Monday, June 30, 2014

Picnic at Audubon Crossings

Started a very hot, sunny day with another Rick Steves episodes. His trip to Barcelona, Spain is a favorite of mine. Barcelona is quirky and fun, with its tapas (small plates of snacks) bars, enormous elaborate unfinished churches, beautiful Art Noveau downtown area, and a museum dedicated to surrealist Salvador Dali nearby.

Work was...actually pretty boring. The heat must have scared a lot of people off. It was busier earlier in the day. By the 4PM rush hour, it was dead as can be. We did have a few annoying customers. The woman who showed up last month with those eight hundred coupons was back. This time, I was able to head her off by pointing out that she couldn't use the shampoo coupons for travel-sized items, and that the meat coupons clearly said they were for GROUND turkey, not one turkey burger. She fussed and ultimately left with nothing.

(I repeat what I said last month - please limit your coupon use. Read what they say carefully, and make sure you buy the item that's listed on the coupon, not the cheapest item the brand sells that you can get your hands on.)

I got off right on time at 5. My coin change jar was mostly full. I tried to empty it on Friday, but the Coin Star machine was full. No such problem today! This time, I had no trouble unloading it. I ultimately ended up with $15.68. I probably should have waited a little longer, but I don't have a lot of money on me.

While it was still pretty hot at 5PM, there was a really nice, cool wind. I thought it was the perfect night for a picnic dinner at Sonic. I wasn't the only one who did, either. The patio was packed when I arrived. There was a big family eating dinner at two tables on the side looking out to Chick Fil'A. Another, older woman ate by herself in the middle of the patio. Two little boys braved the heat to eat their lunches in one of the sunny tables looking towards Arby's. This time, everyone behaved well, even the boys, who were too busy plowing through burgers to make noise. I thoroughly enjoyed my grilled chicken sandwich, tater tots, and Diet Dr. Pepper. Even workers from the other Audubon Crossings shops came over for milkshakes. (I saw two people from the Comcast office and another guy from Cricket.)

When I got home, I went right into a soothing, tepid bath. I decided to try one of the suggestions from The Women's Comfort Book and give me a self-massage. As you can guess from the fact that I live alone, I don't touch people too often, or anything else. I think that's a lot of why I have the toys around. They're something to touch, to hold, to cuddle. My massage felt wonderful, especially my legs and back. Maybe I should save money and see if I can find a reasonably-priced professional masseuse in this area to do this for me.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Red, White, and Dolls

I spent a quiet, warm morning sleeping in. When I got up, I made delicious Dark Chocolate Chocolate Chip Pancakes while listening to three original cast albums that revolve around vacations, summer, and beach trips in the early part of the 20th century. No No, Nanette is the smash 1971 revival of the popular 1925 Broadway musical. The title ingenue (Susan Watson) gets mixed-up with her guardians (Jack Gilford and Ruby Keeler), Gilford's "proteges," and some nifty tap numbers in 20s Atlantic City and New York. I love the CD cast album I bought for this show from the Borders near the Hamilton Mall in college. In addition to the originally deleted "Peach On the Beach" number for Nanette and the chorus, we have the charming "Only a Moment Ago," performed by Keeler and Gilford, perfectly describing what nostalgia means to many people.

By the Beautiful Sea was a vehicle for comedienne Shirley Booth. We stay in New York, but move back to the early 1900s and head to Coney Island to visit with Booth, a popular vaudevillian who falls for a handsome singer (Wilbur Evans). Sea was old-fashioned even when it came out in the early 50s. The book was a problem even before the show hit Broadway; the liner notes for my Angel CD indicate that it had a lot of re-writing before they made it to New York. Though Booth gets a nice comic number, "I'd Always Wake Up By Myself," and Evans has a lovely ballad, "Alone Too Long," most of the songs are dance routines for the chorus that have absolutely nothing to do with the story.

Steel Pier returns to Atlantic City, but skips ahead three decades to the gritty Great Depression. A dancer (Karen Ziemba) takes part in a dance marathon at the title pier, but her partner, a handsome pilot, isn't what he seems. One of Kander and Ebb's last shows also ran into book problems. There's too many characters and too much plot in this attempt to combine realistic Atlantic City grit (many real AC locations are mentioned) and supernatural fantasy. It was a little bit much for most audiences and wound up being a rather big flop. Too bad, as there's some excellent music in the score, including Ziemba's "Willing To Ride" and the death defying "Two Little Words" in an early appearance by Kristin Chenowith.

I dressed the American Girl dolls while the CDs were on. All of the dolls now wear either red, white, and blue and/or patriotic outfits for the 4th of July and the summer. (I left Felicity in the white and blue floral dress she was wearing.) Samantha now sports her sailor-style Middy Dress and her black and white high-button boots with black Springfield Collection stockings. Molly wears her Camp Gowanigan uniform. Josefina sports her striped Indigo Skirt and white camisa. Jessa just wears a simple red t-shirt, hand-made jean shorts from a craft booth, and the white Springfield Collection espadrilles I bought for my birthday in April. Whitney's a bit flashier in the white tap dress with the red and blue sequin trim and the red star that was originally made for the AG Circle of Friends stage shows, the matching red tap shoes, the ruffled petticoat from the poodle skirt outfit I bought on eBay for extra flair, and a red ribbon in her curls.

I had a really quick lunch, then changed and headed to work. Work was very busy through most of the afternoon, up until around 5 or so. After that, it died pretty quickly. We had plenty of help, especially later. I shelved candy between customers. It was so quiet by 7, I was able to leave without a relief.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Berry Sweet Summer Harvest

Started a beautiful, sunny day with this week's American Top 40. The late Casey took us back to June 1984, just as I was starting my last few months before entering kindergarten. Hits that summer included "Let's Here It For the Boy" by Denise Williams and "Almost Paradise" by Mike Reno and Anne Wilson from the Footloose soundtrack, "Oh Sherrie" by Steve Perry, "Borderline" by Madonna, "Legs" by ZZ Top, "Eyes Without A Face" by Billy Idol, "Time After Time" by Cyndi Lauper, "The Heart of Rock N' Roll" by Huey Lewis and the News, "Self Control" by Laura Branigan, "Jump (For Your Love)" by The Pointer Sisters, and "When Doves Cry" by Prince and the Revolution. British dance band Duran Duran had one of their biggest hits in the #1 spot for the first of two weeks, "The Reflex."

(Sigh. And a final sign off to Casey Kasem, who passed away on the 15th. I'm glad WOGL does these re-runs - it's given me a second chance to get to know Kasem's vocal work beyond his stints as Shaggy Rogers and Rankin-Bass' Peter Cottontail.)

I had to work early today, so I kept my farm market trip short. Even so, it was a nice day for it. This morning was sunny, windy, and dry, without a cloud in the brilliant blue sky. Between the nice weather and Friday being the 4th of July, the Collingswood Farm Market was packed. Peas are on their last week, but I did see the first peaches of the season. I ended up with blueberries, strawberries, cherries, brown mushrooms, a tomato, a cucumber, and my last pint of organic sugar snap peas.

Ran a couple of Max & Ruby episodes when I got home. "Max's Froggy Friend" amuses Max with his antics, but Ruby doesn't want Froggy at her tea party. Max keeps trying to sneak him home anyway. "Max's Music" has Max trying to use his toys as musical instruments, so he can join Ruby's Red-Hot Trio for their concert. "Max Gets Wet" when he wants Ruby to fill up his pool, but she keeps telling him she has to water her plants first.

Work was on-and-off busy for most of the afternoon. I shelved candy during the down times. It was too nice of a day for anyone to be in a bad mood! It slowed down enough by 5 that I was able to shut down without a relief.

I went right into the bath the moment I got home from work. Ahhh. The bath salts I bought at the Acme yesterday smelled so nice. I had a nice, soothing soak, reading the travel guides to Philly and the Pennsylvania Dutch Country I took out of the library on Thursday.

I ate leftovers for dinner while watching Rick Steves. We traveled across Switzerland to four of its loveliest cities. I rather like the Swiss - they have a sensible drug policy that's more concerned with keeping them off the streets than in jail, their capitol city has a river you can float along to where you're going, and they have lovely, stripped-down churches and beautiful covered bridges and (of course) clocks.

Friday, June 27, 2014

What to Do When You're Bored

I hadn't been awake for very long before the phone rang. Mom was getting back to me after I called yesterday. She was on her way to work (was doing the ticket booth at the Ferry today) and couldn't talk for long. She's happy that I had a good time on Lauren's vacation, but really couldn't say much more.

I only had a few errands to run today. Started at the Oaklyn Library. My current home town's library is really only one room, with no need (or space) for the formality at the Haddon Township Library. It's probably just as well that they weren't busy. There wasn't much to do with the adult DVDs, and the kids' area looked like someone was in the midst of vacuuming the curtains and ran out of time - the equipment and one set of curtains were still there. I did shelve some items and organized the board books, then headed out.

Headed to the Acme next to get a few groceries and money for the week. I was mostly restocking meat. Chicken drumsticks were on sale; also bought the single packs of tilapia and salmon and a larger coconut-crusted tilapia fillet. Got the smaller box of brown sugar (it wasn't on sale, but I was out), and chocolate chips. There were some good health and beauty products sales. I got Arm & Hammer Deodorant for 79 cents and a three pack of Dial Basic soap for a dollar. The lines were only long because there were two registers open - they must have been waiting for help.

I have a very busy week next week, the most hours I've had since the early spring and only one day off, Thursday. That's fine. After I was bored the last few days, I'd rather have the hours! I do have one relatively late night on Wednesday, but otherwise, my hours are pretty normal, including 12 to 4 on the 4th of July. That'll give me plenty of time for both Oaklyn's town parade and the parties and fireworks later in the day. (In fact, I think those are about the same hours I worked the 4th of July last year.)

When I got home, I put everything away, then had a quick lunch while finishing out the third cartoon DVD. Although I don't think any short on this set will get close to "Les Escargots" for sheer weirdness, there were a couple of oddities. "Winter Draws On," "The Golden State," and "Time for Love" are charming Screen Songs sing-a-long Paramount shorts from the late 40s. "The Story of Time" is a ponderous stop-motion history of clocks and watches that reminds me a lot of Donald In Mathmagic Land and Donald and the Wheel from the late 50s-early 60s...but without Donald's personality or those shorts' sense of humor. "Red Riding Hood" gives us the return of the imitation Minnie from "Circus Capers." This time, Miss Mouse has to rescue her red-hot Granny from a wolf who wants to marry her! "The Cob Web Hotel" is definitely no romantic honeymoon spot for flies - it's run by a spider who uses it to trap his dinner. When a pair of newlywed flies are attacked, the other prisoners in the hotel come to their rescue.

By the time the cartoons ended, I was bored stiff. I wanted to talk to someone, but most people I know are working or doing their own business. I didn't know what I felt like doing. It was too late to go on a long trip. I jumped on the bike and rode around Oaklyn for a while before I turned around. A walk around Collingswood might make me feel better.

It being a beautiful Friday evening, windy and warm but not really humid, Collingswood was rather busy when I arrived around 4PM. This time, I did catch the Twin Oaks Thrift Shop before they closed. There were quite a few people wandering around the shop, but I did manage to find The Woman's Comfort Book.

Speaking of comfort, I thought a nice fountain soda from the Pop Shop would cool me off and make me feel a little better. They were surprisingly quiet for a Friday evening, maybe because I came in at 4:30, before the dinner rush. I decided to try a "Coconut Cupcake Soda" - coconut and cupcake syrups in Diet Coke. Yummy! Sweet, but absolutely delicious, and very refreshing. It really hit the spot.

I browsed in Frugli Consignment across the street. They were busy with families looking for kids' clothes, but I saw nothing for me and moved on. The Women's Comfort Book suggested, among other things, playing at a playground to liven up flagging spirits. I wanted to go to CVS anyway, so I swung by the playground on the river in Newton River Park, across from the condos. I went as high as I dared on the swings, squeezed across the balance beam, and flew down the awesome slide with the rollers. It was really fun! The view on the river was gorgeous too, sunny and green and sparkling. (But what's with that new blacktop across from CVS? Parking for the fireworks?)

My trip to CVS didn't go well; they didn't have the shampoo I was looking for. I finally just headed home instead. I made Italian breaded chicken with steamed snap peas and sliced cucumber for dinner while watching The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad.

The Wind and the Willows and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow aren't the first stories I'd put in an anthology together, and indeed, the two have little in common. Mr. Toad follows the title character and his friends Rat, Badger, and Mole as Toad escapes from a fraudulent car theft charge, then wins back his home Toad Hall from the weasels who set him up with the help of the others. Basil Rathbone narrates, with the help of several charactor actors, including Pat O'Malley and Eric Blore. Bing Crosby narrates and does all the voices for Ichabod. Ichabod Crane is a schoolteacher in colonial New England who competes with local bully Brom Bones for lovely Katrina...until the night of the Halloween party, when he meets local legend the Headless Horseman face-to-jack-o-lantern!

I honestly like these two cartoons better separate. Sleepy Hollow is pretty funny until it makes a total turn around for that truly freaky chase climax! Mr. Toad's segment is more pure comedy/action. This is really only for major fans of the books in question, Disney movies, or people looking for Halloween content for grade school kids (that final chase with the Headless Horseman is a bit too much for the youngest).

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Trouble at the Library

I slept in today and didn't really get going until around quarter of noon. It poured last night, and I thought we were supposed to get more of the same today. It was on-and-off cloudy this morning and still a bit humid, but cooler with a nice wind...and no rain. Newton River Park was quiet for the lunch hour. There were a few mothers and their children at the park and the usual joggers. Otherwise, most people must have been eating.

The Haddon Township Library was busier. So busy, that the head librarian had already encouraged an earlier volunteer to shelve most of the DVDs. I started organizing the kids' DVD shelves to get a few more titles on, but the head librarian fussed, claiming it wasn't "productive." How else are you going to get anything else on those overstuffed shelves? I finally just put some CDs and audio books away, took out two guides to the Pennsylvania Dutch Country, and left.

I'm still a little upset about the library. Normally, libraries are some of my favorite places. I go there and volunteer there to get away from fussy bosses and obnoxious people, not deal with more. Libraries have been quiet escapes for me since they were some of my only escapes during my childhood. I don't like how strict the new head librarian is. I work best when I'm left to my own devices. Not to mention, I don't work there. I'm just volunteering.

I was still feeling down when I rode to Phillies Phatties around the corner from my apartment for lunch. They have the cheapest prices for single pizza slices in the area. My slice of cheese, slice of mushroom, and can of Pepsi Next (half the sugar of regular Pepsi) was $3.50 all together. Not only that, but they make pretty good pizza, too. The sports theme (and being next-door to Studio LuLoo and two doors down from Leo's Yum Yums) makes them popular with local kids, especially boys. I listened to a couple of boys chatter about the World Cup as I waited for my pizza. I ate outside, on the beautiful new wood benches that line West Clinton where the restaurant and Leo's are. Briefly stopped at Studio LuLoo's (an arts center for kids and families) for pamphlets on volunteering opportunities.

I rode to Dad's next to see if anyone was home to talk to. Jodie was the only one there. She says Dad may be home by late tonight. I told her about the trouble at the library, my idea for a vacation, and how restless I was feeling. I normally spend my summer trying to think of new ideas for getting out of the Acme. As badly as I want another job, I'm out of ideas and tired of trying to come up with new ones that never pan out. I just don't know what to do with myself anymore.

Went back to West Clinton for a much-needed Yum Yum. The kids who were doing some kind of art project at Studio LuLoo's must have finished. A group of them sat in front of Phillies' Phatties. A couple more ordered soft ice cream cones with sprinkles. I enjoyed my small lemon cup and watched their antics, along with a little girl in a ruffled denim sundress trying to eat a soft vanilla ice cream cone without making too much of a mess!

When I got home, I grabbed one of the books, packed up my laundry, and headed out to the laundromat. Though there was a large family with four noisy kids running all over the place when I arrived, by the time my large load finished, they were gone and the place was empty except for an older couple, Action News, and me.

I thought some baking, given the now cooler and sunnier day, would cheer me up after I put everything away. I made a Blueberry-Pink Lemonade Cake for dessert and a cheese omelet and a salad for dinner while watching more public domain cartoons. Most of the shorts in this round were pretty strange, from a fairy tale-themed public service short on car safety to a Fleischer Brothers one-off where half of a river gets drunk on spilled apple cider. Nothing came anywhere close to the oddness that was "Les Escargots."

Apparently a Cannes-winning French short from the 60s (from the opening credits), this sci-fi/horror-oriented tale has an old man who somehow farms a ball that's held in place by a lady standing on it. He can't get his lettuce to grow...until he discovers his tears do the trick. His lettuce grows to an enormous size...but they attract snails, who eat the lettuce and get huge, too. Suddenly, the snails are moving across the countryside, leveling an entire city in their wake!

Wow. Weird. Very, very weird. The animation was very limited, just sketchy drawings barely moving. It was annoying at times, especially the shot of the farmer pacing that was just the same one of him moving forward two or three times. The drawings were well-done, though, especially the snails' havoc. I wouldn't call this necessary, but it's worth a watch once on YouTube if you're a fan of French animation, darkly comic sci-fi, or Godzilla-style "giant animals flatten everything" stories.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Surfer Girl and the Beach Bums

I had early work today. Maybe it was just as well. We were supposed to be getting rain by later in the afternoon. Not to mention, work was busy, far busier than it has been. We didn't have enough help, especially early on. We were also hit by the chop-shop people buying up half our inventory again, mainly cereal and soda. I really wish these people would keep in mind that they're not the only ones in the universe who need cereal and soda. We do have other customers.

Thankfully, my relief, one of the college boys, was right on time. I headed out as soon as he arrived. A day that had been warm enough in the morning was hot and killer humid by 2PM. It was sunny, but there were clouds coming from at least two directions. I went straight home and didn't go anywhere else.

When I got home, I changed into my regular clothes, then went straight into cleaning the kitchen. It wasn't quite as bad as the bathroom was, but the sink still needed to be scrubbed. Ran the first Gidget movie while cleaning. Beach girl Francie (Sandra Dee) is fed up with her girlfriends flirting with guys but not getting anywhere. She's a tomboy who would rather make friends with them, including falling in love with surfing when beach bum Moondoggie (James Darren) rescues her from being caught in kelp. She gets so good at surfing, the guys consider her their mascot and "girl midget," which gives her the nickname Gidget. Gidget falls for Moondoggie after he rescues her again and enlists some of the other guys, including the "Big Kahuna" (Cliff Robertson) to make the college boy jealous. Her plans backfire when they work too well, and she has two men after her and her parents worried about her "reputation."

This wasn't anything like I was expecting. I figured it would be a campy semi-musical comedy like the Frankie/Annette surfing B-pics from a few years later. Though Darren did sing two songs, this wasn't really a musical. It's a surprisingly well-written dramady about one smart young woman who learns you can be a girl AND one of the guys...and get one of the guys in the bargain. For all of the 50s oh-gosh dialogue (I got a little tired of Dee's constant "gees"), the idea of a girl who goes for what she wants - in what was then still considered to be mainly a guy sport - is surprisingly modern. The second half, where her love life takes over, is both more dated and less interesting.

This also brings back a few childhood memories. The Jersey Shore is a popular surfing spot. I grew up around "surf bums" who worked during the winter and surfed and hung out with the locals in the summer. I sold surfboards in the Wildwood Acme's covered patio from June to Labor Day. A lot of guys I knew in high school were surfers during the summer, too. I never got into it myself - I can't afford surfboards, and while I am a good swimmer, I'm not sure I could balance on a thin board. I did enjoy watching the surfers during my beach walks in Wildwood and Cape May, though.

After Gidget ended, I took a nice, long bath. That felt great. I'm lucky that it hasn't been that busy at work, but there's a lot coming up, including the 4th of July and the beginning of the month. It'll probably be crazy next week.

Watched more cartoons during a dinner of chicken in mushroom sauce with sliced tomatoes and mayo. These were mostly random Harveytoons or the Fleischer one-off color shorts. Most were in lousy shape, but a few stood out. "All's Fair at the Fair" took a hillbilly couple on a stroll through the wonders of New York's 1939 World's Fair. "Cupid Gets His Man" pits a crew of cupids in Mountie uniforms against a confirmed bachelor and bachelorette (the former of whom distinctly resembles W.C Fields). "Crazytown" is about a backwards 'burg where the firemen shoot fire out of their hoses and houses lean every which way. "Circus Capers" looks like an early talkie short, with an imitation Mickey and Minnie falling in and out of love under the big top. The clown mouse loves the bareback rider, but he ends up singing "Laugh Clown Laugh" when she takes up with the ringmaster. But this clown rodent ends up having the last laugh! 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Betty In Summerland

I awoke to a lovely summer's morning. I didn't get a chance to get out earlier today. I don't really need to do too much cleaning, since I did heavy spring cleaning last month and earlier this month, but the bathroom was looking grungy. It definitely could not be put off. I ran more cartoons while getting it done.

Work wasn't too bad. It was busier than yesterday, but still nothing overwhelming. Most people are probably on vacation or are waiting for the 4th of July and the beginning of the month next week. My relief was a little late; other than that, I had no major problems.

When I got home, I changed into regular clothes, then went for a pleasant walk. It was hot, into the mid-80s, but dry, and there was a refreshing wind that kept things cool. WaWa was busy, and so was the neighborhood. Kids were out and about, riding bikes or strolling in packs. The grass is starting to show signs of our recent lack of rain, but it's mostly still green and gorgeous as can be, with summer lilies brightening every garden. I strolled home with my skim milk and turkey hoagie for dinner.

I ate my hoagie while finishing the Betty Boop/Popeye disc. Most of these shorts are from later, after Betty and her ensemble had to be toned down due to stricter censorship, but there were a few earlier titles. Favorites of the earlier Betty shorts included "Betty's Ker-choo" (Betty's cold seems to interfere with her competing in a car race, but her "cold in her doze" winds up blowing her into first) and "Betty In Blunderland" (Betty is a very sexy Alice with longer hair). Favorites from the later shorts included "A Language All My Own" (Betty's vaudeville act goes global, including a fairly well-represented stop in Japan) and "Grampy's Indoor Outing" (Junior is upset when his and Betty's trip to the fair is rained out, so Professor Grampy figures out a way they can enjoy fair-like thrills inside).

My favorite Betty short on this disc was "Judge For a Day." Battered and muddied by "pests" who smoke in the trolley car, read over her shoulder, and push her out of her seat, legal stenographer Betty imagines what she'd do if she was a judge and could sentence all these rude people to the same kind of annoying torment they give her. As someone who has ridden public transportation and walked or ridden my bike to work in bad weather, I'm totally with Betty here. I've had cars splash mud on me, been squashed in bus seats by people who don't pay attention, had people read over my shoulder, and dealt with smoking in bus bathrooms (never mind that smoking in public transportation was banned by the time I was riding). I wouldn't mind passing a few laws subjecting others to the same kind of rudeness myself!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Plumbers, Princesses, Sailors, and Sonics

It was still partly cloudy when I went out to work this morning. Work was pretty quiet for most of the day. We were on and off busy, but it was never overwhelming. We did have some problems with people coming in to buy at least 40 or 50 boxes of cereal per cart early in the day. These are the people who buy national brands that are on deep discounts and sell them to chop-shops in Camden, who in turn sell them at twice the original amount. They weren't happy, but the managers finally limited them to 2 offers of the sales each. Otherwise, there was no real trouble, and my relief was on time.

When I got home, I was originally going to clean the bathroom, but I was too tired. I played video games instead. I got a little further on Super Paper Mario. I at least got to the mansion in Chapter 2-2. Now I just have to figure out how to get through the mansion on the very little health points I have left.

Switched to Sonic and the Secret of the Rings when I got fed up with Paper Mario. In the first of two (to date) Sonic storybook-themed games, Sonic travels to the world of the Arabian Knights with a female genie to stop the stories from disappearing. Sonic plays a little differently than Mario. You have to tilt the controller left or right in order to make Sonic run and get rings. I'm having a hard time with the last practice round, which involves jumping and hitting enemies by pushing the controller forward. Either I'm not doing it fast enough, or my timing is off. I just need more practice.

After I finished with the games, I made a lovely Strawberry Chicken Salad for dinner. Layered organic red romaine lettuce with radishes, cucumbers, strawberries, sliced leftover breaded chicken, a little muenster cheese, and home-made strawberry balsamic vinaigrette. Yum. It was even better than the one the other night.

Watched more public domain Popeye color shorts as I ate. I wish Paramount didn't have this weird idea that Popeye was Donald Duck. I wasn't crazy about his solo shorts dealing with an irate mouse who doesn't like his snoring in "Shuteye Popeye" or an obnoxious gopher in his garden in "Gopher Spinach." "Insect to Injury" is a bit better. Popeye's now handling termites eating his brand-new home. Spinach helps him get the best of them.

Popeye had more luck trying to win Olive Oyl. Olive's turned on by a debonair Bluto imitating a dashing TV personality in "Parlez Vous Woo"; Popeye proves that he can do the gentleman thing, too. Popeye and Bluto work together for once in "A Haul In One," but it's every sailor for himself when they realize they're moving Olive's furniture. (At least her things all ended up in the truck, unlike the original version of this short, "Let's Get Movin'.") They're "Cookin' With Gags" when Bluto spends Olive's April Fool's Day picnic playing pranks on Popeye. Popeye finally reminds Bluto that pranks are all fun and games until they're turned on you. Popeye tells his nephews the story of Hercules to get them to eat their spinach in "Greek Mirthology," but like a lot of real kids, it takes a lot more than mythology spoofs to convince them to eat their greens.

I spent a half-hour or so after dinner outside on the porch, reading A Song In the Dark. It was as perfect a night as it gets here in late June. The sun was fully out by this point, the sky was blue, and the early evening sun beamed gently down through the trees. For once, I didn't even get attacked by bugs, as I usually do in the summer on the porch. It was delightfully pleasant.

Oh, and I had an idea for something to do later this summer. I haven't taken a long train trip on my own for a while. I've considered taking the train to New York for years, but I came to the conclusion at work today that I really don't want to "do" the city. It's too noisy, expensive, and complicated. I'd rather go somewhere prettier and quieter. I have two cities right next door to me. The Amtrak trains do go out into the Philly suburbs and Eastern Pennsylvania countryside, as well as down south through Delaware and Maryland, and through southern New England. All are considerations. I'll do more research in the next couple of weeks.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Surprise Showers

It was just cloudy when I got up around 9 this morning. I read The Trumpet of the Swan and wrote in my journal for a while before making blueberry pancakes for breakfast. I'm still catching up on running all of the DVDs, videos, and CDs I bought during vacation or took out of the Haddon Township Library on Friday. Did Spider Man Turn Off the Dark while eating.

Hoo boy. This multi-million dollar stage extravaganza was incredibly controversial during its Broadway stay, mainly due to the dangerous special effects required to bring the title character and his antagonists to life and the fact that the director Julie Taymor left before it debuted. Its music was also said to be pretty bad...and I'm afraid the detractors were mostly right. While there were a few songs I liked (especially "No More" with Peter Parker and one of his girls - Mary Jane? - wishing they were someone or somewhere else, and Peter's "Boy Who Fell From the Sky"), most of them sounded too much alike. I also wish they, you know, told us what the show was about. None of these songs or the liner notes told you what was going on. Did it even have a plot?

I'm going to go with the critics on this one. Superheroes and musicals just don't seem to mix - the 60s show It's a Bird, It's a Plane, It's Superman didn't even last as long as this did. Maybe this worked better onstage with the special effects. The cast album is only for huge fans of the show, Spidey, or U2.

Work was busy with people buying things for graduation parties and barbecues the entire afternoon. For once, we had plenty of help and lots of teenagers and college students around to take customers. One of the boys was called to go in for me so I could go home - I had no relief and still had a line.

When I got home, I changed into regular clothes, then played Super Paper Mario for an hour and a half. I did get a bit further. After I defeated a mechanical dragon to end Chapter 1, I revived Princess Peach with soup from a restaurant on the bottom floor of Flipside (the main city). I did a little flipping between perspectives to open the portal to the next round. As she did in Super Mario Bros 2 for the original Nintendo, Peach can float if you hold the 2 button down (this time via a parasol). I'm now working my way through the swamp-themed Chapter 2.

Hit the bath after I finished with Mario. I was reading A Song In the Dark, about the musicals of the early sound era, when I heard rain pattering on the porch. That was something I didn't expect. It wasn't even supposed to be cloudy today, just partly sunny. At least, it didn't last long. It was long gone before I got out of the bath.

After I dried off, I had the last of the tuna salad and snap peas for dinner while listening to the first Unsung Musicals CD. It's a shame this series of collections of songs from flop musicals is long out of print. I picked most of mine up from a small shop in Ocean City and love them.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Summer Harvest Time

Began a cloudy day with this week's American Top 40 re-run. Summer 1978 kicked off with soul, pop, ballads, jazz, and tons of disco. Hits that mid-June included "You're the One That I Want" by Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta from that summer's mega-hit movie Grease, "Two Out of Three Ain't Bad" by Meatloaf, "Take a Chance On Me" by ABBA, the instrumental jazz tune "Feels So Good" by Chuck Mangione, "Baker Street" by Gerry Rafferty, "Too Much, Too Little, Too Late" by Johnny Mathis and Denise Williams, "The Groove Line" by Heatwave, "Still the Same" by Bob Seeger and the Silver Bullet Band, "Because the Night" by Patti Smith, and "Bluer Than Blue" by Michael Johnson.

That month's number one song would go on to be 1978's biggest hit. Teen heartthrob Andy Gibb had three songs hit the top of the charts in a row in 1977 and 1978, ending with the seven-week run of "Shadow Dancing."

There was only one yard sale listed for today, and I didn't really feel up to it after all the running around I did this week and last week. I settled for a quick trip to the Collingswood Farm Market instead. The Farm Market was bustling despite the clouds, and no wonder. The first round of the summer harvest had made its debut. I saw the first corn, tomatoes, raspberries, blackberries, green beans, cucumbers, and New Jersey blueberries of the season today. I finally ended up with blueberries, more cherries, a tomato, a cucumber, and organic romaine lettuce and snap peas.

It began sprinkling as I headed towards Oaklyn's tiny post office. I needed stamps. As I got off my bike to walk into the building, one of the straps on my backpack came off. Darn it! I knew those darn vinyl straps weren't going to last. I did get the stamps I needed, but I ended up dumping the backpack into my bike basket. Good thing I put most of the fruit and vegetables into the bag I brought.

When I got home, I tried to look up backpacks online, but I got distracted looking up other things. I did finally get off in time for a quick lunch and to watch a few Popeye cartoons. "I Wanna Be a Lifeguard" is one of the many Popeye/Bluto battles, here to see who can dominate the pool and be a lifeguard for Olive. Popeye also goes up against Bluto in "Bridge Ahoy." Popeye, Olive, and Wimpy want to build a bridge to avoid the high fees on Bluto's ferry. Needless to say, Bluto doesn't like this one bit.

Though the clouds were clearing by the time I went to work at 1, work was still quite busy throughout the afternoon. Good thing we had plenty of help. It finally died around 6, allowing me to get out without a relief.

And much to my surprise, I actually have a pretty decent schedule this week, not something I was expecting between holidays. Mostly early hours, including a 9AM shift on Wednesday, and Thursday and Friday off. Hopefully, this will allow me to get some cleaning done and figure out what to do with the rest of my summer.

When I got home, I made a Chicken Garden Salad with farm market romaine lettuce, cucumbers, and radishes, along with sliced breaded chicken from the other night, and started the public domain DVD set Lauren gave me. Unlike the set that Jessa gave me two Christmases ago, this one indicates which cartoons are on where. I started off with more Popeye, mainly the color shorts from the 50s. "Spooky Swabs" lands Olive and Popeye on an abandoned ship filled with ghosts who don't want them there! Popeye spends "Patriotic Popeye" trying to keep his nephews from spending the 4th of July setting off damaging fireworks. Things are "Taxi-Turvy" when Popeye and Bluto compete to take Olive to her destination. And Popeye is Popeye-rella in "Ancient Fistory" when, thanks to his Fairy Godfather (Pappy), he's able to dress up for the ball to woo Princess Olive and rescue her from overzealous Bluto.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Are You Ready For the Summer?

Started the first day of summer with several vacation and outdoor-themed Mickey Mouse cartoons. Mickey tries to hide Pluto in his luggage in "Mr. Mouse Takes a Trip," but Conductor Pete catches wise and chases them across the train. Mickey tangles with "The Little Whirlwind" when he tries to clean Minnie's yard. Mickey and Minnie recall a gentler summer of vaudeville and crank-powered car rides in one of my favorite Mickey shorts, "The Nifty Nineties." Mickey and Pluto have a close encounter with a boomerang and a none-too-happy emu in Australia in "Mickey Down Under."

My first stop of the day was the Oaklyn Library. Given the nice weather and the fact that it was past noon, I wasn't surprised to see that the only people there were the librarian and two older people on the computers. I arranged DVDs and looked over the children's books. Oaklyn's selling the leftovers from its book sale last weekend for cheap. I bought The Croods and The Pooh Cook Book for 25 cents each! (They've also done more rearranging. Magazines are now on a metal rack as you enter. The larger wooden rack was moved to the back of the building and is currently used for sale items.)

I had an absolutely gorgeous ride across Newton Lake Park. The weather was just about perfect, sunny, dry, windless, and probably in the lower 70s-upper 80s. Other than algae has started taking over the river, the scenery is lovely, green and sweet-smelling. I'm surprised there weren't more people out and about, just a few joggers.

The Haddon Township Library was a bit busier than Oaklyn had been. There were lots of people on the computers and several parents and kids looking for DVDs. The kids' DVD shelves were overloaded; I couldn't get everything in and finally pulled some doubles. Had an easier time with a smaller stack of adult titles and CDs. I ended up with a collection of the original Gidget films, the independent vacation-themed comedy The Way Way Back, the newest Angelina Ballerina title On With the Show, and the cast album for the controversial Broadway musical Spider Man Turn Off the Dark.

Had a quick burger-and-fries lunch at Wendy's. I wasn't in the mood for anything fancier, and it was too late to go further. I then crossed Cuthbert to check out the newly remodeled Rite Aid. I knew the pale blue exterior had been replaced by beige, but I assumed that was as far as the changes went. I was very wrong. Almost the entire interior, except for the registers and the freezers along the sides, had been reorganized or upgraded. The interior was now a lighter pale yellow, with soft wood-grained signs that told you what was being sold there. I didn't really need much; just picked up a paper towel roll for 78 cents.

When I finally got home, I got organized, put everything away, changed into my sandals, then headed back out on foot with my laundry in my new cart. It was a lovely afternoon for a walk. The wind had picked up a little by quarter of 5, but nothing too chilly or heavy. The laundromat was dead when I arrived. I saw one other person, but otherwise, it was just me, my small load, and Action News. I was in and out in less than an hour.

Did a few chores when I returned. I swept the porch, which was covered with sticks and debris (including the first pepper nuts of the season), while listening to the Kenny Loggins Greatest Hits CD, then put up the patriotic decorations for the 4th of July. I have some fairly cute red, white, and blue-themed items, including a patriotic Care Bear with a flag on its tummy, two mini-patriotic Beanie Babies, a tall cardboard Uncle Sam, two large flags I put in the metal curls on the top of the baker's rack, a huge ribbon for the front door, and three folksy wooden doll-blocks that spell out "USA."

Ran the Angelina Ballerina disc as I made banana-chocolate chip muffins, pan-fried chicken, and strawberries and greens salad for dinner. This one has a musical instrument theme, as Angelina and her pals learn about different types of music and how use effective non-verbal communication. Non-verbal communication especially ties into the first story. Angelina's teacher Miss Mimi has laryngitis and can't give the kids the direction they need for their version of "Peter and the Wolf." The way the story is told through music gives Miss Mimi a way to direct her students without speech. In another story, all of the kids are asked to make up their own instruments from everyday items. Gracie, who prefers dancing to real musical instruments, has a hard time getting into the assignment, until grocery store owner Mrs. Thimble shows her how much fun it can be to create your own kind of music. A sweet Father's Day tale teaches everyone about the music of Eastern Europe, as Angelina, Polly, and Angelina's friend Marcos plays Klesmer music for Angelina's dad for a party.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Come In Out of the Rain

I wasn't happy about going back to work this morning. I was originally off today and tomorrow, but one of the managers called me and asked me if I wanted to work 11 to 5 today. I had no reason to say no. I really could use the hours. I just moved grocery shopping to today instead of tomorrow. I'll volunteer at both libraries and do the laundry tomorrow.

The other reason I took the hours was I figured it wouldn't be busy...and I was right. We're really between holidays. It probably won't be busy again until people start preparing for the 4th of July late next week. I spent a lot of the afternoon shelving candy. It didn't help that it clouded up around 2, although the clouds weren't quite as bad by the time my relief finally appeared at 5.

My grocery shopping went very well. It was surprisingly quiet when I was walking around. I mostly needed to restock things I used last week when Lauren visited - chicken (they're not on sale, but I did find cheap packs of thin cutlets), toilet paper (the new brand Fiona's 4-pack was $1.99 on sale), cooking spray, eggs (on sale for $2.50), muenster cheese (the Acme's is $2 this week), and tuna (88 cents for Acme's generic cans). They still had the Pillsbury summer fruit-flavored cake mixes; I opted for Pink Lemonade this time. Though I wasn't going to buy four packs of Breyers' Ice Cream to get the $1.99 sale, even $2.74 is good for Breyers', one of the more expensive non-premium brands. I opted for their limited-edition Summer Berry Cobbler - black raspberry ice cream with strawberry swirls and cinnamon cobbler pieces. Bought two lobster cakes on a manager's special for dinner.

The sun was coming out when I finished. Everything was wet, which means it must have rained at some point, but it looks fine now. It was also cooler than earlier, though still humid. When I got home, I changed into regular clothes, put everything away, and pan-fried the lobster cakes. Ate them with the last of the snap peas as I continued the Sailor Moon season 2 episodes I put on earlier. Sailor Moon always makes me feel better. I love watching the girls work together, even when they drive each other crazy.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Escaping the Heat

Lauren and I spent the morning of her last day playing two more rounds of Pac Man Party. It was too hot to do anything else! It got into the 90s here today, windy and sunny (though still not that humid). I won both of these, a basic green world landscape with medieval-esque castles and a second go-around with the long desert board. I've finally gotten the hang of the mini-games. I can't seem to get the ones that involve tilting the controller, but if it involves pointing and shooting or jumping, I can generally do better.

Dad picked us up around 11:50. We got to the Cherry Hill train platform with plenty of time to spare. There was no traffic anywhere. The train was right on time. I gave Lauren a hug and watched her board the train, then returned to Dad. He had to stop at the Bank of America in Collingswood for money and at the pool shop a few streets down for chemical testers.

After that, I spent the rest of the day indoors. I really had no other plans for today besides playing my new video games, dubbing movies, and spending time in a nice, cool bath. Started with Super Paper Mario. Mario is still rescuing Princess Peach...but in this game she, Bowser, Luigi, and Bowser's usual minions have been sucked into another universe by the evil Count Bleck. Mario is the hero of the Light Prophecies and must find seven Pure Hearts in order to stop The Void and defeat the Count. Yeah, it's as strange as it sounds, but a lot of fun, too, and a little unusual in that you have to switch from 2-D to 3-D - from seeing things straight up front to seeing them from the side - to get some items or make it through puzzles.

Switched to Kirby's Dream Collection after about an hour or so. I tried some of the original Kirby Dream Land Game Boy games. They may be in black and white and have older graphics, but they're harder than they look. You can't copy villains at all in the original game, and your copying ability is limited in the second. I didn't get too far in any of them.

I went online for about an hour to just browse around, then hit the bath around 5:30. I kept it nice and cool. Spend a quiet hour leaning back and reading one of my favorite books, A Song In the Dark, on the musicals of the early sound film era. Dad did invite me to join Khai and other local kids in his pool, but after a long week of running around, I just didn't feel like going anywhere.

I made a simple dinner of tilapia and snap peas, then crocheted while watching The Great Caruso. Philadelphia opera singer Mario Lanza got the chance to play one of his idols in this Technicolor biography. The title singer was one of the most famous opera stars of the late 19th and early 20th century. He wowed audiences in his native Italy and in Europe before becoming the major tenor of the Metropolitan Opera for 18 years, until shortly before his death in 1921. Ann Blyth is his wife, a gentle socialite whose father disapproves of their union.

Checking Wikipedia reveals that, like most MGM musical "biographies," there's a lot here that's inaccurate (Caruso's children out of wedlock are naturally not mentioned, and his popular recording career was only touched on towards the end). The big draw here is Lanza and his performances of 27 songs, mostly sequences from opera. If you're a fan of opera or Lanza, you may enjoy the music here.

The Acme called me just about an hour ago and asked me if I wanted to come in tomorrow. As much as I would have liked to have kept both extra days off, I do need the hours. I'll do my grocery shopping tomorrow and move volunteering at both libraries to Friday.

Oh, and I heard from Lauren around 7, shortly after washing off from my bath. She was on the train to Albany, which is preparing to leave the station. She's more than likely either at home with her parents or on the road there by now. As of that point, everything had been on time and she had no problems anywhere.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

While Strolling Through the Cherry Hill Mall One Day

Though it wasn't that humid when we finally got up around 10, it was already in the upper 80s. Ugh. We were originally going to walk up to Haddon Heights and Barrington to check out the Antique Center and have a nice lunch, but it was way too hot. We ultimately decided to spend the afternoon in the air conditioned Cherry Hill Mall instead.

Our first stop was a really quick one at Dunkin' Donuts to use those coupons I had. I bought a Mocha Coolatta. Lauren got an "Arthur Palmer" (half lemonade, half iced tea) Coolatta and a croissant. (She hadn't had breakfast and apparently is a big fan of their croissants.) We picked up an on-time bus on Cuthbert Road a block from Kayla's Ice Cream. There was a little traffic going to the Cherry Hill Mall, but nothing horrible.

We didn't really buy a lot at Cherry Hill. The Cherry Hill Mall is mostly clothes stores. We did get some fun stuff. We both found games we liked at their Game Stop. I picked up Sonic and the Secret of the Rings, M&M Racing, and Namco Museum Remix, an earlier version of the Namco Museum Megamix Lauren bought yesterday. M&M Racing turned out to be two dollars cheaper than they had listed! Lauren bought a Sonic racing game and Kirby's Squeak Squad, a Kirby Nintendo DS game.

After briefly browsing through the Hallmark (which is closing and didn't have much left), we headed to the big Disney Store. They were busy with kids and employees, but we both did pretty well. Lauren picked up a small stuffed Goofy and a Goofy-print t-shirt. I found the newest member of the Disney Animator's Toddler Collection - an utterly adorable Tinkerbell! She was too cute to resist.

 We had lunch at The Bistro at Cherry Hill. This small restaurant is a popular lunch spot right in the middle of the mall, near Nordstrom's. Thankfully, it was around 2:30 by the time we sat down at their counter. They were between meal crowds. Lauren and I both had salads. She had a "Spiniata Salad" (spinach with mushroom and nuts). I had a Bistro Simple Leaf Salad with grilled chicken. The chicken was especially well done, fired just right. We weren't the only one who needed our greens, either. Evidently the Bistro's salads are really popular. We saw a lot of people around us eating them.

Lauren and I are both very fond of stuffed animals; it was probably inevitable that we'd end up at Build-A-Bear. I admired the huge stuffed My Little Ponies and Princess Pets, but I already bought Tink and have tons of large stuffed toys. Lauren liked how a purple ruffled outfit looked so much on a panda model, she bought the entire get-up for her bears, sequined shoes and all.

While hanging out in the air conditioning was nice, there really isn't much else we were interested in at the Cherry Hill Mall. Neither of us need more clothes badly, and we've already done Macy's twice. We just picked up a slightly late 4:30 bus to Haddon Township. We stopped at WaWa on the way home. I mainly needed milk, but we got drinks and a snack as well. Lauren bought a fountain Mello Yellow with raspberry and vanilla syrup. I had a Diet Dr. Pepper with cherry, raspberry, and vanilla syrup. We shared our annual Tastycake. This year, we went for the Dreamies, Tastycake's version of Twinkies. They weren't bad. The cake was rather tasty and there wasn't too much filling, though the filling they had was too sweet.

We spent the rest of a killer hot evening at my place. We first defeated the final big boss in Kirby's Epic Yarn...who ironically was easier than some of the earlier bosses. We tried M&M Racing, but the controls were such a pain, we couldn't get through the first round. We gave up and played two rounds of Pac Man Party instead. I'm getting better at that game. I won at a couple of the mini-games, especially the shooting games, and finally won the second game based around the ghosts' home, Spooky Hallow.

Right now, we're watching more Happy Days while hanging out online. I always did get a kick out of this show, especially in the early seasons before it got really weird. Favorites from this round include "Get a Job" (Richie befriends a pretty divorcee, but the other guys think there's more to it), "The Cunningham Caper" (Richie invites the guys over when he's alone while sick...and then a burglar shows up), and "The Not Making of the President" (Richie dates a girl who is an ardent Democrat - his dad's a Republican and isn't happy about his son switching sides).

Tomorrow, Lauren goes home around 12:20. I'm just going to hang out here in the air conditioning, read, and play video games. It's going to be too hot (and I'm too pooped) for any more running around.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Goodwill Hunting

We got a slightly earlier start today, around 10:30. It was already into the lower 80s by then, but much to my surprise, it wasn't humid at all. We had a rather nice walk to the Westmont Plaza, dodging the traffic on Cuthbert Road and waving to the pre-school kids heading down West Clinton Avenue with their teachers to the Oaklyn Library.

We mainly wanted to go to the big Game Stop at the Plaza. They have twice the room and inventory of the mall and Audubon Game Stops. Lauren did pick up the Wii game Namco Museum Megamix and Super Mario for the DS. I just grabbed Epic Mickey for $9.99. I wanted Pac Man Party, but while they had the game box on display, for some reason, they didn't have the disc.

We went right next door to the Westmont Bagel Shop for lunch. They're always busy at lunch with the secretaries and clerks from the offices in Cherry Hill and Haddonfield. We were between groups of clerks; it got kind of noisy, between them and The View and the news on Channel 6. Lauren had a huge cheesesteak sandwich (on thick slices of white bread instead of a roll); I had a Monte Cristo on the same bread cooked French toast-style.

We made a brief stop at Dollar Tree. I just bought star-print muffin cups. After that, we walked to the other side of the Plaza and hit Tuesday Morning. I wanted a basket to keep the Wii controllers and other video game equipment in. I got a big, heavy, round straw basket with handles. They had WebKinz again; I found the caterpiller.

It was hot and getting hotter by the minute. We stopped at Kayla's Ice Cream Parlor on the way back to my place. Lauren had a lemon water ice. I had a black cherry milkshake (milkshakes are on sale at Kayla's on Monday). We relaxed at the pink, yellow, and green tables under the roof and relaxed while watching the traffic on Cuthbert and the White Horse Pike go by.

We spent the rest of a very hot afternoon at my place, playing Kirby's Epic Yarn. We're just about done with that one. We got through a difficult Space Land, and found ourselves back in the beginning...then at Kirby's home Dreamland. We were just about to take on the main bad guy when we realized how late it was getting. I heard my cell phone go off; Jessa and Joe were on their way.

We went further afield than we did the last time. Joe first took us to a Goodwill in Woodbury, a half-hour from Oaklyn. Lauren had no luck there, but I picked up a record and three CDs. The record was:

Johnny Mathis - All Time Greatest Hits (a 2-disc set still in its original plastic!)

The CDs were:

Paula Abdul - Forever Your Girl (a cassette replacement)

A collection of various recordings brought together to make the closest thing to an original cast album the unusual 1941 musical Lady In the Dark got, with songs from British star Gertrude Laurence and comedian Danny Kaye.

There happened to be a small mom-and-pop video game store in the same shopping center, Game Alley. They were more-or-less an independent version of GameStop, with collections of older games going back to the Atari 2600 as well as titles for newer systems and a limited selection of movies. Lauren found two original Nintendo games and another DS title. I finally got Pac Man Party.

We made one last stop at a huge Goodwill in Glassboro. Joe and Jessa didn't get anything from this one. Lauren bought a pair of purple shorts. I found of the short Disney DVD cartoon collections from the last decade, this one revolving around Mickey and Minnie.

Joe mentioned he hadn't had Leo's Yum Yums since he was a teenager, so we stopped there when we got back into Oaklyn. They were pretty busy with a mom and her two kids and their friend, but we did finally get our orders. Joe and I had cherry vanilla Yum Yum. Lauren had a cherry water ice. Jessa had a strawberry-kiwi water ice and complained that it tasted really bland.

Lauren and I considered eating at the Oaklyn Manor a block down from Leo's, but we finally decided we weren't really up for it. We went home and ate out of the fridge instead. I had the last lamb chop from not last week, but the week before. Lauren had the last of the ham. I boiled some snap peas for vegetables.

We played Pac Man Party after dinner. This is pretty much Mario Party with Pac Man characters. Characters play one of five different Monopoly-style game boards. During the games, you can play different mini-games that mostly involve shaking or swinging the Wii controller. There's a couple of other modes, including a story mode and one that involved battling the other players, but we stuck to the boards. Lauren won in both the desert-themed board and the toy-themed board. I just couldn't figure out how to work the mini-games (except for the one that involved twirling spaghetti - I'm a good twirler),

Right now, we're watching Weekend at Bernie's and hanging out online. Tomorrow, we're going to spend a very hot afternoon in the Cherry Hill Mall.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Perfect Day for a Party

First of all, Happy Father's Day to all dads (including those whose children are feathered or four-legged)!

We slept in really late today. I didn't get up until around 10. It was closer to 11 by the time Lauren stirred. When we both did get going, I made Banana Pancakes with one last banana that was going really soft. Lauren tried calling her dad, and I called the Cape May side of the family, but we didn't have any luck.

It was too nice to be sitting inside. We went for a walk down Goff to the boat landing, and then down Kendall and around to the little playground at the Tracy Conners Memorial Park. It's not very big, but just large enough for the two of us to goof off and Lauren to snap a few pictures of the two of us on the equipment and sitting together on the black metal bench. Lauren also got a hold of her dad; he and her mother had been out to lunch.

It was a gorgeous day for a walk. The sky was blue. The sun was warm, but not humid or too hot like it's supposed to be later in the week. There was a nice breeze, but not as heavy as yesterday. Everything is just so green here. The early summer flowers are debuting - primroses, summer lilies. The trees provided wide, shady canopies over our heads as we returned to my apartment for me to change into my bathing suit and pick up the cupcakes I made last night.

As they did last year, Jodie and Dad were having a Father's Day barbecue. It wasn't a really huge blowout, but it was fun. There were hot dogs, cheeseburgers, and sweet and hot sausages on the grill, along with macaroni salad and that really vinegar-y cucumber salad Jodie likes. My Red and Blue Velvet cupcakes were a big hit. They vanished so fast, the only one remaining by the end of the evening was the red velvet cupcake Jodie put aside for herself. I didn't even do anything fancy. It was just the Duncan Hines Summer Velvets cake mix made into cupcakes, with no frosting.

I spent most of the party in the pool with Jessa, Joe, Khai, and Joe's four kids. 5 year old Danica, 10 year old JoJo, and 16 year old Nick had no problems splashing and jumping around with Khai, Jess, and me. 4 year old Connor wouldn't go in - he apparently hasn't learned to swim yet - but had no problems squirting everyone else with the foam water guns. Jess initially just stuck her feet in, until the kids and I splashed her, and then JoJo knocked her in! Lauren mostly just talked to Jodie's mom and dad. She's not really a swimmer. Their neighbor Sandy was around at one point, and my sister Rose kept an eye on Khai.

Lauren and I headed home around 7. I jumped right in the shower, then made Blue Raspberry Blues Cookies with the Blue Raspberry cake mix I bought yesterday and the blueberry Craisins. We played Kirby's Epic Yarn while the cookies cooled.

Tomorrow, we're going to try to get out to Westmont and Haddon Township relatively early before it gets too hot, then go Goodwill-hunting with Jessa and Joe later in the evening.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

A Very Long Walk

There was no sleeping in this morning! We had breakfast around 7:30-8AM, listening to today's American Top 40 re-run while we ate. Casey took us to June 1981, when ballads, New Wave, R&B, and country were all the rage. Lauren would have been almost a year old and I would have been two when these songs were new on the charts, and we both grew up with many of them. Hits that late spring included a medley of mostly Beatles songs by Stars On 45, "A Woman Needs Love" by Ray Parker Jr. and Raydio, the remake of "Sukiyaki" by A Taste of Honey, "All Those Years Ago" by George Harrison, and "Living Outside Myself" by Gino Vannelli.

One of my favorite songs of the early 80s, Kim Carnes "Bette Davis Eyes," was on it's fifth week at #1. It would go on to be the biggest hit single of the year.

We headed out around quarter after 9. Today was Oaklyn's town-wide yard sale. Despite there being lots of sales out, we didn't do all that well. We weren't the only ones - it didn't seem to be quite as busy, or as difficult to stroll around in, as Collingswood's was last week. I found a good widescreen copy of one of my favorite Pixar movies The Incredibles early on at a sale that was mostly Barbies, but other than that, we didn't find anything good until we discovered that the old man on East Clinton Avenue whom I saw last Sunday put out two plastic drawers filled with CDs. Lauren mostly got country titles for her and gospel titles for her dad. I got:

Jerry Lee Lewis - Last Man Standing: The Duets

A double-CD collection of radio shows that included Richard Diamond, Private Detective and Fibber McGee and Molly

Two music collections, one of pop songs from movies of the 90s and early 2000s, the other of 50s and 60s ballads.

I also found two more CDs at a sale the next street over:

Gloria Estefan - Greatest Hits (cassette replacement)

Sting - Brand New Day

We did a little better at a fairly busy farm market. Asparagus are on their last week, but I did see the first cherries of the year. I bought cherries and more strawberries, snap peas, and zucchini.

By 12, we were worn out and hot and sore. We finally stopped at Capitol Pizza for lunch. It was quiet for noon. We were the only ones eating there, although some local teenagers did pass through to pick up their pies. Lauren had two pepperoni slices and a bottle of Pepsi. I had a cheese slice, a mushroom slice, and a bottle of Diet Pepsi. We listened to an interesting show on HGTV, Fixer Upper, as we ate. A husband-and-wife team were working on a 30s house for a woman in Texas whose husband had just died. I wish we could have seen them doing the exterior; the interior was coming around rather well.

I called Jessa when I got home. Turns out she and Joe were too busy to do anything this afternoon. We moved the flea market excursion we originally planned to Monday afternoon. Lauren and I decided to get some errands and chores done instead, starting with a run to the Acme. Good thing it was a gorgeous day for a walk. It was sunny and warm but not hot or humid, and very windy. The wind kept us from getting overheated.

Probably thanks to the nice day, the Acme wasn't terribly busy. I didn't need a huge order, anyway. I needed to restock buttermilk, whole wheat flour, and applesauce. They had bags and bags of Starburst Jelly Beans left over from Easter on the clearance shelves; Lauren said they ran out early in her neck of the woods. I bought Blue Raspberry cake mix to make into cookies later in the week. They were having a sale on Craisins. We got two bags of trail mix and a bag of blueberry-flavored Craisins.

I mainly wanted to get my schedule...and as it turns out, I don't really have one. I'm off Thursday and Friday as well as the rest of my vacation. I don't work again until 1PM next Saturday. On one hand, I really could have used the hours. On the other hand, it's supposed to be mega-hot and humid next week, and it might not hurt to spread out my errands, including library volunteering runs.

We were home about an hour before we once again went out, this time to do the laundry. It was much cloudier and cooler by quarter of 5, but otherwise still pretty nice. That could be why it wasn't busy at the laundromat, either. There was no one there at all when we arrived, and only a few people after we left. We didn't have a huge load, anyway. Lauren wanted to wash her clothes so she could have some for next week, and I figured I might as well get mine done.

After a long day walking, we were too tired to do much else. We played Kirby's Epic Yarn for an hour and a half, then watched more episodes of Happy Days. Happy Days always did well by their holiday episodes, and the second season had two of the series' best. In addition to the Halloween show, "Guess Who's Coming to Christmas" shows an old-fashioned Christmas at the Cunninghams'. Mr. C insists on just the family, until Richie figures out that there's something fishy about Fonzie insisting he's going out of town for a party. I made tuna salad for dinner, with leftover peas from last night; I wasn't up for major cooking after all the walking today.

Right now, we're watching Summer Rental. Tomorrow, after all the hiking around today, we're just going to be attending Dad and Jodie's Father's Day party and not doing much else.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Happy Days at the Voorhees Town Center

Thankfully, it was sunny and a little humid but not too bad when we headed out this morning. We weren't doing as much walking, anyway. We headed to Oaklyn's City Hall and picked up the bus to the Voorhees Library across from the Voorhees Town Center. Thankfully, the traffic wasn't bad, and other than people getting off on every other corner on the White Horse Pike, we had no problems. We got off right across from the library.

The spring Camden County Library System Book Sale was bustling when we came in. It was far busier than when I went in the fall, probably because we went during the first day. This time, I did manage to find the children's books. They were in the Story Hour room just off the children's section. There wasn't a bad selection, for being stuffed in a small room, when I could get around all the parents, kids, and grandparents looking for inexpensive reads.

We both did pretty darn well. Lauren bought Fletch Too, MacBook for Dummies, and a couple of R.L Stein novels she didn't have. I bought The Trumpet of the Swan, the Disney Fairies novel Fairy Haven and the Quest for the Wand, the Carol Higgins Clark mystery Fleeced. Found the Mario Lanza vehicle The Great Caruso and two James Bond movies I didn't have, Moonraker and For Your Eyes Only, on video. Hers cost $5. Mine came up to $4 - the videos were three for a dollar.

We went across the street to the Voorhees Town Center for lunch. Bassett's BBQ had recently opened in their food court; I hadn't seen it the last time I was there a few weeks before Christmas. Lauren had their bacon cheeseburger. I had the pulled chicken sandwich. We both had dark, earthy-tasting fries, on sale for 99 cents. Mine was delicious, thick and rich and just spicy enough. Lauren said her burger was really good, too.

We browsed through the smaller stores on the first floor first. Hallmark was having a really big sale on WebKinz. Lauren got the stuffed version of Facebook's famous Grumpy Cat and I bought a "plumfadoodle" (a round, sparkly, dodo-like purple bird creature) for around $4.50 each. We didn't have as much luck in their small Game Stop; found nothing interesting. We debated spending some time in their huge arcade, but ultimately decided we didn't want to spend the money.

Our next stop was Boscov's. Lauren loved their toy section on the first floor. We found new version of craft sets like Shrinky Dinks we hadn't seen since we were kids. Lauren ended up with the smaller Spirograph set. I finally found a nice, sensible pair of waterproof sandals upstairs. The sandals were $19.99. The four pairs of thick cotton Goldtoe socks I bought were $2.49 for two pairs!

We went back downstairs and had cookies and drinks from the cookie-selling booth. Lauren had a big sugar cookie; I had a big white chocolate chunk-macadamia nut cookie. (I love white chocolate-macadamia cookies, but macadamia nuts are so expensive.) We browsed around a little in Macy's after we finished our snack. Voorhees has a really nice Macy's. And unlike the Macy's in Philly or the JCPenney's in Deptford, they had a very large, well-stocked women's plus size section that was one of the first things you saw on entering the store.

Our bus home was a bit late arriving, but thankfully, the traffic was going in the other direction. We both felt a few raindrops when we were waiting for the bus, but the rain held off until we were half-way down the White Horse Pike. It was deluging by the time we were passing the Dunkin' Donuts in Lawnside. Lauren looked up the weather on her smartphone and discovered that the storms were numerous but fast-moving. It wasn't raining when we got off. The storm started again when we were just a few inches from my place. We got in only a bit wet.

It's stormed on and off for the rest of the night. Needless to say, we went nowhere else. We played Kirby games for a couple of hours before having leftovers for dinner while watching Happy Days episodes. Though Fonzie's role was just starting to be built up in the early second season, the show still mostly concentrated on Richie and his pals and was far less strange than the shark-jumping and alien antics that turned up in later years. My favorite episodes were the one where Richie got his red car (which may or may not have been stolen) and the cute Halloween show that had Richie facing his fears when Ralph holds a costume party in an infamously haunted house.

We switched to the Bowery Boys movie Ghost Chasers in honor of Friday the 13th. Richie's not the only one who is afraid of ghosts. While the Boys help Louie track down a phony medium, Sach makes friends with a real ghost who turns out to be anything but nasty. When the boys get into major trouble, Sach and his ghost buddy may be the only ones who can save the day.

Tomorrow, we'll be hitting Oaklyn's town-wide yard sale and the Collingswood Farm Market.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Rainy Day In Philadelphia

Started a humid, gloomy morning with two Backyardigans episodes while we got ready to walk to Collingswood. Two of my favorite episodes are both hilarious movie spoofs. Uniqua has "Blazing Paddles" when she has to go up against Ping Pong Bandit Pablo to win all the other kids' paddles back. "Garbage Trek" takes Uniqua, Tasha, and Austin on an out-of-this-world trip to round up all the universe's trash. Klingons Pablo and Tyrone are after the trash as well to power their ship!

We headed out as soon as "Garbage Trek" ended. Thankfully, the rain held off as we hiked across the White Horse Pike and past Newton Lake Park to Haddon Avenue in Collingswood. Lauren loves Tortilla Press, the Mexican restaurant on the corner of Lincoln and Haddon Avenue, and I'm a fan of them, too. We were there so early, we were the first customers. We got a table right next to one of the open windows; the breeze cooled us as we enjoyed our chicken avocado wraps, sweet potato fries, and iced tea.

We were waiting for the train at the PATCO Station when the rain started. It was just a light shower in Collingswood, but it picked up when the fairly full train arrived in Philly. We only got turned around a little before we made it to the big FYE near City Hall on the Avenue of the Arts. We explored there for about an hour or so. Unlike my trip to Philly a few days after New Year's, I stuck to buying things from FYE's buy two used, get one for a dollar sale. I ended up with the second season of Happy Days for $9.99 (cheaper than the $12 they had it listed for), the Disney anthology The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad for $8.99, and the musical 1776 for the dollar. Lauren bought three seasons each of Family Matters and The A-Team. She loved Kirby's Dream Collection so much, she wanted her own copy as well.

The rain was going harder as we headed for Macy's. We had no luck there. The only clothes I really need now are a new pair of sport sandals that are waterproof. The sandals I have now are comfortable enough, but they aren't waterproof, and walking in bad weather has ruined them. Nothing useful - Macy's mainly had fancy high-heeled or wedge heeled sandals. We went to the third floor to use the bathroom, but otherwise did nothing there.

A wet walk to a busy Washington Square didn't go much better. My favorite book store in Washington Square, Russakoff's Used Books, seemed to have vanished into thin air. Ironically, it was replaced by the other store I'd planned on going to, Rustic Music, a used and vintage music and musical instruments store. Disappointingly, they had only a fraction of the room and the selection of their 13th Street location. We walked out with nothing and just took a jammed-full 3:30 bus back to Collingswood.

Since we got in earlier than planned and the rain was slowing down, we lingered in Collingswood for a bit longer. We explored Frugli Vintage and Consignment, then went across the street to the Pop Shop. It was almost 4:30, a good time to be having a snack there. There were only a few families and students having early dinner or treats. Lauren had a chocolate soda. I had a Key Lime Pie Milkshake in an adorable little mason jar, with lots of whipped cream on top. It was really, really good! Tasted just like the key lime pies I used to get when I visited Dad-Bruce in Florida. The little mason jar also meant it wasn't too much to drink in one sitting, like most milkshakes tend to be.

The rain ended as we finally made it home. We spent the next couple of hours playing more Kirby before having honey-glazed carrots and Crock-Pot ham for dinner. Now, we're running Bowery Boys movies (currently Angels In Disguise) as we chat. Tomorrow, we'll hit the County Library System Book Sale in Voorhees and the Voorhees Town Center.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Video Game Rhapsody

It was a gray and windy and surprisingly chilly for this time of year when I got up this morning around 9:30. I read and wrote in my journal for an hour until Lauren started stirring on the couch in the living room. We had cereal for breakfast (and strawberries in my case - Lauren's not a big breakfast person), listened to records, and headed out for a walk.

Our first stop was The House of Fun on the White Horse Pike in Oaklyn, across from City Hall. I've debated buying a video game console for a while. Yes, you can play games online, and I'm not the world's biggest gamer. On the other hand, after the nasty winter we had, I thought it would be nice to have a fun way to work out in inclement weather when I can't get outside. I know the Wii and similar recent systems have games that emphasize exercise and movement. It would be fun to have something to play with Lauren, Jessa, and other rare visitors as well.

The House of Fun, a toy and collectibles shop, was actually a little cleaned-up compared to what it usually looks like. There was still stuff all over the place, but some of it was actually on shelves, and they had more plexiglass cases for expensive or collectible items. Lauren bought an Atari 2600 there two years ago that she loves. I hit the jackpot - they had a red Wii in its box, with all its wires and a controller, for $75. I tossed in Super Paper Mario, the only interesting Wii game they had, and brought it up to $95. (Lauren didn't get anything there this year - she was looking for the Atari version of Dig Dug, but they didn't have it.)

The Wii was surprisingly heavy for such a small console, so we took it back to my apartment. We opened the box to make sure it had everything it was supposed to. Yes, it did, along with one of the two games advertised on the box, Wii Sports. (Super Mario Wii was missing, but you can get that anywhere.) We headed back out after checking the console over.

This time, we went down Newton Avenue and over the train bridge into Audubon. Our first stop there was a small collectibles and antique store on the corner of Atlantic and Merchant Avenue. It's pretty new - I've only seen it there a few months. They had shelves of interesting items, ranging from an antique sewing machine to Simpsons dolls and a Fisher Price Little People Garage from the 80s (Lauren and her brother and my sisters and I had it when we were kids). I didn't see anything I wanted, but Lauren bought three Animaniacs comic books and a vintage Beetle Bailey comic book for a $1 each.

Next up was Desserts By Design a few doors down. The kindly owner was busy with customers coming in and ordering snacks for their offices, but she did slow down enough to bag a chocolate cupcake with cream cheese icing topped with fresh blueberries for me and a vanilla cupcake topped with buttercream icing and milk chocolate pretzels for Lauren. We enjoyed our treats on a bench outside the empty storefront that used to be a dance studio.

We almost passed by Abbie Road. Bob had his "closed" sign up - he forgot to turn it to open! I'm glad we didn't miss him. He was having a sale on used CDs, $2 each, or 6 for $10. Lauren bought 12 CDs, mostly country titles for her and her dad. I bought:

Kenny Loggins - The Greatest Hits of Kenny Loggins

Dionne Warwick - Greatest Hits 1979-1990

Jim Croce - Photographs & Memories: His Greatest Hits

Spike Jones and His City Slickers - The Wacky World of Spike Jones

Lena Horne - An Evening With Lena Horne

The original cast album for Jersey Boys (I figured it was appropriate, given the movie's coming out this summer.)

We had lunch at Applebee's near the Acme at the Audubon Crossings Shopping Center. It was past 2PM by then, which means the place was pretty quiet except for one or two families and a couple of barflies watching the US Open. We both had that lunch combo special that lets you pick a sandwich and a salad or a soup for a fixed price. I went with spinach salad and a chicken ciabatta sandwich. Lauren had the Clubhouse Grille and tortilla soup. Lauren paid; her parents gave her an Applebee's gift card they didn't want to use.

We strolled behind the Acme and over to the main shopping center. I always forget about the Game Stop over there. It's far smaller than the huge Game Stop in Westmont. They're usually really busy and a bit of a mess. They'd cleaned up and reorganized considerably since the last time I was there. We were the only people in the store, a rare thing in there after school. Lauren bought Kirby's Epic Yarn, which she'd been after for months. I was delighted to find Kirby's Dream Collection, featuring every Kirby game that had been made up to that point, including the popular Super Nintendo title Kirby's Super Star that Keefe and I played constantly in the mid-late 90s. I also grabbed a second controller so Lauren could join in. We once again hit the jackpot. Seems both titles and the controller had been originally owned by an older man and his wife who had treated their games and console extremely well and had finally sold their collection when they upgraded to Wii U. All three were in mint condition - the controller's wrist guard was even spotless.

After a brief stop at Rue 21 just to browse around, we walked home. The day wasn't getting any warmer or sunnier, and we wanted to check out our new games. We kicked off by making Miis (game avatars) of ourselves before starting with Kirby's Epic Yarn. This adorable game takes pink gumball-like critter Kirby to another dimension made entirely of yarn and fabric. An evil yarn sorcerer has literally made the fabric of Patch World come unraveled. It's up to Kirby and Prince Puff to find the magic yarn to stitch the world back together and get Kirby home!

Very, very cute. The yarn world is fun and creative. It allows you to do everything from swing up to high places to get stars and beads (replacements for the coins one usually gets in cartoon side-scrollers) to turn into vehicles like a tank or spaceships. You also gather objects to build your own little room for while you're in Patch World, sort of like the WebKinz' rooms.

When we switched to Kirby's Dream Collection, I had to play Super Star. Kirby's Super Star is actually a series of six long games and three "mini" (shorter) games. You have to win the first two, "Spring Breeze" (basic side-scroller with a fight with King Dedede at the end) and "Dynablade" (slightly harder side-scroller that ends with going up against the title bird who has been destroying crops) to open two more. We only got to the first two. I forgot you have to "create" the second player when you gain a new ability after eating a bad guy. I kept losing Lauren.

We ran episodes of Good Eats while I made salmon, whole-wheat pasta, and green salad with radishes for dinner. Alton did shows on pantry staples early in the series, including one on boiling pasta and on the many uses for honey. I made that key lime cake from the mix I bought last week as well. Lauren ate more than I did, for once. I had some chocolate chip cookies from earlier and was still full from dinner.

Tomorrow, the weather will hopefully cooperate long enough for us to go into Philly for a stroll around to check out a couple of stores, including the big FYE across from City Hall.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Waiting For the Rain and the Train

I woke up earlier than I planned this morning. I was just too excited to sleep. I had so much to do before Lauren's arrival! I started the day with an early laundry session around quarter after 9. It was quiet when I came in. The managers were the only other ones there, and they were wiping down the washers and dusting off the air conditioner. By the time more people started arriving, I was putting my large load of work clothes and sheets in the dryer.

When I got home, I put everything away, then went right back out again. My next stop was Dollar Tree. I needed Father's Day cards for both dads; bought Lauren a friendship card, too. I found one about friends shopping together I thought was cute. Also picked up a tissues box and bubble bath gel.

Got a quick session in at the Haddon Township Library. I was only there a half-hour, just long enough to shelve and organize the children's DVDs and shelve the adult titles. They suggested the CDs and books-on-CDs, but there wasn't time. I had counseling and needed to get to Haddonfield.

I had lunch at Amino Burritos and Juice in Haddonfield. That may not have been a good idea. I just barely got in ahead of a very long line. They couldn't hear my name and I had to wait because they didn't know whom to give my food to! At any rate, my Quick Chicken petito was delicious as always. The Peaches In Paradise juice - peaches, oranges, mango, and pineapple - was very citrus-y and not too sweet.

Counseling was at 1. We mainly discussed my summer plans after Lauren's visit. I have no idea of what to do next. I want to move forward, but I don't have any ideas of how. For right now, we discussed things I could do for the next few months - concerts in the local parks, mall visits, trips to the shore - that I'd be comfortable doing. I don't mind shows at a theater or a concert band, doing exercise or creative classes, or visiting malls on my own. I have a harder time with groups. Just sitting there discussing with small groups makes me nervous. I wouldn't know what to say.

Mrs. Stahl also complimented some of the things about appearance I do like. I have beautiful, long hands. My nails have been growing out - I don't chew them as often as I used to. I have nice skin, too, not too fair. I don't burn easily, and I rarely get pimples. And I love my curly hair (most of the time).

When I got out, it was hot and sunny, a bit of a surprise given how humid and cloudy it had been the rest of the day. It was too hot for lingering on the bike. I did stop at Primo's Water Ice in Westmont to cool off on the way home. I tried their strawberry cheesecake water ice. Not bad. It had a little bit of a minty flavor; someone may have been scooping mint chocolate chip before they did mine.

I spent the rest of the afternoon at my apartment. I ran One Crazy Summer as I did stuff around the apartment - made my bed, swept the porch, tidied up, pulled out towels for Lauren. Hoops McCann (John Cusack) is just out of high school and trying to learn abou5t love in order to write a romance comic and get into art college. He learns about a lot more than getting a girl when he goes to Nantucket with his friend George and his sister for the summer and falls for a rock singer (Demi Moore) who is trying to earn money to save her grandfather's boarding house. If she can't earn $1,000 for the mortgage, the house reverts to the nasty tycoon owner of a lobster seafood franchise and his obnoxious son. Hoops and his friends spend the rest of their vacation trying to help Cassandra, including winning the Nantucket Regatta. Strange movie, but fun if you can get with the vibe and like other "slobs vs snobs" comedies of the 80s.

I jumped in the bath after One Crazy Summer ended. I'd been soaking in the tub for about a half-hour or so when I heard pattering on the porch. The clouds had been gathering since I got home, and the humidity had gotten worse. It finally burst around 5:30. I was worried about Lauren, who would have been long on her way by that point. Thankfully, a call from Lauren settled my nerves. By the time the rain started, she was having pizza at the 30th Street Station in Philly. Her train wasn't due to start until 7:20. Also got a call from Jodie asking about Lauren and making sure she was still coming on time.

Ran Sesame Street Presents: Follow That Bird as I got ready to go. In the first of two Sesame Street theatrical films, Big Bird is sent to a new home in Illinois when a social worker thinks he should be with his own kind. "His own kind" turns out to be a family of dodos who live up to their names in more ways than one, including not allowing any of his friends from New York to visit. Big Bird takes off, determined to get home. When word gets out that he's on the move, the rest of the mid-80s Sesame Street gang goes after him. I get a kick out of this, especially the charming music. Enjoyable family story if your kids don't mind the lack of recent characters like Elmo or Abby Cadabba.

Dad and I had no problems picking up Lauren this time. He hit the right turn-off, and there was no traffic going to or from Cherry Hill. Lauren came right on time; she too had a smooth ride, with everything on time and no problems getting anywhere.

When we got in, Lauren gave me some very late birthday presents - American Girl books for Kaya (Kaya's Escape), Caroline (Meet Caroline), and Kit (Danger at the Zoo), along with a nifty-looking Crock Pot cookbook she'd picked up at a book fair at a school near the bank where she works. Right now, we're chatting and watching Moon Madness and Wakko's Wish (Lauren's a big Animaniacs fan). We don't have any big plans for tomorrow - we may just walk around Audubon and Oaklyn.

Monday, June 09, 2014

It's Vacation Time!

Today was my last day of work before vacation. I spent most of a cloudy, humid, damp morning working on Zucchini Chocolate Chip Cookies and running cartoons with a travel, vacation,  or June theme. Pontoffel Pock and His Magic Piano is one of the more bizarre Dr. Seuss animated specials from the 70s and 80s. The young man of the title just lost his job at a pickle factory and is facing a broke future in his family's decaying house. He wishes to get away from it all. A fairy grants him his wish and gives him a flying piano that can take him anywhere. His first trip to a remote German-esque mountain town doesn't go well. His second, to an Arabian city, ends with him in trouble with the city's ruler and in love with Eeffa Neefa, an "eye ball" dancer. Now he has to rescue his love and avoid the fairies, who want to take his magic piano back!

The Tiny Toons also have some rescuing to do in the first season episode "Around Europe In 30 Minutes." They're on a whirlwind trip through Europe and somehow end up in Buckingham Palace. Babs and Buster have to save Princess Diana and Prince Charles from a dastardly kidnapping plot, while Plucky and Hampton outrun a crazed chef who wants them on the royal menu!

Bugs Bunny's Busting Out All Over is a Chuck Jones-directed TV special, and one of the better Looney Tunes specials with all-new material. The first short has a young Elmer chasing young Bugs with his pop gun. The second thrusts Bugs into outer space, where Marvin the Martian wants to make him the plaything of his new pet - Hugo the Abominable Snowman! The third is a typical Wile E Coyote/Road Runner chase through the desert.

The 80s/90s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles episode "Camera Bugged" also involves a strange chase. An alien tourist has a video camera that captures a lot more than pretty pictures - it traps the real object inside! Now the Turtles have to save half the landmarks in Manhattan while keeping the camera out of the hands of Shredder, who wants to use it to get rid of them for good.

Strawberry Shortcake's trip to the big city doesn't go much better. In the 1981 special Strawberry Shortcake In Big Apple City, she's visiting the title metropolis to enter a bake-off. The Peculiar Purple Pie Man is the other finalist, and he'll do anything to insure that he's the big winner! Good thing Strawberry meets a lot of friends who turn out to be a big help, including long-time Strawberry Shortcake toy line regulars Orange Blossom and Lemon Meringue.

Work wasn't too bad. It was actually pretty quiet until rush hour, when it got so busy, a manager had to come in so I could get out on time. Actually, the worst of it was the head-front end manager, Angie, has been transferred to Voorhees. There was cake in the back room as a send-off. I'm going to miss her. She was always really understanding about my not being able to work too late and taking time off.

I had a little bit of grocery shopping to do after work. Lauren is addicted to Pepsi and always keeps a couple of bottles around my apartment when she visits. I got lucky and hit a sale on Pepsi six-packs for $2.20 each. The Acme was having a 25% off sale on their generic cereals. The generic Acme Cheerios cost $1.60 with my employee discount and the sale! I also needed milk and contact lens solution.

And now...I'm on vacation! Lauren isn't due until 7:40 tomorrow evening, but I have a lot that needs to be done before then, including counseling.

Sunday, June 08, 2014

Keeping the Music Playing

I was rudely awaken this morning by something going on across the street at the VFW. Someone was making announcements. I have no idea why, or about what. I can't see the VFW from the front of my apartment, and I didn't feel like getting up and going to the back. At any rate, things had quieted down considerably by the time I finally finished 101 Dalmatians.

I made Blueberry Pancakes for breakfast while listening to my record finds from yesterday. I'd never heard of the 60s TV show The Roaring 20s, but it had some really fun music. Dorothy Provine is Pinky, the owner of a speakeasy who passes information on gangland activities to two reporters. The music had nothing to do with any of this. It was a group of medleys of popular songs of the era, from "I'm Lookin' Over a Four Leaf Clover" to "Someone To Watch Over Me." Unlike the similar music on my Atlantic City CD, everything here was pretty well-done, and not too cheesy. Too bad the show seems to be largely forgotten. The soundtrack was really cute.

Put on Frank Sinatra while I cleaned up from breakfast. L.A Is My Lady came out in 1984, well after Frank's 50s-60s heyday...and maybe all the better for it. Although his belting didn't work with Quincy Jones' signature smooth jazz in the title song, others came out very well. I especially liked his lovely, intimate cabaret-style version of "How Can You Keep The Music Playing?"

I went for a walk after Frank ended. It was still sunny out, but hotter and a little more humid than yesterday. Thankfully, a nice breeze kept it from getting unbearable. I went back up to East Clinton for the second day of their street wide yard sale. Alas, it was past 12:30 when I got there. The few remaining yard sales were closing up shop. I took a look at one old man's sale, but he had nothing interesting, so I moved on.

I ended up at Dunkin' Donuts. I picked up a bunch of coupons for them from one of the bags of circulars I get on Fridays. (Sometimes. For some reason, we don't always get them.) I ended up with a medium Vanilla Oreo (Cookies and Cream) Coolatta and a blueberry bagel with cream cheese. They were pretty busy. A family was finishing their coffee at the tables next to me. Older folks came in for coffee after I did. The bagel wasn't bad, but they toasted it, which means the cream cheese melted. They really overdid the cream cheese, too. I'm not normally a big fan of cream cheese anyway, but if I ever ask for it again, I'll get it on the side.

When I got home, I had a salad to add vitamins to my bagel lunch while listening to Steely Dan. The record was just about finished when it was time for me to head off to work. Work was very busy for most of the night; we were short on help, too. I had no relief and just barely got off on time.

Saturday, June 07, 2014

The Perfect Spring Day

I awoke early to an absolutely gorgeous, sunny day. The American Top 40 took us to early June 1986 this morning. As I was finishing up my last two weeks of first grade, the rest of the country was listening to jazz, ballads, dance music, R&B, and pop. Hits that late spring included "Crush On You" by the Jets, "Is It Love?" by Mr. Mister, "No One Is To Blame" by Howard Jones, "Move Away" by Culture Club, "Something About You" by Level 42, "If You Leave" by Orchestral Maneuvers In the Dark, "All I Need Is A Miracle" by Mike and the Mechanics, "On My Own" by Michael McDonald and Patti LaBelle, and "The Greatest Love Of All" by Whitney Houston.

Madonna was one of the iconic stars of the mid-late 80s, and she had one of her biggest hits in the #1 spot that week, the ballad "Live To Tell."

The western Camden County area was very busy today, starting with the Collingswood Farm Market. Snap peas are out for the first time this season. I bought a pint of those, along with strawberries, organic mixed greens, and the North Carolina blueberries.

Part of the reason the Farm Market was so busy was because Collingswood was having their town-wide yard sale today. Unlike last year, when I had to work early on the day it happened, I was able to check everything out with time to spare. I actually bought the majority of my finds from the other yard sale event, East Clinton Avenue's bi-annual street-wide yard sale. There were so many yard sales out in Collingswood, I rode around for two and a half hours and didn't get to seeing a quarter of them! It didn't help that the traffic was especially bad in the neighborhood between Atlantic Avenue and Newton Lake Park. Once you crossed Haddon Avenue, the yard sales were somewhat more spaced out, and the traffic wasn't as much of a pain.

I eventually picked up a copy of The Wind In the Willows and the first Barbie special, Barbie In the Nutcracker. Also grabbed a couple of records:

Frank Sinatra - L.A Is My Lady (with Quincy Jones and Orchestra)

Steely Dan - Greatest Hits

A Very Special Christmas (the first volume)

Music From The Roaring 20s - Evidently a soundtrack recording of what seems like a pre-Boardwalk Empire TV look at the Decade of Wonderful Nonsense, with comedienne Dorothy Provine.

Heartbeat of the 80s - A collection of slow rock and ballads from K-Tel Records.

Since I was going by there on my way home, I swung by Dad and Jodie's. Told them when Lauren's arriving on Tuesday (7:40 - she likes a lot of time between trains and usually doesn't arrive until late) and asked what they were doing for Father's Day this year. Sounds like they're going to Jodie's dad's house, which means Lauren and I will likely be on our own this time.

When I got home, I had a really nice lunch of lamb chops, spinach salad, strawberries, and an onion roll while watching Barbie and the Nutcracker. The very first Barbie and/as special is an adaptation of one of my favorite Christmas stories. Barbie tells her sister Kelly the story of Clara, a young woman who wants to see the world, but is kept at home by her overprotective grandfather. Her well-traveled aunt gives her a nutcracker for Christmas...and this leads to a wonderful dream of traveling to a fantasy world with the Nutcracker and stopping the evil Mouse King (Tim Curry) from destroying the land by finding the Sugarplum Princess.

I was so unimpressed with this when it first came out in the late 90s, it was at least five or six years before I'd take a look at another Barbie movie. Actually, it's not that bad for being the first Barbie girly-princess movie. I do wish the Nutcracker wasn't so stiff (literally and figuratively), but a hammy Curry and some of the supporting cast more than make up for him. The animation is stiff as well, waxy and wooden and miles away from what Universal is doing now. It's still recommended for young girls who love Barbie (and can overlook the animation) and Nutcracker fans.

Did a few Hello Kitty Furry Tale Theater princess-and-girly-themed shorts as I got ready for work. Hello Kitty is "Cinderkitty," a sweet kitten who would rather be catching forward passes than prancing in ball gowns. Her Fairy Godmother may give her the chance to do both! She's "Sleeping Kitty" when a cursed TV puts her under a spell. Will a kiss from Prince Tuxedo Sam set things right? Kitty proves to Catnip and Sam that kindness is its own reward when she rescues a very fuzzy Sam from evil witch Fangora in "Kitty and the Beast." And Kitty learns that it's not a good idea to be wandering around in someone else's bed when she finds herself in the home of three "bears" (Grinder, Catnip, and My Melody) in "Kittylocks and the Three Bears."

Work wasn't too bad. It was busy for most of the evening as people bought food for graduation celebrations and barbecues. The worst that happened wasn't in line. One older woman came in screaming that someone left two dogs in a closed car and she was going to call the cops and make them open the windows. While she was right about that being negligence, screaming bloody murder and making a big obnoxious fuss won't make things better. Telling the people in charge who can actually do something will.

Oh, and I got my schedule for next week...such as it is. I'm only working tomorrow and Monday, and then I'm on vacation! Actually, since Lauren's coming so late on Tuesday, I'm treating that like a normal day off, including a counseling session.