Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Law & Order & Sisters

I overslept and even with Dad and Jodie picking me up, was almost late to work! This was not a good thing. For one thing, it was pouring when I got up, and continued to pour all day. Big-time, monsoon-level, everything floods pouring. Dad and Jodie were taking Khai grocery shopping anyway, but I was still a little embarrassed.

Thankfully, that was the worst that happened. It was quiet-to-steady until the 4PM rush hour, after which it picked up considerably. I really got rather lucky. The college boy who was supposed to come in at 4:30 was so late, he came in for me when I was done at 5.

Dad picked me up at work. The rain was still coming down. The roads were really bad by then. They were starting to shut down parts of roads that had been flooded. The part of West Clinton that goes under the train bridge was so high, we barely got through in Dad's mini van. (Dad said we may have been the last ones through before the police shut the underpass down.)

I ended up at Dad's house for the rest of the night. My sister Rose was finally being sworn in as a lawyer! A local judge and his wife were going to do the swearing in, but they had problems getting there, thanks to all the road closings. Dinner took a lot longer than the swearing in. We used Dad's den for the event, and it took all of five minutes. Khai was so cute. He ran next to his mother and repeated the oath as best he could with his hand raised; he wanted to be sworn in, too!

I spent most of the rest of the evening watching Law & Order re-runs on WE and cartoons and playing games with Khai and Jessa. Khai got a lot of fun new games for his birthday. One was "Zingo!," basic bingo, only with words and pictures (like "cat" or "dog" or "sun") on chips instead of numbers and letters. Another was a variation on Candy Land, only with dinosaurs in a train trying to get home, and a spinner instead of cards. A third was a 3-D matching game. You set up penguins holding colored "eggs" inside and roll the dice. Each side of the dice has a color. You look under the penguin and see if you can find the color that matches the dice.

We finished with the penguin game in time for dinner. Jodie made her famous so-soft-they-fall-off-the-bone ribs, along with boiled asparagus (which was sadly rather overcooked) and scallops wrapped in bacon. Margaret, Dad's neighbor, made a delicious spinach and bacon salad. There was a lemon cake from the Acme in Westmont for dessert.

Khai and I watched a couple of on-demand cartoons as the others chatted. Evidently, Khai's interests are slowly moving from dinosaurs to superheroes, especially the Cartoon Network show Teen Titans Go! The original Teen Titans were four young adults - Batman's ward Robin, good-natured robot man Cyborg, sweet Beast Boy (who can change into any animal), naive alien Starfire, and goth bad girl Raven - who are the Justice League's apprentices. While the show did well enough, it must have gotten too dark for execs at Cartoon Network. The new show looks and sounds like a cross between The Powerpuff Girls and Super Friends. It's now done in super-cute Flash animation, and most stories revolve around the kids hanging out or being weird in their t-shaped hide-out. Very strange show with some oddly dark humor, especially the one that reveals all the kids' dreams in different styles, from live-action for Beast Boy to the original show's anime for Robin.

Wally Kazaam made at least slightly more sense. This Nick Jr. little kids' show follows the title character, a cute ogre whose stick can make magical words appear. His friends include a fairy, his dog-like dragon, and Bob Goblin, a goofy little monster with a very one-track mind. In the episode we saw, the four have to dodge rotten tomatoes raining from the sky and tricky trees to get to the Magical Wishing Potato and wish their fairy friend's voice back in time for her concert. Every episode has a letter or sound of the day, and those letters or sounds will appear in Wally's magical words (in this case, the "sh" sound). Very cute show; Bob Goblin in particular was a riot.

When Khai and I started having pillow fights and Dad played monster, we knew it was time to go home. Rose and Khai drove me back. Thankfully, by that point, it was still raining but not anywhere near as heavily. The waters had receded, and we were able to get home with no problems. It may not even be raining now.

Oh, and alas, the Flyers ended their season today, just barely losing to the New York Rangers 2-1.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Two Aces and the It Girl

I started a gloomy, windy day at work. We were busy all day long. For one thing, we're getting closer to the beginning of the month. For another, the weather was dreadful, cold and dank all day. It did start raining somewhere around mid-morning, and continued off and on all day. I did get lucky regarding the weather. It wasn't raining at all when I arrived at 9. When I finally got off at 5, the showers were starting to temporarily wind down. I barely got damp going home. The rain's continued off and on all night.

Finished out The Backyardigans this morning and when I got home. Hard rock provides the background for Uniqua and Pablo's venture into "Pirate Camp." Austin is their counselor, who wants to teach them how to be proper pirates. The two put what they've learned to the test when when Austin falls into the clutches of Red Boot the Pirate Ghost (Tasha).

Poor Tyrone has his own problems in "Escape From Fairy Tale Village." He's a paper moose with a very unusual route through a town filled with fantasy characters. He meets the Big Bad Wolf (Austin), the Witch (Uniqua), and the Giant (Pablo), who want him for dinner. He thinks they want to eat him...but is that really what they're after?

Moved on to Wings as I made leftover chicken stir fry for dinner. The very first Oscar for Best Picture went to this still-thrilling silent tale of romance and friendship during World War I. Small-town boy Jack (Charles "Buddy" Rogers) has eyes only for his souped-up car, those new-fangled airplanes, and pretty city girl Sylvia (Jobyna Ralston). His gal-pal Mary (Clara Bow) has the hots for him, while the richest guy in town, David (Richard Arlen) is in love with Sylvia. Sylvia loves David deeply, but doesn't know how to let Jack down. When America enters World War I, David and Jack end up in the same unit. They don't get along...until Jack knocks the tar out of David in a boxing brawl. From there on, the two are inseparable. Mary ends up in France as well as an ambulance driver. Jack and David do well, even becoming heroes...but when David is shot down and Jack makes a fatal mistake, they discover the true force of their friendship.

I can see why this won an Oscar. From thrilling real air fights done in the real air with real machines (the director, William A. Wellman, had actually flown planes in the Great War and wanted the air battles to be realistic) to the marvelous performances of the three leads, this is silent cinema at its most compelling. Special kudos to the incredibly handsome Arlen, who moved me to tears in his final moments. (And I love men who take a tiny teddy bear with them into battle as a good luck charm.)

This was just released on DVD and Blu-Ray not long ago with tinted sequences and an orchestra score. It's very much worth looking for if you want to see where many modern buddy story, war drama, and flying battle cliches came from, or are a fan of silent movies or the cast.

Oh, and it's continued raining all night. It's going hard as I type this. Sounds like it'll continue into tomorrow. I already called Dad for a ride to work.

Monday, April 28, 2014

"Cheese, Cheese, the Robot Said Cheese...."

I began a sunny day with a short walk after breakfast. My sore side wasn't up to a long walk. I wanted to at least enjoy a little of the sunshine before the rain moves in tomorrow. It was a gorgeous morning, in the mid-60s, and not even windy like it has been the past few days. Lots of people were outside, walking their dogs or working in their gardens. The trees are in full flower here now. The lilac bushes are about to bloom, and the forsythias are a riot of golden yellow. The daffodils and hyacinths are mostly gone, replaced by tulips and lilies in radiant shades of while, lavender, gold, flame orange, and fire engine red. I strolled down Goff Avenue to the boat landing. I didn't stay there long. It was so pretty there, but there were dogs out in fenced in yards kicking up a racket, and my sore right side is still feeling pretty stiff.

I went to work shortly after. It was a very long evening. We were not only busy all afternoon, but we started running out of the stickers for the Monopoly game towards the evening. Thankfully, I gave out my last one only about a half-hour before I was done. It's the beginning of the month, which means all kinds of fun people coming out of the woodwork, too. There were some nice ladies who helped an older man who had to go back to his house for his debit card get his order back on the register. Other than that, I was just happy that my relief was on time.

Even though it was still busy when I finished, I had things I needed to buy. I finally found an alternative to the awkward heating pad and the messy IcyHot that just didn't seem to be enough. I bought Acme's generic "Cold & Hot" medicated pads - unlike the heating pad, I'm able to lay on it and sit on it. They're also having a massive clearance on tooth cleaning items. I found a 2-pack of the larger size of Crest Pro-Health for $2.99. (And I'm glad I grabbed it when I came in. When I was done, it was gone.) Tons of sponges were also on clearance; bought a 3-pack of Scotch Pads for $1.50. I didn't really need sponges, but that was too good of a deal to pass up.

I put on some Backyardigans to cheer myself up when I got home and had salmon, spinach, and mushrooms for dinner. Two of my favorite episodes had fun with pop culture. "Front Page News" has Tasha as a reporter with a secret identity - she's Super Snap, Bigopolis' newest superheroine! Her boss Pablo wants her to get a really great shot of the robot rampaging downtown for the front page. Trouble is, she's too busy helping Captain Bubble (Tyrone) and Bug Girl (Uniqua) save the day to get the picture! At least, until the robot keeps saying "cheese" over and over again. The other two thinks he wants real cheese, but Tasha knows what he's after.

Austin gets a chance at the spotlight in "Le Master of Disguise." He's the Inspector tracking down the title character (Pablo) on the Orient Express. Despite the fact that it's hard to disguise a penguin, Austin can't tell where his little blue friend is anyway. Could the Master of Disguise be Tyrone the Cow-Moose? Or Tasha the Circus Performer? Or even Uniqua the Conductor? Austin has a unique way of figuring it out - find Pablo's unusual laugh!

Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Garden Next Door

Started the day quickly with the original book version of Auntie Mame, Carrot-Oatmeal Pancakes for breakfast, and this week's Brunch With the Beatles. "Questions and Answers" was the broad, simple theme for today. Any song from any era was fine, as long as it asked a question or gave an answer. Songs that did one or the other or both included "Do You Want to Know a Secret?", "When I'm 64," and "With A Little Help From My Friends."

Although I had to work earlier than usual for a Sunday, I did have enough time to call Mom. She had a quiet Easter. Anny spent a lot of the week with her sons and a guy friend and his daughter who was visiting the area. Dad was out working, but was due in soon, and Mom wanted to get a lot of cleaning done before he was underfoot. Basically, she said to keep moving forward, ignore Rose's complaints about my being self-centered (um, I live alone - whom am I supposed to be centered on?) and not doing enough to change my circumstances. I'm doing what I can.

I went to work almost as soon as I got off the phone with Mom. Work was crazy for most of the day. It was a beautiful, if windy, spring day, and this is the only day of the week a lot of people can shop. Basketball and hockey are in playoffs, too. The Flyers played at noon. Alas, they couldn't hold off the New York Rangers, who handed them their rears, 4-2. I saw the opening seconds of the game between the Chicago Blackhawks and the St. Louis Blues during my break, and later as I was getting ready to go home. (I had to stay an hour later, due to how overwhelmingly busy we were.) The Blackhawks had no trouble giving the Blues the blues with a huge 5-1 win.

When I got home, I had a quick leftovers dinner and listened to my original cast LP for Mame. Although I do enjoy the movie version, the cast album is fun, too. Angela Landsbury became a beloved stage star with her performance as the world's most unconventional relative. The cast recording includes a number for Mame and the ensemble, "That's How Young I Feel," that didn't make it into the movie.

I wanted to go for a walk after dinner, but it was past 7. I just opted to go next-door to Veteran's Park. The park is in full bloom now, with shiny, soft green leaves on every tree. They're just starting to work on the town garden, too. I saw one plot with pots of dazzlingly white hyacinths. Someone planted tomato stalks and what looked like lettuce in another. There were adorable little mums all around the perimeter. A heavier wooden fence had been added in some places. It was probably to keep local critters out, but it also made it a bit hard to look in.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Live and Let Bond

Started off with some of this week's American Top 40 episode. (For some strange reason, I think they played part of another episode around quarter of 8 - it went from #2 to #8, and from the 70s to 1981). At any rate, we were back in 1981 for another round of New Wave, early rap, R&B, pop, and the last vestiges of disco. Hits that week included "Rapture" by Blondie, "Morning Train" by Sheena Easton, "Angel Of the Morning" by Juice Newton, "Just the Two Of Us" by George Washington Jr., and "The Best Of Times" by Styx. Philly boys Hall & Oates had their second #1 hit with one of their most popular songs, "Kiss On My List."

Though I did make quick stops at the Logan Presbyterian Church Thrift Shop to drop off donations and at the PNC Bank in Haddon Heights to deposit my birthday money from Dad, I spent most of the morning cruising around Haddon Heights. This time, they really were having their town-wide yard sale. Alas, while there were plenty of sales around, I didn't have as much luck as last year. My biggest find was a huge sale with at least ten boxes of videos, some of them fairly rare older war movies, comedies, or westerns. I ended up with two Roger Moore James Bond films (The Spy Who Loved Me and Live and Let Die), the Laurel & Hardy comedy Pardon Us, the 80s action spoof Spies Like Us, and the Oscar-winning silent war drama Wings.

Other finds included:

Two Max & Ruby DVDs, Party Time With Max & Ruby and Afternoons With Max & Ruby.

A kids' video, Wakko's Wish, the Animaniacs movie.

Three Johnny Mathis records

Five records of instrumental orchestra recordings of popular songs of the late 10s and 20s.

Stopped at Simply Soups on the way home for lunch. It was around quarter after 1, and the place was busy with a big family that was trying to keep its toddlers from playing with the knick-knacks on the stairs leading to the main dining area. I had my usual soup (a spicy sweet potato puree with caramelized ham and pecans), can of soda (Diet A&W), and breadsticks.

Went straight home after that. There was a surprise waiting for me when I got in - my latest eBay find for the dolls had arrived. AG has made many different costumes for the dolls from the late 90s onwards, but one of the coolest was the flapper outfit from the mid-2000s. I got the whole outfit, including the silver fringed dress, purple heeled shoes, pink beaded necklace, and headband with the purple feather.

After I put most things away, I went right back out to get the laundry done. The laundromat was fairly busy with families getting things done when I arrived. By the time I finished my small order, almost everyone but a college girl was done. I didn't have a lot to wash, anyway. I was in and out in less than an hour.

I spent the rest of the day at home, watching cartoons and dubbing movies. Started with Max & Ruby. Ruby and Louise have a crush on (slightly) older boy Roger and want to find games to play with him. Trouble is, they keep picking girlie games. Max knows what "Roger's Choice" would really be. Max wants "Max's Dragon Shirt," but Ruby wants him to get a new pair of overalls. Max, as usual, figures out how to get what he wants. Ruby and Louise want Max to be their prince in "Ruby's Stage Show," but Max would rather be the dragon!

Switched to Wakko's Wish while making Chicken With Lemon Herb Sauce, spinach salad with lime ginger dressing, and boiled asparagus tips for dinner. The final episode of Animaniacs sets the cast in the town of Acme Acres, which has taxed within an inch of its life by an evil king and his obnoxious subordinates. The Warner siblings, Wakko, Yakko, and Dot, are homeless orphans. In need of an operation for Dot, Wakko makes a wish on a star. The star falls to Earth, and Wakko's told that whomever can reach the wishing star first will get to make that one wish. Soon, the entire vast Animaniacs cast - including the eternally scheming lab mouse pair Pinky and the Brain - are on their way across the country to find that star! But the greedy king, whom the Warner siblings have driven crazy one too many times, is also after the treasure, and will do anything to get there first.

If you're an Animaniacs fan, this one is a no-brainer. Almost the entire cast gets at least some lines (or a scene, in the case of the mime). Even kids who didn't grow up on this show might enjoy the irreverent, zany humor. Fun if you can find it (it's not currently on DVD).

Moved to James Bond as I finished up dinner and made Carrot-Oatmeal Bars for dessert. Live and Let Die was Roger Moore's first movie in the franchise. Bond is on the trail of Mr. Big, a narcotics dealer who is responsible for the lives of four people. He follows Big first to New York, then to New Orleans, then to the Carribean island of San Martinique. The "Bond Girl" is Solitare (Jane Seymour), a tarot card reader who may or may not be a voodoo priestess.

The Spy Who Loved Me is a bit more traditional. Here, Bond deals with a typical megalomaniac out to take over the world - in this case Stromberg, he of the lotus-shaped underwater hideout. Bond joins up with a female Russian agent (Barbara Bach) to find out what happened to a pair of missing Soviet and American submarines. It doesn't help that Bond just killed the Russian agent she was dating in the line of duty. And then, there's Jaws, the lackey with the metal teeth....

The Spy Who Loved Me is (along with Octopussy) my favorite of the Moore Bonds. For one thing, Jaws may be cartoonish, but he's one of the few villains of any kind who almost really damaged Bond. For another, it has some amazing action sequences, including the ski chase that opens the film. There's also the car that turns into a submarine; that's just cool. If you're a Bond fan, this is necessary; not a bad introduction to Moore's Bond movies as well.

Live and Let Die, on the other hand, hasn't dated nearly as well. "Blacksploitation" was hip at the time...but making almost all of the African-American characters bad guys doesn't exactly look great today. They apparently were trying for a gritty reboot to start Moore off (Q doesn't even appear), but voodoo ceremonies, goofy racist hillbilly sheriffs, and inflating head bad guys makes this look more like an especially violent Looney Tunes short.

Probably the best things about both these movies are their classic theme songs. "Nobody Does It Better" from Spy Who Loved Me was nominated for an Oscar; the Paul McCartney and Wings title song from Live and Let Die is considered the best theme from any Bond movie.

Went right into an even goofier spy movie, Spies Like Us, after Bond. Chevy Chase and Dan Ackroyd are a pair of office workers who inadvertently find themselves as real spies when government officials decide they need decoys for a major mission. The two are dropped in Pakistan without a clue and pretty much stumble around, trying to figure out what they're doing. When they finally do run across the real agents, it turns out they might be able to head off Armageddon, if they can stay alive and stay out of the Soviets' hands long enough to do it.

Not bad, not great. Reminded me a lot of Stripes, another John Landis 80s comedy about guys who don't belong in the Services saving the day anyway. Thankfully, while this one also runs out of steam towards the end, Chase and Ackroyd still manage some laughs, especially Chase being interrogated by the Russian agents. Not a bad time-waster if you run into it on cable or Netflix and you're a fan of Landis or the two lead comedians.

Friday, April 25, 2014

"Flash! Ahhhh! He'll Save Every One Of Us!"

Actually, I slept in this morning and didn't get going until 10:30 or out and about until past 11. It was a beautiful day for a ride to the Haddon Township Library. Newton River Park was absolutely gorgeous. It was warm, in the mid-upper 60s, windy and sunny as could be. I dodged lots of people who were out enjoying the fine weather, including a dad with his little daughter on her first training wheels bike and several dog-walkers.

Needless to say, the Haddon Township Library wasn't that busy. There were few returns on the DVD shelves and not a lot for me to do. I pretty much limited it to organizing the kids' titles. Even that didn't take too long. There were only a few "S" titles that needed to be placed on other shelves. I was in and out in less than an hour.

I made a quick stop at Dollar Tree to buy sponges, then managed to get across a Cuthbert Road that was busy with lunch traffic and head to Capitol Pizza in Oaklyn. They were also busy with people eating their noon meal and watching The Chew. I had a plain cheese slice, a slice loaded with broccoli and mushrooms, and a can of Diet Pepsi while looking over Collingswood's paper advertising local events, What's Going On?

There was a package waiting for me when I got home. I ordered a few items and outfits from American Girl for my birthday that I really wanted, or suspect will retire when AG revamps the historical line in late August. I bought Josefina's Dress and Vest, Ivy's Accessories for my Asian modern doll Jessa (I thought the purse that looked like it was made from an old pair of jeans was especially cute), and Rebecca's School Outfit for my 20th and 21st century dolls to share.

I changed Josefina into the Dress and Vest right away. I couldn't believe how stunning she was. The bright red printed skirt with gold trim looked absolutely gorgeous on her. The soft, velvety vest was so cute. It paired really well with her bright gold shawl from the Heirlooms Accessories set, too. I changed her hair into the best twist I could manage, tied with a red ribbon.

I made a quick run to the Acme around 4PM. I wanted to make a very short grocery trip and get my schedule. For once, I really didn't need much. I mainly wanted to restock fruit and the dollar packs of fish fillets. I also bought a chicken stir fry pack with cut chicken and vegetables for dinner (the chicken fillets I was originally going to have tonight probably wouldn't defrost in time).

My schedule is probably the best I've had in almost a month. While I do have an early 8-hour day (Tuesday) and a 7 hour day (Wednesday), everything else isn't too early or long, and nothing is later than 6. I once again have next Friday and Saturday off.

When I got home, I put my small order away, then went straight in the bath. It felt nice, once I figured out how to sit down without making my sore side worse. I read The Three Musketeers and listened to songs written by 40s-50s pop and stage composer Jules Styne, who did Gypsy, Bells are Ringing, and songs from several hit 40s movies, including Romance On the High Seas and It Happened In Brooklyn.

When I came out, I started Flash Gordon Conquors the Universe while I made Chicken Stir Fry with brown rice for dinner, and later when I went online. This was the third and final Flash Gordon serial made by Universal in the 30s and early 40s. In the first half of the serial, Flash, his girl Dale, and scientist Zarkov must find an antidote for the Purple Death plague on Earth in the cold wastelands of Frigia. The second half takes us back to Mongo, as the evil Ming the Merciless intends to destroy Arboria, the home of Flash's ally Prince Barin. He takes Dale, Zarkov, and Barin's wife Azura hostage, forcing Flash and the others to rescue them.

All three Flash Gordon serials were wildly popular, and it's not hard to tell why. The special effects, which look rather cheesy now, must have been top-notch in 1940. Buster Crabbe was the pre-eminent action hero in serials in the late 30s and early 40s, and he has just as much fun here. Carol Rogers takes over as Dale; Charles Middleton remains the infamously evil Ming.

If you've only seen the 1980 movie, give the serials a look sometime to see the same plots more-or-less taken seriously, bullet-shaped space ships, exploding robots, and all.

Oh, and I have no idea when it started raining. It wasn't raining when I was in the bath. I didn't even notice it until I was making dinner and saw that it was wet outside. It's coming down now, but it's supposed to subside in time for Haddon Heights' town-wide yard sale tomorrow.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Care About Spring

I began the morning with cereal, a half of grapefruit, and The Care Bears Movie. The Bears' first appearance on the big screen has them helping a trio of orphans having problems with trust and making friends. A trip to Care-A-Lot quickly gets the message through to brother-sister duo Kim and Jason. Nicholas, a clumsy magician's apprentice, is less lucky. Before the Bears can talk to him, he finds a spell book possessed by an evil spirit that takes control of his mind. Now the Bears, the kids, and their new friends the Care Bear Cousins have to stop Nicholas from destroying all the love and happiness in the world...and destroying Care-A-Lot in the process.

Like the Rainbow Brite movie and original My Little Pony specials, this is surprisingly dark for a girl-oriented franchise from the 80s. The spirit in the book is genuinely nightmarish, especially towards the end. Kids will still like it (and will be more likely to overlook the obviously cheap and poorly done animation); just have a hand to hold for them when the spirit in the book is on.

I spent the rest of the day at work. Work was pretty much the same as yesterday - steady to busy for most of the evening. There were a few annoying people, including one guy who begged to use his 10 dollar coupon that expired yesterday on his nine-dollar order. Otherwise, I was in and out.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Secret Gardens and Springtime Magic

I worked early today, at 9AM again. We were actually steady for most of the afternoon, busier than the last few days, but not too bad except during rush hours. The day flew by quickly. My relief was on time, and I was in and out. Mother Nature helped, too. It was cloudy and windy when I rode in this morning. By 4PM, the clouds were gone, but the wind remained. It was probably in the upper 50s, a little cool for April but not too bad.

When I got home, I went right in the bath. I really, really needed that. I think I pulled a muscle on my right side. It's been really sore since the weekend. I've been putting a heating pad and Icy Hot on it and have taken aspirin before work. The bath felt very nice. I listened to the 1991 musical version of The Secret Garden as I relaxed. It's really more of an opera, with a heavier emphasis on Archibald Craven (Mandy Patikin) and his relationship with his dead wife, than on the kids.

I had begun the 1993 Secret Garden before I went to work; I finished it after my bath, as I made a spinach and mushroom omelet for dinner. Thankfully, the focus in the movie returns to the kids and their garden. Mary Lennox (Kate Maberly) is a spoiled little girl who is forced to live with a hunchbacked uncle (John Lynch) in Northern England when her neglectful parents die in an earthquake. Mary's a bratty and contrary creature, but she's also curious and strong-willed...and it's her curiosity that leads her to the walls of a forbidden garden. The overgrown enclosure once belonged to her uncle's wife. When she died in the garden, he locked the door forever. Mary and her new friend Dickon work on bringing the once-dead garden back to life. Mary also meets Colin, her frail cousin. He thinks he's crippled, but he's really just fretful and neglected...rather like Mary herself. When the garden bursts into bloom, the children do, too...but how will the adults around them react to the changes in their once-gloomy charges?

Just as lovely as the later version of A Little Princess, and somewhat more faithful to the original book. (Although for some reason, Mary's parents die in an earthquake rather than a cholera epidemic.) The cinematography, particularly later when the garden comes to life, is exquisite. A must-see if you're a fan of the book, children's movies, or just beautifully-made films.

As I made Carrot-Chocolate Chip Muffins, I switched to The Secret Of Nimh, another semi-fantasy set during the spring. This time, we're in animation, as mouse Mrs. Brisby must deal with her son Timothy's pneumonia and the death of her husband Johnathan. Turns out Johnathan was no ordinary rodent. He had friends in very odd places, namely, a group of highly intelligent former lab rats who live in a rose bush on the same farm as Mrs. Brisby. Mrs. Brisby now must convince the rats to help move her house, with a little help from a magical amulet one gives her...and her own surprising courage.

This has long been one of my favorite animated films, and possibly the most beautiful animated movie of the 80s. The haunting score by Jerry Goldsmith (and the theme song "Flying Dreams") are especially lovely. Despite the G rating and talking animals, there's quite a bit of violence and adult subject matter, including a duel towards the end that concludes with a gristly death and fairly frank discussions of animal testing. For older kids and adults, this is possibly Don Bluth's best movie and is highly recommended.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Thundering Into Earth Day

Started off my Earth Day by taking down the Easter decorations and running cartoons with environmental themes. The Lorax is the little orange creature who speaks for the trees. The greedy Once-ler disregards his pleas and keeps chopping down the forests to make "Thneeds"...until both discover the damage that unchecked progress can do. Sailor Moon and the Sailor Soldiers also run across trouble when they're attacked by a caretaker and the animals of a threatened park that are under the control of the Negaverse in "An Unnatural Phenomenon" from the first season.

Tiny Toon Adventures often had shorts or whole episodes with environmental themes in their early first season. I ran two of them as I got ready for work. "Pollution Solution" has Plucky teaching Elmyra how to recycle, Babs and Buster stopping a nasty millionare from destroying the rainforest to build his home, and GoGo the DoDo dealing with the backwash from Montana Max's factory being dumped into Wacky World. Buster, Babs, and Elmyra also help a baby whale rescue his mother from poacher Grabbme Gotcha, who wants to use their blubber to make cosmetics, in "A Whale's Tale."

Work was pretty much the same as yesterday - mostly dead. I spent a lot of the early afternoon helping the baggers and managers condense the four remaining shelves of Easter candy and items to one and a half. The baskets, stuffed animals, and large bags of candy were loaded into carts and put in the self-checkout area for people to sort through. The head manager really, really wants to get the summer items out as soon as possible.

Other than some grouchy people, there were really no major problems. It did pick up during the 4-6 rush hour, but it finally slowed down long enough for me to get off and grab some milk on the way out (I ran out yesterday).

Went back to specials as I made salmon and sauteed mushrooms and spinach for dinner. It's Arbor Day, Charlie Brown has Sally and Linus learning about trees and the holiday that celebrates them. Sally takes what they've learned and plants a garden on her brother's baseball field. Chuck's not too happy with this...until it looks like it may help him win a game.

Moved to an episode of the 70s Wonder Woman as I finished dinner. There were some pretty strange stories in the show's third and final season, but none more than the tale of "Formicida." Three collapsed buildings are connected to a firm that's going to release a new pesticide that could be deadly. Wonder Woman follows the trail to a biologist who has discovered a formula that allows her to control and have the powers of ants. She tries to convince the woman and the pesticide company that two wrongs don't make a right...and that while it's good to protect the Earth, it's not good to hurt innocents while doing it.

Oh, an we did have a thunderstorm briefly earlier this evening. It really came down for a while, but it's long-gone now. Otherwise, today was sunny and actually quite nice.

Monday, April 21, 2014

A Dino-Riffic Birthday Party

Started out today with an early work shift. In contrast to the past few weeks, it was dead almost the entire day. I spent a lot of the morning standing around or shelving candy. It did pick up a bit around 2-2:30, but by that time, I was almost done. My relief was on time, and I was able to get home quickly.

Good thing, too. As soon as I changed and grabbed Khai's birthday present, I called Dad and Jodie. We were going to Craig's parents' house in Haddonfield for my nephew Khai's birthday party. The weather couldn't have been nicer. It was chilly when I went to work this morning, but by the time we were driving across Cuthbert, it was nearly 70, windless, and sunny as can be.

Khai was so excited, and I couldn't blame him. Craig's parents, brother, and girlfriend went all-out for his party. Given Khai's current obsession with dinosaurs, it went without saying that his party had a prehistoric theme. Craig's brother's girlfriend is a professional baker who made a huge volcano cake, with "lava" icing flowing down the sides, and an edible T-Rex that was crafted from fondant and Rice Krispie Treats spread over a wire form. There were also two smaller cakes, one a chocolate "tar pit" with a dinosaur on top, and a vanilla ring topped with blueberries and whipped cream. Craig's parents' house was decorated with vines, flowers, and green-and-orange balloons to give it that prehistoric jungle feel.

There was tons of food, too. Craig's mom made a ham wrapped in a sweet sugar glaze, roasted potatoes, green beans and tomatoes in white sauce, and croissants for dinner, along with Jodie's salad leftover from yesterday. There was a cheese and cracker tray, a vegetable tray, and bowls of "wet" almonds. Tiny containers of Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream (I had Cherry Garcia) went with the cake.

Khai was spoiled silly. Craig's parents gave him another remote-control dinosaur (a Brachiosaur, according to Khai). Dad and Jodie gave him new bathing suits and his first bottle of cologne (in a Spider Man-themed bottle). I gave him the National Geographic Dinosaurs and Thomas the Tank Engine counting books. There were piles of games and puzzles. Keith and Jessie, Craig's brother and his girlfriend, gave Khai a huge non-spill container to hold long bubble wands and lots of bubble liquid. Jessa and her boyfriend Joe brought out a real US Post Office visor and a toy Post Office truck. (Joe is a mailman.) Friends of Khai's gave him Super Soaker water guns and water balloons.

Khai and his friend Emmy loved those water guns. They spent the rest of the evening playing with them. They chased poor Rose and soaked her. I was lucky Khai had opened his new dinosaur umbrella to show it off earlier and forgot to close it. I was able to use it to fend off the kids and their water. Unlike Khai, I didn't have a change of clothes there! The bubbles were a big hit, too. The kids and I blew lots of glassy bubbles and hurried after them. Craig and Keith tried to teach them how to toss a basketball into both the kids' and adult-sized basketball nets. Rose filled the water balloons, and she, Craig, Keith, and Jessie had a water balloon war. Jessie was even throwing balloons out upstairs windows at one point!

Oh, and I even got presents. Jessa and Joe gave me my birthday presents - a pair of vintage Mickey and Minnie stuffed dolls. They're long and thin and have heavy feet and embroidered pie-eyes - Minnie has her flowered hat. I think they're supposed to be recreations of 30s toys, though I'm guessing they're probably from the 80s or 90s. Jessa said she got them at a yard sale - great find!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Egg Hunting and Other Easter Tales

I pre-emtped the Beatles show today in favor of my The Music of Spring Columbia Special Products LP and more Easter specials. The Easter Bunny Is Comin' To Town in Rankin-Bass' third spring origin story. This time, the Easter rabbit is Sunny, who is determined to show what the orphans of isolated Kidsville can do in gloomy Town. His colorful eggs are a big hit with everyone but grouchy Dowager Dutchess Lilly Longtooth, who is determined that Sunny, the kids, and their new traditions stay out of Town forever! The Peanuts' spring festivities are less dire. It's the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown...or so Linus keeps claiming. While he insists that the mythical pooch will take care of all Easter fun, Lucy pesters Schroeder for presents, Sally goes spring shopping, Peppermint Patty and Marcie attempt to color eggs, Snoopy buys a bird house for Woodstock, and Charles Schultz makes some very pointed cracks at early Christmas sales.

Called Mom around 10:30. I wanted to catch her before she went to visit Anny or to start yard work. I did just get her before she was going out to the yard to rake. No one on the Cape May side of the family had any major Easter plans. Anny was just going to spend time with her son Skylar and her boyfriend. Dad and Mom were going to the Tuckahoe Inn, a fancy and quiet local restaurant that's popular with couples other childless folks, for Easter dinner.

I took the dolls outside this year for their Easter portraits. Other than it was windy, the weather continued to be beautiful. It was cloudy this morning, but by noon, the sun was out, and though the wind made it a bit cool, it wasn't nearly as cold as earlier in the week. The daffodils in the garden by first floor apartment looked so pretty, I took the dolls' photos there.

The Dolls' Easter Photos

Went back upstairs to upload the photos onto Photobook; ran Easter Parade as I worked. This 1948 MGM musical takes us to New York in 1912, just in time for the Easter Parade. Fred Astaire plays a vaudeville dancer whose partner (Ann Miller) just walked out on him to star in a Broadway revue. He vows he can make any chorus girl into a star...and chooses a singer from a bar show (Judy Garland). He tries to make her into a ballroom dancer, but soon discovers she's really more of a comedienne. The two return to New York to star in their own show...but then his original partner decides she wants him back, and his best friend has a crush on Garland...

Cute movie with some nice numbers, including Miller's "Shakin' the Blues Away," Astaire and Garland telling folks how they're "A Couple of Swells," and Peter Lawford getting through the charming "A Fella With an Umbrella." Fun for fans of the cast or musicals.

I finally headed to Dad's house after the movie ended. Things were just getting started when I arrived. My cousin Amber is visiting from Wisconsin with her two daughters, 7-year-old Ella and 3-year-old Lilly. She and I hid eggs around the front yard while the girls napped. When Rose and Craig arrived with a raring-to-go Khai, Amber got the girls up, and we turned them loose on the eggs. They were so funny! The trio hurried all over the yard, looking for all the candy-and-sticker-filled eggs they could find, especially the ones with their names on them that contained dollar bills!

We got the kids inside to look over their loot as more people arrived. Jodie's Aunt Colleen and her husband brought a lemon cake in an Easter cross pan. Amber's dad Mark and his girlfriend Vanessa brought macaroni and cheese, deviled eggs, and several of Vanessa's friends from Wisconsin.  Rose brought sugar cookies with a satiny pastel swirl glaze. Jodie and Dad provided ham, turkey, rolls, Broccoli-Cauliflower Casserole, Green Bean Casserole, and Carrot-Celery Salad. Dessert included the lemon cake and cookies and my Key Lime Cake with Lime Buttercream Frosting.

After dinner, Mark offered to take Ella for a ride around the block on his motorcycle. She was absolutely thrilled! Little Lilly thought it was way too noisy and declined the offer. Khai was too little for a ride, but he did get his picture on it with Mark when it was parked. Not too long after that, we heard the Mr. Softee truck jingle up to our street. The kids somehow managed to talk some of the adults into money for ice cream and Spongebob Squarepants ice pops, even after all the food, candy, and cake! (I skipped the ice cream. I had the money, but I was way too full.) Jodie's son Jesse brought his spaniel mix Helio over to visit, much to the delight of Lilly and Khai, who chased him all over the kitchen.

The party was starting to wind down around 6:30-quarter of 7. I finally walked home, hugging the people I wouldn't see for a while (Amber and her girls are returning to Wisconsin tomorrow) and saying good-bye to those I'll be seeing tomorrow at my nephew Khai's birthday party. (His birthday was Saturday, but they didn't have the chance for a party until tomorrow.)

And I hope all of you had a wonderful Easter and Passover that was filled with springtime surprises!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

In Spring, the Easter Bunny Never Sleeps

Started off the morning with this week's American Top 40 re-run. We returned to 1978, this time in late April, for another round of R&B, hard rock, pop, and disco, disco, and more disco. Hits in early spring of that year included "Emotion" by Samantha Sang, "Lay Down Sally" by Eric Clapton, "Can't Smile Without You" by Barry Manilow, "With a Little Luck" by Wings, "Our Love" by Natalie Cole, "Running On Empty" by Jackson Browne, "We'll Never Have to Say Good-Bye" by England Dan and John Ford Cooley, "If I Can't Have You" by Yvonne Elliman, "Dust In the Wind" by Kansas, and the title song from the romantic comedy The Goodbye Girl by David Gates.

But the real talk of that spring - and of the previous five months - was the smash-hit, platinum-selling soundtrack from Saturday Night Fever. In fact, the Bee Gees' two major hits from that album, "Stayin' Alive" and "Night Fever," were the top songs that week, with "Night Fever" in the middle of it's 7 weeks at the #1 spot.

I headed out about a half-hour or so after the AT 40 ended. Haddon Heights was originally supposed to have its town-wide yard sale today, but it was moved to next week for some reason. That's all right. It was such a nice day, just being out for a ride was lovely. I haven't had a good ride for anything besides counseling trips since last fall. I did run into a few yard sales that weren't told about the date changes. Just found an interesting-sounding young adult novel called The White Twilight, about a girl in medieval Denmark who has to figure out why pirates are attacking their king and the castle her father is working on.

(And I also learned that much of the Haddon Heights side of Haddon Lake Park had once been an actual lake, Crystal Lake, that was drained in the 30s. That explains the park's bowl shape and oddly curving slopes.)

Since I was in the area, I made a stop at the CVS on the corner of King's Highway and the White Horse Pike. They'd completely re-did the store since the last time I was there. The space for vitamins and other pills had been tripled, and they had more food supplies as well. I needed shaving cream; also picked up bubble bath (haven't had Mr. Bubble in years) and laundry detergent. I went across the street to the little Italian bakery, but they were so crazy, I left with nothing.

I headed back towards Oaklyn around quarter of 1. I eventually ended up at the Oaklyn Library for this week's volunteering session. The re-organizing in the children's section continues. I completely re-did the kids' DVDs, then fixed the board books, which are the only kids' items that aren't going anywhere. They're still trying to figure out how to get everything together, so I just left the rest.

I got in around 1:30. I had a quick lunch of leftovers while watching a couple of Max & Ruby Easter episodes. "Ruby's Easter Bonnet" is an elaborate concoction of flowers and ribbon, but it's Max's jumping frog that adds a little something extra. Max wants to lead "Max's Easter Parade," but Ruby and Louise would rather decorate Easter eggs. And Max plays the Easter Bunny for Ruby and the other Bunny Scouts during their Egg Hunt in "Max and the Easter Bunny."

Went back out around quarter of 2 to get my laundry done. I'm not doing it on Easter, and Rose asked me if I wanted to go to Khai's birthday party on Monday evening. Today's the only day I had to get it done. It wasn't that busy, but maybe it was just as well. The two women who were there, one of whom was a manager who was wiping down the washers and driers, spent the hour I was there gossiping about their neighbors and trading sarcastic lines.

Despite the nice day, I decided I was wiped and ultimately spent the rest of the afternoon at home. I made that Key Lime Cake for Jodie's party tomorrow while watching a couple of Easter specials. Yogi gets into major trouble with Ranger Smith when he eats all the candy for Jellystone's big Easter Jamboree. Yogi and Boo-Boo go after the Easter Bunny to make it up to him in Yogi the Easter Bear. Here Comes Peter Cottontail has the title character traveling through a year's worth of holidays to deliver eggs and defeat the evil Irontail. The First Easter Rabbit explores the Easter Bunny's origins, as Stuffy goes from almost-destroyed stuffed animal to beloved spring icon.

Switched to movies as I made Lime Buttercream Frosting for the cake. Gold Diggers of 1933 is the second of three Warners movies Busby Berkley did that year that helped return the movie musical to prominence. Here, the "Gold Diggers" of the title are Fay (Ginger Rogers), Carol (Joan Blondell), Trixie (Aline MacManon), and Polly (Ruby Keeler), chorus dancers who have been hit hard by the Depression. Polly's delighted when the guy she's had her eye on (Dick Powell) somehow ponies up $15,000 to back a dour producer's (Ned Sparks) latest extravaganza. It turns out that Powell is wealthy and his family is less than amused, especially his obnoxious brother (Warren William) and lawyer (Guy Kibbe). Carol and Trixie try to keep the two from interfering with the show or Polly's new sweetheart.

The Depression pops up more than usual in this one, including in the searing finale, "Remember My Forgotten Man," a despairing tribute to the Bonus Army March in 1932. Otherwise, the trifle of a plot is really just there to carry some of Busby Berkley's most famous numbers. The movie opens with one, "We're In the Money," performed by girls in coin costumes. Ginger Rogers sings a verse in Pig Latin at one point. Other famous songs include "Pettin' In the Park" (with its randy baby and Keeler in her tin bathing suit) and the electrified violinists of "The Shadow Waltz." My only complaint is Blondell has no chemistry with William; they end up together more because the plot says so. MacManon and Kibbe are better as the older, wise-cracking duo. Necessary for fans of Berkley or the cast; fun for 30s musical enthusiasts as well.

Moved to the Disney Robin Hood as I made lamb chops in lemon sauce, sauteed asparagus, and spinach salad for dinner. This animated version of the famous British folk stories changes things a bit by making all of the characters animals and using an interesting mix of Brit and Western comics and singers for the voices. This was the first Disney movie made after Walt's death, and the turmoil does show, especially in the cheap and often reused animation. On the other hand, that voice cast and a very funny script and decent songs make up for a lot of shortcomings. This is one of the most hilarious things Disney ever did - they wouldn't have this much fun in their animated movies until Aladdin in the early 90s. Great for younger and grade school kids who'll get a kick out of the slapstick, and for adults who grew up watching this on video and cable like me.

Oh, and for those of you who won't be around for Easter tomorrow, here's two of my favorite springtime animated specials and shorts on YouTube:

This Silly Symphony is, to my knowledge, currently Disney's only venture into Easter:

Funny Little Bunnies

One of my favorite Bernstein Bears specials takes us back to before the birth of Sister to discuss the miracle of spring and Easter:

The Bernstein Bears' Easter Surprise 

Here's hoping that all of my readers have a wonderful Easter and Passover!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Good N' Busy Friday

Started today at work. I was only there for four hours in the morning and early afternoon, but they were mobbed the entire time. Everyone must have gotten off early for Good Friday or had off today. There were a few people in grumpy moods, but otherwise, there were no major problems. An incoming manager came in for me so I could get out on time.

I just need to pick up a few groceries, mostly fruit. I didn't really eat at home a lot this week. The Acme was having a 40% off all Lancaster (Acme) brand and Purdue chicken this week; I went with thin-cut breasts and fillets. Most of what I needed was produce - apples, bananas, grapefruit (they put the citrus where the fruit bowls used to be), mushrooms, frozen corn. Restocked eggs; found 99 cent hot cross buns on the massively overstuffed bakery clearance shelves. Bought the York Peppermint Patty Easter bag because I wasn't sure they would have any left after Easter - the Yorks always disappear fast, and they're my favorite.

As it turns out, the Acme is selling glass beverage dispensers this year. They're actually nicer (though not as colorful) as the watermelon print jar I broke a few weeks ago. I bought a 3.5 quart mason jar-style container to use for iced tea. It's nice and thick; the other jar was probably too big anyway.

My schedule is pretty much the same as last week, with earlier days and Easter Sunday off instead of Monday. Unfortunately, that includes the eight hour shifts two days in a row...but it also includes Friday and Saturday off. (And considering how wiped I am, I hope I actually get Friday off this time.)

When I got home, I put everything away, then went back out. I had to return those DVDs and books to the Haddon Township Library. It was cloudy this morning, but while it remained a bit chilly, it wasn't as bad as earlier in the week. By 3:30, the wind was gone and the sun was out...and with it came half of Camden County. Newton River Park was swarming with strollers, dog walkers, kids playing on the playground, Canadian geese, and people on bikes, roller skates, and roller blades. No wonder - the park is beautiful now. The trees are laden with flowers and new leaves; the grass is much greener. Little bursts of yellow dandelions and buttercups have appeared on the river banks.

The Haddon Township Library was fairly busy for late in the day. They were closing early, which gave me just enough time to shelve and organize the kids' DVDs. I had some help, too. The most adorable four-year-old girl stood with me and helped put titles on the shelves while her grandma took out books. She said she loved Dora the Explorer and wanted to see the Dora Easter episode, though Grandma said they'd take out movies later in the week. I didn't get a chance to take anything out, either. I just put the other DVDs away and headed out. I have plenty of things to watch for Easter, and at least two movies (Gold Diggers of 1933 and the Disney animated Robin Hood) I've bought but haven't watched yet.

After a quick stop at Dollar Tree for Easter cards and an Easter garland for my bedroom, I ended up at Friendly's for dinner. I was simply too pooped after my long week to consider cooking! I had a Build-Your-Own-Burger chicken sandwich on a whole-wheat roll with lettuce, onion, spicy mustard, and pickles. The real reason I was there, though, was because their front window advertised a new Red Velvet Cake ice Cream flavor. I can't resist Red Velvet anything. Yuuuumm. I had a one-scoop dish. It was sooooo good, rich and thick, with big pieces of real cake.

I swung by Dad's on my way home to see if he'd arrived yet. He hadn't, but Jodie was there. She said we'd be having Easter dinner at Dad's house around 3PM, and I was welcome to come and bring dessert. I'll make the Key Lime cake mix I bought at Target for them.

Spent the rest of the evening in the bath. I needed that so badly. This has been a very long week - I felt like I've barely sat down since last Sunday. Thankfully, I am off tomorrow. Haddon Heights has moved their town-wide yard sale to next week, but there's enough left still being held on the original date to check out.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Girl, the Guy, and the Duckie

Started off another sunny but chilly morning with the second Looney Tunes Easter special. Daffy Duck's Easter Egg-citement switches things up a little by giving us three shorts made just for TV, rather than bits and pieces of theatrical cartoons. The first is my favorite, as Daffy and Sylvester chase a golden egg. In the second, Daffy tries to keep Speedy Gonzoles from taking chocolate bunnies from the factory he's guarding to the kids of his village. Daffy's solo in the third, as he tries various means of getting north besides flying.

I did some stuff on the computer for a while, then baked Blue Raspberry Snow Cone cookies and dusted the apartment while watching Pretty In Pink. Andie (Molly Ringwald) is a self-proclaimed misfit who wears clunky mis-matched outfits and hangs around with other "outsiders" to distance herself from the fact that she lives in an old house with a single father (Harry Dean Stanton) who is out of work. She works in a record store run by an eccentric woman with nifty taste in clothes (Annie Potts), and her best friend is the equally poor and extremely geeky Duckie (Jon Cryer). She's delighted when sweet rich guy Blaine (Andrew McCarthy) shows interest in her. Their romance doesn't go over well with Duckie or with Blaine's buddy Steff (John Spader) who once made a pass at Andie. Andie has to decide how she can keep seeing Blaine, keep her friendship with Duckie, and be true to herself.

Most people think that Andie picked the wrong guy at the end, and I agree...sort of. Actually, I thought Andie was too smart for both Blaine (who was a spineless wimp) and Duckie (whose behavior bordered on stalking at several points). I think she would have been better off ditching Blaine and telling Duckie that she wanted to be friends and nothing else. Even if the dress she made at the end wasn't couture material, it did prove that she had no problems being her...which is more than could be said for either guy.

While this wasn't bad, I still prefer John Hughes' other take on more-or-less the same story, Some Kind of Wonderful. This one is for fans of romantic comedy, teen comedy, Hughes' other films, 80s comedies, or the cast.

Ran two vintage Strawberry Shortcake specials while eating a quick leftovers lunch and getting ready for work. The World of Strawberry Shortcake was the first special made for the famous fruit-loving character. It's Strawberry's birthday, but the Peculiar Purple Pieman wants to spoil her party by stealing all the berries in Strawberry Land. The Pieman's back to wrecking havoc in Strawberry Shortcake In Big Apple City. He and Strawberry are competing in a bake-off that's being televised from Big Apple City. The Pieman does everything he can to keep Strawberry from winning, but she has some new friends who help her get around his sabotage.

We were steady at work for most of the evening. It did pick up during rush hour, to the point where we had very long lines. When rush hour ended, we went right back to being steady. I was in and out with no problems.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Frozen Spring

I wish I could have slept longer this morning. It just felt so nice under my blankets! I did have to get up - I had work at 11. I cheered myself up with Bugs Bunny's Easter Funnies. This late 70s Looney Tunes special is one of two Tunes prime-time shows done for Easter. The Easter Bunny is sick, and Bugs has to work, so Granny tries to find a replacement among the regular Tunes roster. This is basically an excuse to show clips from popular shorts like "Birds Anonymous" and "Knighty-Knight Bugs," with little other connection to Easter besides the Easter Bunny appearing in the beginning and the end.

Bugs Bunny did do at least one theatrical Easter short. "Easter Yeggs" has him taking over the Easter Bunny's job when the latter complains he's too tired to go on. No wonder he's having problems. Bugs is first attacked by the nasty toddler son of criminals who wants an Easter egg NOW, and then by Elmer Fudd, who wants' Easter Bunny stew for dinner. Bugs finally finds a way to turn the tables on both...and then teach the Easter Bunny a lesson as well.

Today was my 8 1/2 hour day. It was really busy almost the entire day. We're not normally this busy in the middle of the week; I guess a lot of people are getting ready for Easter early. We were also short on help for much of the day, especially in the morning, when a lot of our work force is at school. And I'm not entirely happy about picking up hours on Friday. It's just 10 to 2, but that means I'll now have to rush everything I had planned for that day.

The weather didn't help. It supposedly snowed briefly in some places last night. If it did, it was long gone by 11 AM. It was windy and much chillier than it has been, though not as bad as I figured it would be. The sun was still warm, despite the wind. It's supposed to be cold again tonight and tomorrow, then start getting warmer by Friday.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Cold Spring Rain

It was just cloudy when I got up this morning. In fact, I ended up riding to work. Work was on-and-off busy all day, depending on what Mother Nature was doing, though it wasn't as bad as last week. I did run into some trouble getting out. The woman who was supposed to come in for me showed up sick. A manager came in for me so I could get home.

The rain was coming down so hard by 5PM, Rose ended up driving me and my bike home. It's continued to come down hard for the rest of the night. It's also supposed to get really cold, down just to freezing. (Rose mentioned snow as well, but it sounds from the National Weather Service like we might just avoid that.)

I spent the rest of the evening eating leftovers for dinner and watching The Wolverine. Logan "Wolverine" Howlett (Hugh Jackman) went into hiding after the events of X-Man: The Last Stand left him traumatized. A young Japanese woman rescues him from a bar brawl in Canada and tells him that an old friend from World War II wants to say good-bye. She finally gets him to come to Japan and give his dying friend his last respects. It seems his granddaughter Mariko has inherited his company...and everyone, from her former boyfriend to her own father to the Japanese mob, wants a piece of it and her. Logan has his own problems. A nasty mutant with a lethal poison tongue has stripped him of his healing power. Now he has to figure out how to save Mariko without the healing that's kept him alive for two centuries.

The darkest entry in the X-Man franchise to date has some plot problems, but is definitely an improvement over the so-so X-Man Origins: Wolverine. As with Man of Steel, don't come here expecting a superhero romp; this is more like a crime drama set in Japan. There's a lot of blood, really too much for a PG-13 movie. Interesting movie for teen and adult X-Man fans; younger fans will want to go to cartoons like Wolverine and the X-Men or X-Men: Evolution first.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Birthday Adventures

It was cloudy, windy, and a little chilly when I got up this morning. Despite the weather, I still wanted to enjoy my birthday off. (Especially since I didn't take my birthday off last year. It was on a Sunday, and I had counseling that Tuesday.) I started with a couple of birthday-themed cartoons. Yogi Bear's scheduled to appear on TV. He thinks it's a variety special, but it's really "Yogi's Birthday Party," with special appearances by all the Hanna Barbara funny animals made through the early 60s. "Mickey's Birthday Party" is Mickey Mouse's second birthday short (and first in color). While he and his friends have fun dancing to the organ Minnie gave him, Goofy's cake gets a little explosive. Pluto was the birthday dog in Mickey's third birthday short, "Pluto's Party." All Pluto wants is cake, but the excitable kid guests Mickey invited to his party would rather play games and use him as a horse.

I headed out after "Pluto's Party" ended. Made a brief stop at Dad's to say "hi," but his house was locked, and no one seemed to be home. I just moved on to Barrington. Though it was still pretty nice, it was also very windy. It was a bit of a rough ride. Didn't help that they're finally repairing the road under the highway pass near Barrington.

I arrived in Barrington a little early, around quarter after 10. My bus wasn't until 10:40, so I strolled to the Barrington Coffee House and bought an iced chai tea with skim milk. The Barrington Coffee House seemed to have gotten some remodeling since my last visit. It's still dark and musty, but it now has booths and a more colorful, less gourmet menu and looks more like a small, fancy diner than a coffee house.

I did pick up that 10:40 bus to Deptford. There was no traffic and no problems on the road or on a mostly empty bus. I got off at AC Moore first. I wanted to check out their Springfield Collection doll items - I didn't have the money to buy anything when I was last in Deptford in October. I was in luck. They were having a 30% off all Springfield Collection items this week. I ended up with a ballet/gymnastics skirt and leotard and ballet slippers for my dancers Molly and Whitney, espadrilles and a navy polka-dot bathing suit for Whitney, and a two-outfit set with a plaid skirt, khakis, a pink long-sleeved t-shirt with a rose on it, and a plain white t-shirt and brown shoes for Jessa and Whitney. I also found a pretty crystal beaded bracelet for $2 and a WebKinz Key Lime Dinosaur for $2.50. All of this came up to $44.

I was heading towards Target and had just walked across the bridge over the highway when I heard my cell phone go off. I "pulled in" under a bush to take it without having to concentrate on walking, too. It was Dad-Bruce. He was still on his business trip, but he wanted to call me to wish me a Happy Birthday anyway. I told him I was in Deptford and enjoying my shopping. He was apparently about to board a train and would be home by Easter Sunday.

Made my way down to the service road that runs behind Target; it was quicker than going around past Friendly's. Target was, other than a few mothers and their children, quite dead for a Monday afternoon. I was mainly there for underwear. They have a better selection than the Wal Mart in Audubon - and they actually keep it in stock. I wasn't as impressed by their Easter seasonal selection as I was with their Halloween aisles. A lot of the seasonal section had already been given over to summer furniture and garden items. I did find a Pillsbury Key Lime cake mix I hadn't seen anywhere else (they also had Orange Creamsicle). I grabbed the recent 40th anniversary re-release of Disney's animated Robin Hood from the electronics area - that's on of the few Disney movies I like that I didn't have. Got almond extract as well; it's cheaper there than at the Acme, along with this year's Entertainment Weekly Summer Movie Preview.

There are three restaurants in Target's parking lot. I'd eaten at Applebee's and Pizza Hut before, but I'd never tried Don Pablo's Mexican Kitchen, a huge brown block directly across from Target. I'd always wanted to, but I figured they'd be some overpriced sit-down eatery, like Applebee's. Much to my surprise, the lunch menu prices were actually quite reasonable. It was pretty much like Tortilla Press in Collingswood, but with better prices, a bar, and a slightly darker, grittier atmosphere. There were black and white photos of old Mexico and beautiful tile murals on the faux-exposed-brick walls. I ate at one of the smaller booths in the very back. I opted for the $7.99 enchiladas from the lunch menu. The food came piping hot - literally so, as the chicken was still sizzling and giving off steam when the waiter brought it to my table! I had three soft tortillas, chicken, grilled onions and peppers, lettuce, salsa, gucamole, cheese, and a big plate of rice. It was all delicious, once the steam subsided.

After lunch, I strolled over to the Deptford Mall. You can tell it's been a long time since I went there. For one thing, the shopping center across from them was a crumbling eye sore the last time I saw it. It had been completely remodeled (and the old movie theater was demolished) and now seemed to house the Christmas Tree Shop and Bed Bath & Beyond, among other big box stores.

The Deptford Mall was also in the midst of remodeling, especially on the second floor. The tiles on more than half the upper level were being replaced, which didn't make walking around easy. I did do what I needed to do. I had a coupon for 25% off most things in JC Penney I got in a flyer in the mail last week. I bought a new pair of work pants (the ones I bought a few weeks ago didn't fit), a new pair of jean shorts (the old ones also don't fit), and a blue t-shirt to replace the one that was now a bit faded. All of this came to $49 with the coupon and sales.

I strolled around a bit after that. I had a Happy Birthday Cupcake - a yellow cupcake with sprinkles, cream cheese icing, and buttercream filling - at a little cupcake bakery called Crumbs. I happily chatted with a college-age girl buying a red velvet cupcake while I enjoyed my treat. I browsed in Forever 21 and The Disney Store, but didn't walk away with anything from either.

I debated staying another hour or so, but eventually just took the 3:18 back to Barrington. I got in 20 minutes later. Even with the rush-hour traffic on the White Horse Pike and stopping at the Audubon WaWa for a Cherry Icee, I still made it home by quarter after 4.

I had a few more doll items waiting for me when I got in. My two eBay birthday presents to myself were a lovely hand-made polka-dot dress that was supposed to be for Molly, but the skirt is so wide, I decided it looked more 50s and turned it over to Whitney, and a hula outfit with a floral bathing suit for Jessa and the cutest pineapple-shaped ukulele.

I spent the rest of the evening putting everything away, making a quick dinner of flounder and strawberries, and watching the PBS special Superheroes: A Never Ending Battle. This three-part mini-series covers the three "ages" of comic book heroes, from the "Golden Age" patriotic and alien heroes who came out of Depression fantasies, to the "Silver Age" mortals who gained powers through science or simply by being born with them, to the "Bronze Age" and beyond, where anyone, from psychopaths to children, can be "super." While I already knew a lot of the history covered, the special did make me realize how the popularity of superheroes rise and fall with the level of danger in the world. They were at their lowest ebb in the late 40s-50s and after the comics collapse of the mid-late 90s...and hit peaks of popularity during times when the world was in turmoil, including their creation during the downtrodden Depression. It would explain their re-emergence now as well, as Nazis, gangsters, aliens, and drug runners are replaced by corrupt governments and terrorists.

Went into some more superheroes as I got ready to go online. It's a birthday to remember for Sailor Moon. First, Serena thinks everyone's forgotten her birthday. Turns out the other Soldiers are having a surprise party. Darien buys her glass shoes to make up for seeming to forget...but the shoes are turned into a monster that takes Serena's broach that allows her to turn into Sailor Moon! Now she has to rescue her boyfriend and keep her pure heart, without turning into Sailor Moon!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Let It Be Sunny

It was still beautiful and warm when I woke up this morning. This week's Brunch With the Beatles covered the Beatles in 1970 and 1971. This being the time of the Beatles' break-up, the only group releases were "Let It Be" and "The Long and Winding Road" (along with the odd "You Know My Name, Look Up the Number"). Solo efforts included "It Don't Come Easy" from Ringo, "Uncle Albert" and "Maybe I'm Amazed" by Paul, "Instant Kharma," "Power to the People," and "Jealous Guy" by John, and "What Is Life?" and "My Sweet Lord" by George.

I called Mom after I finished my Banana and Pineapple Pancakes. Mom was a bit harried - she was trying to get work done in her yard. She wished me a happy birthday, and I told her I cashed her check, and about my plans for tomorrow. We discussed my brother's visit (he spent most of it either with his old friends, his dad, or playing with his nephews), her starting her new job at the Ferry in a few weeks, and about how we can both relate to customers driving us crazy (and I shouldn't let it bother me so much). She also gave me a great idea for Rose's birthday present, which I still hadn't gotten around to getting. Rose is so hard to shop for!

After I got off with Mom, I finished my pancakes and headed out to do the laundry. I don't usually do chores on Sundays, but I didn't want to do my laundry tomorrow or wait until Friday. It wasn't that busy, mostly with college students and working mothers who can't do the laundry any other day. I read The Three Musketeers and listened to Action News and the NBA game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Indiana Pacers (which Indiana apparently won, 102-97).

When I got home, I ran some birthday-themed programming while putting my clothes away and quickly eating leftover soup for lunch. Ruby's hoping for a surprise party from her friends in "Surprise Ruby," but it turns into a real surprise when Max makes her follow him with her beloved birthday tiara. "Ruby's Birthday Party" with all her friends is a lot of fun...but Max would rather eat cake than play games. Max wants to use the paper from "Ruby's Birthday Present," but Ruby would rather keep them for her scrapbook. Max finds an even better use for it.

Mickey Mouse had just as much fun at his first of three birthday parties in 1931. "The Birthday Party" is a basic "everyone sings and dances" black and white short that does feature Mickey's fun with a xylophone and his and Minnie's charming duet to "I Can't Give You Anything But Love."

It was a lovely day to ride to work, windy but still very warm, probably in the mid to upper 70s. Despite the nice day, we were very busy for most of the afternoon. It didn't really slow down until almost a half-hour before I finished. I was in and out with no problems.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Never Land Balance

Started another warm, sunny day with this week's American Top 40 re-run. I would have been just a week from turning 8 in mid-April 1987, when this episode was first run. While I enjoyed a small family party at my parents' house, the rest of the US danced to pop, country, R&B, soul, ballads, and hard rock. Hits that week included "Don't Dream It's Over" by Crowded House, "Let's Wait Awhile" by Janet Jackson, "Looking For A New Love" by Jody Watley, the remake of "Lean On Me" by Club Nouveau, "I Knew You Were Waiting For Me" by George Michael and Aretha Franklin, "Tonight, Tonight, Tonight" by Genesis, "Come Go With Me" by Expose, "Walk Down Your Street" by the Bangles, "The Final Countdown" by Europe, "The Finer Things" by Steve Winwood, "Let's Go" by Wang Chung, and "Midnight Blue" by Lou Gramm.

That week's big hit was the second #1 hit for long-running super-group Starship. "Nothing's Gonna Stop Me Now" wound up one of the biggest songs of that year (and the movie it came from, Mannequin, didn't do too badly at the box office, either).

Started the Jake and the Never Land Pirates disc as I organized donations and made my grocery list for later. "Never Land Rescue" is something a bit different on the show. For once, it's Never Land itself that needs to be saved. Magical items in Never Land, including the ones belonging to the kids, are fading away. The Forever Tree that provided the magic is dying. Jake goes on a quest to win the Destiny Sword and restore the Forever Tree, while the other kids try to stop Hook from digging up all of Pirate Island in search of their treasure.

Headed out as soon as the episode ended. I had two full bags of donations I wanted to get over to the Logan Presbyterian Church in Audubon. I wish the two older woman I saw as I passed through to the Church hadn't referred to me as "that lady from the Acme." I HATE that. I wish people would stop thinking I'm chained to that darn store. I wasn't in a good mood when I brought my things downstairs. I didn't really have the time to look for much. I did find copies of The Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult and the Thanksgiving short Molly's Pilgrim to dub, along with a paperback copy of the Lois Lenski book Strawberry Girl. I was born in Southern Florida, but I know very little about its history before the Roaring 20s building boom.

I was in an even less happy mood when I saw all the yard sales around. Audubon must have had their town wide yard-sale today, instead of waiting for the day before Easter. Not only did I not have the time to check them out, but I realized as I rode down Nicholson that I forgot to pack a lunch before I left. I was lucky to run into a church next-door to Wal-Mart selling hoagies on the sidewalk.

Thankfully, work wasn't nearly as bad as it has been. The beautiful weather and many events going on must have put people in good moods. Everything went fine; my relief was a little late, but nothing outrageous.

I went right into grocery shopping after changing out of my work shirt. I was almost completely out of fresh fruit and vegetables. I couldn't find the grapefruit; replaced them with buy one, get one strawberries and a bowl of pineapple chunks. Picked up the usual apples and bananas, and bought small containers of asparagus and broccoli and a bag of spinach. Replaced the canned fruit cocktail, peaches, mandarin oranges, and chicken. Needed milk and butter; grabbed I Can't Believe It's Not Butter (I couldn't see if the Smart Balance was still on sale). I'm not in desperate need of cereal, but Oatmeal Squares almost never goes on sale with the other Quaker cereals, and it's one of my favorites. At a $1.99, I could afford to wait until I finished my Cheerios.

Once again, my schedule is a little crazy. In good news, I have three days off, including Monday to celebrate my birthday. On the other hand, I have three eight and seven hour days in a row, including an eight and a half hour day on Wednesday! I do have Friday and next Saturday off as well, but I may be too worn out to enjoy them.

When I got home, I put everything away, then vacuumed and made Betty Crocker "Cotton Candy Cookie Mix" Bars (sugar cookie mix with cotton-candy flavored sprinkles - they have a "Blue Snow Cone" version, too) while finishing out the rest of Jake and the Never Land Pirates. Instead of stealing something from the kids and them chasing after it, Hook now follows them when they go to some location that he thinks has treasure. Of course, one pirate's "treasure" is another's water slide or firefly in a lantern. Most of the time, Hook just ends up discovering he's been on a wild treasure chase. The one time he almost gets it, he has to fight female pirate Beatrice "Sneaky" LeBeak for it...and ultimately loses it.

Did yoga after the bars were in the oven. I'm going to continue to try to do this at least once a week, with or without Rose. If nothing else, it'll be a big help to my back. My back has been really sore for weeks now, probably from spending half the winter hunched over a computer.

I realized after I finished that I completely forgot to have dinner. I ate leftover Corn and Chicken Soup from last night while my Best of Linda Rondstat CD wound down.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Everything's Better With Princesses

Started out a somewhat cloudy morning with It's the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown as I had banana bread and fruit cocktail for breakfast. The Peanuts are getting ready for spring with gags about shopping and how early stores put up their Christmas decorations. Linus insists the preparations aren't necessary. The Easter Beagle will do all that. Sally isn't sure - Linus' pet theories tend to be more fanciful than realistic. Lucy's more interested in Schroeder giving her Easter candy and finding the eggs she hid. Peppermint Patty would be happy to have any eggs. She's trying to teach Marcie how to color them, but her best friend keeps doing everything but hard-boiling them!

I was surprised with how warm it was when I headed out today. It had to be in the upper 60s by 11, and the sun was coming out and making it even warmer. It's a good thing it did get nice, because I had a lot to do. I started with a quick peek at the Oaklyn Library. They're still organizing the kids' section, so between that and it being quiet, there isn't a lot to do there. I did the DVD sections and headed out.

The sun was out by the time I headed over to Collingswood. It was so warm, I shed my blue zipper hoodie half-way there. Mom and Dad and Keefe sent me birthday cards yesterday. The former gave me a check for 50 dollars. I cashed that at the PNC a block from the train terminal and kept it for money for the week.

I dodged the noon traffic on Cuthbert and made my way to the Haddon Township Library next. While the adult DVDs just needed to be shelved, there were a lot of kids' DVDs to put away and organize. They have GOT to clear out the 'S' titles! I'm a fan of Scooby Doo, but they really don't need at least 30 titles from that series alone.

I rented some of those new kids' titles. The new princess-themed Disney cartoon Sophia the First makes its debut at the library in the set Ready to Be A Princess. I also picked up some new Jake and the Never Land Pirates and a space-themed Cat In the Hat Knows A Lot About That. Found last year's The Wolverine (which I hope is an improvement over the so-so X-Man Origins: Wolverine) and one of the few John Hughes movies I've never seen, Pretty In Pink. Speaking of Wolverine, I also discovered a PBS special on the history of superheroes, from their debut in the 30s to the present-day blockbusters, while shelving non-fiction titles. I thought that one might help me with my current story, which I'm kind of stalled on at the moment.

I went to lunch after leaving the library. It was past 2PM, so I just went with a simple grilled cheese and tomato sandwich on whole wheat bread and a cup of cole slaw at the Westmont Bagel Shop, their "lunch box deal." I bought cards for Rose and Khai's birthdays at Dollar Tree. (Khai's is the day before Easter!) Picked up a few things I needed that were on sale or cheaper at Thriftway, including sugar and yogurt. They were having good sales on Jello pudding, Cool Whip, and cookie crusts, so I decided to make a pudding pie instead of cake for dessert.

After I made my way around the heavy school and early rush hour traffic on Cuthbert and the White Horse Pike, I spent the rest of the afternoon at home. As nice at it was, I had a lot of chores to do, starting with scrubbing the kitchen. I had put off doing it and the bathroom as long as I could, but they were both too gross for words. I'm going to hold off the major spring cleaning until next month; this was just to get the grime off.

Ran Sophia the First as I cleaned and made the Lemon Pudding Pie. Sophia was once the daughter of a peasant seamstress, until the King married her mother. Now, she's not only dealing with a new dad and siblings, but she's learning what's expected of her as royalty, too. The King and her brother James are fairly good-natured and down-to-earth, but her sister Amber and several of her friends are rather spoiled and vain.

My favorite story was one I can certainly relate to. Sophia hears stories about "The Shy Princess" when Vivian is assigned to be her partner in a "Design Your Dream Castle" class at their royal school. The other girls say she has gnomes for parents and lives in a cave! Turns out Vivian's just a very quiet girl who lives in a Gothic-y castle and has an overly enthusiastic pet baby dragon named Crackle. Vivian's too shy to get involved with the presentation for their castle...until Sophia notices her amazing musical ability and convinces her to play for the kids.

(A personal note on "The Shy Princess": I wish I'd known someone like Sophia as a kid. The few girls I made friends with in grade school either moved away after as much as a few months, talked and made fun of me behind my back, or decided they liked my sisters or other people better. Few kids my own age ever stood up for me or encouraged me. I don't have a problem onstage. Put me on a stage, even just reciting, and I'm a bit of a ham. It's everything else - small groups, meeting strangers - where I have problems. Even now, I often get too nervous to talk to people.)

Vivian and Crackle also figured into "Blue Ribbon Bunny." Sophia's rabbit Clover is an ordinary wild rabbit, and not an especially handsome one. She wants to enter him in a pet show, but Amber doesn't think he's talented or good-looking enough. She convinces Sophia to take a fancy white rabbit named Ginger. Ginger turns out to be haughty and too serious. An angry Crackle finally reminds Sophia that her friendship with Clover is more important than any contest. "The Princess Test" also emphasizes the importance of kindness. Sophia wants to do well on a big test that will cover everything she and her schoolmates have learned about being princesses. The other girls refuse to help their librarian get books to her cottage, but Sophia has no problem, even though she's worried about being late for the test. She and the others learn that kindness its it's own reward when they discover who the librarian really is.

Switched to The Cat In the Hat Knows A Lot About That as I made baked salmon with roasted asparagus and celery sticks for dinner. Space Is the Place covers all things celestial, from a trip to the moon to naming the planets. The Cat's human friend Astronaut Audrey introduces the kids to how we get night and day and explains why it can't be one or the other all the time in "No Night Today." The kids want to find out where the "Top of the Sky" is, but Audrey and several animals give them a surprising answer. In "Tough Enough," the Cat claims his friend Wally the Water Bear (who seems to be a kind of caterpillar-thing) is so tough, can live anywhere...even in space! He and the kids shrink down to Wally's level to test their theory.

I finished out my night in the bath. I really needed a nice, relaxing bath after this crazy week. I settled down, read The Three Musketeers, and listened to jazz music. I know I only have a part-time job that probably doesn't keep me as busy as normal people with full-time jobs or two jobs or more, but it's still a lot of standing and dealing with people, and even at part-time, that's stressful for me.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Hand Is Quicker Than the Eyes

Started another beautiful spring day with two swashbuckling Backyardigans episodes. Tyrone and Pablo are "The Two Musketeers" who fight the Empress' Guards (Uniqua and Austin). A mysterious masked girl wants to join them, but they keep telling her no...until she proves herself worthy of being a musketeer by rescuing them. Librarian Uniqua becomes "The Lone Returner," another masked heroine, when a book is missing from her stacks in Vejos, California. When Don Austin takes off with an overdue book, Uniqua follows him to the borders of Mexico to get it back!

Thankfully, work was far easier and quieter than yesterday. There were still a few grumps around, but most people were just happy to be enjoying weather that jumped into the mid-to-upper 60s. It got so quiet, at one point, I helped one of the baggers return carts. My relief was on time, and I had no problems getting in or out. I bought two boxes of frozen vegetables on sale and headed home.

I changed into lighter clothes and spent the rest of a gorgeous evening cleaning, baking cookies, and watching movies. I did Trading Places as I scrubbed the bathroom. A pair of elderly billionaire brothers who are also obnoxious misers (Ralph Bellamy and Don Ameche) make a bet that they can't turn a criminal into an upper-crust scion...and a scion into a criminal. The men they choose for their experiment are con man Billy Ray Valentine (Eddie Murphy) and broker Louis Winthrope III (Dan Ackroyd). Soon, a bemused Valentine finds himself wearing fancy suits and learning all about commodities trading, while Winthrope finds himself out of a job and a fiancee and living with a sharp-witted prostitute (Jamie Lee Curtis). When both men discover the scheme, they enlist the prostitute and Winthrope's butler (Denhom Elliot) to beat the billionaires at their own game.

While the trading scheme is dated (computers and stricter rules about trading enacted several years after this movie came out apparently makes the brothers' plot impossible today), the comedy about nature vs nurture and how people would react if their circumstances are changed remains pretty funny. Murphy and Ackroyd are good as the pair who learn what it's like to live on the other sides of their respective tracks; Curtis is even better as the sensible street woman. For fans of John Landis' other comedies, the cast, or 80s movies.

I'd moved on to making quick soup of canned chicken and leftover veggies and the next movie after briefly sweeping the last of the sticker balls off the porch. Now You See Me also involves an elaborate scheme to get back at the rich. We move from high finance to the world of magic, magicians, and illusion vs reality. Four solo magicians (Woody Harrison, Isla Fisher, Jesse Eisenburg, and Dave Franco) are brought together to become "The Four Horsemen," who use their illusions to rob banks and give the proceeds to the audience. The FBI, including the determined Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) and French newcomer Alma Dray (Melanie Laurent), want to figure out how they're pulling off these magic tricks. So does a former magician (Morgan Freeman) who now discredits magicians on TV for a living. But the real "man behind the man" isn't whom anyone expects, least of all the Horsemen themselves....

While many critics complained loudly about plot holes, I was trying too hard to figure out what everyone was doing and when to see any myself. If you love the cast or twisty comic thrillers with a slight supernatural angle, you'll really enjoy this one. Ruffalo was the stand out as the by-the-book agent; Freeman also had fun as the smug former magician who tries to be one step ahead of everyone else, including the police. This was a big hit last summer, and I can see why - you'll probably need a couple of viewings to catch all the clues and plot points. Highly recommended for fans of the cast or of Ocean's 11-esque light caper films.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Shadow Over A Sunny Day

I worked relatively early today, at 11 (and will work in the morning again tomorrow). It was a beautiful, sunny day, windy but not that cold, in the lower 60s. Everyone must have done their shopping when it rained over the weekend. It was on-and-off steady all day. The only time it got nearly as busy as it did over the weekend was during the 4 to 6 rush hour.

Though most people were in decent moods, I did have trouble with one older woman who came in during the early afternoon. She kicked up a fuss about the coupon that allows you to get two bottles of Clorox bleach for 88 cents. She got so mad, she cursed at me...and when I told her she needed to stop being rude, she just yelled some more. I know I shouldn't let people upset me, but I don't want people cursing at me or being angry at me. She said she had "problems" and had just had an argument with the cable company. (Gee, the way she talked to me, I'm not surprised.)

I did not want to return to dealing with people after that. It wasn't busy anyway, so I went to the bathroom, then spent the next hour before my break doing the two still-full carts of returns. I actually saw that same woman later, harassing one of the college boys over the Monopoly game tickets. As he pointed out, there was no reason for it. It's only a game. I was so happy when my relief was on time and was able to take over those rush hour crowds.

After all the trouble at work, I didn't feel like sitting at home. When I got home, I changed into my Atlantic City t-shirt, then went right back out again. Thought an evening out might lift my spirits. I ended up having breakfast for dinner at the Legacy Diner on the White Horse Pike in Audubon, as I did on New Year's Day. It was almost 6 by the time I made it there, and the place was packed with families and older groups having dinner.

I once again opted for breakfast for dinner. This time, I went with a western omelet - ham, onion, and peppers in eggs - hash browns, and whole wheat toast with orange marmalade. The eggs weren't bad, a little dry but filled with ham and vegetable pieces. Nobody makes hash browns like my stepdad, but at least theirs isn't too greasy. I had a pleasant meal, listening to the family on one side of me and the two older women on the other side.

When I got out, I crossed the White Horse Pike (despite the heavy rush hour traffic) and headed to Cuthbert Road. I deserved ice cream. I overheard someone say Kayla's Custard Stand was already open. It was open when I got there, though understandably quiet on a Wednesday evening. I swung back and forth on the rocking tables, enjoying my Pina Colada soft-serve ice cream and watching the cars go by on the corner of Cuthbert and the White Horse Pike.

Had a nice ride home, too. I was far from the only person who wanted to get out and enjoy the evening. If people weren't riding home in their cars, they were out walking. I saw packs of kids chatting with each other. I saw little kids playing in their front yards. Their parents walked the dog, pushed their strollers, finished working on the garden, cleaned the car, or chatted with their neighbors.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Windy Day

Started a still-cloudy morning with another third-season episode of Moonlighting. "The Man Who Cried Wife" hires Maddie and David to find out how his wife is still calling him...when he killed her and buried the body. Meanwhile, the sudden marriage of one of their employees has David and Maddie arguing over if love should be spontaneous or if relationships should be nurtured for much longer.

I headed to the laundromat around quarter of 11. I know I just did it on Thursday, but I'm going to need clean work uniforms before my next day off on Friday, and this is my only late day this week. While there were a few people folding things when I came in (including one of my co-workers), it was mostly quiet. I read and listened to The View in peace. When I got in, I quickly folded clothes while listening to Bruce Springsteen's The Rising. I had just enough time afterwards to eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on banana bread before changing and rushing off to work.

It was still cloudy and windy when I went in. By the 4PM rush hour, the clouds were gone and the sun was out (though the wind remained). We were on and off busy all day, mostly during the early afternoon before the college kids came in. Once they were on duty, we had plenty of help. I spent the last hour doing one of the two carts piled high with returns.

I had leftovers for dinner when I got home while running two very 90s first-season episodes of Tiny Toon Adventures. "Cinemaniacs" parodies the Superman, Star Trek, and Indiana Jones franchises (long before any of them were revived), along with the gigantic multiplexes that had begun popping up in malls. "Life In the Nineties" has the Toons eating (and sneaking out of) a trendy restaurant, Buster trying to give Montana Max the bill for his newspaper subscription, and Babs showing Rhubella and Roderick Rat the evils of smoking.

Monday, April 07, 2014

Farewell to Andy Hardy

Started the morning off with a couple of episodes of the original 1980s/90s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon before I headed to work. Shredder and his boys want to find "The Ninja Sword From Nowhere." It was made from an alien metal that can slice through dimensions. Shredder imprisons Splinter in one of the dimensions and intends to force the Turtles to give themselves up, but the Turtles manage to turn the tables. The Turtles - except for surfer dude Michelangelo - are crazy about western movies. They get to play John Wayne when a steer accidentally wallows in chemicals and becomes a "Mutagen Monster."

Work was once again busy the entire day. Cool, rainy weather later on didn't stop the crowds or improve anyone's mood. We had very long lines, even with plenty of help. Thankfully, they were able to corral one of the stock boys to come in for me so I could get out at a decent time.

(Oh, and...sigh. A fond farewell to the eternally energetic Mickey Rooney, who died today at 93. I saw the news when a customer was buying a copy of the Courier-Post and had it turned to the front page. I knew him as lighthouse keeper Lampy in Pete's Dragon and the horse trainer in The Black Stallion years before I'd ever heard of Andy Hardy. At least now he can  dance with Judy Garland again. : ( )

It had just started to sprinkle when I arrived at work at 10. By the time I finished at 5, it was pouring. I tried waiting it out, but it just kept coming down. I just rode home and got soaked.

Since I was already wet, I went straight in the bath when I got in. After a long day and a long week (and with a long week coming up), I seriously needed to relax. I read The Way We Lived (on fashion, living conditions, family, health, and leisure in the 20th century) and listened to the second Unsung Musicals CD. The rain kept coming down.

Switched to an episode of Moonlighting during dinner. In "Yours Very Deadly" from the third season, a wealthy woman hires Maddie and David to find out who sent her a series of love letters that started getting ugly when she wrote back and tried to break things off. The trail leads to the post office, then to poor immigrant whom they saw at the PO box the woman gave them. There's more to this case than meets the eye, though, especially when people start turning up dead. Meanwhile, Agnes wants to turn up the heat on her and Bert's relationship, but he may not be ready to go that far.

Oh, and happy birthday to my sister Rose! I need to figure out what to get her - I'd at least like to thank her for driving me to work for most of the winter.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

A Beautiful Day for Banana Bread

Started out a sunny spring day with Brunch With the Beatles. "The Beatles at the BBC" - their live recordings made for various BBC shows on the radio in 1963 and 1964 - was the theme today. The songs heard included "Chains," "I Feel Fine," "You Really Got a Hold On Me," "'Till There Was You," and "Do You Want To Know A Secret?" I made Velvet Spring Spice Pancakes (made with melted butter spread rather than canola oil) as I listened.

Called Mom around 11. She was enjoying some quiet time after my two older nephews Skylar and Collyn's overnight visit. Evidently, not only did Keefe stick around, but he found more than enough things to do - he was barely home the whole week. He did get to spend some time with his nephews, though, much to Mom's amusement. Sounds like Dad is feeling better, too. Mom said he's still coughing a little, but nothing like last week. Rose must be feeling better as well - Mom mentioned that she and Anny were going to take their boys to the Cape May County Zoo later in the day.

I read the remaining two books I took out on the 80s as I ran Olivia Newton John's Greatest Hits Volume 2 after the Beatles show ended. The more interesting of the two, The Eighties, seems to have been written for British teens at the end of the decade. It actually gives a very interesting overview of the teen culture of the time, something I didn't really notice then except for on TV and in John Hughes movies, and certainly not the English version. I do remember hearing about the New Romantic movement (mainly because Mom loved the ruffled flowing shirts and big pants that were popular with that group), and hip-hop actually made it here sooner than to many parts of the country, thanks to our proximity to many of the largest cities in the US.

Other 80s fads passed South Jersey and my family by or barely registered. The whole "preppy/yuppie" thing was not largely well-received in an area whose year-round population was mostly fishermen, teachers, shop owners, dock workers, and Coast Guard officers. There was a Benetton on the Washington Street Mall in Cape May during the 80s, but that's as far as preppy went. Don't remember a lot of heavy metal enthusiasts, either (with the exception of fellow New Jerseyan Bon Jovi). I heard about break dancing, but the only time I ever tried it was one afternoon in kindergarten. The teachers had the kids attempt some moves inside when it rained during recess and we were really bored.

Headed to work around 1:30. While it was just as busy today as it has been all weekend, the nice weather (and the fact that it isn't going to suddenly go away now that we're well into April) must have finally registered with people. Almost everyone was in a far better mood than they have been. I was in and out with no major problems.

I defrosted chicken legs on Thursday, intending to make them then, but I ran out of time. I finally decided to slow cook 'em. I tossed them in the pot with molasses, chicken broth, water, onions, and the last of the pizza sauce. I must have overdid the water - there was yellow broth mess all over the top of the stove when I came home. It didn't seem to affect the legs. They were delicious, so soft they fell off the bone. I had a tasty meal with a Romaine lettuce salad.

I decided to try Alton Brown's banana bread recipe after dinner. I replaced the oat flour with whole wheat flour (I don't have any oat flour), cut the sugar in half, replaced half that sugar with fruit juice concentrate, and used two egg whites instead of two whole eggs. I think I must have put too much water in; it took twice as long to cook as it should have. The batter seemed a little sweet; we'll see what it's like when it cools.