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 back...to 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.

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