my life. Bruce used to take me everywhere and show me off to everyone he knew in the boatyard where we lived. I wish I could remember some of this. I do remember being fond of Grandma Martha, who was nice when she was well, but nothing else.

After that, Mom said I seemed to develop differently than Rose. My hand-eye coordination was a little slower. I didn't talk in full sentences until I was 4; I didn't really learn to tie my shoes until I was 9, and only because Dad-Bill and Mom pushed me into doing it. Rose tended to do all the talking for both of us for the first four years of my life, which didn't help. The high student turnover rate at Cape May Elementary, where Coast Guard kids would come and go, often after as little as a year, added to my continual feelings of abandonment. Being dumped by my only close boyfriend in an e-mail a year after I got out of college did my ego no favors, either.

I mulled over these things as I prepared a quick brunch of Gingerbread Pancakes with a half of grapefruit. I hurried out to WaWa to get a drink and change for the bus, then dashed down to Oaklyn's City Hall - it's easier to pick up the bus there. As it turned out, the rush was unnecessary. The bus was about 10 minutes late. It was pretty full, though I was able to find a seat. Otherwise, there was no traffic on the White Horse Pike, and no problems getting to Voorhees.

My trip to the Voorhees Town Center was much quicker than the one I made in December. I mainly just needed a few things at Boscov's. The big one was black work pants. Those darn pants I bought at Avenue were too tight and split in the front. From  now on, I spend the money and buy good pants for work. I picked up a pair of black Levi twill trousers for about $34.

The other big thing I needed was a new pair of slippers. The pair of Miss Piggy slippers Anny gave me four years ago for Christmas were faded and worn, and the satin lining on the insides were fraying badly. Dearforms were on sale for $9.99. I went with a really cute pair of ballet flats, made of cushiony-soft red material with sturdy soles and little satin bows on the toes. I also bought a pair of tan Goldtoe socks to replace the ones I bought about three years ago that were starting to go and a teal mock turtleneck that was on clearance for $6.99.

The Town Center was unusually busy. There was a huge Cub Scouts rally going on next to Pay/Half and the Boscov's entrance on the main floor. I think they were having some kind of race or soap box derby. I had to duck around parents watching their kids and head to the escalators near the food court to get downstairs.

My other interest in the Town Center was Hallmark. They're one of the few stores in Camden County that still carry a good selection of WebKinz. I wavered between the Rockerz Disco Poodle and the Flamingo. I finally went with the Poodle when I noticed he was on clearance for $10.50. (I'll get the Flamingo for my birthday - the receipt came with a 30% off coupon that's good from April 1st through the 19th.)

There really wasn't anything else that I needed in any of the stores. I just opted to head home early. I took the 3PM bus back to Oaklyn. Other than it was right on time, the ride was the same going home - full bus with no traffic. The bus let me off across from 7-11 a little over a half-hour later. I stopped quickly at 7-11 to get a much-needed drink (decided to try their new Diet Cherry Coke Frost Slurpee), then headed down West Clinton Avenue.

I was about to cross Manheim when a familiar white van stopped beside me. It was Jodie, on her way back from grocery shopping at the Acme. Jodie drove me to Dad's. I was there about a half-hour, enough to say "hi" to both of them and catch up with them and tell them what I was doing. I'd been meaning to get over there, anyway. I hadn't been to their house since the Super Bowl, and I can't remember the last time I went when it was just them.

When I finally got in, I spent the rest of the evening quietly. I put my new Rockerz Poodle on the site. His name is Prince. I know Prince debuted a couple of years after disco went out, but with his poofy curls and lowered lids, Prince does sort of look like the real thing. I haven't finished his room yet; it's going to be a collection of styles, mainly Rock and Modern. Naturally, he came with a disco dance floor; I may see if I can make my pets their own disco dance hall.

After I got bored with the WebKinz, I made roast chicken thighs in home-made balsamic dressing and vegetable soup (leftover tomato soup, home-made chicken stock, frozen green beans, and various vegetables that were sitting in my veggie drawer) for dinner. Listened to the greatest hits LPs for Tony Orlando and Dawn and Barry Manilow while I ate.

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Balance On a Beautiful Day

Started the morning with this week's American Top 40 re-run. I was a little over a month from turning 4 years old when this episode first aired in early March 1983. Some of these songs are among the first memories I have from my childhood. Hits from that spring included "Hungry Like the Wolf" by Duran Duran, "Do You Really Want To Hurt Me?" by Culture Club, " the duet version of "We've Got Tonight" by Kenny Rogers and Sheena Easton, "Pass the Dutchie" by Musical Youth, "Back On the Chain Gang" by The Pretenders, "All Right" by Christopher Cross, "You Are" by Lionel Richie, "Stray Cat Strut" by The Stray Cats, and "You and I" by Eddie Rabbit and Crystal Gale.

The top hit for that week would go on to be one of the biggest hits of the year, from the biggest album of the year. Michael Jackson was the name on everyone's lips. His Thriller album was selling in the millions and became one of the hottest discs of the decade. "Billie Jean" was the first of two songs from Thriller to hit number 1 that year (the other would be "Beat It").

The first thing I did this morning was take down the winter decorations and put up the St. Patrick's Day and spring items. Even Mother Nature is finally ready to change seasons. I'm having some trouble keeping a couple of the spring flower cardboard hangings on the walls. They got bent in the container and keep coming off, even with tons of tape on them. If they don't stay, they're going to have to go in the recycling. I had less trouble with most other things, including the two cute hangings of animals dressed for St. Patrick's Day I got from a local dollar store and the St. Patrick's Day tinsel garland I bought yesterday.

I had a lot of running around I wanted to get done today, and I couldn't have had a nicer day to do it in. It was sunny and breezy, and the temperatures had jumped into the lower 50s. The remaining snow was melting quickly all around me as I first headed to the Oaklyn Library to return the DVDs and do this week's volunteering there. They were in the middle of LEGO Club day, which was surprisingly busy for a morning with such gorgeous weather. I briefly organized the DVDs, but didn't do much else.

Headed to the Acme next. I had to work later, but I wanted to get my schedule and groceries early. Once again, I'm not terribly happy with my schedule. On one hand, I have a rare Sunday off (along with Friday again), and another four-hour shift on Saturday. On the other hand, I once again have several long shifts and several late shifts, including until 9 on Wednesday.

Shopping was a lot easier than last week. It was steady, but not really crazy. The Acme was having a clearance on yellow and red cherry tomatoes for 99 cents - I grabbed a container of yellow, along with an onion and the usual mushrooms, grapefruit, and bananas. Other good sales included Duncan Hines Cake Mix (which is the most expensive of the three major cake mix brands - $1.49 is a good price for them), tomato sauce, canned peaches and fruit cocktail in juice, lamb chops, chicken legs, oatmeal, and Pledge dust cleaner. (I'll be dusting sometime next week.)

When I got home, I put everything away, then ran the last of the Three Stooges cartoons as I made Oriental Chicken Salad (leftover cut-up chicken breast with canned mandarin oranges and yellow tomatoes on a bed of spinach, drizzled with home-made Orange Honey Dressing).

The trio have to avoid a bank robber who dresses as various characters to get them to stop the train carrying a huge ton of money in "Behind the 8 Ball Express." "Bridge On the River Cry" spoofs The Three Billy Goats Gruff, as the Stooges try to cross a bridge owned by a troll without paying the toll. They're "Late For Launch" when they can't launch a ship with a bottle of champagne, no matter how hard they break the bottle (or the ship). It's "A Fishy Tale" when an octopus does his best to keep them from winning a fishing contest. Larry has a strange dream that makes his best pals into comic book heroes, but he's not ready for them to be "Super Everybody." They have to stop "Rob N. Good" before he steals from innocent people, but he evades their attempts to capture him. And they have to "Get That Snack Shack Off the Track" when Get Out Of Town By Sundown Brown robs their new desert diner, and Moe uses the diner to go after him.

By 1 PM, it was so warm, the snow had totally disappeared from the porch. I was easily able to sweep up the remaining salt from last week. I think I'll try to get ice melt as early in the season as I can next year, before things start getting nasty. Rock salt makes too much of a mess.

I had to work at 2. It was still steady when I came in. It didn't pick up until rush hour. Thankfully, it had slowed down enough by 6 that I was able to do some candy shelving and leave without a relief. I was even able to pick up a few things I didn't get this morning, including tomato soup, more mandarin oranges, and Navy beans.

When I got in, I did a short yoga session, mostly just running through basic sun salutations and stretches. After I finished, I had the last of the leftover home-made pizza for dinner, then made Orange Muffins while watching The Princess and the Frog. Tiana (voice of Anika Noni Rose) is a waitress in 1922 New Orleans who is determined to work hard in order to buy her own restaurant. Prince Naveen, on the other hand, only wants to marry a rich girl so he can go on living the high life (his parents cut him off). Naveen is turned into a frog by the voodoo magician Dr. Facillier (Keith David) and needs a princess to kiss him. He sees Tiana in a princess costume and gets her to kiss him...but the kiss turns them both into frogs! They have to travel across the bayou, and then back to New Orleans, to find Tiana's friend Charlotte (who is Princess of the Mardi Gras Parade) and get her to kiss Naveen.

While not the masterpiece Disney was hoping for when it came out in 2009, there's still a lot to like in this enjoyable Big Easy romp. Tiana has become one of my favorite Disney princesses - she's hard-working, intelligent, and dedicates herself to her goals and the ones she loves. I'm less fond of Naveen, especially early on - he does get a bit better when it occurs to him that maybe he really does only need one woman in his life. I also love Ray, the sweet Cajun firefly whose "girlfriend," Evangeline, provides the best song of the movie. Charlotte is adorable too, not nearly as spoiled as you might think from a girl who gets everything.

Recommended for slightly older Disney princesses who can handle some violence towards the end, a slapstick sequence with a couple of frog hunters, and Dr. Facilier's freaky "friends on the other side."

Friday, March 07, 2014

Reaching For the Green Light

Started a late morning with more Three Stooges shorts during breakfast and some online work. "When You Wish Upon a Fish" is a Stooges adaptation of an old fairy tale. The Stooges find a magic fish while trying to catch their lunch, but are quickly reminded of the old saying "be careful what you wish for." They have even less luck with a nasty genie whose wishes do nothing but cause trouble for the Stooges in "3 Lumps and a Lamp." We get another fairy tale spoof when a little girl bear breaks into the Stooges' house and eats their pease porridge in "Goldibear and the Three Stooges." Curly Joe calls on ants to help him stop a mad scientist bent on shrinking the world in "It's a Small World." A lion helps the trio escape from a witch who uses her gingerbread house to lure them into her clutches in "Boobs In the Woods." And in "Curly In Wonderland," Curly Joe has a bizarre dream that lands him in a strange world where his friends look like everything from rabbits to the Queen of Hearts.

Headed to Collingswood to run errands after I got offline. My first stop was the PNC Bank there to deposit that check. After that, I decided it was time to get my hair done. This dry, cold winter has done it no favors - it's a frizzy mess. I went to Haddon Hair Designs this time. Denise, a tall, pretty woman with curly blond hair, did wonders. It's now layered to just above my shoulders and looks so cute.

I strolled around for about an hour after my hair cut. I didn't see any clothes I liked at Frugili Consignment Shop, but I did find a very early Wilton cake decorating book, probably from the mid-late 60s. (The women in the cake decorating classes either have huge beehives, flips like Mary Tyler Moore, or long, straight hair, and several wear very short skirts.) Much to my surprise, the Collingswood Variety Store, a gift shop/party store that's been closed for a few years now, was open when I arrived. A very old woman behind the counter kept insisting that all merchandise was a dollar. I have a ton of decorations and just ended up with a green shamrock tinsel garland for St. Patrick's Day. A stop at the Two Oaks Thrift Shop yielded no finds.

Went to lunch after leaving the thrift shop. The Pop Shop is always busy, especially at lunch time, but they were really crowded today. The main dining area was decorated with red and black balloons and cut-outs of The Cat In the Hat and other Dr. Seuss characters. Turns out this was Dr. Seuss Week at The Pop Shop. I had just missed a visit by the Cat In the Hat himself.

It was clearing out, even as I ordered my lunch. The Pop Shop has a wide selection of grilled cheese sandwiches, all of them named for streets in Collingswood, Oaklyn, and Haddon Township. I went with the Cambridge and a cup of that tomato soup I loved so much the last time I was there. "The Cambridge" turned out to be a roast beef sandwich with cheddar cheese, mayo, and caramelized onions on ciabatta bread. It was messy but delicious, and unlike most Pop Shop meals, not too much to eat in one sitting. The tomato soup was more disappointing, thinner and not as spiced as the last time.

I went to DiBartalo's Bakery next to buy some of those coconut macaroons I loved so much when Amanda visited at Christmas. Made a brief run to WaWa for milk before heading home. It was cloudy and cold, though not nearly as cold as it had been, and getting chilly for walking. Besides, I still had other things to do.

The moment I got in, I grabbed my laundry and went right back out again. I had a big load to do that included towels. Much to my annoyance, I discovered that more than half of the washers had been replaced by the newer ones that cost slightly more, but otherwise don't do much that's different. Thankfully, it wasn't busy, and I was able to use one of the older cheap ones and get my stuff in and out with no trouble. The traffic on the White Horse Pike wasn't even that horrible.

Spent the rest of the evening at home. I baked a Dark Chocolate Cake and made baked chicken and roasted Brussels sprouts for dinner while watching the version of The Great Gatsby that came out last year. Broker Nick Carraway (Toby Maguire) moves into a small cottage next door to the fabulous castle-like mansion of mysterious millionaire Jay Gatsby (Leonard DiCaprio). Gatsby's known for his amazing, carnival-like parties and for the stories swirling around him that has him as everything from a bootlegger to a killer. He invites Nick to one of those parties, but his real interest is in Nick's delicate cousin Daisy (Carey Mulligan). Jay was set to marry Daisy, until World War I intervened, and she ended up marrying old money jock Tom Buchanon (Joel Egerton). Jay is determined to win Daisy back and recreate their past. Even when Jay's interest - and his own shady business dealings - finally catch up with him, he still refuses to let the memory of Daisy's love go.

What separates this from earlier attempts to film this difficult-to-adapt novel is director Baz Lutherman's signature phantasmagorical style. No wonder this won Oscars for production design and costumes. The eye candy in this film is incredible, from the eye-popping Technicolor costumes to Gatsby's amazingly detailed shindigs that put the "roar" in "the roaring 20s." The opening (with Nick in a sanatorium writing his and Gatsby's story) and hip-hop-by-way-of-jazz music reminds one a lot of Moulin Rouge, another Lutherman fantasy that begins with detailed partying and ends in tragedy.

Like Man of Steel, this sharply divided audiences and critics last year. Either you love Lutherman's style, or you just find it to be too much. I loved it, but I also love the book and several of his other movies, including Moulin Rouge and Australia. Your mileage may vary, depending on how fond you are of the book, the cast, or Lutherman's over-the-top style.