Sunday, November 30, 2014

Getting Ready for the Holidays

I had early work today, around 9 AM. I'm not used to working that early on a Sunday. I just barely made it! It wasn't too bad when I got in. It did pick up a little later, but it was never overwhelming, and nothing like it usually is on a Sunday. For one thing, the Eagles played on Thanksgiving. Today is also a few days after Thanksgiving...and the day before the beginning of the month. A lot of people's minds are on everything but food! My relief was one of the college boys who is almost always on time. I got out the moment he came in.

Went straight home after work and spent the rest of the day cleaning, listening to Christmas music, and putting up the first Christmas decorations. First off was making the bed. I changed my Cabbage Patch Kids Dulcie and Carrie into their Christmas outfits. (Dulcie's is a Build-a-Bear dance outfit and is too big for her, but it will do for now.) I vacuumed all over the apartment, including under furniture I don't usually bother with. I do the most thorough cleaning I can for the holidays.

I spent more than an hour re-arranging my books. The adult paperbacks were moved to the two shelves under the Sailor Moon dolls. The hardbacks (adult and children's) replaced them in the larger IKEA shelf. My American Girl books and children's hardback picture books and treasuries were moved to the smaller IKEA shelf.

The Disney Toddler dolls went on the American Girls' dolls bed. The American Girl dolls went on the blue bench. The Toddler dolls cost me $25 each. While most of my AG dolls were presents or used, one was $115...and it would cost even more than that to replace them. I wanted them where their hair wouldn't get messed up by the blankets on my bed.

The Sailor Moon dolls stayed where they were. I thought of moving them to the IKEA shelves, but they just didn't fit. The Ever After High dolls will go on the top shelf in place of the Disney Toddlers. The Ever After High dolls are packaged with stands that will keep them from falling off the shelf. (The Sailor Moon dolls were too, but their stands don't hold them very well.)

When I finished all that, I dusted everything that I hadn't dusted under when I swapped it around. It was past 6:30 when I finally finished cleaning in my bedroom and was able to pull out the things in the Santa Bag. This is where I keep everything that has to be put up first - the mistletoe (which goes over the front door), the poinsettia placemats, the red and green coasters I crocheted a while back, the Nativity, and the garlands for the windows.

I couldn't figure out where to put a few of the garlands. I draped the garland that went on the baker's rack over the two small wooden shelves that hold the cassettes. The golden tinsel garland went around one of the DVD shelves.

The other garlands went in their regular places. The wooden walls in this apartment makes it really difficult to tack the garlands to the walls. They just don't want to go in! My fingers are still sore from pushing the tacks into the large, heavy garland that goes around the two large windows in the living room. The smaller garlands were mostly held on curtain rods with twist ties.

It was nearly 8 PM before I had a very quick meal of half of a grapefruit and the last of the leftover chicken burgers. I wanted to get this all done tonight because my good friend Amanda is visiting tomorrow from Vineland. We're going to go out to lunch, then come home, exchange gifts, and decorate my tree. We do this every year, and we both very much look forward to it.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Christmas On Parade

It was cloudy and cold when I got up this morning, but not windy or raining. I watched Ice Age: A Mammoth Christmas Special as I ate cereal and half a grapefruit for breakfast. When Sid the Sloth accidentally breaks Manny the Mammoth's Christmas rock, Manny claims that Sid is on Santa's Naughty List. Manny then tells his daughter Peaches that Santa doesn't exist at all. Peaches, along with Sid and the possums Crash and Eddie, and the egotistical reindeer Prancer are determined to find Santa and prove that there's holiday spirit, even in prehistoric times.

Today was the day of the big Collingswood Christmas Parade. As I did last year, I headed out around quarter of 10 and made it to Haddon Avenue just in time. Fifteen minutes after I found a spot in the Haddon Avenue entrance to WaWa's parking lot, the first sounds of marching bands could be heard coming down the street. I also bought my annual pretzel from Collingswood High School's wrestling team. They were even warm this year.

The Collingswood Christmas Parade is the largest parade in the western Camden County area. Every area school has a float. (My favorite was James A. Garfield Elementary's Santa's Workshop theme.) A glass company had two trucks with machines that sprayed "snow" over the crowds. There were lots of Mummers in their spangled costumes in all colors of the rainbow. I loved the groups themed around pirates, cowboys, and toys. Two stilt-walkers, one a juggler dressed as a toy soldier, ambled down the route. The Ovations dance school around the corner from me on West Clinton had a cute high-stepping routine for their older students. The students of Hillsboro High and Camden High especially got into their flag and orchestra routines and seemed to be having the most fun of any of the bands. Two local string bands played "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer" and "Here Comes Santa Claus" from the back of tractors. A pair of women dressed as Elsa and Anna from Frozen rode in a car provided by a real estate office.

Tons of people wandered around in costume. Some, like two gingerbread people, the Grinch, Rudolph, a tree, and Frosty and Crystal, were related to the holidays. A few others, notably Spider Man and Batman, had nothing whatsoever to do with Christmas and were just there to amuse the kids.

At one point, I ran across the street to GrooveGround to get a hot chocolate. They were busy, but the line went fast. In addition to their DVDs and CDs, they apparently now sell vintage records. I bought Merry Christmas With the Supremes for $2.99, along with a small hot chocolate.

As soon as the Collingswood Fire Department brought Santa down Haddon Avenue, I left. It was 11:30, and I had to make lunch and get going to work. When I got in, I started Banana Honey Muffins as I watched The Year Without a Santa Claus. My favorite Rankin-Bass special shows what happens when Santa isn't feeling well and decides to take a vacation. Two elves, a reindeer, and Mrs. Claus are determined to prove that there's still some Christmas spirit left in the world and get Santa back on track. What they didn't count on were the perpetually battling Heat Miser and Snow Miser's feud to land them in a heap of trouble on Earth!

My neighbor's son brought a big box upstairs to me as I was getting ready to load muffin batter into the pan. It was my long-awaited order! In addition to a present for my friend Amanda and the last Max & Ruby Christmas-themed DVD I didn't have, Everybunny Loves Winter, I broke down and ordered two Ever After High dolls when they were on a half-price sale. Cerise Hood is the lovely, mysterious daughter of Little Red Riding Hood. Briar Beauty is the daughter of Sleeping Beauty who is determined to do the most living she can before she falls into a 100-year-sleep. I think these are two of the prettiest dolls in the line, with some of the most unique face molds. While most of the dolls were held in the boxes with rubber bands, their heads did have plastic pieces on them. That wasn't too hard to get off of Briar, but I put a hole in Cerise's hood trying to get hers off. I'll see if I can fix it eventually.

It took me so long to unpack them, I barely had the time to eat and run before rushing off to work! Thankfully, that was the only problem I had all night. Work was steady during rush hour and dead by as early as 6:30. Not only is it the end of the month, but most people just ate the biggest meal of the year. Who wants to think of food shopping two days after Thanksgiving? It was so quiet by 7:30, I was able to leave a few minutes early.

Friday, November 28, 2014

It's the Holiday Season

After I finished my blog entry last night, I went downstairs and had a nice, long talk with Mom. She and I were the only ones still awake at that point. Dad was snoring in front of the Seahawks-49ers game; the rest of the family went to bed. I wish I could have come down and visited with her in September, like I did last year, but everyone on the Cape May side of the family was busy. I'm lucky I got to see her now. She's still at the Cape May-Lewes Ferry, which runs limited day hours during the winter, but she did get Thanksgiving weekend off.

I went to bed around 12:30 and got up around 7. By the time I made it downstairs, everyone else was already there. Mom had sliced the Cranberry-Apple Bread and Pumpkin Bread, and there was leftover apple pie as well. I knew I should have left the Cranberry-Apple Bread in the oven longer. It wasn't quite cooked all the way through. Oh well, they still ate it. The Pumpkin came out perfectly, though. Between Keefe and me (and Anny later), most of that vanished pretty quickly.

Khai and I played with Duplos and Hot Wheels while watching Little Bear on Nick. Jr and letting the parents finish their coffee and tea. Some of the miniature cars and trucks in the boys' collection date back as far as 30 years. I saw a couple that belonged to Rose in the 80s, and quite a few that were Keefe's in the 90s and early 2000s. Khai was delighted by the unusual vehicles, especially the large trucks made to look like real Pepsi or Oreo trucks and the helicopters with propellers that really spun.

Anny arrived with her brood at 9:30. Craig, Keefe, and I were trying to show Khai how to play the XBox video game LEGO Marvel Super Heroes. We were supposed to be letting Mr. Fantastic (of the Fantastic Four) and Captain America chase Dr. Octopus through the Fantastic Four's headquarters and over to a hotel, but Khai wasn't having much luck. He's still a bit young to really get how to work the controls. Craig helped him while I took the Captain. We let Collyn and Skylar take over as we got ready to head home.

We finally left around quarter of 11. Once again, other than some very mild traffic around Deptford (probably because of the Black Friday sales at the Mall), there were no problems on the road. Khai and I played with his iPad briefly before we both passed out somewhere around Tuckahoe. I got up as we were turning onto the ramp into Mt. Ephram, but Khai was still out when we arrived at my apartment.

When I got in, I put everything away, then called Dad. He said he'd be able to corral Jodie's sons to deliver the furniture from her house today. He said to give him an hour - the boys and Jodie were still working on clearing things out at her house. I took down the Thanksgiving and general fall decorations, then took everything off the baker's rack and moved it outside to make room for the new hutch and dry sink.

I finally got bored waiting for Dad and walked over to his house around quarter of 2 to see if I could help. They were still waiting for Jodie's son T.J and a friend of his to arrive. They finally did a few minutes later. The boys loaded the hutch, bench, and dry sink into T.J's truck. Dad already had the computer chair in his van. We had a harder time unscrewing the CD player from the kitchen shelf it was under than getting anything outside. Dad couldn't find the drill at his house, so we had to do it by hand, and it took a while.

Jodie also gave me a small porcelain doll that was among the many knick-knacks she kept in her room. She's probably about 6 or 8 inches and is very sweet, with long golden curls and a pink lace dress and matching hat and shoes. Her head is really loose - I'll see if I can make her a scarf to help keep her head on. Her delicate pastel ensemble suggests spring, so I'll make her the Easter equivalent of Holly, my 6-inch Christmas porcelain doll.

After they helped me get everything upstairs, I grabbed my backpack and money and headed out. I really needed to eat and get a grocery trip in. I locked my bike at the Acme and just walked to Arby's. It was past 3:30 by then. Needless to say, they were quiet except for one older man and a mom and her two unruly boys. I ate my Philly Steak sandwich, Curly Fries, and Peach Brisk Tea quickly and quietly.

The Acme was also very quiet when I arrived. It's the day after Thanksgiving. This is the last day anyone wants to be thinking about food! I didn't need a lot, either. I was mainly there for skim milk, baking soda, and bananas. I also picked up one grapefruit, cranberries, chicken soup, canned apricots, two tins of fancy holiday tea for Christmas presents, and three DVDs. Two of those DVDs, Barbie In A Christmas Carol and the second Max & Ruby Halloween/fall themed set, Perfect Pumpkin, were for me. The third was another Christmas present, this one for Amanda. And of course, my Christmas tree would be needing candy canes on Monday.

Speaking of Monday, I have Monday and Tuesday off next week. Monday was a request - my friend Amanda is visiting from Vineland. Other than an unusually early day on Sunday, the rest of the week is all afternoon and evening work, perfectly normal for this time of year.

I spent the rest of the evening cleaning and organizing my new items. I quickly discovered that the hutch was fine where the baker's rack was, but the dry sink was too heavy and wide to work in the TV area. It did, however, very much resemble the dark antique dresser Rose gave me when I moved in. I use it for keeping various odds and ends like batteries, tools, and tacks. I removed two of the four heavy crates I was using for records and pushed the dresser over the remaining two. The dry sink went where the dresser was. The CD player and record player went on top of the dresser. My cookbooks all went in the hutch. Everything that was on top of the dresser went on top of the dry sink. The silverware and knives went in the dry sink's drawer. The rock and pop albums went in the large space on the bottom of the dry sink. The jazz, vocal, and nostalgia albums went in the crates under the dresser. The now-empty crates went in the TV area, one to be used as a coffee table, the other to hold books on media and media history. My crocheting books and bag of current projects went in the coffee table crate. The bench went in my bedroom and is now the home of my Disney Animator's Collection Toddlers Dolls, freeing up a shelf on the bookshelf where the Sailor Moon dolls are.

The only thing that didn't work out was the CD player. Jodie claimed it was still in good shape, but it just wouldn't work for me. It would start playing the first song, then get stuck and refuse to finish. It wouldn't fast-forward to the next song, either. I did move the old Emerson CD/cassette player to the TV area to replace the 30-year-old GE cassette player/radio I was using there. The radio still works on that, but the cassette player died at least five years ago. The cassette player and radio are fine on the Emerson, but the CD player skips. I'll just look into a new CD player for Christmas.

I first ran Barbie In A Christmas Carol while I moved furniture around. Barbie's second holiday tale adapts one of literature's most famous Christmas stories. Barbie tells her little sister Kelly the story of Eden Starling, a singing star who is the toast of Victorian London...but is also a spoiled diva who thinks nothing of keeping her supporting performers and her best friend at the theater for Christmas Day. A trio of (female) ghosts take her out on Christmas Eve to remind her of the importance of charity and goodwill.

Moved to another unusual version of A Christmas Carol while finishing the dusting and having a quick dinner of Thanksgiving leftovers and an apple. The Muppet's Christmas Carol came out in 1992, two years after the death of Jim Henson. The tumult hardly shows. This is one of the Muppets' best films, with an engaging score and a pitch-perfect performance by Michael Caine as Scrooge. Kermit is Bob Cratchit, Piggy is his outspoken wife, Fozzie is Fezziwig, Gonzo is the narrator, Kermit's nephew Robin is Tiny Tim, and Rizzo the Rat is mostly around for the food. Fans of the Muppets probably already have it in their collection; highly recommended for families and musical fans as well.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thankful for Family, Turkey, and Eagles

I was reading Thanksgiving and Christmas short stories from the Collier's Junior Classics Harvest of Holidays book Linda Young sent me a few years ago when Rose called. We were going to leave between 10:30 and 11. That was fine. It would give me a chance to get dressed and have breakfast.

I ran Thanksgiving cartoons as I dressed and ate oatmeal with bananas and half a grapefruit. "Max's Thanksgiving" has Ruby eager to help Grandma decorate the table with fall's bounty. Max is more interested in the nut stuffing!

Garfield's Thanksgiving isn't much better. Garfield's not happy when Liz the Veterinarian puts him on a diet the day before Turkey Day, and then Jon invites her over to dinner! Jon's inability to cook a big meal may turn his holiday into a turkey even before Liz arrives. Good thing Grandma from the Christmas special knows what to do.

The Peanuts also have a memorable dinner in A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. Peppermint Patty invites herself, Marcie, and Franklin over for dinner. Trouble is, Chuck and Sally are going to their grandmother's house. Their meal of toast and jelly beans isn't appreciated...until Linus and Marcie remind their friends that Thanksgiving is about more than food.

The Mayflower Voyagers goes further into the history behind the holiday. The Peanuts play Pilgrim children on their way to the New World. The first winter in New England is harsh, and many adults perish...until help arrives in the form of friendly Indians, including kindly Squanto. The Pilgrims' first harvest is so bountiful, they invite their friends for a huge feast to give thanks for all they have.

Rose called again during The Mayflower Voyagers. They were ready early - would I mind leaving at 10 instead? That was fine. They finally picked me up around 10:15 (after I said Happy Thanksgiving to my next-door neighbor Richard). This year, Rose, 4-year-old Khai, and I were joined by Rose's boyfriend and Khai's father Craig and by frisky mini pincher Kelsey. There were no problems at all going down to Cape May County. Kelsey sat comfortably in her mommy's lap. Traffic was sparse, even on the interstate. Khai showed me the cute games Rose has for him on his iPad. His favorite was the Halloween game that let you stick treats in a jack-o-lantern or put ghosts and flying witches in front of a haunted house.

We arrived around 11:30-quarter of 12. Much to my delight, my brother Keefe was there with my sister Anny, her fiancee Jay, and Anny's 10-year-old son Skylar and 5-year-old son Collyn. Keefe is in the Navy and apparently had gotten a short leave. Mom came down shortly from taking a shower; Dad had been out running errands. Anny is 8 weeks away from having her first daughter. Other than swollen ankles, she seems to be doing ok.

I spent most of the afternoon chasing Collyn, Khai, and Skylar around. We played with the iPad, watched something about two silly little girls in fluffy dresses helping a princess on Nickelodeon, and built with Duplos first. When the boys started shooting at each other with Nerf guns, we went outside. Collyn rode his bike through the leaves. Khai followed him on the scooter.

When they got bored, we went back inside for another round of games. We watched Ultimate Spider Man and Sanjay & Craig while the boys set up a train track with a real working electric train. It got a little goofy when they kept running the train everywhere but the rails.

They finally wandered upstairs. I first started a game of Trouble with Khai and Collyn. That lasted about ten minutes, until Skylar pulled out an enormous purple Nerf gun that was almost as big as he was. The boys then hid on the steps and pretended to be snipers. I avoided getting shot with suction-tipped darts at by claiming I was the general and gave the orders. They got caught when they shot Mom one too many times and were ordered to go downstairs.

I took them outside again. This time, we kicked balls around. There were two soccer balls, one volleyball, and a baseball and bat. We kicked the soccer balls to each other for a while, then chased after them. I ended up cleaning up the mess when the boys got tired of kicking things and wanted to see if dinner was ready.

It wasn't. They resumed watching cartoons (now Adventure Time) and playing with the train set in the living room until Mom announced dinner was on the table. Mom's dinner was divine, as always. We had turkey, home-made stuffing (even Mom said it was her best ever), cranberry sauce, rolls, carrots (they were a little bland), pearl onions in white sauce, mashed potatoes, and my personal favorite, sweet potato casserole topped with marshmallows. (It's like dessert at dinner!) Everyone ate a ton, including the little boys. Skylar ate so much, he had two plates of food done before most of the adults even sat down to eat!

Football was on all day. The Bears-Lions game was just starting when we came in. The Bears got an early lead, but the Lions came on strong in the second half. The Lions ultimately won it, 34-17.

The big one here was the Eagles-Cowboys game. Both teams were first in their division. I settled down with Dad, Craig, Jay, and Keefe to watch the game while Mom and my sisters set out dessert and the little boys returned to the playroom. The Eagles dominated an intense and rather ugly game that broke out into at least two fights in the third and fourth quarters. (Unlike the incident with the Redskins back in September, no one was thrown out, thank goodness.) LeShaun "Shady" McCoy had his best game in weeks. The Eagles finally killed the Cowboys, 33-10.

Dessert was even better than the game. Keefe and I swarmed around the pumpkin pie as soon as Mom announced it was on the counter. There were also Mom's beloved chocolate chip cookie bars, Rose's key lime pie bars, cupcakes topped with chocolate caramel "acorns" Anny molded herself, a moist carrot cake that a neighbor gave Mom, and some tasty pretzels dipped in white chocolate.

The boys wound down even before the game did. By the time the final score became apparent, all three were more than worn out. Khai didn't even kick up too much of a fuss when his cousins finally went home with their mom and her fiancee. Dad switched to the 49ers-Seahawks game, which I'm assuming he and Craig are still watching. Mom was putting away the desserts. Rose and Keefe went to visit Rose's friend Colleen in the Villas for a few hours.

Tomorrow, I'll go home with Rose, Craig, and Khai, then get a lot of things done at my apartment - dusting, taking down the Thanksgiving decorations, grocery shopping, organizing the furniture Dad will be bringing over from Jodie's house.

Oh, and I hope all of my American readers had an equally happy and hearty Thanksgiving with the people they love (and that the Candians enjoyed their Turkey Day last month).

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Frozen Weather, Cozy Day

It was pouring when I got up this morning, but it was just rain. No snow, no sleet. The rain continued as I had oatmeal for breakfast, then as I made pumpkin bread while watching Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. Neil Page (Steve Martin) thinks he's just catching a plane to Chicago two days before Thanksgiving. His trip turns into a real odyssey when he encounters overly chatty salesman Del Griffith (John Candy) in the airport. The two keep running into each other as they make their way across the frozen Midwestern landscape from Wichita to Chicago. As Neil gets to know Del better, he finally learns a lesson in charity and being grateful for what he has. John Hughes' most adult film is buoyed by the performances of its two marvelous leads, even when it gets a little too sentimental towards the end.

Switched to two snow-themed Backyardigans episodes from the first season as I gave the kitchen a much-needed cleaning. Pablo and Tyrone are guarding "The Snow Fort" from invaders who might want to steal their huge snowball! Uniqua and Tasha are ski patrolers who think the boys need rescuing. They keep trying to get in...while the boys keep them out! Uniqua is convinced that the tracks they see in the snow is "The Yeti" of the frozen north. Tasha thinks she's nuts. Really, it's just Pablo being cute, and he leads the two girls and Tyrone on a merry chase across the snowy landscape.

Ironically, the rain began to mix with sleet and snow as I packed for tomorrow and put on Frozen. Disney's biggest hit in years gives us two sisters, Elsa (Idina Menzel) and Anna (Kristin Bell) living in a small Norwegian kingdom. Elsa has snow powers she's kept hidden from her sister for her safety. Her powers are accidentally unleashed after she forbids Anna from rashly marrying a man she's just met and the girls fight. Elsa runs off, leaving Arendelle in an eternal winter. Anna goes after her. As she makes her way to the mountain where Elsa is hiding, she meets Kristoff and his reindeer Sven, as well as Olaf, a snowman obsessed with summer. It'll take a frozen heart and a betrayal to make the two women understand that there's more than one kind of true love in the world...and that the only real frozen heart is one that closes to love and friendship.

No wonder this has been such a hit, especially with girls. This is the touching tale of sisterhood, friendship, and discovering that there's more than one type of true love in the world. The music in particular is fabulous.

Moved to less elaborate winter-themed animation as I made Brussels sprouts, leftover chicken burgers, and the last of the Cranberry Flummery for lunch. Frosty's Winter Wonderland is Rankin-Bass' second Frosty tale. This time, Andy Griffith narrates the story of how Frosty (Jackie Vernon) gained a wife (Shelly Winters) and an enemy in Jack Frost.

Did two black-and-white Mickey Mouse shorts as I got ready for work. Mickey's "The Grocery Boy" who brings Minnie her deliveries. It's all fun and dance routines in the kitchen, until naughty Pluto steals the turkey! One of my favorite Mickey cartoons is the sweet "Mickey's Good Deed." The Depression has hit Mick and Pluto hard - they find themselves playing a cello for nickels. When Mickey sees a mother who is even poorer, he sells the one thing that means most to him to be able to help her...but he gets a special surprise in the end!

It was still coming down at quarter of 2, though no longer mixed with snow. Dad drove me to and from work. It wasn't that busy when I got in, probably because it was still raining. The moment the rain stopped, the people came. We were swamped by rush hour. It did slow down long enough by 8 for me to leave without a relief. Other than a few annoying customers, there were no major problems. It was raining lightly when Dad picked me up - the rain was getting heavier as we went home, but it sounds like it's lighter or gone now.

And for those of you who won't be online tomorrow, I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

So Much To Do!

Started off a very busy day with breakfast and Winnie the Pooh: Seasons of Giving. This direct-to-video movie has two episodes of The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh together with the Pooh Thanksgiving special and some new linking material. In the first story, Piglet is recruited as a groundhog to tell the others when spring is. In the second, Rabbit's attempt at a "traditional" Thanksgiving doesn't go nearly as well as he'd hoped. It's Pooh who reminds the bossy yellow bunny that Thanksgiving is about sharing what we have with others, whether what we have is turkey and stuffing or honey and haycorns. Rabbit is also in the spotlight in the third story. He adopts a little girl bird, but has a hard time letting go when she's old enough to fly south for the winter.

I did the Cranberry Bread while Pooh was on. Every year, I bring at least one loaf of bread to Mom's house for Thanksgiving. This tradition dates back to when I was in college. Bread was pretty much the only thing I had time to make between classes, and it was easy to bake in a small dorm oven and bring home. I used Pillsbury bread mixes in college. Nowadays, I just make them from scratch. I'll do the Pumpkin Bread tomorrow.

Switched to Arthur's Perfect Christmas as I gave the bathroom a much-needed scrubbing. Arthur Read is a normal, good-natured aardvark kid who is looking forward to a perfect holiday of snow, big meals, and lots of presents. Meanwhile, his friend Brain is preparing for Kwanzaa, Muffy is upset because her best friend Francine went to her family's Hanukkah party instead of her big Christmas bash, and Buster's mother keeps getting him up early because she's worried he won't have a good Christmas without his father. Arthur and the other kids finally discover that perfection is in the eye of the beholder...and the holidays can be a lot of fun, whether they're perfect or not.

As soon as the bread was out of the oven and all the cleaning supplies were put away, I hurried out. I badly needed to get to Haddonfield to get the bike fixed. It wasn't the nicest day for a walk, but at least the precipitation held off for now. It was cloudy and damp, cooler than yesterday but not too cold. I picked up the PATCO in Collingswood. The train station in Haddonfield is a block from the Free Ride Bike Shop. Thankfully, they were mainly doing inventory and had the time to fix my bike. I bought a new tire and two inner tubes, one as a spare. They also tightened my chain gear and recommended I get a new chain as soon as I can get up to Haddonfield again, which will probably be in January.

The moment I got out, I raced home. Quickly finished out The First Christmas Snow as I ate and changed into work clothes. More lesser-known Rankin-Bass takes us to a church in a warm climate. When Lucas, a sheopard boy, is struck by lightning, he loses his sight. The nuns in the church take him in. He becomes especially fond of gentle Sister Teresa (Angela Landsbury, who also narrates), but worries that the priest (Cyril Ritchard) will send him to an orphanage. He finally decides to give Sister Teresa his sheep for Christmas, but what he really wants is to see snow, just as the kindly nun has described it to him.

I got to work right on time. Good thing, too. It was insane for almost the entire night. Thanksgiving preparations crossed with snow jitters (we may be getting one or two inches mixed with some rain tomorrow) added up to a mess right until around 7, and even after that, it was still steady. It did slow down enough by 8 that I was able to leave quickly without a relief.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Autumn Was Warm

I can't believe how warm it was when I got up this morning! It was sunny, windy, and at least in the 70s. I didn't need a sweater or even long sleeves, never mind a coat. I was even able to open the windows and air out the apartment.

I had my usual cereal for breakfast while enjoying one of my favorite lesser-known Rankin-Bass specials, The Stingiest Man In Town. This late-70s adaptation of a 1950s live-action musical Christmas Carol has some really lovely music; my favorite songs are "An Old Fashioned Christmas" for Nephew Fred and "Yes, There Is a Santa Claus" for Martha Cratchit to sing to her brother Tiny Tim. The cast is nice, too. Walter Matthau is the older Scrooge. Robert Morse is Scrooge in his younger years. Tom Bosley narrates as insect B.A.H Humbug. This marked Dennis Day's last TV performance as an especially good Nephew Fred.

Ran to the laundromat after the show ended and I made my bed and changed my sheets. Needless to say, they weren't that busy on such a nice day. I listened to The Price Is Right and did my small load. Even with the sheets, it took less than an hour to get it all done.

When I got home, I ran another, more unusual version of A Christmas Carol as I put away my clothes and linens and made chicken burgers, broccoli, and Cranberry Flummery for lunch. An American Christmas Carol takes us to 1933 New Hampshire, where Benedict Slade (Henry Winkler in a pile of aging makeup) rules the small town with an iron fist. He ruthlessly repossesses the treasures of its citizens, then fires his assistant on Christmas Eve. Needless to say, a visit by three spirits makes him rethink his views on charity, forgiveness, and kindness. Not great, but not bad either. Interesting if you're a fan of Winkler or want to try a different kind of Carol.

I hurried downstairs around twelve after 2 to head to work. I got quite a shock when I got to the path. The back tire of my bike had gone flat. Again. After Richard fixed it. It was perfectly fine this morning when I went to the laundromat! I tried and tried to pump it, but it just wouldn't stay. I ultimately accepted a ride from a kindly neighbor and just barely made it to work on time. I felt bad about making such a fuss, but I had no choice. I had to get to work. She had to go grocery shopping anyway and ended up driving me home as well.

Maybe it's just as well. Work was crazy for most of the afternoon, especially during rush hour. Snow jitters (we're supposed to get snow mixed with rain on Wednesday) coupled with this being three days before the biggest food holiday of the year equaled noisy panic. We still don't have enough help to deal with it, either, even with the hours increased. Thankfully, it died rather quickly by 7:30. I had no problems shutting down without a relief.

I have no choice. I'm going to have to get to the bike shop in Haddonfield tomorrow. I'll walk to the PATCO and take a train to Haddonfield, then ride back as soon as they finish with the bike. Good thing I don't work until 2 tomorrow and the rain isn't supposed to start until nightfall. I have the time.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Happy Holidays Dolls

Started a sunny, somewhat warmer day with Christmas music and Banana Spice Pancakes for breakfast. I love my Happy Holidays sets. True Value Hardware has sold these collections since at least the 1960s. I have volumes 28 and 29 on cassette and 30 through 35 plus 39 on CD. I remember my family having one Happy Holidays record from the late 80s with Bing Crosby on it. It was the first time I heard Bing sing "White Christmas" anywhere but the radio and the movie of that title. There was a True Value Hardware in Cape May for years, and that's where I bought these (and likely where Mom picked up the record in the 80s).They switched to Ace Hardware (which I believe they remain to this day) by the early 2000s and I was no longer able to get them. They were some of my first Christmas music. Volume 39 and the CD version of Volume 30 were yard sale finds.

Work was a nut house for most of the day. Not only is it the Sunday before Thanksgiving and a day when the Eagles were playing at 1 PM, but we're supposed to have some bad weather early this week. A little bit of rain tomorrow shouldn't be a concern, but there's a possibility of snow mixed with rain on Wednesday. People were acting like it was just going to be snow! It's not like we're going to get snowed in. It's supposed to be sunny and in the mid-40s by Thanksgiving.

I couldn't wait to hurry out of there. I went straight to Dad's. I heard all day long, from employees and customers, that the Eagles were handing the Tennessee Titans their rears. They were indeed. By the time I arrived at Dad's around quarter after 4, the score was 40 to 24. The Eagles pushed in one more field goal to make the final score 43 to 24. 

I ate pulled pork sandwiches, potato salad, cole slaw, and a cherry pastry for dinner as Dad switched around to other games. Jodie, Jessa, and Mark were the only other ones there. Dad's other favorite team is the Miami Dolphins. They had the unenviable task of playing the red-hot Denver Broncos today in Mile High City; the Broncos haven't lost at home in ages. Even as Dad was complaining about them, they got a touchdown. It was 7 to 3 when I got tired of listening to Dad complain and left. For all of Dad's fussing, they ended up holding their own, just barely losing 39-36.

I spent the rest of the evening dressing the American Girl and Sailor Moon dolls for the holidays. Samantha wears her original Cranberry Christmas Dress, complete with wide white ribbon and ribbed stockings. Josefina looks lovely in her yellow Christmas Dress and Mantilla. Molly wears her Evergreen Velvet Dress with Springfield Collection socks and Samantha's new "meet" Mary Janes. Felicity sports her lovely bright blue Christmas Ball Gown and Josefina's Heirloom Accessories choker. Jessa's in the Chinese New Year outfit from the late 90s modern line. I gave Whitney the deep blue Snowflake Ball Gown with the velvet bodice Lauren sent me last year. Whitney wears black tights, a black jacket from a Springfield Collection dress, the glittery clip from the Sparkle Sequin Outfit, and a pair of black mules borrowed from Josefina.

The Sailor Soldiers wear vintage Barbie gowns bought from yard sales and a couple of dresses from dollar stores. Sailor Mars' regular velvet gown has a hole that needs to be fixed. She's wearing a ruffly, sparkly orange-red skirt with a hand-made knitted white sweater-leotard I bought from a yard sale about three years ago.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Last Call for the Fall Harvest

Started off another sunny, cold, windy morning with a couple of Christmas cartoons. Bugs Bunny's Christmas Tales is an anthology of three Chuck Jones shorts done directly for TV. The first is a condensed Christmas Carol with Yosemite Sam as Scrooge and Bugs as Nephew Fred. The second is a snow-themed Coyote/Roadrunner chase. The third has Taz in a Santa suit end up in Bugs' home on Christmas Eve.

Did a couple of Disney snow and Christmas-themed shorts next. "Once Upon a Wintertime" is a sweet featurette from one of Disney's 40s anthology movies. Two lovers and two rabbits have a scary adventure while out skating. "Santa's Workshop" and "The Night Before Christmas" tell just what Santa does before he heads out on Christmas Eve, and what happens when he arrives at the last house of his rounds. "On Ice" shows the Disney gang's ice skating and fishing fun...and how Mickey helps Donald out when his messing around with Pluto gets him into trouble. Donald has even more frozen trouble in "Donald's Snow Fight." When he ruins the Nephews' snowman, they decide that this means war! The ultimate snowball toss is on, but it may leave Donald with that sinking feeling.

Headed out to the last Collingswood Farm Market of the year around 9:30. They were very busy with people ignoring the cold long enough to buy their produce for Thanksgiving. It took me a while to find everything I wanted. More than half the booths were selling knit accessories and mosaic guitars instead of produce. There were enough booths left for me to buy grapefruit, a bag of baby spinach, cranberries for bread to bring to Mom's next week, broccoli, a small organic cauliflower (all of the non-organic cauliflower was way too big for me), and my favorite small apples.

When I got home, I switched to two winter-themed first season Sailor Moon episodes as I put everything away and got ready for work. Serena's feeling those "Ski Bunny Blues" when she finds herself competing against Raye in a skiing pageant at a major resort. The course gets a lot rougher than either imagined when it all turns out to be a Negaverse plot. And in "Ice Princess," Lita catches the eye of a handsome figure skater, which doesn't amuse his partner - or the Negaverse - one bit.

I left early for work. Today is the Acme's Thanksgiving Luncheon. They always have an enormous spread, and this year was no exception. I saw turkey with gravy, a green bean casserole, stuffing, macaroni and cheese, pasta salad, ham (brought by my manager Sam, which lead to lots of "Sam I Ham" jokes), meatballs, hot dogs and beans in barbecue sauce, corn, pretzels, and deviled eggs. Desserts included a big container of Lifesavers Wint-O-Mints and Hershey's mini-chocolates, two chocolate cakes, two fruit cheesecakes (blueberry and cherry), one plain cheesecake, pumpkin bread, butter thumbprint cookies with jam in the middles, chocolate chip cookies from the bakery, and my Apricot Honey Bread. I had turkey (salty but not bad), green bean casserole (delicious), mini Hershey's Special Dark bars (I love dark chocolate), the corn (pretty basic defrosted frozen corn, but I wanted a vegetable that wasn't drowning in mushroom soup), and two deviled eggs. Tried the thumbprint cookies later (crunchy with a sticky jam middle - not bad).

Work actually wasn't bad when I got in. It was on-and-off steady through about 2:30-3 PM, after which things picked up considerably. Other than I had one of those people who somehow think they can buy 150 dollars worth of groceries with a 90 dollar budget and held up the line putting it all back, there were no major problems. It was slowing down a little when I hurried out.

I called Dad earlier in the day. He said last week that Jodie is finally moving in with him. With her son and his girlfriend taking the apartment attached to Dad's house, Jodie's selling her house and getting rid of most of her furnishings and dishes. I rode over to Dad's as soon as I got home and got changed. When I arrived, he and Jodie took me a few doors down to Jodie's old house.

I ended up with a tall, slender wood hutch that Jodie's dad made himself, a "dry sink" (a counter with shelves and drawers under it intended to be used in the kitchen), a beautiful bench, some Christmas-themed dishes, and a computer chair that was Dad's. The hutch and dry sink will replace the baker's rack in my living room. The baker's rack is a cheap piece I picked up from the Ames in North Cape May shortly before they went out of business, probably about 12 years ago. The bottom of the drawer I use for silverware has been popping out for ages, and it really doesn't have the room for all of my cookbooks.

The bench will hold my AG and Disney Toddler dolls, and possibly some of the smaller stuffed animals currently on my bed. I've been looking for a bench or a chair for them at yard sales for years. It'll free up a shelf for books or smaller dolls and allow me to find another place for the AG bed besides in front of mine.

The computer chair in my bedroom is shot. Rose and Craig bought it from Wal-Mart as a homecoming present a few days after I moved here in February 2006. While it still rolls pretty well, the lining on the chair part is ripped so badly, I can't sit on it anymore. I have thick towels over the seat so I can actually sit in it. It's also too big for my current roll-top desk. Doesn't really fit around it at all.

It was sprinkling when we went to Jodie's. By the time I headed home, the rain was gone, allowing me to get back dry. When I got in, I decided to try a project. I never liked the red stained wood IKEA shelf in the music area. The one in the entertainment area next to the TV is fine. It holds my movie and animation books and acts as a stand for the DVD recorder. The one in the music area did hold my music, stage, and radio history books...but it also didn't work with records. I need more record storage. I finally moved the IKEA shelf to the entertainment area, along with the music and radio books. It'll probably be moved again when the dry sink comes, but it's ok next to the baker's rack for now. The crates that were on top of it and next to it now replace it in the music area. I like that much better. More room, less fuss.

Ran the 1957 version of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella while I organized, and later as I ate the last of the leftover chicken soup for dinner. This was the duo's only venture into TV musicals. Other than the fairy godmother (Edie Adams) is a bit younger than in most retellings, this is a pretty straightforward fairy tale. The title lass (Julie Andrews) wants to go to the ball and meet Prince Christopher (Jon Cypher), but her stepmother (Ilka Chase) and stepsisters (Kaye Ballard and Alice Ghostly) insist this is impossible. Maybe not so impossible, as her fairy godmother reminds her. Will all her dreams come true...or will it all end by the stroke of midnight?

The version you end up with depends on what cast you prefer, and whether or not pictorial quality is an issue. The ladies here are the winners - Andrews (coming off her long-running stint in My Fair Lady on Broadway) simply glows as Cinderella. However, this was originally a one-time-only live broadcast. It was considered lost before a kinetoscope of a technical rehearsal was found in the early 2000s, which means that the picture is less than stellar and often blurry. What's there is frequently enchanting, though, especially a vibrant "A Lovely Night."

Incidentally, if you enjoy this, there's two more TV versions (with Leslie Ann Warren in 1965 and Brandy in 1997) and a stage version that'll be on Broadway until January. No two are exactly alike. The 60s version added one more song for the Prince; the 90s one threw in a Rodgers and Hart number for the Stepmother and a song by Rodgers alone for Cinderella.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Wishing For Tomorrow

Ugh. My day mostly didn't go well. First of all, I overslept. I did finish Wishing for Tomorrow, though, which I very much enjoyed. This sequel to A Little Princess focuses on the the girls who lived at Miss Minchin's school with Sara and remained behind when she left. Poor Ermengarde feels abandoned. Snooty Lavinia throws herself further into her studies, especially after a new boy whose sisters went to Oxford moves next-door. Lottie makes a friend in the new maid, no-nonsense Alice. Miss Minchin takes less and less interest in teaching anyone but Lavinia and worries that she may lose more students. Ermengarde finally learns that she may not be a princess, but she, Lavinia, and all of them have their own special qualities...ones that'll help them when disaster strikes the school.

I was getting ready to go when there was a knock on the door. It was my neighbor's son. The windows and doors were here. They were going to start installing them downstairs today. Already? I thought they weren't doing that until spring. Oh, well. At least the house will be warmer this winter and that cracked window will finally be gone.

Much to my frustration, when I got downstairs, I discovered the back tire was going flat. I just pumped it two days ago! I guess it did have a slow leak. I was hoping it didn't. I can change the front tire pretty quickly, but I usually need help with the back. At any rate, I didn't have the time to change anything. I just rode the bike to work and was almost late.

Oddly enough, work was the opposite of how it's been for the past few weeks - crazy when I came in, not too bad when I left. I must have just  hit the noon rush hour. I guess everyone was leaving early to start getting ready for Thanksgiving. Most of the afternoon was steady-to-quiet. By the time it was picking up again, I was done. My relief was late; another college kid came in for me.

I got my schedule first. For the first time in months, it's almost entirely evening work. The only time I work during the day is Sunday...which of course, means I'll miss the Eagles game. On the other hand, I have a lot more hours than the last few weeks, I'll be able to get a lot of cleaning and baking done at my apartment, and I'll get to see Collingswood's Christmas Parade in full next Saturday. And yes, I did get Thanksgiving and Black Friday off for our trip to Mom's.

I didn't have a ton of shopping to do, at any rate. It was mostly restocking the larder. I was completely out of sugar, eggs, chocolate pudding mix, and parchment paper. Replaced the cake mix I used last week. They had more of those tasty small turkey tenderloins with three dollar off manager's coupons on them - I grabbed two. Bought honey and orange juice to use for holiday recipes this week and next week. Also grabbed my annual advent calender with the cheap chocolate. It always tastes terrible, but the pictures on the front are usually cute - this year's has Santa delivering two teddy bears who are very much enjoying the ride.

I ended up walking the bike home. At least it was a nice day for it. It was cold again, probably in the mid-30s, and still windy, but sunny and cloudless as well. The sun was setting in a soft glow of pink and orange as I arrived at my apartment. I tried to fix the back wheel on the porch downstairs, or at least what I could get of it with all the new windows and doors in their boxes laying there. I just couldn't get the bolts off! I ultimately asked my next-door neighbor Richard for help with it.

I spent the rest of the night upstairs at my place. I made that yummy Apricot-Honey Bread for the Acme's Thanksgiving Luncheon tomorrow while dubbing Red Skelton's Christmas Jollies. This was an 80s collection of skits from Red's shows, mostly the ones from the 50s and early 60s if the black and white and slightly fuzzy picture were any indication. Actually, my favorite segment was one of the last ones. Red's "silent spot" was his hilarious miming of a man who has just come home from New Year's Eve with the world's most monumental hangover. He gets stuck in the window trying to get fresh air, can't find his alarm clock, and his butler has a really hard time getting him back to bed!

I switched to cartoons as I had a quick chicken soup dinner. The Berenstein Bears' Christmas Tree is the tale of how Papa Bear is determined that he and Brother and Sister will get a real, perfect tree from the wilderness, not some tree lot. What they don't realize is that other animals need home for the holidays, too. They keep picking trees that are already occupied. When they do finally get back to town, the animals whose homes they spared have a big surprise for them at their tree house.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Getting Organized

I awoke to a phone call. Yes, it was the Acme. They wanted me to come in two hours early, at noon. No problem. I was only working four hours today, and I need the extra hours. I didn't have too much planned for this morning, either.

In fact, the only thing I really had planned for today was some organizing in my bedroom. I wanted to make room for the Ever After High dolls, clear off the top of the printer (which tends to accumulate everything from receipts to old phone messages), and clear all of the printer paper out of a drawer in my desk and off the top of the crate holding oversized comic books. I recycled the receipts and moved everything else that was on top of the printer but the phone and the phone book into the drawer. The printer paper was moved to the top of the printer. Fancier paper and lined paper were switched to the shelf under the printer. The box holding my stationary went under the phone. I moved Gram Bear and Tenderheart over to the top of the comic books crate. (Tenderheart may not stay. He doesn't fit well with plump Gram and Polite Panda.) That leaves space for Cerise and Briar on the children's hardback books shelf, appropriately under the Sailor Moon dolls.

Ran March of the Toy Soldiers as I worked. This is the renamed 1934 Babes In Toyland with Laurel and Hardy as the fat and thin comic relief, this time on the right side of the law. Once again, nasty Barnaby comes between two Mother Goose lovers, here Little Bo Peep (Charlotte Henry) and Tom Piper (Felix Knight). Stan and Ollie first have to help Bo Peep and her mother, the Old Woman Who Lived In a Shoe, get the mortgage on the shoe from Barnaby. Though they get into trouble for it, they do ultimately manage to get things right. After that, Barnaby outright gets Tom exiled. Bo Peep and the boys don't believe it and, after the boys prove his innocence, travel into Bogey Land to rescue him.

The Babes you go for depends on which cast you prefer and how big of a fan of Laurel and Hardy's antics you are. I honestly like them both. Though I grew up on the Disney version, I do like Laurel and Hardy, and there's much that's charming about this one, too.

The March of the Toy Soldiers DVD is filled with public domain extras culled from here, there, and everywhere. I ran a few of them as I had a quick lunch and prepared for work. At least 15 years before Rankin-Bass did their version, Paramount put out a very sweet (and somewhat more accurate to the original story) Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer animated short that's been a staple in Christmas-themed public domain sets for years. Two shorts were also rather sweet. One, Christmas Toy Shop, has Santa telling all about his toys to two wide-awake youngsters. The other was a more traditional telling of The Night Before Christmas.

Though it wasn't bad when I came in, by about 2:30, we were absolutely swamped with people buying things for Thanksgiving and for relatives visiting next week. We still don't have enough help to deal with them all, either. There were long lines all day - we'd call stock people and bakers to deal with them, and then they'd go back to their section...and then we'd have to call them again when the lines would get long again. This went on all evening. I was tired and got so stressed! Thankfully, they had one of the college boys come in for me, instead of going into stocking; I originally didn't have a relief.

When I got home, I had leftovers for dinner and quickly ran a Backyardigans episode to unwind. Uniqua is a librarian in Veja, California, who loves her job more than anything. When a book goes missing, she becomes "The Masked Retriever" to bring it back to the library! Don Austin has a book he refuses to return. The Masked Retriever chases him across the California and Mexican countryside to get him to renew it.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Chilled November

Started out another sunny but cold day with some Backyardigans. "The Action Elves Save Christmas Eve" pit elves Tasha, Uniqua, and Pablo against abominable snowcritters Austin and Tyrone, who accidentally took Santa's magic sack. If they can't get it back, Santa won't be able to give out toys for Christmas! Uniqua and Pablo run "The Big Dipper Diner," the finest hash house in deep space. Their favorite customer is a sweet little alien named Hugs. Cops Tasha and Tyrone mistake Hugs for the Blarg, a nasty little alien who shrinks everything in sight! Hugs has a surprise for everyone when she teaches all of the kids about the word "no."

My first stop of the day was the Oaklyn Library. There were baskets, baskets, and more baskets everywhere, filled with everything from beauty products to toys to food. The librarian and one of the Friends of the Oaklyn Library were preparing the baskets for the auction at the American Legion building a few doors down on Saturday. I organized DVDs and listened to the Weather Channel report about the heavy snow in the Midwest (and people think it's cold here - at least it's also sunny and cloudless), heading out after about a half-hour.

My next stop was the Haddon Township Library. I had one last video and book donation to make for this year, along with books and DVDs to return. Surprisingly, there weren't that many DVDs to put away. The children's shelves were still overloaded, but not as much as they have been. (And they need to start pulling doubles again.) I continued working on the paperback romance novels as well. The M and N titles were fine, but P, Q, and R needed work. Good thing more than half the R titles were by Nora Roberts - made it easier to organize. I read her stuff on rare occasions myself, when the emphasis is more on action than romance.

(And I didn't take anything out this week. I probably won't have the time to return them next week. I did take Cranberry Thanksgiving out of the Oaklyn Library - I bring Grandma's Cranberry Bread to Mom's house for a hostess gift.)

Made two quick stops on the way home. Dollar Tree was busy, but I just needed Thanksgiving cards. WaWa was even busier with people on their way home from work and school. I ordered The Gobbler turkey sandwich again for a very late lunch.

When I got home, I had my lunch, then made a Mint Devil's Food Cake while watching the 1961 Babes In Toyland. Mary Contrary (Annette Funicello) is set to marry Tom Piper (Tommy Sands)...but not if the wicked Barnaby (Ray Bolger) has anything to do with it! When sending his men to eliminate Tom doesn't work, he steals Mary's sheep. Mary's siblings go after them, and Tom and Mary go after the kids. They all end up in Toyland, trying to help the goofy Toymaker (Ed Wynn) and his beleaguered assistant Grumio (Tommy Kirk) with the Christmas deadline. Barnaby is still on their trail, though...

Colorful and cute version of the ever-popular early 1900s operetta. Bolger in particular is having a blast playing against type - check out his "Castle In Spain" dance.

Stuck with music and fantasy as I moved to DuBarry Was a Lady. Red Skelton is Louie, a hat-check boy at a nightclub who wins a fortune. He hopes to convince beautiful singer May Daly (Lucile Ball) to love him. She really loves the club's MC and dancer (Gene Kelly), but has convinced herself that it's more practical to marry for money. When Louie accidentally takes a drugged drink, he dreams that he's the King of France, May is the scandalous title lady, and Kelly is the revolutionary she loves.  Nice if you're a fan of the cast, the World War II era, or big band music (Tommy Dorsey has a couple of extraneous numbers); ok time-waster if you ever run into it on TCM otherwise.

Oh, and I ordered myself the first dolls I'm buying in a series I've had my eye on for a while from Ever After High details the adventures of the offspring of famous fairy tale and fantasy story characters. Some want to follow in their parents' footsteps and keep the stories exactly the way they've always been; others, especially villains, want to change the stories and re-write their own happy endings. I never really paid much attention to its sister line, Monster High. Those dolls always seemed too bright and campy, even for me, and I'm not into horror. Fairy tale characters who wanted to re-write their stories were something else again, and the dolls and their designs were exquisite.

It took me ages to decide, but I finally decided to start with Cerise Hood and Briar Beauty. Cerise is the mysterious daughter of Little Red Riding Hood whose back story isn't exactly the same as the original. Briar is the party girl daughter of Sleeping Beauty who is having too much fun to sleep for a 100 years. I love Cerise's different mold and her beautiful red outfit, including the famous hood, not to mention her back story. I always did like beasts. I also like Briar's outfit, and while her party-hearty persona is a little shallow, the doll itself is one of the prettiest from the first wave. (And they were both more than half-off. I couldn't resist a bargain.)

I'm really only interested in the "basic" original versions of the dolls - no fancy Thronecoming gowns or beach outfits or pajamas, please! I'm hoping to pick up the hippie daughter of Cinderella, Ashlynn, and her swain Hunter the Huntsman in their original 2-pack for Christmas. I'll probably get Madeline Hatter, the nutty, lovable daughter of the Mad Hatter, along with them. After that, I'll grab either Cedar Wood (the daughter of Pinocchio who literally can't lie) or Blondie Locks (the gossipy daughter of Goldilocks) with tax return money in February.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Against the Wind

Started out a very cold day early with Muppet Family Christmas. This 1986 special brought the characters from The Muppet Show, Sesame Street, and Fraggle Rock together for a story that had everyone visiting Fozzie's mom for Christmas. While Mrs. Bear and Doc from Fraggle Rock try to figure out where to put all these crazy critters, Kermit worries about Miss Piggy, who is stranded in a snowstorm. Very cute special with some wonderful moments...but thanks to the three different groups of Muppets being owned by different companies, not the easiest program to find intact today. Try YouTube or other online sharing sites.

Headed out around quarter after 10 to get this week's laundry load done. I had slightly more to do than last week, so it did take a little longer. It was fairly busy, too, surprisingly on a Tuesday morning. I mostly spent it watching Let's Make a Deal and The Price Is Right.

When I got home, I ran my John Denver: Christmas With the Muppets CD while putting away my laundry. This special is also hard to find today, which is a shame because the album is a classic. The opening "Twelve Days of Christmas" and closing "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" and Denver's "Peace Carol" and "A Baby Just Like You" are especially delightful.

As soon as I finished, I did a quick pump on my bike tires, then headed out again. I had counseling today, and I didn't want to be late and have to rush, like I did last month. I got out around quarter after 12, giving me plenty of time before my 2 PM appointment. I went across Haddon Lake Park to Cuthbert. Needless to say on such a cold day, there were only a few hearty joggers and dog walkers and the Canadian geese out with me. The wind was so heavy, it actually blew a thick branch off a tree with a resounding, noisy crack as I passed! Thankfully, the branch was on the side of the tree that overlooked the water. As the dog walker coming from my other side pointed out, you don't see that every day.

That bridge that was out through most of last year had finally been repaired....all two wide rectangles of it. I can't believe it took over a year to repair a bridge that was barely longer than the driveway for the front apartment at my house. I did cut across it, then found a parking lot that went under the PATCO railway. I rode up to the Westmont PATCO station, then turned and rode up to Haddon Avenue.

The Westmont Family Diner is in a small shopping center right across from the PATCO. It was the perfect place for a quick lunch. They were busy, but I did get a booth pretty fast. They were a nice little place, with honey-colored wooden walls and booths. I had a delicious zucchini, sausage, and cheese omelet, whole wheat toast, and some of the tastiest home fries I've had outside my stepdad's. The hot chocolate was messy and probably came from a mix, but at least it was warm.

After I left, I rode up Haddon Avenue to Haddonfield. Since I arrived a half-hour early for counseling, I took a brief look at the Happy Hippo Toy Store before moving onto Mrs. Stahl's office. Even with the side trip, I was still 15 minutes early.

We mostly discussed my Thanksgiving and Christmas plans and what I hope to do after the holidays. I want to use my February tax money for a couple of online writing courses. I just can't seem to finish my solo creative writing projects. I do fine in my journal and blog and with Lauren, but on my own, I start things, then never continue them. And I still have no idea of what to do with my talents. I really would like to get some ideas from this. Everything I've tried up to now either hasn't worked or fell by the wayside or I was just too scared to do it.

She pretty much just said "enjoy the holidays and keep those classes in mind." That shouldn't be too much of a problem. I love the holidays. The family aspects of Christmas in particular do get me a little down at times. I'm the only person in my family with no kids or significant other. I sometimes feel left out, especially at parties. Otherwise, I'm a big fan of Thanksgiving and Christmas, and always have been. I love the shopping and the wrapping and the baking and the decorating and the warm, cozy feeling the holidays bring.

(And this was my last counseling session of 2014. December is crazy enough without taking a day off to hike up to Haddonfield. My next session is in mid-January.)

When I got out, though, I was feeling pretty darn good. I got to counseling without rushing or hysterics, and despite the 33-degree chill, it was a beautiful day. The sun was shining, and if the wind was blowing, hey, it felt more like the holidays.

I made two brief stops on Haddon Avenue. One was to check out a new used book and CD store that had just opened. I didn't buy anything, but there were some interesting items, mostly related to movies and art; I'll look again in January. The other was at Jersey, an expensive but tasty little coffee shop. I really needed to use their bathroom, but I also took advantage of the warm room with the fireplace and the heavy dark furniture to rest and sip a chai latte and nibble at a sweet roll with cream cheese glaze.

I took the same way I came under the PATCO rails and across the bridge to Cuthbert. I had to make a really quick stop at the Westmont Acme. I was out of toilet paper, and I needed grapefruit, too. They also had bags of Emerald glazed pecans and cinnamon-coated mixed nuts for the holidays that I hadn't seen at the Audubon Acme. I went with the cinnamon bag. I love anything with cinnamon and sugar.

This time, I went straight home, cutting across Newton River Park again. When I finally got in, I went right in the bath, listening to one of my Christmas oldies collections. Ahhhh. That felt really nice. I haven't had a bath in ages. I looked over Christmas craft books and a Wilton Christmas cake book from the 70s to get ideas for my holiday baking and just relaxed.

Ran two Rankin-Bass animated specials as I made salmon in lemon sauce with leftover broccoli and the last of the Cranberry Flummery for dinner. Cricket On the Hearth is a real oddity from the late 60s, from the slightly psychedelic animation. Roddy McDowell narrates as the title character, who brings together a blind girl (Marlo Thomas) with her sweetheart, whom she believed lost at sea (Ed Ames). This Dickens story is rather strange, even for Rankin-Bass. The girl goes blind from the shock of her beloved sailor, and the cricket is nearly killed by a crow and his lackeys...who are killed by a nasty sea captain off-screen. Little kids might not get a lot of this one, despite the cute cricket - try it on older kids who think they've seen everything (especially if they have a romantic vein).

Finished out the night with Frosty the Snowman. The original 1969 cartoon is one of the simpler Rankin-Bass tales. Frosty (Jackie Vernon) is brought to life by a magic hat that was tossed away by a phony magician (Billy DeWolfe). When the magician sees that it really can do magic, he wants it the point of following Frosty, his rabbit, and a little girl named Karen to the North Pole when they try to find Frosty a home. This is one of the most famous of all Rankin-Bass specials and is required viewing, especially for families with younger kids.

Oh, and sigh. A fond farewell to Arthur Rankin Jr., who passed away today. Christmas, Easter, and stop-motion animation wouldn't be the same without him and his partner's animation studio.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Enchantment In the Rain

It was pouring when I got up this morning. I ended up spending it eating breakfast, making Norsk Apple Muffins, and watching holiday programming. My favorite traditional version of The Nutcracker is the American Ballet Theater version from 1978. Clara (Gerry Kirkland) receives a special present from her godfather - a toy nutcracker doll. She dreams that the doll comes to life, fights a wicked Mouse King, and turns into a prince (Mikhail Baryshnikov) who takes her to the Land of Sweets. 

Switched to a Thanksgiving special as I ate leftovers for lunch. Molly's Pilgrim is an Oscar-winning short subject from 1985. Molly and her family just came to the US from Russia, and she's having a hard time fitting in. Her clothing looks old-fashioned compared to the other girls, she speaks English with an accent, and her lunch is real food, rather than just sandwiches. She's looking forward to the assignment to make a pilgrim girl, until her mother makes the doll look more like a Russian girl. Molly and her classmates finally learn how the Pilgrims really came up with the idea of a harvest feast...and that it takes all kinds of pilgrims to make a Thanksgiving.

Moved back to Christmas as I got ready for work. The Bear Who Slept Through Christmas takes us to Beartown, where curious Ted E. Bear wants to know all about this peculiar time of the year. He's teased by the other bears and shunned by authority figures who think he's crazy or just plain stupid for fighting instinct. He's determined to find Christmas at any cost. A toy store brings him close, but it's a plump old man in a red suit who finally shows him the real meaning of the holiday.

Dad ended up driving me to and from work. It poured on and off all day. Work was quiet when I arrived. It was on and off too, mostly because we're still short on help. Otherwise, there were no major problems. My relief arrived just in time for me to hurry out to Dad.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Blues In the Day

I awoke to dark skies and blustery but slightly warmer temperatures. Ran A Broadway Christmas while making Banana-Chocolate Chip Pancakes for breakfast. I found this CD at the ARC thrift shop in Rio Grande a few months before I moved in late fall 2005 and have loved it ever since. Favorites include the lovely "Christmas Eve" which was cut from She Loves Me, the gentle "Christmas Gifts" from a stage musical version of It's a Wonderful Life, the touching "I Thank You For Your Love" from something called The Mummer's Play, and the previously unpublished Irving Berlin number "The Happy New Year's Blues." Of the better-known songs, I love the 80s-pop-ish version of "Turkey Lurkey Time" from Promises Promises (which is a lot more fun than the slower one on the cast album!) and a really nice take on "Hard Candy Christmas."

I wish I'd stayed with the Christmas music. Work was crazy again almost the entire afternoon, and for the same reason - still not enough help, especially managers. Most people took it pretty well, but some were still in bad moods. Two women put back their entire order they discovered that not only did that free turkey coupon end Thursday, but the coupon was required - and it only came in the mail. You had to spend 100 dollars AND use the coupon. It didn't just come off if you spent 100 dollars. They were only buying the order to get the turkey. That makes no sense whatsoever. You buy the order because you need food. The turkey is supposed to be a nice bonus.

It was so busy, the guy who was working self-checkout had to go in for me, and I barely got out on time. I went home, changed into regular pants (I was already wearing my Eagles jersey for work), wrote off my rent check really fast for Miss Willa and Richard, delivered it to their mailbox, and headed back out. Dad was having a late football party for the big Packers-Eagles game.

It was a lot busier than the last time I made it to a football party. In addition to Jodie, Dad, Vanessa, and Mark (Mark is a big Packers fan), several neighbors were there, along with Jodie's son's girlfriend Dana and their cocker spaniel Helio. Khai was playing in the yard with Helio and Dana when I arrived. My sister Rose came later - she was making a grocery store run. (I saw Dana at the Acme earlier as well, along with Jessa and Joe.)

There was tons of food. Jodie's birthday was yesterday, so we got to have the leftovers from her party. When I came in, there were meatballs and sausage, two kinds of pasta salad, cole slaw, water chestnuts wrapped in bacon, tasty little cream puffs, apple cake with raspberry frosting, and the last of Jodie's chocolate birthday cake. Jodie pulled out baked ziti and stuffed mushrooms a bit later.

I wish the game was as nice as the company. The Eagles played terrible today. I don't know what got into Mark Sanchez. He had four interceptions, and that was the least of his troubles. The Packers finally flattened them 53-20.

I went home just as the halftime show was ending, around 6:30. I was full, Rose and Khai were about to leave as well, and I was tired of listening to Dad complain about the game. I rode home in a steady but fairly light shower. When I got in, I met Miss Willa at her door before going to my place. I was able to give her the rent, and I signed a few more papers for her.

I also confirmed some holiday plans with Rose. Yes, we're still going down to Mom's for Thanksgiving, probably around 10 again. No, she's not having the Christmas party. It's just too much with her current workload as a novice lawyer. Dad and Jodie will have Christmas breakfast at their house. I may just spend the rest of the day at my apartment, watching movies - it worked pretty well last year.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Strange Tales of the Supernatural

Started off the morning with a run to the Collingswood Farm Market. Today is the Farm Market's second-to-last weekend, and there's now far more craft booths than food booths. There were enough food booths left open that I made a decent haul. I ended up with my bananas from the tropical fruit sellers, mushrooms, my favorite little apples, cranberries, and sweet potatoes. It was cold this morning, barely in the 40s, and while it was crowded, it wasn't quite as bad as usual despite a nice, sunny day.

Work was massively insane for a lot of the day. It's a little less than two weeks before Thanksgiving. A lot of people are picking up their non-perishable goods and their meats for the holiday. This was made even worse by a huge lack of help. That's what they get for cutting hours in mid-November. The managers kept calling up stock kids to take the lines whenever they got long. When they slowed down, they'd let them go...and they'd have to call them back again when the lines started snaking around the store. It didn't help that many people were nasty, rude, and just plain grouchy. I was utterly delighted when one of the college girls appeared on time so I could grab some skim milk and rush home.

When I got home, I made spiced chicken thighs and roasted Brussels sprouts for dinner while finishing out Gravity Falls, which I began this morning. The strange tales of life in the weirdest little town in Oregon continue, as twins Dipper and Mabel find more odd conspiracies. Dipper himself causes some of the biggest scares, thanks to his desire to get a date with sensible teen Wendy. In "The Time Traveler's Pig," he, Mabel, and Mabel's new pet pig Waddles swipe a machine from a man from the future that allows them to travel through time. Dipper wants to change his chances of impressing Wendy...but it seems that his desire to win his girl may cost his sister her beloved porcine pal.

"Summerween" also involves Dipper trying to impress Wendy. This time, he attempts to blow off Mabel's trick-or-treating for the town's mid-summer Halloween celebration in favor of a party Wendy is attending. He has second thoughts when a "Summerween Trickster" forces him, Mabel, her friends, and Soos to collect 500 pieces of candy or get eaten!

The obnoxious, bratty Gideon from the last collection reappears in "Little Dipper." Dipper is tired of being teased about his height. He finds a crystal in the woods and uses it to make him taller than Mabel. It's all well and fun until Gideon gets his hands on it. After Gideon shrinks them and Soos, they have to work together to stop Gideon from taking the Mystery Shack from Grunkle Stan.

The most creative episode was "Bottomless Pit." It was actually a mini-anthology of four short cartoons, told as stories when Grunkle Stan, Soos, and the twins fall into the afore-mentioned everlasting pit. Soos' story has him and the twins finding themselves inside a pinball machine that doesn't like how Soos cheated at it. Dipper's story is another variation on him trying to avoid being teased - here, he takes a liquid that makes his voice deeper, but unnatural for a 12-year-old. Mabel's story shows her giving Grunkle Stan a pair of teeth that make him tell the truth constantly. He almost gives away all his secrets - including tax fraud - before the twins get the teeth out. (Grunkle Stan's was basically a two-second short on how wonderful he thinks he is.)

Finished out the night with more traditional Disney. Mickey's Christmas Carol was an added attraction with a re-release of The Rescuers during the Christmas season of 1983. Mickey plays Bob Cratchit in this abbreviated retelling of the beloved holiday novella. Uncle Scrooge, of course, is Ebeneezer Scrooge, who learns an important lesson in charity from four strange ghosts (Goofy, Jiminy Cricket, Willie the Giant, and Big Pete) one Christmas Eve.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Scooby Doo and the Chilly Day Mysteries

Brrr! I awoke to 40-degree temperatures and lots of wind. Finished Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm while snuggled under the covers. Rebecca is similar to Emily of New Moon. Once again, a spirited young girl finds herself in the care of grouchy old maids and changes the lives of them and everyone around her. Rebecca is a lively chatterbox with a knack for getting into trouble. She's moved to a small New England town to live with her aunts and attend school. Her story is surprisingly fun and not nearly as sugary as its reputation would have it.

Ran the first Scooby Doo holiday special, "A Nutcracker Scoob," as I ate breakfast. This episode from the early 80s incarnation of the show has Fred joining Daphne, Scrappy, Shaggy, and Scooby, who are taking part in a small orphanage's Christmas show. A nasty old man threatens to throw the kids out, and Mystery Inc is determined to find out why. Meanwhile, the Ghost of Christmas Past arrives to scare the Dickens out of the entire group!

Continued with a couple of shorts while I cleaned up my breakfast and got ready for work. "Alaskan King Coward" has Shaggy and the dogs gold-mining in Alaska. They accidentally unthaw an ancient lizard while searching for gold. Shaggy and Scooby try to outrun him...but Scrappy wants to take on this scaly claim-jumper! Went to Popeye for "I-Ski-You-Ski." Popeye and Olive go mountain climbing in order to get to their skiing cabin. Bluto's determined to make stop them...and then to be the only one Olive goes skiing with!

Work was on-and-off busy all day. While the turkey coupon promotion is over, we still have turkeys on deep sales, including big Butterballs. Not to mention, there's all the people who got rain checks when we were out of turkeys. I was in express all day, which meant I had some crabby customers who wouldn't bag or were in a hurry. I also had lots of people paying with checks, despite the sign in front of the register clearly stating that the express line is check-free. Thankfully, they were able to call in a stock person for me, as my relief is one of the newly-hired college kids who has to work a few months before they can come in for someone.

I had a little grocery shopping to do after work. A 99 cent sale on Cool Whip inspired myself to grab a pie crust and dark chocolate mousse mix as well and make a pudding pie for dessert. Needed a major meat restock, too. Fortunately, Purdue was on a 40% off sale. I bought two containers of ground chicken and a package of chicken breasts. Got three more dollar fish packs for quick after-work meals. The other big thing I needed was cereal. I ran out this morning. I found the Acme generic Multi-Grain Cheerios for two dollars. The many baking sales yielded I Can't Believe It's Not Butter for $2.50.

My schedule for this week is a little better than last week's. Same amount of hours. That's not only disappointing for this time of year, it's impractical. Thanksgiving is two weeks from yesterday! Two weeks from the biggest food holiday of the year is a bad time to be cutting hours. Otherwise, my schedule is pretty decent. Two days off (Tuesday for counseling) and nothing earlier than 11:30 or later than 7.

When I got home, I had the last of the leftover turkey tenderloin with carrots, sweet potatoes, and Cranberry Flummery for dinner while watching Barbie In the Nutcracker. The first Barbie In/As special and the first of three Barbie holiday specials to date is Mattel's interpretation of the beloved ballet. Barbie tells the story of Clara, a young woman who is dying to show her grandfather and aunt how adult and responsible she can be. She gets her chance when she goes with the Nutcracker her aunt gave her to help her return to her original size and him return to his original form. Not a bad start to the Barbie series; the animation is stiff and waxy (and so's the Nutcracker), but the story is enjoyable and the dancing is lovely.

Finished out the night with more Scooby. "That's Snow Ghost" from the original show has Mystery Inc visiting a run-down ski resort that's being terrorized by what appears to be the ghost of the Abominable Snowman! An elderly Tibetan man thinks the ghost is after him, but the kids have a different idea about what the "Snow Ghost" is up to.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Winter's Comin'

It was cloudy, damp, and much cooler when I heard feet stomp onto my porch. Richard and his sons were going to clean the gutters and rake and sweep up all the leaves while Mother Nature was still cooperating. Fine by me. They needed to be done rather badly. The cleared some of the debris off the side of the porch being repaired, too.

I ignored them and had breakfast while watching two Thanksgiving specials. Garfield's Thanksgiving may not be much fun when Liz the Veterinarian puts him on a diet, and then Jon invites her to Thanksgiving dinner! The Peanuts learn about "The Mayflower Voyagers" when they play pilgrim children on the journey to the new world in the mini-series This Is America, Charlie Brown.

Dubbed The Pajama Game while sweeping out the two pantry shelves and under the sink where I keep pots and pans. Sid (John Raitt) is a new manager at the Sleep Tite Pajama Factory. He's not the nicest guy. When he shoves an obnoxious worker, the worker complains to grievance committee head Babe Williams (Doris Day). Sid's immediately interested. Babe isn't...not at first. Their budding romance is threatened by Babe's pushing for a seven and a half cent raise with the other workers at the factory. Meanwhile, secretary Gladys (Carol Haney) deals with her very jealous boyfriend Hines (Eddie Foy Jr.), who thinks she's after every guy in the factory.

It's too bad a lot of this comes off as thin and a bit dated today, because the songs are still fabulous. Stanley Donen directed this with George Abbot, which becomes obvious in big set pieces like "Once-A-Year-Day" that feel like numbers from Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. The ladies in particular shine. Day has a blast with Raitt on "There Once Was a Man" and gets a lovely reprise of "Hey There," while Haney shows off some early Bob Fosse choreography in "Steam Heat" and "Hernando's Hideaway." Mainly recommended for fans of the big Broadway musicals of the 50s and 60s or Day.

Returned to animation while making a quick spinach and egg "pancake" for lunch. The Leprechaun's Christmas Gold is one of the last and most unusual holiday specials made by Rankin-Bass. Art Carney narrates the tale of a young sailor who comes ashore to dig up a Christmas tree. He accidentally releases a banshee who wants the gold hidden by a little leprechaun, or she'll be turned into tears on Christmas Day. It'll take the revival of a troubled marriage to help the young man when he falls under the banshee's spell.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas is one of the most famous holiday specials ever made. The title character is determined to take the food and fun out of the Whos' holiday. The Whos turn out to be more resilient than anticipated, and they finally teach the grouchy Grinch a lesson about the real Christmas spirit.

Work was crazy through about 7:30-ish. Today is the last day for the turkey coupon. They were somehow out of the darn turkeys (again) and offered substitutes. A lot of people ended up standing around while customers and employees chased after the substitute turkeys...and even longer while we called a manager to get the turkeys off, since they hadn't been labeled properly. Thankfully, it was dead as a doornail by the time work ended. I was able to leave slightly early without a relief.

I quickly discovered why we died so fast when I got outside. It was raining and snowing at the same time, and coming down pretty good, too. It was too late to ask for a ride, so I just rode home and got wet.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Visiting With Dad

I was up really, really late last night. I had problems with Comcast, which is very rare. I think this marks only the fourth time Comcast has gone down while I was online at night. When I did get up, ran Care Bears The Nutcracker as I had cereal and half of a grapefruit for breakfast. The only holiday special for the late 80s version of the franchise has several bears and two Cousins trying to help a lonely little girl and her brother, who just wants adventure. The kid gets more than he bargained for when a nutcracker appears in his home, followed by The Rat King. The Rat King's boss, the Vizier, wants to take over all of Toyland...but not if the Care Bears and their new friends can stop him!

It was such a gorgeous day, I went for a walk after the Care Bears ended. Started at the Oaklyn Library. It was past 1 PM by the time I made it there. Needless to say, between the late hour (they close at 2) and the nice weather, it was pretty quiet there. I organized the DVDs, looked over the kids' books, and headed out after about a half-hour.

Continued to the House of Fun on the White Horse Pike to do some Christmas shopping. They're our local supplier of Sanrio items. I get most of my friend Amanda's Hello Kitty presents there. I looked over some things for Lauren as well, but I didn't know what she'd want and held off. It was surprisingly busy there, maybe because, for the first time since they moved into larger quarters a few years ago, all of their standing arcade machines were on and working. Someone was even playing Street Fighter Vs. Capcom while I was there.

I made a few other, shorter stops. I wasn't that hungry; just had a quick slice of mushroom pizza and a can of Diet Coke at Capitol Pizza. I ate outside. It was windy, but still warm for the time of year, probably in the mid-60s. I enjoyed watching the cars go by and just being able to walk around in only a sweater.

Family Dollar seems to be in the midst of a major reorganization project. They were even more of a mess than usual. I wanted to buy a broom from them, but I finally gave up trying to figure out where everything was. Had more luck at CVS, where I took advantage of sales and bought Crest ProHealth toothpaste and Secret deodorant.

Since I was in the neighborhood anyway, I dropped by Dad's house to say "hi." I haven't seen him in ages. He was relaxing at home, getting ready to clean his beloved red vintage Corvette and put it away for the season. We had a nice, long chat, for over an hour. He told me that Rose may not be having her Christmas party this year. I'm surprised. It seemed to go really well last year. I guess she just doesn't have the time with the law job anymore. He's upset that he's lost a couple of boat delivery jobs and may not be able to make the kind of money he usually does at this time of year.

I went straight home after talking to Dad. Dubbed the 1949 Little Women while making Turkey Stir Fry from vegetables and leftovers, along with more Cranberry Flummery. I have a soft spot for the first color version of the famous story of four very close sisters growing up during the Civil War. This was one of the first videos we ever bought for the whole family in the mid-80s, and for many years, it was "our" version of Little Women. I like the 1933 and 1994 versions as well, but nostalgia aside, this isn't bad. A blond Elizabeth Taylor makes an especially funny Amy; this is one of her better early performances.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Salute the Troops

First of all, I honor all the men and women who have served in our Armed Forces on this Veteran's Day. This includes my biological father Bruce (Vietnam), my late uncle Ken (World War II), and two who are currently serving in the Navy, my brother Keefe and my friend Jen Waters.

It was still sunny when I got up this morning, not to mention more humid and even warmer than yesterday. I celebrated nice weather and Veteran's Day by starting the day with the Donald Duck In the Army shorts. These cartoons were released from 1942 to 1944, when the US was in the thick of World War II. Donald became Disney's number one short subject star during this time. Like Woody, Daffy, and Bugs, his brash temper was more in tune with the spirit of the era than the toned-down one Mickey Mouse was using by then.

The series kicks off with "Donald Gets Drafted," which is what the title implies. Donald finds himself in the Army without a paddle, and with Sargent Pete yelling at him for being the smallest guy around. But what Don really wants to do is become a pilot. He does finally get in the air in "Sky Trooper," but he's shocked when he finds himself in the parachute brigade! He finds a way to get even with Pete in "The Vanishing Private." He discovers camouflage paint to use for a cannon, but ends up using it on himself when Pete thinks the cannon is missing.

Mickey didn't figure too much into World War II shorts, but he did make one war-oriented short early in his career. "The Barnyard Battle" pits skinny rubber-hose Mickey against a platoon of huge Hun cats! Scrappy Mickey figures out how to use farmyard items to make this a much fairer fight.

The Pink Panther was one of the few characters of the 60s to land in Vietnam in "G.I Pink." Cranky drill sergeants, crankier mascots, and land mine filled fields make him wish he'd just stayed home. His commanding officer gets so fed up, he sends him off to the Navy instead!

I hit the laundromat after Pink ended. Needless to say, it was busy on what is a holiday off for most people. I didn't mean to sound rude to the older lady who asked me how much the larger washers cost. I really don't know. I guess I emphasized this a bit too much. She got all offended. I don't mean to offend people. Thankfully, I had a very small load. I was in and out in less than an hour.

When I got home, I put away my clothes, then made a nice lunch of leftovers at home for once while continuing the war theme. The Three Stooges also saw their popularity rise during the violence-loving war years. They inadvertently round up a group of Nazi spies while fixing their doorbell in "They Stooge to Conga." They're "Back to the Front" when they find themselves stranded on a Nazi war ship and have to don creative disguises to save their hides. They go "Higher Than a Kite" when they escape an irate officer in a missile and end up capturing the enemy. A trio of "Dizzy Pilots" want to create a home-made plane that'll keep them from getting drafted. They have more luck getting Moe in the air than the plane.

I headed back out after lunch to do chores and errands. First up was sweeping the porch. It had clouded over by that time, though it remained warm. The wind picked up, too. For every pile of leaves I swept, another seemed to quickly replace it. I finally gave up and went downstairs.

I was originally going to rake the side path today, but I couldn't find the old rake. My neighbor's son was working on fixing the path leading to the front apartment. He said it was broken, so he got rid of it. Great! That rake should have been tossed years ago. However, he hadn't replaced it, and couldn't find a rake at his parents' house. I finally gave up waiting, decided I'd rake tomorrow, and headed out.

I wanted to go to Rite Aid yesterday, but I ran out of time. I mostly just needed shaving lotion. I also started my Christmas shopping. Grabbed presents for my friends Lauren and Amanda. Lauren's big present this year will be cookies. She'll only be getting a few small items. Amanda, however, isn't really into food. I'll be looking for more for her.

I stopped at WaWa on the way home. I was out of skim milk. I picked up a pretzel and one of those tasty Sparkling Ice sparkling waters (Black Raspberry) as a snack while I was there.

When I got home, I made Ginger Cookies while running Clipped Wings. The fourth and final Bowery Boys Armed Services-themed comedy puts Sach and Slip in the Air Force, this time without the aid of their usual crew. They were originally there to help a friend out of jail. One wrong turn later, and they find themselves signed up as recruits. While Slip cleans his way through the barracks, Sach somehow finds himself assigned to the women's quarters and drives his female sergeant crazy. When their friend is captured by spies, they go after him in a plane that they can't seem to control.

Made baked salmon with roasted Brussels sprouts for dinner while watching The Corsican Brothers. This 1941 adaptation of the Alexandre Dumas book tells the story of two Siamese twin brothers (both played by Douglas Fairbanks Sr.) who are separated at birth when their parents are killed by an evil baron who wants to rule Corsica. Mario is taken to Paris, where he becomes a dandy. Lucian remains in Corsica and becomes a rough-riding bandit...but he has visions of a young man in splendid surroundings who looks just like him. When the brothers finally meet each other, Mario joins Lucien as a bandit to avenge their parents and restore their family name. They start to question their vows when they fall for a beautiful countess (Ruth Warrick) whom the Baron wants for his bride.

Pretty standard stuff with surprisingly well-done special effects for 1941 - you really do believe Fairbanks is two different men who share a psychic bond. Fairbanks has a blast with the derring-do, especially as the somewhat foppish Mario. Most copies currently available (including the one I dubbed) have been colorized, but that actually works pretty well with the story. Recommended if you can find it for fans of swashbucklers and old-fashioned action.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Golden Autumn

I couldn't believe how gorgeous it was when I got up this morning. The sun filtered through the bright yellow leaves on the trees outside my apartment, giving my whole bedroom a golden glow. I started Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, then had Cranberry-Chocolate Chip Muffins and a grapefruit half for a very late breakfast.

Ran more wartime shorts while I ate. Walter Lantz and his studio at Universal only dealt sporadically with war-related matters. Woody Woodpecker's only military short was "Ace In the Hole." Woody wants to join the Air Force and become a pilot, but his commanding officer would rather have him shave horses. He's less than thrilled when Woody does finally make it into the air!

Some Lantz one-off characters had more luck in the military. "$21 A Day (Once a Month)" and "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B" depict the pre-war draft; both were released a few months before the US entered the fray. "$21 A Day" features Woody and Andy Panda in cameos. "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" tells how a Chicago musician was drafted and gets his camp moving with his hot reveille. While it's marred by heavy African-American stereotypes, it is one of the few cartoons of the 40s to show minorities in the military.

"Pigeon Patrol" is a more typical wartime tale. Homer Pigeon is a country bumpkin who wants to join the carrier pigeon squadron. He wants to impress his girlfriend, but is literally deflated when they reject him. He gets his chance when he delivers secret papers for a downed squadron member, dodging a nasty (and caricatured) Japanese vulture.

I heard a knock on the door as I got organized to head out. It turned out to be a middle-aged gentleman in a sweater. He said he was one of my neighbors' sons, the one who intends to move downstairs next year. He wanted to do some measuring in and around my apartment.

He gave me a long list of things downstairs and up here that have be replaced or fixed before anyone can move anywhere, starting with the porch. I told him about the mice and showed him the broken window in my bedroom and the mailbox that's been falling apart for years. He said in addition to the porch, I'll be getting new kitchen cabinets, a new counter, a new toilet, and a new front door. The windows will be replaced. The kitchen will be rearranged to give me slightly more room. The roof will be repaired next summer. The area over the front door will be raised so tall people don't bang their heads on the frame when they enter anymore.

Along with fixing the porch and clearing out the mice, the other big thing to be concentrated on right now is the plumbing. It's old and clogged with river gunk. I've had problems with it running slow for years. That toilet is a pain, too. You have to hold down the handle to keep it from making noise. I'm so glad they're finally doing all this. It's needed to be done for years, but I never had the heart to push Miss Ellie (and I suspected she didn't have the money).

I finally headed out around 12:30. It was an absolutely glorious day for a ride in Newton Lake Park. There were tons of parents with strollers, people out for a walk, and Canadian geese basking in the glory of autumn in South Jersey. The trees are at their peak now, dripping rivers of scarlet, sienna, umber, gold, and pale green. The day was warm and bright, probably in the lower 60s, with no wind and not a cloud in the soft blue sky.

Given the beautiful day, I wasn't surprised that it was dead when I arrived at the Haddon Township Library. There wasn't really much to shelve. I worked on organizing the kids' movies and continued with the romance novels. I did from H through L and finished out the first set of revolving shelves. I'll start the second set next week.

I didn't take out anything live action this week. I still have 9 videos to dub here, plus more wartime shorts I want to watch for Veteran's Day. I did find a few animated sets. The newest collections for Strawberry Shortcake and Gravity Falls had arrived. I also renewed Rio 2, which I never got to last week.

I had a very late lunch at Friendly's. Though there was only a couple of secretaries enjoying a leisurely late lunch when I arrived, more people came as I ate my Turkey Cranberry SuperMelt and French fries. It was basically the same thing as "The Gobbler" hoagie from WaWa, only with melted cheese, real turkey instead of sliced deli turkey, and surprisingly less stuffing. I complimented the nice day and the fall meal with a scoop of Apple Pie ice cream.

After lunch, I made a quick stop at Dollar Tree. I was mainly there to buy a birthday card for my sister Anny, whose big day was today. I also ended up with bags of Christmas cookie containers (I give away a lot - I like to keep well-stocked), a Dora the Explorer calender (I like colorful character calenders to brighten my bedroom), and a box for cookies being shipped out of town.

I went home this time, dodging rush hour traffic on the White Horse Pike. After I got in, I put everything away, signed Anny's card, then went right back out. It was too nice to be inside for long. Though it had gotten a bit chillier by 4:30, the weather otherwise remained stunning. A few people still had Halloween decorations outside, but most had replaced ghouls and witches with leaf garlands and friendly scarecrows. Banners represented the Eagles, Thanksgiving, or saluted our troops. There was a lovely sunset at the landing on the end of Goff Avenue, all orange sherbet and soft molten pink.

When I got in, I switched to Popeye shorts while making Banana Honey Muffins from The Pooh Cook Book Blueberry Muffins recipe. Replaced the white sugar with brown sugar and the blueberries with mashed bananas and added nutmeg and cinnamon. Oh, yum. Moist and flavorful and just sweet enough.

Like the Walter Lantz characters, the Fleischer Brothers put Popeye in the war several months before America actually entered, in "The Mighty Navy." "Fleets of Strength" was more typical. Popeye gets into trouble with the commander on his ship before he finally gets a chance to take down the enemy.

If he wasn't fighting the Japanese, he was fighting Bluto for Olive's hand. Popeye's "Kicking the Conga Around" in order to impress the lovely Senorita Olive with the then-popular dance. The two discover that "Olive Oyl and Water Don't Mix" when Olive's visit to their ship leaves them with that sinking feeling.

Three of my favorite wartime shorts featured Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck. Bugs becomes "Super Rabbit" in order to stop a cowboy and his horse from harming all bunnies. When the going gets tough, he turns into a real superhero...a Marines officer. Daffy, on the other hand, would rather avoid that persistent "Little Man From the Draft Board" in "Draftee Daffy." And for once, Bugs goes around with an antagonist who gives as good as they get, a little gremlin who is sabotaging planes, in "Falling Hare."

Moved to Strawberry Shortcake while making a spinach-mushroom omelet for a quick dinner. Once again, the girls have to help each other to make a building in a short time. Here, it's a new marketplace for the Berrykins' increased harvest. In the first story, Orange Blossom wants to prove she can handle the enormous amounts of fruits and vegetables sent to her store alone. The massive harvest proves to be more than even the most organized girl in Berry Bitty City can deal with, prompting the creation of the marketplace.

In the second, while the head Berrykin tries to figure out how to store his harvest during the building of the marketplace, the girls try to surprise Strawberry by building her the apartment of her dreams upstairs. Trouble is, they ignore her ideas in favor of what they want, and Strawberry doesn't have the heart to correct them. She finally gets the nerve to explain that, though she appreciates their help, they should have discussed any changes or suggestions with her first.

The third story is completely different. The girls are joined by Cherry Jam to rehearse their band for a local gig. They're thrilled when Cherry Jam gets them a booking at the opening for the athletic games in Berry Big City! Orange Blossom is nervous. She's never been away from  home for more than a few days before. While the Berrykins try to figure out how to run Berry Bitty City in the girls' absence, Orange Blossom finds reasons to stay. Strawberry and Cherry finally remind her that, even though she's leaving, she'll be back...and she has a huge adventure to look forward to.

Oh, and the Eagles played the Carolina Panthers on Monday Night Football this week. They dominated the Panthers up through the 4th quarter. They faltered a bit then, but still went on to win 45-21. Replacement quarterback Mark Sanchez had a big game, and rookie Jason Matthews is starting to look like a real find.