Saturday, February 28, 2015

May the Farce Be With You

Started another sunny-but-cold day with "A Quack In the Quarks," the spoof of Star Wars from the early first season of Tiny Toon Adventures. Plucky brags to a pair of odd duck exchange students about his non-existent athletic and academic capabilities. He regrets his noisy boasting when the students turn out to be from another galaxy. They want Plucky to save their planet from the evil Duck Vader! Buster, Babs, and Hampton see him being duck-napped and go after him.

I did a homework assignment when I finished breakfast. Our first actual writing assignment to be turned in for the creativity course was to describe a color. I chose my very favorite color - orange-red, the color of the beautiful sunsets I see out my window and on bike rides every evening. We were supposed to use a thesaurus at least 10 times. I hope mine was ok - this wasn't easy. Even with a thesaurus, I had a hard time coming up with ideas that didn't sound too cliche.

Work was a lot busier than yesterday! Tomorrow is the beginning of the month. We're also supposed to get a lot of bad weather next week, starting tomorrow afternoon. For the most part, the weather is supposed to bring warm temperatures, rain, and a little snow. Between the weather and the beginning of the month people, a lot of folks were cranky, obnoxious, and just plain rude. One woman fussed because she didn't want her sponges touching anything, since they touch her skin (um...they can be washed) and gave me a hard time over the prices of said sponges. She held up a long line over nothing; a lot of the customers behind her said she was rude, too. I didn't have a relief, either. I had to shut down with another very long line and got out just on time.

After I made it home, I spend the rest of the afternoon cleaning. I made the bed, so I could vacuum under it. I shook out the rag rug in my bedroom and the strawberry-print welcome mat in the kitchen. I vacuumed the entire apartment, getting up as many of the little white ice melting pellets as I could. They were mostly around the entrance in the kitchen, but I found them as far back as my bedroom. Unloaded the full vacuum canister as well.

I ran the Phineas & Ferb Star Wars special as I worked on my chores, and later while having leftovers for dinner. Even Disney realized that they'd never get away with bringing the Star Wars characters to Phineas and Ferb's wacky world, as they did with the Marvel superhero they brought Phineas and Ferb Fletcher and their crazy cast to the Star Wars universe. Sort of.

The story runs parallel to Star Wars: A New Hope. Phineas and Ferb are now kids on Tatoonie who find the plans for the Death Star and follow Luke Skywalker in the hope of bringing them to him, then to Obi-Wan. Isabella is the miniature Han Solo, the grouchy little girl smuggler who learns a lot about the importance of friendship and teamwork. Perry the Platypus is a Rebel agent. Candace, Buford, and Bajeel are extremely incompetent stormtroopers. And yes, Doofensmirtz is one of the least-likely Darth Vaders in the history of television.

Most of the other episodes were either spoofs like the Star Wars special, or revolved around a holiday. "Happy New Year!" has the younger kids celebrating with a party in a giant revolving disco ball. Meanwhile, Candace is trying to renounce telling on her brothers, but it isn't working well. Doofensmirtz wants to invent a ray to make everyone say their resolution is to make him leader...but you know how resolutions go...

"Tri-State Tales of Terror" is a genuinely spooky anthology of horror-based stories. Candace's is the scariest. The full moon makes her stuffed duck come to life and turn evil...or does he? Phineas and Ferb don't have an easier time when a grape stain on Perry suddenly creates insane purple platypus clones. Doofensmirtz learns to be careful what you wish for when a giant baby head gives him three wishes...and as usual, he muffs them all.

Poor Doof can't even teach right. "Doof 101" makes him teacher for his daughter Vanessa's chemistry class. She's not what you would call happy to see her crazy dad there. She's even less so when Doof's lesson on genes accidentally turns her ex-boyfriend into a mutating lizard-gorilla-thing and institutes a wild chase all over town.

"Steampunx" has fun with the recent popularity of steampunk and alternative universe histories. Mr. Fletcher finds a coin made during their town's World Fair in the early 1900's. He tells the boys the story of how a group of farm kids (Phineas and Ferb and their usual crew), inspired by the Fair, created a crazy steam machine to do their chores. This upsets their sister (Candace), who's been doing her chores the old-fashioned way and not getting nearly as far. Their pet swan finally uses the machine to fight his silent-movie-style adversary Von Doofensmirtz.

I finished the night with a short but much-needed bath. Ahhh. I felt nice and peaceful, laying back and reading The Happy Introvert from the Haddon Township Library. I also got cold fairly quickly. It may be just too chilly for a bath. I wasn't even in the full hour.

Friday, February 27, 2015

The Knight Will Rock You

Started a sunny, chilly day at work. Work was really quiet and rather boring for most of the day. It only got even mildly busy at the beginning and end of my shift, during the lunch and dinner rush hours. Otherwise, I stood around a lot. This time, my relief was late, and I just barely got out on time.

Picked up my schedule during my break. Thankfully, it's much better and closer to normal for this time of year than it was last week. I still have Monday and Tuesday off (Tuesday for counseling). Later days on Sunday and Wednesday will give me a chance to get some errands and volunteering done. One early day on Thursday is my only concern.

I had a really big grocery order this week. I really needed to restock fruit and vegetables. Their packaged, sliced Brussels sprouts were buy one, get one. I was out of grapefruit and only had one apple left. Small bags of clementines were $1.99; thought I'd try those instead of bananas this week. Had a lot of baking items and canned goods to restock as well - jam (Dicknson's was on sale - went with Apricot Preserves), mandarin oranges, chocolate chips, baking cocoa, vanilla extract, brown sugar, chicken soup. Grabbed Greek yogurt and buttermilk for baking. I just ran out of the dollar bubble bath the other day. I got a coupon for a free container of Johnsonville Bratwurst from the Acme's Monopoly game. I picked Beef Bratwurst. Anything made from pork would probably mess with my stomach.

When I got home, I had beef bratwurst with spicy mustard, roasted Brussels sprouts, and a clementine for dinner while watching A Knight's Tale. William Thacker (Heath Ledger) badly wants to become the greatest knight ever in England. The main problem is, he's a peasant. Jousting tournaments are for the nobility only. He and two friends finally lie their way into a tournament and, after winning, train even more vigorously to become knights. William picks up several more members of his group along the way, including a female blacksmith and Geofrey Chaucer, a writer who can announce a knight like no one's business and has the bad habit of gambling away his clothes. Things get hairy when Will falls for the beautiful Jocelyn. The nasty knight who wants her hand in marriage doesn't like losing to William. He's determined to prove that his rival is a fake. William, however, has a powerful who'll step up to the plate when it seems all England is against the peasant knight.

This was one of my brother Keefe's favorite movies in the early 2000's, and Mom liked it, too. It's a medieval spoof of every sports cliche in the book...with a mainly 70's-80's soundtrack. If nothing else, I appreciate that the 70's soundtrack made Keefe a fan of Queen for life. (He was shocked when I told him that Queen has been around since at least 1975.) Paul Bettany is the standout as the hilarious Chaucer (yes, the Canterbury Tales Chaucer), who makes professional wrestling announcers sound boring. Worth a look for fans of Ledger or action movies.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Super Princesses

Started a sunny morning with the rest of Sofia the First. Sofia's magical amulet that allows her to talk to animals figures in to two more stories on the set. In "The Amulet of Avalor," Sofia's amulet, along with several other golden or shiny objects in the castle, go missing right before a ball. Sofia has to find it without the help of her animal friends, who can't communicate with her. Amber is "Princess Butterfly" when she asks Cedric for help in making an All Hallow's Eve costume. As usual, Cedric's spell backfires, turning Amber into a real butterfly. Amber thinks that she needs Sofia's amulet to make things right.

My favorite episode was "The Emerald Key," a version of The Princess and the Pea. Two bedraggled princesses from a Hawaiian-style country appear at the castle doorstep on the same rainy night. Both are looking for the Emerald Key, which will allow them to return to their island home. One wears a simple flower crown and dances the hula, which looks strange to the royal family....but she's kind and sweet and well-mannered. The other may dress well and dance a European-style waltz, but she's also rude and boorish. King Roland gives the two girls a Princess Test to try to figure out which one is the real princess.

Moved on to 80's music as I cleaned the bathroom. It needed to be done. I've put it off for the last few days. It was getting fairly bad. I need to buy Drano again tomorrow. For some reason, the sink in the bathroom always has problems with running slow.

I had a quick lunch, then headed off to work. I got there on time; I could have been infinitely late. No wonder my hours this week were so bad. We were pin-drop quiet for most of the afternoon. The lines got a little long twice, but nothing abnormal. We had more problems with cranky customers and being out of plastic bags again for the third time in less than a month than with lines. My relief was right on time, and I was in and out.

When I got home, I made Banana-Chocolate Chip Muffins while watching Superman III. The Man of Steel (Christopher Reeve) heads to Smallville for a class reunion and to reconnect with sweet Lana Lang (Annette O'Toole), whom he had a crush on in high school. There's bigger problems out there than his love life, though. A computer genius (Richard Pryor) comes up with a way to swindle the data processing company he's working for out of thousands of dollars. The company's owner (Robert Vaughn) hires him to use his computer skills to first allow him to dominate the coffee crop, then the oil industry. He also has him bring out a synthetic Kryptonite that twists Superman's powers until they're dark and angry. While Superman fights a battle with himself, the computer hacker comes up with an amazing computer that can do anything...including take on Superman himself.

I've always had a soft spot for this one. It used to run on cable a lot during the mid-late 80's. Too bad that Prior's comic relief clashes rather badly with the epic tone, and that the plot is too bizarre, even for a comic book-based movie. Reeve and O'Toole do what they can with the strange material; O'Toole in particular is nice as the down-home country girl who is beginning to wonder if there might be something better out there for her. It's worth seeing for Reeves' incredibly intense fight with himself when he's trying to get the dark Kryptonite out.

Although I get a kick out of it, this is really only for major Superman fans or comic book fans. All others will want to stick to the first two Reeve movies or the more recent Man of Steel.

I finished the night with Chicken with Lemon and Orzo soup and more Superman. Paramount put out a series of cartoons in the early 40's, when Superman's initial popularity was at its height. These were the first real action cartoons, with lush animation and surprisingly dark characterization. "The Arctic Giant" introduces a giant dinosaur that threatens a city a decade before Godzilla took a bite out of Tokyo. "The Mad Scientist" introduces Superman and Lois in a fairly simple story about the afore-mentioned scientist and his destruction-creating ray. Superman has to stop the "Billion Dollar Limited" before the train and its cargo of gold runs off the rails.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

A Little Bit of Spring

I didn't get going today until almost 1 PM! Not a good thing, since there was a lot I wanted to do today. I started at the Oaklyn Library. They close at 2. There were a few people on the computer, but it was otherwise just me, the librarian, and CNN. I organized the kids' and adults' DVDs, along with the kids' board books and series books. I was out in less than a half-hour.

My next stop was Studio LuLoo's. They didn't have much going on, either. I tidied up the playroom, folded "I Like NJ" t-shirts, and washed a far smaller load of dishes than last week. I also got to meet the fairly young owner and her adorable toddler son Marvin, who came in toting a teddy bear almost bigger than him.

I bought Valentine's Day cards for Rose and her family and Dad and Jodie and a birthday card for Jessa a few weeks ago. I meant to deliver them on Valentine's Day, but that day got so crazy, I never got around to it. The driveway at Rose's house was empty; I settled for dropping their card in her mailbox.

Dad and Jodie were at home when I arrived. I was surprised to see Jodie. Turns out she quit her job. Her boss wasn't paying the regular employees and hadn't in months. They were only paying Jodie because she was hired through an agency, but they'd apparently cut her hours. Maybe it's just as well. Dad was feeling even worse. He just had surgery and could barely move or talk. I gave them their card and dropped Jessa's on her desk. Gave Dad a hug before moving on.

There was another box waiting for me when I got home. I decided to buy two more Ever After High dolls while I still had Amazon Prime. Dexter Charming was almost sold out at Amazon; Duchess Swan was a better price than she had been. Dexter is the sweet, geeky younger brother of Daring Charming who feels like he can't compete with his more "perfect" brother. Duchess Swan is the daughter of the Swan Queen in "Swan Lake." She knows her story has a tragic ending and would do anything to change it...including taking over other characters' stories.

Dexter came with almost as much goop on his hair as Poppy. Duchess only had a little on her ends. I washed both of them. Duchess shed like crazy! Not even Briar was as bad. After I finished, I took more pictures of Duchess posed to dance, Dexter alone, Dexter with his crush Raven Queen, and Dexter with my Effanbee Musketeer doll D'Artangan.

Here's the pictures from today and yesterday:

Ever After High Portraits

Watched quite a bit of Disney today, starting with Jake and the Neverland Pirates. John, Michael, Wendy, and Nana the Dog make their first appearances on the show in "Battle of the Book." Hook steals the book of the stories Wendy wrote so they could remember their adventures in the movie. Without the book, the kids (and Hook and his crew) can't remember Peter or Neverland! They have to go chasing after the book itself, then the pages of the book. When they realize the first page of the story is missing, they realize how important memory is, and how powerful a story can be. (And I loved how John seemed to have a little bit of a crush on Izzy - too cute.)

My other favorite episode also dealt with storytelling. "Pirate Genie Tales" is a bit of an oddity in this series. A pirate genie who seems to be friends with the kids tells them two Neverland versions of famous 1001 Arabian Knights stories. Cubby is Sing-Bad, a little fellow who is incredibly strong but can't carry a tune to save his life. He has to learn how to sing in a hurry when he needs to perform to unlock the cupboard that holds the magic that could save his friends. Scully the Parrot is Ali Baba, who learns a lesson about stealing and telling the truth when he snitches a pearl from a cave that belongs to a band of thieves to feed his starving friends. The thieves figure out who stole from him and come after him.

After Jake ended, I did some classwork online. Today's lesson mainly dealt with finding a comfortable office and a place where you can work. That's one thing I don't have any problem with. I do the majority of my work in my bedroom. My desk is right next to a window with a stunning view of the river and the park next-door. It's quiet here. Even when there's noisy parties at the VFW, I usually can't hear them.

The assignment is to find the Writer's Market and look up words and phrases associated with writing and publishing. Darn. I wasn't going to go back to either library this week. Maybe I could find them online.

Went for a short walk after I got offline. It was a gorgeous day today. Not only was it bright and sunny, with a nice, warm sun, but it got into the mid-30s for the first time in ages. It was still relatively warm when I headed out. I could hear a man and his children playing with their dog in the park. I went down to the landing on Goff Avenue. It was really gorgeous, with the rosy sunset sparkling on the frozen lake and the lights on the Ben Franklin Bridge just coming to life.

Switched to Sofia the First as I made leftovers for dinner. "The Curse of Princess Ivy" introduces the nastiest villain in this series yet. The title character is a jealous sorceress whose older sister inherited the kingdom, leaving her with nothing. When Amber steals Sofia's magical amulet and tries to call a princess with it, she ends up with manipulative Ivy. Ivy doesn't care about Amber. What she really wants is to steal all the color from the kingdom and take it over! The two girls have to first stop Ivy from destroying Sofia's amulet, then rescue their family and the entire kingdom before Ivy removes their memories all together. They get help from some friendly dragons and Rapunzel, who reminds Sofia that people can surprise you with their ability to sacrifice for others...even handsome, roguish thieves and slightly stuck-up big sisters.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

A Day With the Dolls

Started out the morning with oat bran and a half of a grapefruit for breakfast. Ran A Night at the Opera while I ate. The Marx Brothers' most famous film has the trio coming to the aid of a pair of lovers, looking for their big break. Mrs. Claypool (Margaret Dumont) wants to hire Lasparri (Walter Woolf King), a fine singer, but also a temperamental jerk who chases the female singer, for her opera company. Groucho tries to hire him, but ends up with Riccardo (Allan Jones), an ambitious chorus member. Riccardo and two of the opera employees (Harpo and Chico) smuggle themselves into the US in Groucho's trunk. Lasparri gets them all into trouble when he finds out. The Brothers finally break into the opera itself, determined to stop it at all costs and get the lovers in.

The most famous Marx Brothers movie (along with Duck Soup) is my personal favorite. The stateroom sequence, with as many people as possible cramming themselves into Groucho's tiny berth, is my favorite scene. Highly recommended and a lot of fun.

Took some photos of the Ever After High dolls as the movie finished. I love my portraits and photo stories for my American Girl dolls. I haven't come up with a story yet; for now, I went with individual shots, along with one of my three Cinderella dolls (Ashlynn, the Disney Animator's Collection Toddler Cindy, and the Effanbee Cinderella) together. I'll post them tomorrow after I get shots of Dexter Charming and Duchess Swan.

I headed out for some short errands around 12:30. My first stop was Capitol Pizza for lunch. I watched the news (including the scary breaking story about the gas explosion that totally destroyed a house in Stafford Township) while eating a slice of cheese, a slice of broccoli, and a can of Diet Pepsi.

My next errands were brief. I hit Dollar Tree for sponges and scrubbing gel. Looked for Ever After High dolls at Tuesday Morning. Nope. In addition to what they had last week, I saw Thronecoming Apple, Legacy Day Raven, and Getting Fairest (pajamas) Maddie in person for the first time. Still nothing I didn't already have at least one version of.

The Haddon Township Library wasn't busy, either. I didn't even have that much to shelve. I guess a lot of people took movies out this week. I only had a hard time fitting a small pile of Scooby Doo titles on the S kids' shelves and some M and T titles on the adult shelves. I wasn't there anywhere near as long as I was last week. I didn't take out any live-action movies (I'm still catching up on ones at home I haven't watched), but I did find new sets for Sofia the First, The Cat In the Hat Knows A Lot About That, and Jake and the Never Land Pirates, plus a Phineas and Ferb Star Wars spoof.

Despite the sunny day and lack of wind, it was still really cold, no more than 25 for the high. I spent most of the rest of the afternoon at home. I decided I'd try a variation on the Cranberry White Chocolate Chip Cookies on the back of the Craisins bag. It became Cranberry Springtime Chocolate Chip Cookies with the addition of a cup of wheat flour with the original white flour and half a bag of those Nestle Springtime Chocolate Chips I bought a while back. Not bad. They were just sweet enough, and the dried cranberries added an unusual tang to them.

Ran The Cat In the Hat Knows A Lot About That as I baked. This set, The Skin That I'm In, revolved around the human body and what it does. All but the last episode featured a goofy physician named Dr. Giggles, who sent the kids and the Cat on a voyage into the bones, the skin, or the stomach to find out what those parts of the body do. The last episode was my favorite, mainly because it covered sneezing and allergies - something I'm prone to. Nick can't stop sneezing, so the Cat takes him to visit a detective friend of his who is also having sneezing attacks. They take the Thing-A-Ma-Jigger into his nose to find out what the problem is.

Moved onto another MacDonald/Eddy movie while making poached chicken legs with escarole and potatoes for dinner. Bitter Sweet was their second movie in color, and their second romance to end in tragedy. Carl Linden (Eddy) falls for sweet, naive British girl Sarah (MacDonald) and elopes with her to his native Vienna. They're happy there for a time, despite their poverty...until they get jobs working at a cafe frequented by an amorous baron (George Saunders). The Baron chases Sarah, but she refuses him. It's Carl, however, who may not survive his attempt to defend his wife's honor...

Basically, it's Maytime moved to the early 20th century, with the leads married for most of the film instead of having one blissful day together. It doesn't work. MacDonald and Eddy were both far too old for their roles by this point, and some of the score's best numbers were cut. It's original author, Noel Coward, reportedly hated it, and MacDonald and Eddy weren't overly happy either.

There are some nice comic touches, especially the hilarious scene where poor Eddy has to haul his new bride up several very steep sets up stairs and into an empty threshold. Otherwise, though this is available on the Warner Archives, I only recommend it for fans of these two, Coward, or musical romances.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Winter Adventures

It was cloudy and cold when I awoke this morning. I ran a few snow-themed Sailor Moon episodes from the first season to combat the gloom. Serena and Raye are feeling those "Ski Bunny Blues" when they compete in a skiing contest that turns out to be a Negaverse plot. Lita thinks she's a real "Ice Princess" when a handsome professional figure skater performs with her. His jealous partner is definitely seeing red...and so is the Negaverse, who is controlling the two skaters.

Rushed out to get the laundry done around 10:30. It was cold and windy, though not quite as bitterly cold as last week. That could be why the laundromat was fairly busy. I just got one of the last washers. Thankfully, I didn't have as much problem with the dryers. I read An Artist's Way and listened to Let's Make a Deal and The Price Is Right. I was glad I didn't have a big load. I was out in less than an hour.

I put everything away as soon as I got in, then went right back out. I wanted to explore the Cherry Hill Mall area further. I was tired of the cold and tired of sitting inside. I had to get out and do something. Even with stopping at WaWa for a Mocha Mint cappuccino and a soft pretzel, I still made it to the bus stop on Cuthbert Road in more than enough time to pick up the bus to the mall.

This time, when I arrived at the Mall, other than a peek at Fashion To Figure and a quick bathroom break, I went straight to the other side of the mall. When I was looking at Google Maps last night, I noticed a gray area over Kaighn Avenue. I thought there might have been a crosswalk or a pedestrian bridge there...and I was right. I made my way out to Nordstrom's and Restaurant Row (after a wrong turn or two), and sure enough, there was a pedestrian bridge leading from the sidewalk across from the Mall to the Hillview Shopping Center across the highway.

Getting to the bridge wasn't a problem. Getting up the bridge...was another story. The steps were steep and a little icy. The bridge itself was fine. In fact, it had amazing views of the highway and the Mall area. By that point, the sun was long out, and the day had become bright and breezy. The ramp going down from the bridge was a treacherous, icy mess. I tread very carefully as I picked my way around the ice and over the piles of snow by the curb.

I finally made my way to the Silver Diner, a tiny restaurant perched on the edge of the hill. They were a nifty little 50's-style eatery, complete with working jukeboxes at each dark wood booth. The food was more gourmet, boasting that everything was fresh and locally-sourced. I had a delicious Tomato-Mozzarella Sandwich with huge slices of fresh mozzarella that kept sliding off the bun, a Caesar side salad, and a huge mug of hot chocolate topped with real whipped cream and chocolate syrup. I enjoyed my meal while admiring the view of the Mall and the surrounding area.

The Hillview Shopping Center consists of a Kohl's, a PetSmart, a Babies R Us, and a furniture store. There's also a freestanding Sports Authority, Target, and a huge movie theater. (I believe the Lowes Cherry Hill 24 is my stepsister Jessa and her boyfriend Joe's regular theater.) I was mainly in Kohl's and Target. Kohl's is pretty much the same thing as Boscov's, a department store that carries a little bit more than Macy's or Sears. They still have a small electronics section and a housewares section. (No candy, though, and their toy section is much smaller than Boscov's.) Alas, I didn't see anything in their women's clothes section I wanted. I'm still looking for a good winter skirt and winter blouse.

Went to Target next. They're not quite as big as the one in Deptford, but I made a discovery that was just as good. They had the two-pack of the Ever After High dolls Poppy and Holly O'Hair in their original book-style packaging. (All of the basic and Hat-Tastic dolls are apparently being re-released in slimmer, less elaborate packaging.) The woman at the checkout counter couldn't get a price for them. The managers couldn't find the price, either. The old packaging must not have been in their system anymore. I ended up with both dolls for $10.48, a steal considering the cheapest I've seen Ever After High dolls before this is $10 for one basic doll on Amazon.

The Cherry Hill Target has a much smaller seasonal section than the Deptford Target. I did manage to find the fruit-themed Pillsbury cake mixes from last year. Went with Orangecicle this time. Picked up some spring-themed muffin cups as well.

When I was looking out over the hill at the Silver Diner, I saw another, smaller shopping center with a shamrock-green roof next-door to the Cherry Hill Mall. I thought I'd try them next. I headed back over the bridge, dodging the ice again, then walked along the sidewalk as far as I could. Alas, the shopping center proved to be a bust. It looked 70's vintage, newer than the early 60's-era Cherry Hill Mall, but older than the recent Hillview. All that was there was a Raymore and Flannigan's furniture store, LA Fitness, a musical instrument shop, a Chinese buffet, and a beauty school. A label scar on one more modern-looking end indicated that the largest building had been a Bottom Dollar, but when they bottomed out, so did the store.

Seeing nothing there, I hiked quickly back to the Cherry Hill Mall. It was getting late, I was getting tired, and I had to use the restroom. I did browse in the Disney Store, Layne Bryant, and Fashion To Figure, but found nothing anywhere other than some cute new mini-dolls for the Animator's Collection Toddlers line. I just bought dolls. I bought a sweet tea from Aunt Annie's instead and rested on a bench while enjoying my drink.

Thankfully, the bus was right on time. There was no really major traffic, and I got to enjoy the amazing view of a frozen solid Cooper River under a half-clouded-over orange sunset. As soon as I got off, I went straight home. It was almost dark, and while the sun from earlier had gotten rid of some ice, it was still pretty slippery. It was no night for lingering outside.

After I got in and took my overflowing paper recycling canister out to the curb, I pulled Poppy and Holly out of their box. Poppy and Holly O'Hair are the twin daughters of Rapunzel. Holly is the more romantic and girly twin, a fairy tale fan who is dying to be the next Rapunzel and wants to write stories about all her friends while she's in the famous tower. Poppy, on the other hand, has no destiny or story she's supposed to be in, and she's perfectly fine with it. She prefers creating edgy and unusual hair styles for herself and all her friends.

Oddly enough, I had fewer problems with getting Holly and her amazingly long hair out of the box than Poppy and her short bob. Holly's orangy-red hair is definitely Rapunzel-worthy, long and thick and down to her knees. Thank heavens it doesn't seem to shed. I had no problems brushing it at all. Holly comes with a flower tiara, a flower necklace that keeps getting twisted under her hair, and a tower-shaped ring. Her dress is a pretty lilac floral print and very feminine.

Poppy goes for the tough-edgy modern working woman look. She has a plastic "hair tie" in her plastered-down bob. Her hair is half-lilac, half-orange-red. Frankly, it was a little too plastered down. It was stiff as heck and looked worse than Hunter's did. I washed it immediately...and had to do it twice, because it was still bad after the first time. Poppy's tighter dress has a braid-and-scissors print, and she has these really cool black and red stockings and pink boots with silver scissors heels. She trades her sister's flowery necklace for a more sensible gray scarf wrap that stays put just fine.

I put on The Scarlet Pimpernel as I had the last of the leftover Chinese Stir Fry for a quick dinner. This rousing British version of my favorite novel has Anthony Andrews in a fine performance as Sir Percy Blakeny, a seemingly foppish and dim English nobleman who masquerades as "The Scarlet Pimpernel." The Pimpernel is a master of disguise who has rescued hundreds of innocent French nobles from the guillotine, much to the annoyance of French government official Chauvelain (Ian McKellen). Blakney's beautiful and intelligent wife Marguerite (Jane Seymour) would love to know who this daring man is. The definitive Pimpernel on film; highly recommended if you can find it.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Sunshine On a Slushy Day

I awoke to the sound of dripping. I could already see the snow on my porch slowly melting around 8 AM. I replaced it with the soundtrack from Flashdance and Springtime Chocolate Chip-Cinnamon Pancakes for breakfast. Flashdance is the tale of a woman who is a welder during the day and a taxi dancer at night. What she really wants is to audition to become a professional ballerina. It was a huge hit in 1983, but even as a child, the soap opera-ish plot bored me to tears. The music is still awesome, though. In addition to the Oscar-winning "What a Feeling!" and the hit "Maniac," other songs I love include "Seduce Me Tonight" and the touching ballad "Lady, Lady, Lady."

It was still cloudy when I headed to work, but the rain was long gone. The streets were a mess, especially on Manor. Sloppy slush clogged the roads. I had to walk while I was on Manor. Once I got to Kendall, things were a little less messy. The ramp into Oaklyn was so badly flooded, I had to cut around it, even though it was open. I just barely got there on time.

Work was steady all day. The lines did occasionally get long, but nothing like yesterday. We had plenty of help and no problems besides some cranky customers (and I was late going on break again). The sun coming out around 1 definitely helped. The college boy who was my relief was on time, and I was able to head out quickly.

As I'd suspected, the roads were much better when I got out at 3. Other than there was still a little slush on Manor, everything was wet but fine, even the Oaklyn ramp. The fact that the temperatures had rose into the 40's probably contributed. I had no trouble getting home.

I spent the next hour after I got in and changed on the computer. I did end up taking another online course. I'm hoping Writerrific: Creativity Training for Writers will help me learn to focus, develop story ideas, and stick to a story and actually finish it. The first assignment was to take a line and write anything based on it for five minutes. I did one on my troubled childhood and dislike of bullying and one on riding home on my bike.

Passed the next hour or so in the bath. Oh boy, did that feel good. I needed a good, long soak after how busy we were the past few days and that long walk home yesterday. I looked over my old Wilton Cake Decorating books, listened to my 80s soft rock CD's, and enjoyed the peace and quiet.

Stuck to the 80s after I finished my bath. The big hit of Back to the Future was the Huey Lewis and the News song "The Power of Love." Though I do like that, my favorite numbers are the 50's rock. I can't hear "Earth Angel" and not think of the sequence in this movie with Marty's parents at the prom. "Roll With Me Henry" is fun, too.

I stuck with R&B and headed backwards in the 80's to 1980 and The Blues Brothers. I never understood what this movie was all about...but there is some truly awesome music. Aretha Franklin's "Think" is my personal favorite number. I also like "Shake a Tail Feather."

Tried something different after eating leftover Chinese Stir Fry for dinner. Most of the dessert recipes in the Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book are either too fattening or too complicated. An apple recipe in one of the inserts was simple enough to work for me. Apple-Nut Torte was really more of a baked pudding, and one of the easiest recipes in the book - just 4 eggs, flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, apples, and nuts. I cut the sugar from 1 1/2 a cup to 1 cup and replaced half the flour with whole wheat flour. I didn't have any nuts, so I used dried cranberries instead.

Oh, yum yum. It was still too sweet (I may cut the sugar further if I make this again), but otherwise, came out very well, moist and slightly tart and a little sticky.

(Oh, and the Oscars are running at press time. The only movie I saw that was nominated was The Grand Budapest Hotel, but it did richly deserve it's wins for Costume Design and Makeup and Hairstyling.)

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Snow White and the Blizzard

It was still just cloudy when I finally finished the first few chapters of The Four Story Mistake and wrote in my journal. I finished Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, then watched a fantasy-themed episode of The Backyardigans while I ate breakfast and got ready for work. Wizards Tyrone and Pablo have "A Giant Problem" when Tasha the Giant turns up in their kingdom. Her stomping keeps awakening Queen Uniqua from her royal nap, which makes her royally cranky! Tyrone and Pablo want to get Tasha out of the area, but she's really a friendly giant who wants to play, and they're not very good wizards.

I had work at 11:30 today. The sky was still cloudy when I left, so I just rode there. It was mobbed through about 2:30. The lines were insane, even with everyone open who could be, including managers. We were supposed to get another four inches of snow this afternoon, then sleet tonight, then rain tomorrow morning. Thankfully, it died rather quickly by 4:30, enough that I was able to leave easily with no relief. (I also got to enjoy cake with thick buttercream icing in the back. Both of our head managers are moving on. The new guys look like middle-aged gentlemen and seem pretty decent, as far as I can tell. Hopefully, they'll be a little tougher than the younger men.)

No wonder the Acme died so quickly. I walked out into a snowstorm. It was up to 2 inches when I unlocked my bike, and more was coming down. I didn't want to call for a ride. My dad can't drive in snow (and there's his back), I didn't want Rose dragging Khai out in the bad weather, and I wasn't sure who else was home. I just walked the bike home. It was really bad on the Black Horse Pike, which hadn't been plowed that well. The ramp into Oaklyn, which is technically still under repair (but was open today), hadn't been plowed at all. I had an easier time from Kendall Boulevard onwards, but it still took me nearly an hour to get home.

It was still coming down when I got home. I hung up anything that was wet, then made leftover Tomato-Vegetable Soup with broken-up meatballs while watching Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. Disney's landmark first feature-length animated film is a fairly simple version of the beloved fairy tale. Snow White is driven from her home by her jealous stepmother, the Evil Queen. She encounters seven goofy little men who work in a mine. They're not sure about this interloper who loves cleaning and cooking at first, but they warm up to her once they taste her cooking. The Queen, however, is still jealous. She turns herself into an old woman and dresses up a poison apple for Snow White...but the dwarves won't let her get away with it! There's a prince out there for Snow White, and he's going to make her fondest wish come true.

While most adults appreciate it for the history and beautiful animation, kids tend to gravitate towards the dwarves, Snow White's cute animal buddies and their antics, and Snow White herself. Alas, her prince doesn't really have much to do besides introduce "One Song." (Though, to be honest, that's actually pretty true to the original story.) There are some scary sequences with the Evil Queen and Snow White's flight through the forest that may upset some younger or easily frightened viewers.

All in all, while this isn't my favorite Disney movie, it is a piece of history, and one that I recommend for adults and kids alike.

Oh, and the rain has finally started at press time. It's supposed to continue into the morning - we'll see how things go.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Deep Freeze

Brrr! It was barely in the teens when I headed off to work this morning. Despite the cold, work was much busier than it was yesterday. Not only are we getting closer to the beginning of the month, but we're supposed to get snow and rain again tomorrow night. At press time, the National Weather Service is saying 2 to 4 inches tomorrow evening, then a ton of rain. As long as the precipitation isn't heavy when I'm going home from work, it can do whatever it wants. The rain and warmer weather should get rid of most of the remaining snow. After that, it sounds like it'll be cold, but not as bad as this week.

I'm not entirely happy with next week's schedule. In good news, nothing later than 4 PM, and three days off in a row, from Monday through Wednesday. The trouble is, I only got 17 hours. Hopefully, they'll go up fast once we get into spring holidays and events.

I ran into Jessa while grocery shopping. She had a small red basket and was doing a little shopping of her own. She's fine - she seems to mostly be hanging out with her boyfriend Joe and his family lately, when she's not working as a clerk at a local Macy's. She did tell me that Dad's back is the problem. He can barely sit some days, not a good thing with all the sitting in front of laptops he and Jodie do. (Which might explain where the problem is coming from.) The heat is still not working in his kitchen, too. I'm hoping to get over there on one of my days off next week to finally give them their Valentine's Day card and say "hi." I wanted to visit them on Valentine's Day, but it got way too crazy.

Didn't have quite as much to buy this week as I did last week, but I did need some things. The Acme's having a "use your spare change" sale, with some items at 50 cents, 75 cents, or a dollar (and even a few small "treat" items at a quarter). I found their 8 ounce cans of peaches and fruit cocktail for 75 cents - bought two each. A lot of it was restocking - crushed pineapple, mandarin oranges, sugar, apples, grapefruit, bananas, fish fillet packs, mouthwash (just grabbed Acme's generic version of Listerine), sponges, Skippy natural chunky peanut butter (on sale for two dollars), and sandwich bags, Quaker cereal was still on a pretty good sale. This time, I went with my favorite, Oatmeal Squares, in the cinnamon flavor. Found a package of pre-cut vegetables to make stir fry for dinner.

As soon as I got home, I changed into regular clothes. Ran two Sailor Moon first season episodes as I put everything away. Marcia and Paul aren't the only star-crossed lovers in my DVD collection. In "Crystal Clear Destiny," Serena follows Darien when he has a showdown with nasty Zoycite. The two end up discovering more about each other than they could ever imagine...including that they were once forbidden lovers. Serena's "A Reluctant Princess" after Darien is kidnapped by the Negaverse. The other Sailor Soldiers give her the confidence she needs to fight off Zoycite's incensed lover Malachite.

I was still in the mood for musicals, but I decided I wanted something a little less dramatic. I returned to the Edwardian era for the 1968 comic fantasy Chitty Chitty Bang Bang as I made my Chicken Stir Fry. The title vehicle was once a prize-winning race car whose career ended up in flames. Chitty is rescued from the scrap heap by eccentric inventor Caraculous Potts (Dick Van Dyke), his two children, and his equally eccentric father (Lionel Jeffries). When she's finally fixed, he takes his children to the seaside. They're joined by the lovely Truly Scrumptious (Sally Ann Howes). There, Potts spins a fantastic tale of how the evil Baron Bombhurst and his wife (Gert Frobe and Anna Quayle) desperately want a flying motorcar and first kidnap Grandpa when they mistake him for his son, then go after Chitty and her new owners.

Would you believe Ian Fleming (author of the James Bond series) wrote the book this is originally based on? I've read it, and while it's not bad, I thought this was a lot more fun. Roald Dahl (of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory fame) did the script...and yeah, it sounds like a lot of his books, especially in the second half in Vulgaria. Baron Bombhurst is an obnoxious man child who keeps trying to kill his wife, exiles all children, and insists that the local toymaker (Benny Hill) make toys for him alone. The Sherman Brothers' music is lovely, especially the sweet lullabye "Hushabye Mountain."

My major complaint is, once again, length. This is one of the epic musicals that popped up during the late 60's-early 70's, and it's really much too long for a family-oriented fantasy musical. Younger kids may need two sittings to take it all in. The tone shifts from light-hearted comedy to darker comedy once we get to Vulgaria, and it's a more than a little strange.

I grew up watching this on TV and on home video in the late 80's and early 90's and have always loved it, especially the music. If you enjoy other fantasy musicals like Mary Poppins or are a fan of the cast, the movie is pretty easy to find on DVD and Blu-Ray and is highly recommended.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Will You Remember?

Most of today was spent at work. Today was my 7 hour day. We really weren't that busy. I spent a lot of the time putting items back on the shelf. We'd get a line or two, then it would fade quickly again. It was so quiet by 4PM, I didn't even need to wait for my relief.

When I got home, I went right in the bath. It was so cold today (barely 15 degrees), I needed just to get warm! It felt great. I haven't had a bath in a while. I soaked for an hour as I looked over the old Wilton cake decorating books I got from Mom and listened to vocal standards written by Jules Styne (who did the music for Gypsy and Bells are Ringing, along with countless movie songs).

Began Maytime while eating escarole and tomatoes with eggs and Colby cheese for dinner. This 1937 vehicle for Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy was their biggest hit. Former opera diva Marcia Mornay (MacDonald) relates her tragic tale to a young woman thinking of pursuing a career and leaving her sweetheart behind. Marcia was once the toast of Europe, but she made the mistake of thoughtlessly agreeing to marry her music tutor and manager Nikoli (John Barrymore) after her successful debut in the court of Joseph Napoleon. Taking a cart into Paris, she encounters poor music student Paul (Eddy) at a local student watering hole. They eventually fall for each other after one delightful May Day fair, but she's already promised to Nikoli. When they're reunited in New York, she's married and the most beloved opera star in the world, and he's up-and-coming. Trouble is, no matter how much they try to hide it, they're still in love...and Nikoli does not handle jealousy well.

I'm not normally fond of this kind of soap opera melodrama, but MGM (who specialized in overstuffed romances) handles it very well. It was MacDonald's favorite of her films, and Barrymore comes off almost as well as her insanely jealous husband. Eddy apparently wasn't as impressed - it was too frilly for him - and many modern critics echo his sentiments about it being too campy.

For all the melodrama, it's a touching romance with some great operatic sequences, including the famous "(Sweetheart) Will You Remember?" duet. I consider it to be the best of the MacDonald/Eddy movies. Highly recommended, especially for fans of the stars, opera, or tragic romances.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Volunteers of Oaklyn

Actually, I did a lot of volunteering today. Started at Studio LuLoo around 11. They mainly just needed their dishes washed again. I couldn't have gotten into the kids' playroom even if I wanted to. It was blocked by a table and filled with a rack of costumes. (Maybe they put on a play with the little guys this weekend?) Most of the room looked at least somewhat better organized than it had before...except for two huge containers overflowing with dishes. This time, I used one bin for to hold dish water while I cleaned. Most of the dishes weren't quite as bad as last time, except for a few coffee cups that hadn't been emptied properly and two plates that had remains of what appeared to be yesterday's lunch. There was just so much!  It took me an hour to get it all done.

The Oaklyn Library was even less busy. There was one person on the computers and the librarian and CNN, and that was it. Not much to do there, anyway. I organized adult and kids' DVD's and the kids' series books and shelved one children's book on rhinoceroses. I was out within a half-hour.

Work was steady for most of the evening. Once again, it was cold but sunny. The warm sun melted a lot of the snow and brought people out of the woodwork. My relief, one of the college boys, was right on time. I was in and out quickly and with no trouble.

When I got home, I finished Brain Donors, which I started during lunch. This hilarious riff on the Marx Brothers movies has a trio of shifty characters - shyster lawyer Roland T. Flakfitzer (John Tuturro), cab driver Rocco Meloncheck (Mel Smith), and sweet jack-of-all-trades Jaques (Bob Nelson) trying to help a pair of young dancers get their big break. Flakfitzer is competing with an obnoxious solictor to take over a ballet company funded by a wealthy older widow (Nancy Marchand). Meanwhile, the egotistical dancer Volare has his eye on the ballerina, and doesn't appreciate the antics of Flakfitzer and the others one bit. When they're arrested and the kids get in trouble, it'll take all their wits to bring down the curtain on Volare and teach him not to mess with these Marx-style tricksters!

I remember seeing this hilarious gem as a tween on cable when I was a kid. Dad used to rent it, too. Tuturro in particular is having a ball as the witty ambulance chaser who does have a heart in there somewhere. The video and the DVD were hard to find for years; thankfully, it's currently available through the Warner Archives as part of their Paramount Collection. 

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

It's a Marshmallow World In the Winter

I awoke to a white world. We did get the 4 inches that the National Weather Service said was coming, but not much more than that. I went online as soon as I finished reading The Saturdays and writing in my journal. It would seem that most local schools and businesses had merely opted for delayed openings. This included the Haddon Township Library, which was opening at noon.

I got a phone call as I was getting dressed. It was Mrs. Stahl. I was originally supposed to have counseling today, but she didn't want me riding up to Haddonfield in the snow. Would she minded if I rescheduled to the first Tuesday in March? No problem. I don't think riding up there would have been much trouble if the roads weren't bad, but it was cold, and I didn't feel like making a fuss.

At any rate, I had other things to do today. As soon as I finished breakfast and Xanadu ended, I headed out. The snow was long gone by 11:30. It was a beautiful, sunny day. Despite the cold (the digital sign at Oaklyn's City Hall said 25 degrees), the warm sun was melting a lot of the snow. Though my porch had been shoveled and salted, many sidewalks hadn't, and some back streets (including Manor) were still icy at that point. I half-rode, half walked my bike to Westmont Plaza.

Made a quick stop at Tuesday Morning first. Still no new Ever After High dolls. I saw Legacy Day (fancy dress) Apple, Thronecoming (prom) Blondie and C.A Cupid, the Thronecoming set that came with Briar, the Hat-Tastic (tea party) set that came with Maddie, two basic Blondies, one basic Briar, a few Getting Fairest (pajamas) Maddie and Briar, and tons of basic Cupid. Nothing I didn't already have or hadn't seen.

The Haddon Township Library wasn't busy at 12:30. It's probably a good thing. They're starting a huge project with the DVD's. I spent two and a half hours taping labels that said "Haddon Township Library" onto kids' DVD's that didn't already have them and then shelving them. Helped a couple of kids find movies, too, including handing the Sophia the First DVD I just brought back to a mother whose daughter is a big Sofia fan.

I still hadn't gotten to the overloaded "S" shelves by 3 PM. I couldn't go any later than that. I was starved. I didn't take out any movies, either. I was in too much of a hurry after spending half the day there.

Went back to the Westmont Plaza for lunch. I opted for a quick Chicken Pizza Sandwich at Nick and Joe's, an Italian restaurant and pizzeria that's two doors down from Friendly's. There were a few people having a very late lunch there, a bit surprising for 3:30 on a cold day. I stared at the massive pantings of the rugged Italian shoreline as I waited for my lunch, imagining I was strolling on the shore with the seagulls on a warm summer's day.

Ran a few errands on my way back. I needed a few things from Thriftway that were genuinely cheaper there. They have their own brand of whole wheat flour that costs a lot less than Gold Medal at the Acme. The small Domino's brown sugar box was 99 cents on sale. Picked up oat bran hot cereal, which the Acme no longer sells, as well.

Went across the street to Rite Aid for brush picks. They still had lots of Valentine's candy leftover. I couldn't resist another bag of York's, this time half-price. I also bought a half-gallon of milk to avoid another stop at WaWa on the way home.

I didn't get home until nearly 5! I did have an easier ride home than I had to the library. By then, most of the roads were perfectly clear and dry. Even Manor only had a little ice left on the very end by the VFW.

When I got in, I made Banana-Pineapple Muffins and had leftovers for dinner. Finally ran the last movie on that Bing Crosby set I bought last summer, Welcome Stranger. Crosby is Dr. Pierson, a laid-back young traveling doctor who is briefly taking over for Dr. McKay (Barry Fitzgerald). Dr. McKay has been practicing medicine in the same small country town for 35 years and is only now just taking a vacation. Neither he nor the town's attractive teacher Trudy Mason (Joan Caulifield) think much of this impetuous fellow who has moved from city to town and back least until he has to operate on Dr. McKay's appendix. After that, McKay befriends him and even tries to get him and Trudy together, much to the frustration of her pharmacist fiancee. Pierson finally finds a reason to stay when a younger, more opinionated doctor threatens both their positions. They finally prove that there's room in town for both modern and older ways...and that living in one place does have its charms.

I wish I hadn't put this off for so long. It wound up being surprisingly charming, more than the rather cloying Going My Way. Fitzgerald and Crosby continue their warm rapport here, making the movie feel more like a TV comedy-drama at times than a typical movie. My only complaint is one of the reasons I didn't get to it until now - it's too long. Some bits could have been trimmed from the middle with no one the wiser, and Bing's rather dull songs add nothing to the proceedings.

Along with Sing You Sinners, this was my favorite of the movies on the Bing Crosby Collection set. Highly recommended for fans of Bing or medical comedy/dramas.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Presidents' Day at Home

I slept so late, it was past 11 before I got to breakfast! I was up late again with Lauren last night. President's Day weekend is her last long weekend for three months (Easter, fun though it is, doesn't count), and we wanted to celebrate. I started a chilly, cloudy day with two winter and Valentine's themed Pink Panther specials I didn't get to on my hectic Saturday.

Pink takes part in the 1980 Olym-Pinks in Lake Placid as part of the US skiing team. He keeps giving his rival trouble while preparing for the games, and even afterwards. He doesn't have a much better Valentine's Day than I did in Pink At First Sight. He joins a messenger service to be able to earn money for flowers and cards, but runs into a jealous husband and a group of gangsters who aren't too happy with their Valentine's gifts.

Took down the Valentine's decorations while watching the cartoons. After my rather frustrating Valentine's Day, I didn't really want to leave them up for much longer. I'll put up the spring, Easter, and St. Patrick's Day things in about two or three weeks.

I didn't make it to the laundromat until quarter of 2. Needless to say, given this is a holiday, they were busy. Thankfully, I didn't have to wait for anything, and my load wasn't that big. I was in and out in less than an hour.

Spent the rest of the day puttering around the apartment and watching movies. I made the bed while running My Little Pony: The Movie. A nasty witch (Cloris Leachman) and her two rather incompetent daughters (Rhea Perlman and Madeline Khan) create a sticky substance that can destroy anything it comes across and sends it straight at the Ponies! Meanwhile, Baby Lickety-Split is upset when her teacher Buttons yells at her for ruining the Baby Ponies' recital and runs away. Spike the Dragon goes after her. A few of the Ponies have to look for them, while the rest, including Megan and her siblings Molly and Danny, search for the Flutter Ponies, the only creatures that can stop the witches' magic.

I've always liked this movie. We taped it off cable sometime in 1987 and watched it for years. There's a lot of really well-done action, and an interesting lesson that not everything that's ugly is always evil. Lickety Split and Spike discover a race of troll-like creatures who look scary but are really very sweet. The witches are hilarious. Khan and Perlman steal the movie wholesale with their voice work for the bickering sisters.

However, even as a kid, I realized this movie has more than a few problems that were probably the reason it flopped when it came out in 1986. The songs are dreadful, with sappy lyrics for Megan's cheer-up ballad and dull ones for the witches. The animation is worse, saddled with the same lousy continuity that plagues the Care Bears films. As hilarious as the witches are, not only are they more interesting than most of the Ponies, but you see a lot more of them, too. The movie feels really unbalanced. Buttons comes off as overly nasty to poor Lickety-Split today as well.

I still recommend this for anyone who grew up watching it on cable as I did, or for parents with young girls, especially ones who are already Pony fans.

Stayed in the 80s and with fantasy but moved to live-action for The Princess Bride. In this unusual comic fairy tale, beautiful Buttercup (Robin Wright) is spirited away by Prince Humperdink (Chris Sarandon) to become his bride. Buttercup is truly in love with the farm boy (Cary Elwes) who died at sea...or so she thinks. A mysterious man in black rescuing her from three goofy henchmen is just the beginning of her adventures. Even after they flee, her unwanted fiancee catches up with them. The remaining henchmen change sides and go after them. In the end, she and Wesley learn that, with a lot of patience, teamwork, and a touch of miracles, true love really can conquer all.

This, too, was a failure in the theaters that finally found an audience when it turned up on cable - including my family. Everyone in my family can quote this movie line by line. We had a bad copy we taped off Showtime during a thunderstorm that we still watched constantly. While Mandy Patinkin stands out as the revenge-minded Spanish fencer with one of the most famous lines in movie history, the entire cast looks like they're having a great time. If you love fantasy, romance, or satire that's more subtle than most movie spoofs, you'll get as big a kick out of this one as we do.

I finally made the pasta and meatballs dinner I'd originally planned for Saturday during The Princess Bride. The chicken meatballs fell apart but weren't too bad. I left the pineapple upside-down cake in the oven for too long. Thankfully, it only burned a little and still tasted pretty good. The escarole with the pasta was a bit tough. I probably should have boiled it longer.

Finished the night with Xanadu as I ate. I jumped backwards to 1980 for another kind of fantasy. Sonny (Michael Beck) is tired of painting covers for records, but doesn't know what else to do with his talents. He's inspired by Kira (Olivia Newton-John) to go into business with Danny (Gene Kelly), a kindly old man who owns a construction company, and open an elaborate nightclub. Kira, however, is not what she seems....

I love this very campy tribute to creativity and old-style 40's and 50's musicals, but it's far from everyone's cup of Crush soda. The lack of a real script prior to shooting was obvious. The musical numbers (except for one crazy animated sequence by Don Bluth) are mostly well-done. If you can handle the cheese and enjoy other odd 80's guilty pleasures like The Pirate Movie, you might have as much fun with this one as me.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Ice Cold Weather

The sun was shining when I finally rolled out of bed this morning, melting the snow on my steps, but the sky was a hard ice blue, and the wind howled. I opted for Banana Pancakes while listening to records. Did Goldilocks first. No, this isn't a musical fairy tale. This vehicle for Elaine Stritch is set in 1914. A Broadway star is retiring from the stage to marry a rich guy (Russell Nype) ...after she does one last movie for a demanding, tough-minded director (Don Ameche). When the movie goes over budget and schedule, she threatens to quit, but then finds herself falling for the director. Cute take on early movie-making with a decent score, including two good songs for Stritch, "I Never Know When" and "Who's Been Sitting In My Chair?"

I'd switched to Barry Manilow by the time I was doing the dishes. I finally called Dad for a ride. I didn't want to, but the wind was still going at 1:30, and the high today was 15 here. It wasn't even going to make it into single digits by tonight. I wouldn't have called him if I hadn't been working after dark, but I was done at 7. At least it was only 4 hours.

I finished up the afternoon with the Captain and Tenile before Dad picked me up at ten of 3. Work was surprisingly steady early on. I didn't think anyone would want to come out in the cold. They're probably avoiding the weather again. As of this second, we're supposed to get 2 to 6 inches tomorrow and Tuesday, more than we have gotten but nothing resembling what New England's been hit with. At least the kids are supposed to be off anyway tomorrow. It slowed down enough by 7 that I was able to shut down with no problems. 

I hurried upstairs as soon as Dad dropped me off. I had oatmeal with peanut butter and a can of mandarin oranges for a very quick dinner while listening to the soundtrack from Pete's Dragon. This live-action Disney musical from 1977 is the story of a little boy who runs away with a dragon only he can see. Fleeing his abusive hillbilly guardians, they end up in a small New England town. While Pete befriends the lighthouse keeper Lampy (Mickey Rooney) and his daughter Nora (Helen Reddy), Elliot avoids two hucksters (Red Buttons and Jim Dale) who want to use him for medicine. 

As corny as the movie is, it does have some enjoyable music. My personal favorite number is the touching duet "It's Not Easy," Pete's attempt to explain his relationship with Elliot to Nora. Nora's ballad "Candle On the Water" was nominated for an Oscar in 1977. I also like Nora's "There's Room For Everyone" as she and Pete explain that there's a place for everyone in their lives...even a dragon. I don't think Disney's ever put this one on CD, but the LP is a sweet listen if if ever comes your way. 

Saturday, February 14, 2015

No Valentines For You

Unfortunately, my Valentine's Day began with a phone call...and then another. Two different managers wanted me to come into work. I put them off while I finished Anne's House of Dreams, then called them back and said I'd do it. I didn't want to, but I need the money and the hours.

Ran two specials as I ate breakfast and got ready to head out. Bugs' Cupid Capers is one of the Looney Tunes specials from the late 70s-early 80s made up of old cartoons with new linking material. Bugs watches as a rather familiar Cupid does his work with the other Toons, despite Bugs' insistence that he's meddling.

In an episode from The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Rabbit cancels Valentine's Day in order to keep Pooh from flooding the Hundred Acre Woods with paper hearts. Pooh, however, gets a pot of honey for Valentine's Day and assumes it's from Piglet. He can't resist giving just one Valentine. This eventually ends up with flying cakes and crazy plays for Christopher Robin. But who did send the original pot of honey?

I rushed out around 12:30. My first stop was the Oaklyn Library. There was one person at the computer; other than that, it was just me and the librarian. I organized the DVDs, then moved on quickly.

My second stop was Abbie Road. I wanted to look over Bob's collection, but I had practically no time. He did offer me some oatmeal cookies. I just chose a two-disc fifties vocal set and hurried out. Half-way to Audubon Crossings, I realized I left the bag with the chocolate sandwich cookies at Abbie Road! I didn't have the time to go back for them. I needed to have lunch. I didn't really have the time for that, either. I scarfed my broccoli and shrimp pizza at Tu Se Bella's as fast as I could, and I was still late for work.

Work was busy all afternoon. If people weren't shopping for Valentine's Day dinners, they were panicking over the two inches of snow we're supposed to be getting on Monday and Tuesday night. It had started snowing as I was heading into Audubon and got rather bad when I arrived in Audubon. Though everyone was in a good mood, I was glad to head out after four hours.

I wasn't happy when I got home. I tried to cheer myself up with a few more Valentine's Day cartoons. Disney did a second Pooh Valentine's Day tale in the early 2000's, A Valentine For You. Pooh and his friends search for the "Smitten" bug in order to cure Christopher Robin after he seems to like a girl more than them.

There are two Peanuts Valentine's Day specials. (Making Valentine's Day the only holiday besides Christmas to have more than one Peanuts special.) In Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown, Chuck is hoping for a suitcase load of Valentines, while Linus buys a huge box of chocolate for his teacher. Sally thinks the chocolate is for her. Lucy tries to get Schroeder to give her a valentine. Meanwhile, Snoopy is putting on romantic-but-messy puppet shows.

A Charlie Brown Valentine is a little kinder to poor Chuck. He's trying hard to get the Little Red-Haired Girl to notice him...but somehow ends up taking Peppermint Patty and Marcie to the Valentine's Day Dance anyway. Sally pursues Linus and Lucy pursues Schroeder, without success. Snoopy works on his love poetry.

The Tiny Toons have their own bouts with love during prom season in the first-season episode "Prom-ise Her Anything." Babs patiently waits for Buster to ask her while he tries to learn dance moves. Elmyra gets Montana Max to take her, but he stands her up at the prom. The rabbits finally bring him back.

I ran a few records after a shower and scrambled eggs with escarole and tomatoes for dinner, ending with The Most Happy Fella. This 1956 musical is the closest thing you can get to an opera without actually being an opera. Even my 3-disc cast album comes with all of the music and quite a bit of dialogue. Amy is a waitress in 1927 San Francisco. She goes out to Napa Valley to be the mail order bride of Tony, a kindly Italian winery owner. Tony, however, is an old man. Nervous about how Amy (whom he calls Rosabella) will receive him, he sends her his young foreman's photo instead. Tony gets into an accident on the day of Amy's arrival. She's not happy about the deception at first, but she does grow to love him, even though she likes his foreman, too. Her best friend Cleo also ends up in Napa, where she takes up with Herman, a cowardly ranch hand.

Considered to be the crowing achievement of Frank Loesseur (Guys and Dolls, How to Succeed In Business...), Most Happy Fella did well enough when it came out, but was ultimately overshadowed by the more crowd-pleasing My Fair Lady. Even now, despite hits like "Standing On the Corner" and "Joey, Joey, Joey," the story is a little depressing and melodramatic, despite its happy ending. The music (other than the out-of-place dance number "Big D"), is just as good as is often claimed. If you have a taste for darker or more complex musicals or love Loessuer's other projects, you may want to give this one a try.

And here's some vintage Valentine's Day tales I scrounged up online, as well as the only holiday special to date for Ever After High.

Muppet Babies: My Muppet Valentine
From Disney, With Love
The Bernstein Bears' Comic Valentine
Ever After High: True Hearts' Day

Here's hoping you had a far more romantic Valentine's Day than I did!

Friday, February 13, 2015

Honest Abe and the Amendment

My 9 AM work shift was today. It was on-and-off busy. While I did spend an hour doing returns later in the day, I was late going on break, and ended up being late getting off. They just didn't have anyone to go in for me, and no one was coming in for another half-hour.

When I finally got off, I went right in the back to get my schedule. It's probably just as well that I have Monday and Tuesday off. The weather is supposed to be nasty here Sunday night into Monday. Monday is President's Day anyway. My only plans as of right now is to do the laundry and hang out at home. Tuesday is counseling. I do have one early and long 7 hour day on Thursday. Otherwise, nothing abnormal for this time of year, and actually slightly more hours. 

While I didn't have a big grocery load, I needed a lot of things that are fairly expensive, like I Can't Believe It's Not Butter, Greek yogurt, and honey. Purdue chicken was 40% off; I bought tenderloins and boneless, skinless chicken thighs. Picked up cream cheese for my baking project for work and Parmesan cheese for dinner tomorrow. Acme was clearing out its generic cheap brand pasta sauce for 64 cents (even cheaper than the 69 cents they had it listed as). Restocked apples and grapefruit; replaced the spinach (it was buy one, get one, and I don't need two bags) with escarole. They only had 3 bags of the Valentine's York Peppermint Patties left at work. I bought one today. I figured if I waited for tomorrow, they'd be gone.

As soon as I got home, I changed, put everything away, then started my baking project. The Acme is having a Dessert Party for Valentine's Day tomorrow. I volunteered cookies again. They're easy to make and to transport on a bike. I wanted to do something different and a little...sweeter. I've never made sandwich cookies before. The retro cookbook my sister Anny gave me a few years ago had a simple recipe for chocolate sandwich cookies. I added the last of my red food coloring to the cookies and made cream cheese filling instead of buttercream filling. I love the look of Oreo's new Red Velvet Cookies, but they're in these really small packages and aren't easy to find. I thought these might be a nice substitute. 

Ran Lincoln while I baked. The movie covers the last four months in the life of President Abraham Lincoln (Daniel Day-Lewis) as he works to end the Civil War and get the 13th Amendment to end slavery passed in early 1865. Needless to say, most of the southern states left in Congress aren't happy about this. Radicals like Thaddeus Stevens (Tommy Lee Jones) want to get the Amendment passed right now, even if it extends the war. More conservative politicians would rather make peace with the South first. Lincoln has to figure out how to get both the conservatives and the Democrats to vote for the amendment, without getting even further into war. Meanwhile, his own son Robert (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) wants to join the Army, much to the shock of his mother Mary (Sally Field). Mary herself isn't the most stable woman...but she does have enough sense to know that her husband's politics may have put his life in danger...

I'm not the biggest fan of politics in general or Civil War history, but I do like Spielburg, and I heard good things about this when it came out about three years ago. (Including from Mom, who grew up around many famous Civil War battlefields and is a bit of a Civil War/Victorian buff, as well as a big fan of Sally Field.) This is less of an up-and-down biopic and more of a political tale, but the cast really makes it work. Day-Lewis, Field, and Jones were all Oscar-nominated for their roles; Day-Lewis won. If you love Civil War history like Mom does or are a fan of any of the cast or Spielburg's darker films, this is beautifully made and quite highly recommended.

Finished the night with some TV episodes as I made leftovers for dinner. Wonder Woman has her own problems with politicians when a telekinetic man at a disco seems to be stealing their memories. Diana Prince engages another telekinetic, this one a shy, clumsy guy who has a hard time keeping a job, to help her find out what's going on. 

Alton Brown shows off one of the most versatile of all vegetables in a Good Eats episode on celery. I'm especially fond of the braised celery from the end of this episode. I've made it before. It's a great vegetable dish for winter, when celery is often one of the few affordable fresh vegetables many people can get. 

Thursday, February 12, 2015

A Strange Kind of Family

Began a windy, cold day with records. I listened to the soundtrack from Bye, Bye Birdie while eating breakfast. This early 60's spoof of Elvis, rock, and the then-new teen culture was a big hit on Broadway, where it was one of the first musicals to address this very different and colorful music. Dick Van Dyke is the manager who comes up with the idea of his rock star getting "One Last Kiss" from a normal teen girl before joining the Army. Ann-Margaret is the girl he selects. Paul Lynde is her obnoxious father; Bobby Rydell is her real boyfriend. Janet Leigh is Van Dyke's secretary, who wishes he'd just forget the rock thing and marry her. Casting is the big problem here. While Van Dyke and Lynde had already done their duty in the Broadway version, Ann-Margaret is no one's idea of an innocent teenager, and Rydell's no geek, either. Leigh is totally at sea in a role that had been played by Chita Riviera on stage and would be played by Vanessa Williams on TV. Only get this if you're a huge fan of Ann-Margaret, Rydell, or the movie. Otherwise, you're better off with the original cast album.

Work was very busy all day. We are supposed to get an inch or two of snow over the next few days, but everyone's real concern is freezing temperatures tomorrow and later in the weekend. Once again, we didn't have nearly enough help to handle it all. We're still out of plastic bags, too. One of the managers had to get two boxes from another store! I was so happy when my relief was on time and I was able to get out quickly.

Spent the rest of the night watching the 2014 version of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles while eating leftovers for dinner. The Turtles are still four teenage reptiles who live under the sewers of New York and were raised by Splinter, a kindly rat, to fight crime using ninja moves. April O'Neal (Megan Fox) is back to being a reporter. Surprisingly, Vernon Felton from the original animated show also makes an appearance, here as a good-natured camera geek with a crush on April. April sees a strange shadow attacking the Foot Clan that's been terrorizing New York. No one believes her, not even her boss Bernadette (a wasted Whoopi Goldberg). April's shocked when the vigilantes who saved her turn out to have a link to her past...and hold the key to finding out what the Foot Clan is really after.

This did well enough last August, but suffered from competition from Guardians of the Galaxy, which was released around the same time. I was surprised how much I ended up enjoying it. I liked how they linked April and the Turtles here, far more realistically than in previous incarnations. I also liked Vernon and his crush (maybe they can get Irma into the next one?). My biggest complaint by far is...we don't see enough of Shredder or the Foot Clan to really fear them or even care what they're doing. I wish we could have seen more of Shredder before the big fight in the end.

It's still pretty violent stuff, and as with the other Turtles movies, I recommend younger kids try their choice of cartoon first before coming to anything live-action. For older Turtles fans, even ones who loved the original films, this was surprisingly fun and is recommended.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

On the Record

I finished up Sofia the First while eating breakfast. Sofia's stepdad King Roland learns a lesson in wishing in "The Baker King." After a stressful day, he wishes that he and his family were just normal bakers instead of royalty...and suddenly wakes up in the home of the baker. He thinks he's found the perfect stress-free vacation. Being a baker is a lot more work than he thought, though - you actually have to do things like make bread and mile-high cakes and do it on time. Sofia reminds him that he's a much better king, and his people depend on him. "Four's a Crowd" when Sofia invites her two best friends from the village to help her and Amber decorate a carriage for a flying carriage parade and her friends seem to prefer Amber over her. Sofia feels left out, until an accident gets them working together.

Volunteered at Studio LuLoo late this morning. I won't have the time to do it tomorrow - I work at 11. I tackled that shelf filled with random books, magazines and papers. They actually did have book holders there. I moved all of the kid's picture books and fiction books to the play room. The binders filled with kids' and teens' poetry and old arts and crafts notes went behind the book holders. Books with games and lessons went in one section, books on history in another. Books on world peace went in another slot. Yet another slot held books on animals.

When I got out, I went to WaWa quickly for a turkey hoagie, a soft pretzel, and a Black Raspberry Sparkling Ice for lunch, then headed home. The cast album for Beautiful: The Carole King Musical had arrived, but I didn't have much time to listen to it before I had to eat quickly and head off to work.

Work was on-and-off steady through rush hour, after which it got busy and we didn't have enough help to handle the crowds. We had a harder time with computers going down than with customers. The store is almost completely out of plastic bags, too. I don't think we even have that many paper bags. And we're not supposed to get more until Saturday!

When I got home, I resumed Beautiful while eating leftovers for dinner. Beautiful has the honor of being the first records I've bought brand-new since the late 80's. Carole King started out as primarily a songwriter in the 60's with her husband Gerry Coffin. Though they wrote some of the biggest hits of the decade (including "On Broadway" for the Drifters, "You've Lost That Loving Feeling" for The Righteous Brothers, and "Pleasant Valley Sunday" for The Monkees), Coffin's infidelities lead to the end of their marriage and their partnership in 1969. By the early 70s, King was writing songs on her own, and her Tapestry album was a massive platinum-selling hit, spinning off "I Feel the Earth Move" and "So Far Away."

Jesse Muller won a Tony for her performance as King; she really does sound like her on the album. My only regret is they didn't extend the show's time period long enough to squeeze in my favorite solo King number, "Sweet Seasons," and that King and Coffin's best song for the Monkees, "The Porpoise Song" from Head, was a little too strange to fit. Other than that, if you love King or the rock songs from this time period, this is a fine recreation of the time with some fabulous performances.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

And the Fairy Tale World Will Know

Watched Sofia the First while I ate breakfast this morning. "Holiday In Enchantria" is this show's equivalent of a Christmas episode. Sofia is looking forward to her first Wassalia at the castle, with tons of presents, the lighting of the Wassalia candle, and her family all around her. Her dad, who had gone out to do some last-minute gift shopping, disappears in a snow storm. Sofia, her siblings, and her mom Miranda go out in the snow after him. Sofia thinks them getting lost in the storm means they'll have a lonely Wassalia in the woods. Princess Aurora of Sleeping Beauty reminds her that her animal friends hold the key to finding their father.

The next couple of episodes were really sweet, too. King Roland wants Baileywick, the faithful family butler, to enjoy his birthday with his brother in "Baileywick's Day Off." The kids keep asking him to help them, and he can't say no, until he no longer has the time to go out. Sofia comes up with a way for him to enjoy his birthday with everyone he loves. Lucinda is "The Littlest Witch," a cute little sorceress who hexes Sofia's friends' party. Sofia finds out she just wants to come to the party and make friends, but doesn't know how. Sofia promises to let her come to the party...if she can behave and be a real friend.

I didn't get to my laundry until quarter of 1. I'm kind of glad I waited. The laundromat was dead as a doornail for most of the hour I was there. By the time two older women arrived, chattering and laughing, my huge load only had a few minutes left in the drier. I read books and ignored the boring soap opera on the TV.

The next part of my order was in the mail when I got home. After building up a cult audience for two decades, Disney finally adapted Newsies as a stage show in 2012. Though the plot is more-or-less the same, the middle-aged male reporter who helps the boys spread the word about the strike is now a young female reporter who is hoping the article on the strike will make her reputation as a hard crime writer. She also replaces the paper-thin love interest sister of the Jacobs boys as the girl Jack is flirting with. The newspaper barons also now have a song, "The Bottom Line." (In the original film, the villains weren't singers and didn't have a musical number.)

This time, the world really DID know. The stage Newsies was a sell-out and huge success, replenishing the coffers of Disney's theatrical branch after the failures of the stage versions of Tarzan and The Little Mermaid. This is one of the few times I equally recommend the stage and screen versions of a property. You can't go wrong with either. The movie version has a great cast; the stage version has somewhat improved plot. Both have awesome musical numbers.

Work was steady during the first half of my shift, pretty quiet during the second half. Though it looks like we may get a tiny bit of snow later this week, and it's supposed to get very cold by the end of the weekend, right now, it's just sunny and in the 30s. Most people were probably enjoying the weather while it lasts. My relief was on time, and I had no really major problems.

Monday, February 09, 2015

Running On Ice

I ate the last of the grits for breakfast while listening to the George Harrison CD I bought on Saturday. Ringo Starr is my favorite solo Beatle, but I like a lot of Harrison's work, too. I picked up this particular CD because it included my two favorite Harrison solo songs, "All Those Years Ago" and "Blown Away." "Got My Mind Set On You" is the first song on the CD; I remember when that came out in 1987. Having been a toddler when "All Those Years Ago" came out, "Set On You" was really my first encounter with Harrison. He's always been Mom's favorite Beatle. (She likes the quiet guys. Peter Tork is her favorite Monkee.)

Didn't get out to run today's errands until quarter of 1...and got a nasty surprise when I did. It was damp and gray but not raining when I awoke this morning. As I walked out the door, I could feel myself get pelted with ice. I skidded across the porch, just as I realized that it was sleeting. I made my way carefully downstairs and checked the roads before I left. The roads were wet but fine, with no ice anywhere. Goes without saying that Newton Lake Park wasn't terribly busy. I saw one jogger and one duck swimming on the defrosted part of the lake as I hurried to Cuthbert Road.

The weather scared people away from Haddon Township Library, too. I organized DVD's with no interference of any kind. Other than they still have too many Scooby Doo titles to fit on the kids' shelves (and a few S adult titles that wouldn't get in), I was able to shelve everything without trouble. The librarians had more problems than I did. Their computer system went down (probably due to the weather) and had to be rebooted.

It was back up by the time I was ready to take out some DVDs. I grabbed new titles for The Cat In the Hat Knows A Lot About That and Sofia the First, along with My Little Pony: The Movie. The only adult movie I rented this time around was Lincoln, the well-received biography Steven Spielburg did a few years ago with Daniel Day Lewis as the title character and Sally Field as his wife. I thought it would be great for Lincoln's birthday and President's Day.

Though it looked like it had sleeted again while I was in the library, it was gone by the time I got out. I was taking no chances. This wasn't a day for lingering. I kept the rest of my errands short. Checked Tuesday Morning to see if they had Ever After High dolls. Yes, they'd just gotten lots of them in, including Briar, Raven, Maddie, Cupid, one Blondie, Legacy Day (fancy outfit) Raven and Apple, and Thronecoming (prom gown) Blondie, Raven, and Cupid, along with the Hat-Tastic (tea-party-themed) playset that included Maddie. Nothing I hadn't seen before except for the Thronecoming dolls. I'm only looking for the basic "Signature" dolls.

A stop at Dollar Tree was even quicker. I just wanted a few Valentine's Day cards for family members and a birthday card for my stepsister Jessa. (Hers is Friday.) It took me longer to stand in line than it did to choose cards.

I just made it to the Westmont Bagel Shop in time for a quick lunch before they closed. The owner mopped the floor even as I ate my Turkey Club Sandwich on whole wheat, fries, and macaroni salad. I watched Jeopardy! and listened to the oldies on their radio.

Made one more fast stop at Thriftway for milk. I was originally going to get it at WaWa, but I really didn't want to go anywhere else. After I got out, I went straight home. The traffic wasn't horrible, not even on Cuthbert - I got out just as the rush hour was starting.

There was a huge box sitting on the front apartment porch when I got in. The ice did stick to the walkway that lead to the front apartment, so I had to be really careful getting it off the porch and up to my apartment. (Richard finally salted my porch and steps later. Hopefully, he did the front for Charlie and his men, too.)

The first part of my Amazon order had arrived! I bought a new Jensen record player and the next Ever After High doll I was looking for, Cedar Wood. The record player is a simple replacement for my old turntable. I bought that from a novelty catalog at least six years ago (with Lauren's help). The Jensen is nothing fancy, no big speakers or added gadgets, but I just want something to play records. That, it did. Billy Joel's The Bridge played just fine and sounded even better. (And thankfully, the plastic top is attached this time. The last one was removable, but I couldn't figure out how to get it back on.)

I got Cedar out next. Cedar is the sweet-natured artist daughter of Pinocchio. She's been cursed to never tell a lie, which is more than a little inconvenient, what with all the secrets floating around Ever After High. (Especially the rather big one her roommate and good friend Cerise Hood is hiding.) Not being a princess or an eccentric tea party lover, Cedar's outfit is a little simpler than the fancy get-ups Maddie and the princesses wear. Her dress is a cute purple and pink variation on her dad's famous outfit from the Disney movie. She has a schoolgirl-ish Peter Pan collar instead of a necklace. She does have a ring and earrings, along with a cute bright green cricket clip in her hair. Her hair was crunchy with a ton of styling goop out of the box. I gave it a good washing. She's another one who sheds badly, but unlike Briar and Blondie, she does seem to have retained her curl.

(The neatest thing about Cedar is her vinyl. It's actually textured to look like she's a real wooden puppet girl. It doesn't just extend to the places that show, either. It's all over her body except for her face. This makes her one of the most detailed - and definitely one of the most unique - dolls in the entire line.)

Ran The Cat In the Hat's newest tales while pulling everything out. The theme here is simply Let's Take An Adventure, as The Cat and the kids take trips and learn how seeds and animals travel. "Amazing Journey" is one of the most interesting, teaching Nick and Sally how Salmon Samantha swims upstream (and up a waterfall) to calm waters to lay her eggs. The kids and The Cat use "Maps!" as they play pirate on an island and look for treasure. "I See Seeds" shows the group how seeds travel long distances when a bird grabs the Thing-A-Ma-Jigger, and they use seeds to go after it.

Finished the night with Bloomer Girl on my new record player and braised celery in chicken stock with a leftover chicken leg for dinner. This 1944 musical had Celeste Holm as Evelina, the youngest daughter of a hoop skirt manufacturer right before the Civil War, who gets involved with her aunt Dolly Bloomer and her crusades for women's and African-American rights. The southern gentleman her father is trying to marry her off to (David Burns) mostly sides with her, to the point of even releasing his slave (Dooley Wilson). Not everyone's so amused, and even the lovers quarrel after she's arrested for showing off her aunt's new trouser-style garments for women in public. It takes the arrival of war to reunite them and make him understand the importance of rights for all.

Harold Arlen and E.Y Harburg did some nice music for this somewhat fanciful historic tale, including "The Eagle and Me" for Wilson and "Right as the Rain" for the young lovers. This was a hit in the nostalgia-starved mid 40's and was made into a TV musical with Barbara Cook 10 years later, but hasn't been seen much since then. Thankfully, both the cast album and the TV version are available and easy to find on Amazon and other sites.

Sunday, February 08, 2015

Oh, the Thinks You Can Think!

Started off a sunny morning with the Leave It to Jane/Oh Kay! CD cast album set and Banana Pancakes for breakfast. Leave It To Jane is a college-set tale that originally debuted in the tiny Princess Theater in 1917. It was the second of three major shows Jerome Kern and PG Wodehouse did for that theater. Appropriately, it was revived off-Broadway in another small house in the late 50s and was a surprise hit. Wodehouse also had a hand in both the original 1925 version of Oh Kay! and its 1960 off-Broadway revival. A couple of songs were added to the 1960 version, including "Stiff Upper Lip" from the movie A Damsel In Distress and "Little Jazz Bird" from the Broadway show Lady Be Good.

Work was steady for the entire afternoon. It was clouding over a little when I headed to the Acme, but it wasn't bad. We're between holidays and are pretty much supposed to get the same weather tomorrow that we got last Monday - a little sleet and snow, but mostly rain. Once again, all the snow will be going north. (Lauren is supposed to get two more feet. She's not happy.) It did get really busy later, to the point where they had to call in a stock woman so I could get out on time - I originally had no relief.

As soon as I got home, I hit the tub. Soaked in the bath for over an hour, listening to the soundtrack from the MGM musical 'Till the Clouds Roll By and looking over the Wilton Cake Decorating Yearbook I bought yesterday. I really needed that bath, especially after all the walking yesterday. It was so relaxing.

Moved onto Seussical as I made a pan-fried seasoned chicken thigh and broccoli for dinner. This 2000 Broadway show introduced a rather complicated plot that was a crossover between several of the best-known Dr. Seuss stories (with references to many others). Horton the Elephant (Keven Chamberlin) is determined to keep a dust speck that is the world of the Whos, as well as an egg abandoned by thoughtless Mayzie, from harm. Most of the Jungle of Nool think he's off his nut, especially the Sour Kangaroo. Gertrude McFuzz believes in him, and even tries to grow her tail to get him to notice her. JoJo, an imaginative Who, also believes in Horton. His parents aren't sure what to think of their son's strange way of thinking and send him off to military school. Meanwhile, the Cat In the Hat pops up wherever he feels like it to narrate the story and help it along.

This was Lynn Aherns and Stephan Flahtery's follow up to Ragtime. It was a flop at the time, due to a lot of the same problems that gave Ragtime fits - a storyline that was too complicated was overshadowed by a huge production. The show has done much better cut down for children's theater and amateur stages. I can understand why. There's some really wonderful music here. My personal favorite is the heartbreaking ballad "Alone In the Universe" for Horton and JoJo when they both realize there are other thinkers out there who want to break out of the speck, so to speak, too.

This is a difficult but generally fun show. I think there's a CD of the later cut-down version out there as well. That might be better for younger kids. For everyone else, especially those who love Aherns and Flahtery or Seuss, this is really sweet and is very recommended.

Saturday, February 07, 2015

Mall Madness

Began a sunny winter's morning with breakfast and A Charlie Brown Valentine. While this 2003 Peanuts special isn't as well-regarded as some of the earlier ones, I actually think it's pretty cute. Charlie Brown tries to drum up the courage to give the Little Red Haired Girl a valentine, then ask her to the dance. As usual, he just can't make himself do it. Meanwhile, Peppermint Patty and Marcie are both eyeing him, Lucy's trying to get Schroeder to notice her, and Sally's making valentines for her "Sweet Baboo," much to Linus' annoyance.

My first stop of the day was this week's volunteering session at the Oaklyn Library. There wasn't a whole lot going on there. A mother was looking for books in the children's section while her son played with Legos. I just kept it to a quick look at the adult and children's DVDs.

It was a beautiful day. The sky was a pale blue, the wind had gentled down to a breeze, and it was in the upper 30's by 11:30 (according to the sign at Beneficial Bank in Audubon). It was the perfect day for a Moorestown Mall trip. I hurried to King's Highway, locked my bike at the rack at CVS, and went across the street to pick up the bus. It was about five minutes late, which could have been worse, given the lunch traffic. There were only one or two people on the bus to begin with; I was the only one who went all the way to Moorestown.

Since the bus lets off right at Boscov's, I started there. I do need a few new clothes. I first looked at boots. The soles of the wonderful sheepskin-lined boots Mom gave me a few years ago have finally started to crack. Given how frequently I wear them during the winter (I wore them today), it's not surprising. I didn't see anything that came close to a replacement. All the boots were either too tight, or had high heels (not on a bike!), or no lining, or no tread on the bottom.

I had more luck with clothes. While I couldn't find a winter skirt, I did get a new pair of brown corduroys (the old ones were too small) and a really pretty pink, brown, and white rose-print t-shirt. The corduroys were $14.99 and the shirt was $11.99, both massively on sale. I also looked over their toys section. The only Ever After High dolls they had were Briar and a couple of the Hat-Tastic dolls. Nothing I didn't already have.

It was so nice, I left the mall for lunch. Headed around the corner from Boscov's to the Corner Bakery and Cafe. It looks pretty much like the same thing as Panera Bread - high-end, better-made fast food. Here, though, they bring the food to your table. I had half of a Grilled Chicken Sandwich, a mixed greens salad, black current iced tea, and a vanilla cupcake with cream cheese frosting. The cupcake was ok, moist but a little too oily, and the icing was too sweet. The sandwich was delicious, though, seasoned just right, and I liked the tangy vinaigrette on the greens.

Went across the parking lot next to Michael's. I haven't been in a Michael's since I lived in Cape May County. (Mom worked in the one in Rio Grande for a while.) This one was smaller than the AC Moore in Moorestown and Deptford, but it had better prices. The Springfield Collection outfits were at least a dollar to two dollars cheaper than at AC Moore. I bought a cute white ruffled knit sweater and pink polka-dot skirt for my modern dolls and the 2014 Wilton Cake Decorating Yearbook. (It's their special 85th Anniversary edition and has a section on the history of Wilton and the yearbooks that's fascinating.)

Headed to Barnes and Noble next. Alas, no Ever After High dolls there, either. (Tons of Monster High, though.) I did make some good finds. They had the soundtrack for Newsies for $7.99, the cheapest I've ever seen it (I think it's out of print). Found the 1-disk version of the Errol Flynn Adventures of Robin Hood for $4.99 and a journal with a colorful cover of exotic lilies on the Bargain tables for $4.98. Splurged on the George Harrison greatest hits CD Let It Roll and another Sailor Moon manga (Japanese comic book).

It was past 3. I wanted to leave by at least 4:30. It was time to return to the mall. I considered the movies, but there isn't really much playing right now besides Paddington, Sponge Bob, and American Sniper, all of which I could wait for on DVD. Besides, there were massive crowds at the theater, mainly kids there to see Paddington and Sponge Bob.

I was thirsty and hot from walking and was hoping to pick up a water ice at Rita's in the Food Court next to the theater. No dice. The line was half-way back to the theater! There was no other place in the Food Court to get dessert. Half the Court was covered with walls and in the midst of remodeling.

I ended up at FYE instead, across from the Food Court. I'm trying to avoid getting a ton of movies, since I got a lot for Christmas, but I found some surprisingly good CD's. I ended up with the Broadway original cast album for Seussical (which I've been trying to get for a good price for ages), a double CD studio cast recording of the early 20th century musicals Oh Kay! and Leave It to Jane, and a Bruno Mars CD, Doo Wop & Hooligans. I bought three to take advantage of the buy two used, get one for a dollar sale. All three were $7.99; Leave It To Jane/Oh Kay! ended up being the dollar item.

Made a short stop next at Hallmark. Got the adorable WebKinz Pink Iced Penguin. She's a very girlie little bird, with glittery bright-pink plush and a lavender bow. I think she's just too adorable. (And she came in a box and did have her tag.) Finally gave up on the crazy line at Rita's and got a Tropical Twist "Chillatta" at Cinnabon across from Sears instead.

The bus ride home wasn't as pleasant as the one going there. There was no traffic, but the bus was eight minutes late. By the time it arrived, some people weren't happy. There were a couple of women in the back who did nothing but talk loudly and curse over people's heads the entire ride. They weren't really nasty, but they were obnoxious and annoying. Not everyone wants to listen to their conversation.

My last stop was the CVS on King's Highway after I got off the bus. I needed contact lens solution and a new toothbrush. They had better prices on Oral B than the Acme. It was almost 6 at that point. They were pretty busy, but they're also big and was able to open up more than one line. The wait wasn't long.

I finally got home around 6:30. It was so late, I just put on the Newsies soundtrack instead of a movie and had the last of the leftover tacos for dinner. Newsies is a delightful live-action musical about a newsboys' strike in New York in 1899. Christian Bale is the head of the group; David Moscow is one of its newest members. It was a flop in the early 90s; it would be nearly two decades before the world was ready for live-action musicals to make a comeback. My favorite songs are the opening dance number that introduces the Newsies themselves "Carrying the Banner" and the energetic "King of New York," after they just got their pictures in the paper.

I bought the last few things I wanted that I hadn't seen at the malls at Amazon. Got a new record player, a simple Jensen model. I enjoyed the film soundtrack for Newsies so much, I decided to give the cast album for the recent stage version a try. My first LP on the new player will be the two-disc set for the Broadway show Beautiful: The Carole King Musical. Somehow, it just seems more appropriate to listen to Carole King's music on records. (I have her Tapestry on record.) Also picked up Cedar Wood. The daughter of Pinocchio, she's a sweet girl who literally can't tell a lie. She's a really pretty doll, and I've wanted to find her for a while.

Oh, and meet my new WebKinz, Valentina the Pink Penguin! She'll be considered a Valentine's Day decoration and will come out with Amoura the Love Frog. Amoura's her best friend; she has an ice-themed room with some of the new ice furniture near her place where they write love poetry and try on fancy new outfits together.