Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Age of Avengers

Actually, I spent most of a gray, dreary day getting through my 7 hour shift at work. It was off and on all afternoon, and I suspect it'll be like that for the rest of this week and next week as well. Easter is this Sunday; the beginning of the month is tomorrow. Most kids will probably be off for spring break starting Thursday or Friday. Thankfully, there really weren't too many problems. My relief was late. Thankfully, it died down enough by 6 that I was able to shut down and get out on time.

I got lucky with the weather both ways. It was just cloudy when I went to work. It must have rained fairly hard sometime in the afternoon. I saw the sky get dark around 2 PM. By 6 PM, the sky was lighter, and the rain was down to a light shower. I was barely wet when I got home. The rain has been off and on since.

Spent the rest of the evening eating scrambled eggs with mushrooms, spinach, and cherry tomatoes for dinner while finishing The Avengers, which I started this morning before work. Some of the most popular Marvel comic book characters - Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr), Captain America (Steve Evans), Black Widow (Scarlett Johassen), The Incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Thor (Chris Helmsworth), and archery master Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) - come together to fight Thor's silver-tongued brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and the army of aliens he's called up via the Tesseract, an opening in space. The group, aided by Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and his S.H.I.E.L.D agents, has to stop Loki and close the Tesseract before New York gets torn to shreds. Their biggest battle, though, is trying to figure out how six incredibly different people can figure out how to work together as a team, without killing each other before Loki does.

I know this isn't the darkest or most creative superhero movie around...but darned if it doesn't WORK. It helps that it's hilarious, with quips being fired off from just about every character on the screen. (Heck, the Hulk gets my favorite line in the movie.) It manages to tie all of the loose ends from previous movies, and even creates a few. My favorite characters are still the sweet Rodgers as the hero-out-of-time Captain and Ruffalo as Bruce Banner, a fairly good-natured scientist who is funny and charming...until you get him angry, and he unleashes his really, really big and angry side. The motion capture animation they did to make Ruffalo the Hulk was amazing.

Definitely a no-brainer, especially if you're a comics fan or a fan of the previous movies. The next one, Age of Ultron, is due out in a month. I may actually attempt to see this one in the theater this time. I hope it's just as much fun as the original.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Windy Spring

It looked like it had rained last night when I got up - the porch was wet. However, by the time I was sitting down with my cereal and finishing Little Nemo, it was just cloudy. The clouds were breaking up, even as I moved on to my half-grapefruit.

I ran the two Lady Lovely Locks episodes I dubbed a while back as I cleaned up from breakfast. This very 80's girl's tale tells of the title beauty, whose magical hair keeps her kingdom forever sunny. Nasty Duchess Raven Waves tricks her into staying away too long in the pilot episode "To Save My Kingdom." We're introduced to the Pixietails, the critters who live in her hair and help her out. We also meet Prince Strongheart, who is under a curse that makes him appear as a dog named Prince. Prince shows his love for the Lady in "Cruel Pretender." The Lady learns that not everyone who appears to be a friend is when a handsome Baron shows interest in her...but turns out to be part of another Duchess Raven Waves trick.

The sun was trying to come out as I rode across Newton River Park to Westmont. The Park's finally starting to show signs of spring. Buds are just appearing on trees. Green grass sprouts on the fields. Every last bit of ice and snow is gone from the river. Surprisingly, despite it being 12:30 and not a cold day, there weren't too many people out and about other than some Canadian geese poking around near the Cuthbert Road entrance.

The Haddon Township Library was busier, but mainly with people who wanted to use the computers. I lost count of all the people I explained to that I know nothing about the computers. That's the librarians' territory. The DVD shelves were really jammed today. There were a lot of kids and adult titles I just could not fit in. G and S titles in the kids' section and M, R, and S in the adult section were especially overloaded. Maybe people felt more like music this week - I also shelved a big pile of CD's and a couple of audio books. There didn't seem to be much else to do. I headed out after less than an hour.

(Oh, and I didn't take anything out this week. I'm not sure when I'll get to the library next week to return it, and I do have plenty to watch at home.)

Ended up at the Westmont Bagel Shop for lunch. They were surprisingly quiet for 1:30. The only other people there were a mother and her daughter. I ordered a tasty and unusual sandwich consisting of grilled deli turkey, cranberry cole slaw, and melted Swiss cheese on a sourdough bagel. Messy but delicious. I enjoyed my meal while watching The Chew and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?

My next stop was Dollar Tree. I needed sponges, but I was mainly there for Easter cards. While most of my family isn't really big on Easter, there's a lot of people this year I want to cheer up or just acknowledge more often. Dollar Tree wasn't too busy, a bit of a surprise given what they're usually like. I wasn't in line for long.

Headed home after that. I got all of the cards going out of town ready to send out. I know Easter isn't until Sunday, but I figured if I put it off, I'd forget to do it at all. I grabbed my laundry and went out to the laundromat around quarter of 4, stopping at the mail box on the corner of West Clinton and Manor to drop off the cards. Once again, the laundromat wasn't too bad. Pretty much the same as last week. I did a small load, read The Cameo Necklace, and ignored Dr. Phil and his "patients."

Ran Hello Dolly for the rest of the evening when I got in and had a fried egg sandwich and spinach and tomato salad for dinner. This 1969 adaptation of the Broadway hit takes us to early 1900's New York. Dolly Levi (Barbara Streisand) is a matchmaker (among other things) whose current assignment takes her to Yonkers. Cranky bachelor feed store owner Horace Vandergelder (Walter Matthau) wants to get married to a charming milliner named Irene Malloy and his niece to find a more suitable suitor than a penniless, very tall artist (Tommy Tune). Vandergelder's store clerks, Cornelius (Michael Crawford) and Barnaby, just want an evening on the town. Dolly finally gets everyone to Manhattan, where she pairs them all off, chases Vandergelder herself, and raises the roof with the famous title number.

Wall-E isn't the only guy who loves this movie. This is a long-standing favorite of my entire family, and was a surprise hit with my otherwise musical-resistant brother and nephews. Though it did make money on first release, its gigantic budget put it in the red until families like mine discovered it on cable and home video. What I love about this movie is the wealth of detail. That money was well-spent, going into creating a believable Manhattan and Yonkers of the late 19th-early 20th century. It was so realistic, it prompted a lot of discussions on the era in my family when I was a kid. I'm especially fond of the gorgeous, colorful costumes.

Casting is more of a problem. Streisand is miscast in a role intended for an older woman, though she seems to be having fun anyway - "So Long, Dearie" is especially hilarious. Matthau and Crawford are generally better as the miserly businessman who softens just a little bit as Dolly works her magic and the goofy clerk who is looking for adventure in the big city and his first romance. (Though Crawford's natural English accent has a tendency to pop out at times, noticeably during the Harmonia Gardens segment.)

If you're a fan of Streisand or the big musicals of the 60's and 70's, this one has been happily redeemed of late and is now seen as one of the better ones of that era.

While Dolly was on, I went through a lot of stuff in my back room. The back room is an unheated room towards the side of the house over the front apartment, and is my equivalent of an attic. I keep unused or unneeded things like seasonal decorations and clothes, the dolls' clothes, and toiletries and linens that don't fit in the bathroom or my bedroom in there. I first went through the journals, organizing them by year. I've been writing in journals for nearly 30 years now, and writing in them everyday for almost a decade. They take up two plastic milk crates and are starting to spill over to a third. I'm only missing one volume, for 2007 - I'll look around some more.

I also went through everything I intend to donate. Books and other media go to the local libraries. Toys, stuffed animals, and craft items go to Studio LuLoo. Anything else, including random wires from electronics, goes to the church thrift shop in Audubon. (I still don't know what to do with that bag of empty CD and DVD cases. Maybe I'll see if one of the libraries can use them.)

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Dolls In the Spring

I went decadent with Coconut and Chocolate Chip Pancakes to start my day. Listened to the original cast album of Ain't Misbehavin' while I ate. Hearing the title song in The All Night Strut inspired me to pull out this 2-disc set. Like All Night Strut, Ain't Misbehavin' is a simple three-woman, two-man revue revolving around the music of the early and mid-20th century.  In this case, the music was either written or performed by Fats Waller, a legendary pianist and performer who was known for his lavish lifestyle and great jazz and swing songs. I particularly like "T'ain't Nobody's Bizness If I Do" and "I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter." Broadway favorite Nell Carter had one of her biggest successes as one of the female singers.

Changed the dolls into formal spring outfits for Easter after breakfast. Josefina wears her Feast Day Outfit with the ruffled camisa and her beautiful gold Heirloom Accessories shawl. Jessa's in the 1998 fruit-print Birthday T-Shirt and Jumper and purple jelly sandals. Whitney gets what's now known as Kit's Springtime Outfit, the peachy-pink dress with the ruffled skirt that was released as a limited edition last year. Samantha also wears a limited edition outfit, in this case her current Flower-Picking Set dress with the white and pink shoes from Rebecca's Lace Dress. Felicity sports her Pink Birthday Dress and floral Pinner apron. Molly's wearing her Polka-Dot Outfit.

(And Sam looks beautiful in her new dress! Unlike the Frilly Frock, it fits her well, too. I love the fancy lace collar and the pretty pink and magenta print. The skirt is also much longer than most of her wardrobe, giving her a slightly more grown-up air. As with the extras from Kit's Candy-Making set last year, I'm going to use the basket and flowers that came with Samantha's outfit as general decorations in the apartment, rather than with the dolls.)

It took me a lot longer to dress the dolls than I thought it would. I had to hurry out to work and just made it. Glad I got there on time. We were busy almost the entire afternoon. It was chilly and a little windy, though not quite as bad as yesterday. It's the week before Easter, and the beginning of the month is this week as well. Some people (and employees) weren't in the best moods. I suspect at least some of the rancor is because Mother Nature keeps hovering in the mid-to-upper 40's and won't automatically jump into the 60's and 70's, the way everyone wants her to.

I spent the rest of the evening eating baked salmon cakes and broccoli and cauliflower and cleaning up a mess in the living room. I spilled water out of the plant on top of the record crates next to the window overlooking the park in the music area. I didn't think it was any big deal...until I felt a wet patch while pulling out Ain't Misbehavin' this morning. The water seeped under three crates and soaked a few records in the crate closest to the window. I put two crates outside to dry and had to leave the others all over the living room while the rug dries out.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Adventures In Mutantland

Began a cold, sort-of-cloudy morning with shredded wheat, half a grapefruit, and It's the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown. Linus keeps insisting that the Easter Beagle will come down and give presents to all the good little children. Sally's more skeptical. She's dealt with his pet theories before. Snoopy wants to buy Woodstock a birdhouse to keep the spring weather off of him. Peppermint Patty spends her spring holidays trying to teach Marcie to color eggs, with little success. Lucy tries to get presents off of Schroeder and makes sure that she'll win the Easter egg hunt. And Charles Schultz makes a few jabs at very early Christmas sales.

Work was on-and-off busy, especially in the morning. It wasn't quite as bad as the other day, and it did thin out a little as the afternoon went on. It picked up enough by 2 that I needed a manager to come in for me. My relief, one of the college boys, was late.

I went straight home. When I got in, I changed and spent the next few hours working on my final project for class. The question is, "if it wasn't impossible, what would you do?" You have to brainstorm ideas, then let them sit for a while. I did some stuff online, then did my brainstorming. I'll start the essay - it has to be at least 10 pages - Monday or Tuesday.

When I finished, I made leftovers for dinner, then baked a pineapple-coconut cake while watching X Men: Days of Future Past. In the far future, Sentinels, robots with mutant-like powers, are killing off human and mutant alike. Logan "Wolverine" Howlett (Hugh Jackman) jumps back in the past to 1973 to stop blue-skinned assassin Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from killing the inventor of the Sentinels, Boliver Trask (Peter Dinklage). He'll need help from Professor Xavier (James McAvoy), who's become a drunk since the last movie, and Erik "Magneto" Lensher (Micheal Fassbinder) who is in a top-secret security prison in the Pentagon. Logan has to bring the two together, or there may not be a future for any mutant.

I'm not normally the biggest sci-fi fan, but this one was rather interesting. I suspect it might help if you know the comics a little better. Tighter focus helps, although there's still a few characters (like some of the mutants seen in the opening, Storm, and the hilarious sprinter Quicksilver) I would like to have seen more of. If you're a fan of this series, jump in. Newcomers and casual fans may want to check out at least the first two movies before coming here to get a better idea of the characters.

Moved to Little Nemo: Adventures In Slumberland while I frosted my cake with Coconut Cool Whip Icing. The title character is also from a comic book, in this case one of the earliest hit comics, going all the way back to the early 1900's. Little Nemo dreams that he's in a fantastic world where dirigibles are practically flying palaces, pixies control the weather, and jolly King Morpheus rides a toy train and wants to make him his heir. Nemo's not entirely sure about this, despite making friends with his daughter. When he and the mischievous hobo Flip accidentally open the door to Nightmareland, the evil Nightmare King kidnaps King Morpheus. Now Nemo and his friends have to get into Slumberland to free the king and show that in dreams, anything really is possible.

This was another troubled production that goes back even further than Felix the Cat and Happily Ever After. Originally a Japanese-American co-production, animation began in the early 80's. There was so much infighting and fussing over what tone to take (the Americans wanted darkness; the Japanese, whimsy) that the movie wasn't completed until 1989, and wasn't released in the US until the early 90's. They never entirely solved that problem. The movie goes back and forth from goofy fantasy to frightening dark sequences. Some of the animation is really awesome, though, especially in the second half in Nightmareland.

This was released on Blu-Ray a few years ago with the original Japanese soundtrack and some of the footage cut from the US release restored. It's worth a look if you love fantasy or unusual animated films.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Jukebox Friday Night

It was just cloudy and cold when I got up this morning. I combated the gloom with another Easter special. Bugs Bunny's Easter Funnies is another Looney Toons holiday special made up of mostly bits and pieces of classic cartoons. The wrap-around story is the flimsiest yet. Granny has to find a replacement for the ailing Easter Bunny among the Toons. Possibly to make up for the weak storyline, the cartoons excerpted are among some of the best ever made by Termite Terrace, including three Oscar winners, "For Scentimental Reasons," "Birds Anonymous," and "Knighty Knight Bugs." (Other favorites seen here include "Robin Hood Daffy," "Hillbilly Hare," and "The Rabbit of Seville.")

Work was on-and-off busy, but mostly quiet. The clouds from the morning had mostly subsided by late afternoon. We weren't quite as busy as yesterday, and we had a lot more help, too. This time, I was able to shut down easily with no relief and no problems.

Good, because I had a lot of grocery shopping to do today. I needed meat, but there weren't any really good sales. I did get a small tube of ground turkey for $3.49 and two packs of salmon cakes for $1.58 each with two manger's coupons. Most of it was restocking - tomato sauce, diced tomato, peanut butter, parchment paper, brown sugar, chocolate chips, coconut, oatmeal, bananas, sweet potatoes, apples, grapefruit. I found a bunch of DVD's in the clearance shelves. Grabbed the first How to Train Your Dragon for $2.99 and a set with the first two American Tail movies for $3.99.

Oh, and my schedule for next week is pretty similar to this week's with slightly more hours. I do have a 7-hour day on Tuesday. Otherwise, nothing really late or really early, Monday and Wednesday off again.

The light on my phone was blinking when I got in. Rose called while I was at work. We'd be going to the show at 7:30, after she dropped off Khai at Craig's mom's house. Ok, that was fine. I could have a chance to eat, change, put everything away, and watch How to Train Your Dragon 2.

Hiccup, his beloved dragon Toothless, and the other Dragon Riders of Berk now live in harmony with their new friends. Hiccup is nervous about taking over as chief from his father, Stoick. He's even more scared when he, Ingrid, and the other riders discover a group of dragon poachers who are rounding up dragons for the evil Draco. Draco wants to create his own dragon army and destroy Berk. While escaping the poachers, Toothless and Hiccup make a huge discovery in an ice cave. Another dragon rider has been making raids on the poachers, and Hiccup gets the shock of his life when he finds out who this person is! Meanwhile, his father is searching for him, and the other Riders are trying to rescue their dragons from Draco. Hiccup wants to reason with Draco, but he gets a huge reality check when he discovers that his dad was right, and there are just some people in this world you can't reason with.

I was just as impressed with the second movie as I was with the first. This is a touching, rather dark tale of a boy and his dragon who both learn that family is closer than you think, and while not everyone will be reasonable, that doesn't mean you don't still try to make peace. If you loved the first movie or the TV show or are a fan of animated action, this is very highly recommended.

The movie was ending and I'd just cleaned up the dishes from my salmon cakes and vegetable stir-fry dinner when Rose called again. She was picking me up early. She had decided to pick me up first, then drop off Khai. Fine by me. We dropped him off at his grandmother's house in Haddonfield, then headed down the highway to Woodbury, dodging more road repair on the way.

Woodbury is a lovely old town in the heart of Gloucester County. It's the county seat, as well as having the local hospital branch. The Sketch Club Players turned out to be a small theater in an old house on the edge of town. We parked in front and, after some confusion over where to go, headed in. The stage was small, so small you could sit in the back and probably see everyone pretty clearly. We took seats in the middle. We were there more than a half-hour early. We had time to look over Playbills and check cell phones before the show began.

The All Night Strut was a revue based around 30's and 40's music. Three women and two men performed popular standards from the era like "Minnie the Moocher," "As Time Goes By," "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?" and "Jukebox Saturday Night." The backdrops were just simple curtains and mid-20th-century Art Deco trim, with a movie screen occasionally showing projections of Hollywood stars of the era or scenes from Depression breadlines or World War II (and some newer wars, too).

Rose's friend and fellow lawyer Tiara was the one who suggested the show to us. She performed an especially lovely "I'll Be Seeing You," the finale of Act I. She made a great Minnie the Moocher, too.

The two cutest numbers both revolved around troubled relationships. One of the guys tried to chase two of the girls...and ended up getting into trouble with both....in "Ain't Misbehavin'." Both guys tried to woo two of the girls in "A Fine Romance," but they weren't having any of it. "Java Jive" reminded me of "Coffee Break" from How to Succeed In Business as everyone chased that all-important cup of Joe. (They even had a stage manager who brought them the cups and broke up the girls fighting in "Misbehavin'.")

As you can tell, I really enjoyed the show and am glad Rose invited me. She seemed to have fun too, and musicals usually aren't her thing. I wish we could have told Tiara what a fine singer she was, but Rose couldn't figure out where to meet the performers and wanted to get home to Khai anyway. We had to dodge a lot of traffic slowly making its way around the repairs on the Black Horse Pike, especially down by the ramp into Oaklyn. Rose picked up Khai first (in his cute dog-print pajamas!) before she dropped me off.

Oh, and I got my eBay order for Josefina today. Most American Girl dolls up through Kaya had mini-dolls made for them and their time periods. Josefina's Nina is especially meaningful because, in the story, her mother made it and passed it down from girl to girl. Josefina's sister Clara didn't want to give her up originally after her mother died, but she finally decided to honor the tradition and clean her up for her sister.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Changes In the Rain

It was cloudy and unusually warm and humid for this time of year when I started work. I have no idea why we were so busy...or why we had so many people call out. Warm temperatures aside, this was hardly the kind of day you'd want to spend on a blanket at the Jersey Shore. We were so short on help for a lot of the day, I ended up staying an hour. One man even complained loudly about it, yelling to everyone around him that we were horrible because we couldn't be bothered to hire help. (Uh, we did. It just didn't come in.)

I worked on writing for an hour when I finally got home. I also came to a conclusion while going over the websites for AG Collectors and AG Playthings. I think I've had quite enough of the American Girl fandom. While no one's ever said anything really mean to me, I'm tired of the complaining over sales, how the dolls and the time periods they represent should be depicted, what the clothes they wear and the things they hold are made of, and how one side of the fan base snipes at the other. I will continue to post on the Ever After High/Monster High message board I belong to, to read doll blogs and websites, to collect things for my dolls, and to post photos of them at my blog. I'm going to take a hiatus from American Girl message boards until the late August release of Josefina's new wardrobe and the 50's doll. We'll see how I feel then.

The assignment was to write a short story based around an event that changed you or someone who changed you, preferably set during a holiday. I had a hard time choosing an event! I finally based the story around Christmas 1990. We moved across town on New Year's Day 1991, and because of this, our Christmas was very simple. We only had a few presents, we had a small table-top tree strung with cranberry-popcorn ropes and a hand-made glitter-covered star, and we otherwise didn't decorate. Thankfully, the next time we moved, four years later, it was in the fall. My two subsequent moves on my own were in early February. They were all well away from any major holidays.

It also reminded me of how different we were from other families. I still don't know anyone else outside of the military who grew up moving from house to house because they couldn't afford the rent or Dad fought with the shady friend who owned the house. Even Lauren never lived in more than two or three houses her entire life.

We were supposed to let the writing "cool" for a while. I put on a Wonder Woman episode while having leftover chili for dinner and making Banana Spice Muffins. "Knockout" is one of the more interesting early second season episodes. Diana Prince finds herself dealing with a former LA cop-turned-terrorist who has kidnapped Steve. The terrorists are going to hijack a business conference for major companies in LA...if Wonder Woman doesn't stop them first!

Oh, and it's been raining on and off all day. Thankfully, it waited to start until well after I got to work, and took a break while I was on my way home. (In fact, the sun was trying to come out at that point.) It started up again later in the night, and has been off and on since. There's a possibility it'll mix with a little snow tomorrow. Once again, I doubt it'll stick...and if it does, it won't be around for more than a day or two.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Around the Town and Home Again

I started the morning off by finishing The Boy Friend and eating shredded wheat and half a grapefruit for breakfast. I didn't get going until 11:30. My first stop was Studio LuLoo for this week's volunteering session there. I decided to try something different and swept the sidewalk outside. Studio LuLoo is between Phillies Phatties and Leo's Yum Yum on West Clinton. They all share the new wood-and-plastic picnic tables that appeared on the sidewalks last year. I swept under the ones closest to Studio LuLoo, and pushed as much debris off the main sidewalk as I could with the wind.

When I got back in, I did what I could with the play area. It was a real mess. Toys and dress-up costumes and play food was scattered all over the floor. I could barely move around. I brought in the stuffed animals and dolls I'd brought for donations, then got to organizing everything. I dumped dolls in one container, horses in another. Large toys were separated into two big plastic bins. Dropped soft balls into a mini-shopping cart. (I didn't know where else to put them.) Stuffed animals and large dolls went in a doll crib. Play food was returned to the Cinderella-themed kitchen.

Headed to the Oaklyn Library next. They just completely rearranged their DVD's. The shelves that held the adult DVD's on one side and oversized books on the other were now placed back-to-back instead of side-by-side. They're also now strictly home for DVD's. The classic movies were re-integrated into the shelves. The kids' DVD's were moved over to next to the TV. I worked on organizing all of them. It would seem they hadn't entirely finished organizing them when they were moved. I took a look at the children's section, too. (I have no idea what happened to the oversized and reference books, though.)

It had started to shower lightly as I left Studio LuLoo. The rain picked up as I headed down to the White Horse Pike. I hadn't eaten at Aunt Berta's for a while. The soul food restaurant was very busy when I arrived. I took a seat next to the window and watched the heavy traffic on the Pike as other people chatted around me. I knew exactly what I wanted. I got the salmon cake lunch hour special that comes with one salmon cake and two sides and the tub-sized container of sweet iced tea. My collard greens and candied yams were delicious, especially the yams. Had a nice, crumbly slice of cornbread, too. It was all tasty.

The rain had picked up as I ate lunch. I decided to just save the bike riding idea I had for another day and buy the things I needed from the CVS on the border of Collingswood and Oaklyn. They were pretty busy for mid-afternoon when I got in. I ended up with the Tums I needed, plus their generic drain cleaner on sale. (My bathroom sink is still running really slow.)

The rain continued on and off for the rest of the afternoon. I spent the remaining day indoors. I worked a little on class work online. I also joined another AG adult collectors message board, AG Collectors. I'm going to stay on AG Playthings as well, but I've been getting tired of some of the fussing over there about the sales and the new Historical things being different from the old Historical things. On the other hand, some of the people on AG Collectors are nice but very outspoken about everything under the sun! I'm a bit intimidated. We'll see how things go there.

I ran Ducktails the Movie: Treasure of the Lost Lamp while making a very fast peanut butter and jelly sandwich and spinach salad dinner. Uncle Scrooge takes Launchpad, Webby, and the nephews on a trip to the desert to find the legendary Treasure of Kali Baba. They come back empty-handed, much to Scrooge's frustration...except for a rather familiar lamp that Webby kept to use with her dolls. The lamp turns out to be the home of a genie who, unlike the Aladdin version, is basically a kid himself.  When Uncle Scrooge finds out, he uses the genie to bring him the treasure. Someone else is also after the genie, a nasty sorcerer named Merlock who has a talisman that grants him unlimited wishes. Uncle Scrooge ends up discovering just how important his family and home are when the sorcerer and his cowardly minion Dijon get their hands on the genie, and he and the others have to get it back.

If you're a fan of the original Ducktails, this movie is a no-brainer. I'm so glad it's finally on regular DVD. While the animation isn't on a par with their regular animated films, it's mostly better than the TV show. I love the opening in the pyramid and how the kids found and befriended the genie. I'm less fond of the second half. Dijon is a rather annoying stereotype, and Merlock is too hammy for words (played by Christopher Lloyd, which explains a lot) and has some of the film's stiffest dialogue. The genie can come off as a bit annoying as well.

I still recommend this for fans of Ducktails or the Uncle Scrooge comics that inspired it. Short and fun, with some wonderful action sequences, especially in the opening.

Oh, and I made Oatmeal-Raisin Cookies during the first half of Ducktails, mainly to use the last of the raisins I bought for the Irish Soda Bread. It's a variation on a recipe from the Betty Crocker Cooky Book. I added a cup of whole wheat flour and baking powder to make up for not having enough oatmeal. My first couple cookies were a little crumbly, so I added more water to the mix. Yum. Sweet and chewy and a little nutty.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Won't You Charelston With Me?

The day did not begin well. For one thing, it was cloudy, cold, and blah when I finally awoke. I hadn't slept well. I kept getting woken up by animals snarling and fighting either downstairs or outside. I'm hoping it's just the raccoons and feral cats in heat picking brawls. Didn't help that I was up late, either. The chain came off my bike half-way to work again. I hurried down the Black Horse Pike and just barely made it in at the last minute.

After all the fuss, work wasn't really a problem. It was off and on all day. In fact, it was dead when I came in. We did get backed up a lot, but I think that's because we were simply short on help. Thankfully, most people were in better moods than yesterday. My relief was on time, and I was in and out with no trouble.

I tried to fix the bike when I came out. A man going into the Acme ended up helping me get the chain back on. He tightened the back wheel, too. Actually, I think he made it a bit too tight. The bike moved a little stiffly going home. That's ok. At least I made it home, and it was nice of him to help. I'll oil the chain and see if I can do anything else tomorrow.

I'm glad I made Ground Chicken Chili in my Crock Pot for dinner. It was ready and smelling wonderful when I got home. I ran part of The Boy Friend while I ate. (I started it this morning.) This 1971 adaptation of the British musical takes us to a second-rate theater in the English provinces in the late 20's. A troupe is putting on the title show for un-amused local audiences. Sweet Polly the stage manager (Twiggy) is thrust into the main role when the star breaks her ankle. She doesn't care about performing. All she wants is the hot guy playing the love interest (Christopher Gable), but she thinks he doesn't notice her. Meanwhile, everyone else is showing off for a Hollywood director who is scouting out talent for his latest musical, including Tom (Tommy Tune), a tap-dance protege with a rather melodramatic back story despite his cheerful demeanor.

The slight story is augmented by a series of bizarre musical numbers inspired by Busby Berkeley and the musical fantasias of the 30's, most of which don't make much sense in context. The cast is much better, especially charming Twiggy and hilarious Tune. If you love the Berkeley musicals or the huge movie musicals of the late 60's and 70's, this affectionate homage is available in the Warner Archives.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Chilled Spring

I slept in again. It was still sunny and cold, but not quite as windy when I finally got out of bed. Ran Sailor Moon R: Promise of the Rose while I ate breakfast. Serena and the Soldiers get quite a surprise when a young man appears, claiming to be a friend of Darien's. Darien has no idea who he is. Turns out he's an alien named Fiore who had befriended Darien on a previous visit to Earth. Fiore found a flower on another planet, hoping to give it to Darien...but the flower had plans of its own, and is now using him to suck the energy from the Earth! Fiore finally kidnaps Darien and takes him to a planet filled with flowers that are ready to invade the planet. The Soldiers go after them, and learn a lesson in teamwork and the importance of building and maintaining friendships in the process.

Finally headed out around 12:30. It was a beautiful day for an errands run. It was probably chillier than it should have been, but the sun felt nice and warm. It continued to melt the little remaining snow as I cut across Newton Lake Park. I saw quite a few people out and about despite the cold day, including dog walkers and ducks floating along on the now-defrosted lake.

The Haddon Township Library was very busy with people taking out movies on lunch break when I arrived. I mostly organized the kids' and adults' DVD's. They really need to thin out those S titles, in both adult and kids' sides. They still have waaaayyy too much Scooby Doo and Sesame Street! I'm a fan of both, but they take up almost all of the first two shelves on the S through Z rack alone.

I did end up taking out a few things today. Disney finally put out Ducktales the Movie: Treasures of the Lost Lamp on commercial DVD. (It's been out in their Movie Club for a few years now.) I used to love that when I was a kid. Found How to Train Your Dragon 2 and X Men: Days of Future Past among the adult titles. Also grabbed two books on crocheting (one concentrating on things for the house).

I made a quick stop at Thriftway next. They were having good sales on cooking oil (Crisco was $2.99) and cooking spray (their generic White Rose brand was $1.69!). I was hoping to get chocolate chips as well, but the prices weren't nearly as good as the Acme's. It was so quiet, they only had two lines open. I had to wait a few minutes.

It was so late by the time I got out of Thriftway, I skipped my original plan of going to Rite Aid for Tums (I'll get them on Wednesday) and returned to Oaklyn for lunch. The kids were out of the Oaklyn School when I arrived at Phillies Phatties. I had two quick slices of cheese and mushroom pizza and a can of Diet Pepsi while groups of kids sat around me, chatting about their school day. The Phillies played the Twins in pre-season baseball in the background. (The Phillies ultimately won, 3 to 0.)

As soon as I got in, I grabbed my laundry and went right back out. I really had to get it done. It was surprisingly quiet at the laundromat for 4:30 on a Monday evening. There were only a few people there when I arrived. I read The Crystal Ball and ignored the obnoxious Dr. Phil in the background. The news that came on afterwards was infinitely more interesting. By the time it got busier, I was getting my small load out of the dryer.

Spent the rest of the evening at home. I put everything away, then made scrambled eggs with stir-fry vegetables as I watched an episode of Moonlighting. Rebecca isn't the only one to use psychic phenomenon to solve a mystery. One of David and Maddie's earliest cases from their truncated first season was "Read the Mind, See the Movie." Maddie is determined to find out how a company building elaborate new weapons for the military is losing their contracts to their competitor. The rival says he's getting information from a psychic who may or may not be on the level. Maddie and David go on a surveillance mission to find out.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Not-So-Smooth Work

I was up so late last night, I slept until 11:30! I didn't get to my breakfast of Banana-Raisin Pancakes until almost 12:30. I listened to a couple of records as I ate and went over some cookbooks for ideas for a Crock Pot meal for tomorrow. My favorite was the soundtrack from The Boy Friend. I don't know why MGM felt the need to add two of its standards to the tunestack (especially given that they didn't add much to the story), but otherwise, this is a fairly faithful rendering of the original score. The title song and "It's Never Too Late to Fall In Love" are especially fun.

Work was busy through most of the evening, and not everyone was pleasant about it. One woman absolutely threw a fit the moment I tried to help her by wrapping up her rotisserie chicken so the plastic container wouldn't leak. She claimed I was being nasty before I even opened my mouth! I was trying to help. I still don't know what I did wrong. She's thrown a fit at me for no reason before. The woman behind her said I hadn't done anything wrong and was fine, but I don't want people to be angry.

I couldn't wait to get out of there. Thankfully, by 7 PM, it had slowed down to the point that I could shut down with no relief. It was a really nice day today. Though it was chilly and windy, the warm sun continued to melt the remaining snow. By the time I was heading home, there was just the barest bits of snow remaining in shady spots, and nothing on the roads or sidewalks.

I listened to Michael Jackson as I made tuna salad on a bed of spinach topped with cherry tomatoes for dinner. I watched Moonwalker on YouTube last night. It was a strange movie even when I was a kid, and it's even weirder now that Jackson has passed on and is pretty much considered the poster child for "love 'em or can't stand 'em." It also features just about every cliche that was prominent during the late 80's, from drug dealers as random bad guys to a prominent Claymation sequence to the "what the heck is this?" Transformers scene. We taped it off cable somewhere around 1989, and we did actually watch it quite a bit, but we were also all big Jackson fans at the time.

Most of the songs in the movie come from the album Bad, so that's what I listened to tonight. "Smooth Criminal" is the most famous. I still think of the amazing 30's dance number whenever I hear that song.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Puddles, Puddles Everywhere

Started off a far nicer and sunnier day with spring-themed shorts. "Birds In the Spring" is just what the title implies, a Silly Symphony about a baby bird who falls out of the nest and has a close encounter with a snake and bees, among other creatures. "The Goddess of Spring" is a retelling of the myth of Persephone and Hades done as a full-blown mini opera (and a practice run for Snow White). Donald Duck may have "The Greener Yard," but as the little beetle who wants to make a snack of his flowers discovers, it holds many perils, including the bad-tempered duck himself.

I had another fairly early work day, but at least it was also a short work day, only four hours. It was busy the entire time. The beautiful day must have brought people out of the woodwork. I was thrilled when my relief, one of the college boys, showed up and I was able to get out on time.

After I got home, I messed around online and did classwork for an hour. I edited the essay, took a look at Writer's Market for a good magazine I'd send it to if I was so inclined (Adventure Cyclist), and posted it. The next assignment involves writing a fiction story about someone we admire. I have some ideas, but it's supposed to be a short story, and I could probably do it fairly quickly on Monday or Tuesday.

Besides, it was too nice to spend most of the rest of the evening indoors. I went for a nice walk down by the school around 4:30. It was as perfect a spring day as one could wish for. The snow was melting rapidly, creating puddles that were ankle-deep in some places. I wore my winter boots and did a lot of jumping and splashing. One puddle I jumped into was so deep, it sloshed into my left boot, making it very soggy. Both boots were soaked when I got home, but I had more fun than I've had in ages.

I wasn't the only one outside enjoying the day, either. Whole families were out riding bikes. Kids played catch or basketball. One toddler tried to run through the snow in her little pastel rubber boots. She was too cute, stomping around. Adults chatted on porches or in their front yards. Older kids hung around in front of Phillies Phatties, Studio LuLoo, and Common Grounds on West Clinton and chatted, their bikes temporarily abandoned against the storefronts.

When I got home, I put up the remaining Easter decorations, mainly cardboard hangings and posters. I ran out of tape earlier in the week. After I finished, I made leftover chicken for dinner with sauteed escarole, spinach, mushrooms, and cherry tomatoes in lemon sauce.

Ran the very, very bizarre Felix the Cat: The Movie as I ate. Felix and finds himself and his Magic Bag of Tricks in the strange fantasy world of Oriana. The Duke of Zill is determined to have Oriana and its beautiful princess for himself. Meanwhile, Felix's 50's nemesis the Professor and his nephew Poindexter follow him, hoping to get gold and the Magic Bag of Tricks. The Duke has created an army of robotic cylinders that obey his every command. Felix and the others have to dodge the Duke's army and a strange circus in order to find the book that will save the land!

Hoooo boy. This is just about the strangest animated film I've ever seen that was intended for kids. Felix and his 20's by way of the 50's design do not fit in with 80's high fantasy and Transformers-esque technology. It feels like the animators had a movie about a princess in a fantasy world and a movie about Felix and threw them together for no reason. The ending in particular is rushed to the point of being non-existent.

To give the movie a little credit, there's a few things I do like. The creature designs are amazing. Some of the monsters seen in this movie are very detailed and creative. The backdrops are detailed and well-done, especially as they're traveling through Zill. And for all his lack of reason for hating his brother's daughter (it's never stated why he's banished), the Duke of Zill is very well-animated and looks like something from one of the better 80's boys cartoons. It may feel meandering, but at least up until the truncated finale, it is action-packed and fun to follow.

Like Happily Ever After last week, this is another movie that was started in the late 80's and not released until the early 90's. In fact, they made the mistake of releasing it at the same time as Beauty and the Beast. Needless to say, it was not a hit, and in fact is extremely hard to find today. (My copy is an imported DVD I found at a yard sale.) If you enjoy unique or unusual animation or are a huge Felix the Cat fan, I sort-of recommend this one despite all the strangeness. It's absolutely not for everyone, but it does have its fans, if you can handle the weirdness.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Springtime Snow Time

When I got up this morning, it looked like it had just started snowing. There was about an inch on the ground, and just on the ground. It wasn't sticking to the streets or the sidewalks. I figured it would be fine to just ride to work. I ignored the weather and celebrated the first day of spring with another Easter special. Daffy Duck gets a rare chance to have the spotlight to himself in Daffy Duck's Easter Egg-citement. This one is an anthology of three spring-themed Looney Tunes shorts. Daffy teams up with Sylvester in the first, as the two chase after a gold egg. The second has the miserly duck guarding a chocolate Easter bunny factory from Speedy Gonzoles, who wants to bring holiday treats to the children of his village. The third is Daffy solo, as he tries to figure out how to get north without flying.

The snow was coming down harder and fluffier when I left. It still wasn't sticking to the street, though. I wasn't calling Rose after her complaints a few weeks ago, and Dad and Jodie are still in the hospital. I just rode to work and got wet. The roads and sidewalks were perfectly clear at quarter of 11. Visibility was the main problem. I had a hard time seeing through the snow.

Work was on-and-off busy. It was really crazy when I arrived, but it calmed down after the lunch rush hour ended. I spent a lot of the afternoon either standing around or spring cleaning my register. Thankfully, it was quiet enough by 5 that I was able to shut down with no relief.

My schedule next week is a bit quieter, really par for the course at this time of year. I have one short and relatively late day on Sunday. Otherwise, it's all late morning and early afternoon work, Monday and Wednesday off. I'll get caught up on my schoolwork this week and finish putting up the Easter and spring decorations.

I didn't have nearly as much grocery shopping to do this week. It was mainly some restocking - canned pineapple, sugar, unbleached white flour, apples, grapefruit, skim milk, tape. McCormick's Grill Mate Seasonings were $1.50. I had a 25 cents off coupon from the Monopoly game that made it even cheaper. Went with the Steakhouse Onion Burger seasoning when I couldn't find the Worcestershire Pub Burger bottles. The Acme's generic cereal was on sale as well - picked up their unsweetened shredded wheat.

One of my customers had said earlier that it was supposed to snow until 10. He must have heard the weather report for the Poconos. It wasn't doing anything when I finished shopping. By the time I was heading to Arby's, it had started to rain. The parking lot was a slushy, sloppy mess. I just had a Turkey Club, fries, and Diet Dr. Pepper and watched the rain on the Black Horse Pike.

Since the Black Horse Pike didn't look that bad, I rode home. The main streets were still pretty clear, or at least, not as bad as the parking lot. The side of the roads and the sidewalks were messy as heck. I was very wet when I finally got home.

After I arrived, I called Mom to wish her a happy birthday. She'd just had a visit from my sister Anny and her two sons and baby daughter. She's still working at the Cape May-Lewes Ferry. They're evidently in the midst of spring cleaning, too. She re-opened the larger ticket booth for the season, and thought it was so dusty and dirty, she scrubbed every inch of it herself!

I listened to the soundtrack from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory as I put everything away. These songs are close to the hearts of many kids who grew up in the 70's and 80's, as one of the few movie musicals any of us really knew. Charlie and Grandpa Joe's jubilant "I've Got a Golden Ticket" is my favorite number. I also like Wonka's famous "Pure Imagination," performed in the Chocolate Room as the kids explore.

Incidentally, the rain continued for the rest of the night. As far as I can tell, it isn't doing anything right now...but I've heard clumps of snow falling off the roof since I got home. It's supposed to get into the 40's and 50's by next week. I don't think this snow will be around even as long as the last round. It's spring. The weather never lasts long.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Spring With the Bowery Boys

Today was my early work shift. It was fairly quiet when I got in at 9, but it picked up around lunch time and stayed busy. The weather reports have been blaring snow. Oh please. Even if we do get snow, this isn't mid-February. The ground is still too warm and mushy for snow to stick. It'll probably stick to the ground for a little while, then melt the moment the sun comes out the next day. Not to mention, it's supposed to be in the 60's by next week.

I did get some good news early on. One of the managers told me I had a third vacation week I hadn't used. I had no idea. I got my second vacation week about five years ago, so yeah, I was probably due. I ended up taking it the week of my birthday, April 12th through 18th. I was originally going to hit the Deptford Mall before counseling on my birthday. I think I'll do the mall either the day before or the day after counseling and have a nice lunch in Haddonfield for my birthday instead. Otherwise, I'll be passing this vacation entirely at home, doing the usual chores and bike rides. Most of the money from this vacation will go towards my rent or my shared vacation with Lauren in mid-June.

As soon as I got home, I changed and went online. I wanted to finish out the bike essay, which I did. I'll let it stew tomorrow, then edit it, decide where I'd send it if I actually wanted to sell it, and post it.

I had a quick leftovers dinner, then headed outside for a walk to WaWa. It was a really gorgeous spring day. You'd never know we're supposed to get snow and rain tomorrow. The sky was still bright blue at 5:30, though I could see some clouds rolling in on the horizon. Kids were outside, playing catch or riding bikes. There was no wind, and the remaining sun felt warm. Buds are appearing on trees; new grass and the tips of flowers are popping out of the ground. I bought a Mint Cream Smoothie, along with eggs (which were cheaper at WaWa than they were at the Acme). Ooh, yum yum. Sweet and cool and just minty enough. And yes, you could taste the mint, unlike the Eggnog Smoothie that tasted like a vanilla milkshake.

When I got home, I finished out another Bowery Boys movie before hitting the shower. The Boys head west in Bowery Buckaroos, the first of two movies to spoof Monogram's regular genre. Their favorite ice cream shop owner, Louie, claims he's been framed for murder. The real killer, Black Jack, still runs the town Louie fled. He wants the map to a gold mine tattooed on Louie's back. The Boys draw a copy of the map on Sach's back and go out to Hangman's Hollow to hunt gold and trap Black Jack themselves. Meanwhile, their slick friend Gabe goes on ahead, posing as a gambler. He falls for smart and pretty cowgirl Katherine Briggs...who turns out to have her own connection to the gold.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

My Spring Cleaning Day

Started the day with breakfast and more My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. "Rarity Takes Manehattan" to attend a huge fashion competition. She tries to be generous to everyone, but when she's a little too generous to a competitor who steals her ideas, she and the others end up learning a lesson in being kind without getting taken advantage of. "It's Not Easy Being Breezies," tiny pony fairy creatures who travel through Ponyville to their homeland once a year. When a group is separated from the rest of the heard, Fluttershy takes care of them. They don't want to leave, and Fluttershy isn't sure she wants them to, either. They're also wild creatures, and they know can't stay. Pinkie Pie discovers she might be a distant cousin of Applejack's in "Pinkie Apple Pie." Applejack and her family travel to visit an aunt who might know if Pinkie really is related...and to show Pinkie that they can be the perfect family for her.

I went into taking down the St. Patrick's Day decorations and putting up what I have for Easter as the cartoons continued. Easter is one of my favorite holidays; thanks to the things Mom cleared out of her collection two years ago, I have quite a few items, from a garland with miniature carrots and eggs hanging off it that went on the hutch to a couple of resin and porcelain rabbit statues, as well as the colorful quilted egg runner for the kitchen table Mom made at least 20 years ago. (I'm out of tape - the Easter paper decorations will have to wait for Friday or next week.)

It was sunny and bright when I headed out, but also colder and very windy, in the lower 40's. The sun felt nice and warm as I rode over to the Oaklyn Library for this week's session there. Two of the librarians were rearranging the adult DVD shelves. I just concentrated on organizing the kids' DVD's and books instead.

As I came up the hill to West Clinton Avenue's tiny "shopping district," I noticed that the coffee shop that had been rumored to open on the corner of Manor and West Clinton for years was finally ready. Common Grounds Coffee House was a large, friendly room with exposed brick on one wall and inspirational quotes from everyone from Bono to Winnie the Pooh to Albert Einstein on the other. A small display held quiche, muffins, and other baked goods. I had a 12 oz chai latte and a thick slice of bacon and scallion quiche. The quiche was delicious, with lots of cheese and bacon pieces. The chai latte was a little watery, but it was just sweet enough, with tons of foam on the top. I enjoyed my quiet lunch, listening to the two other women in the room chat.

Studio LuLoo is two doors down. They were having play time for local pre-school kids when I arrived. As they started to clear out the kids, I did the dishes. They had a ton again, mostly cups and silverware. They forgot to let the silverware soak again. It was disgusting, crusted with what I assume to be birthday cake. (Studio LuLoo is a popular local birthday party spot.) When I finished that and the kids were gone, I washed all the windows I could reach with a squeegee. The windows in the kids' playroom are mostly blocked or have posters for musical events taped on them, but I was able to get one window done and the doors.

When I got home, I did some classwork for a while.  I need to finish off that junk drawer essay, then look for a market I could conceivably sell it to if I was ready to. I don't know if I am, but at least I'll have some ideas.

I finished out Friendship Is Magic as I got ready for work. Friendship's fourth season ended with a blast from the past. Tirek, the nasty demon from the original My Little Pony special "Rescue From Nighmare Castle," makes his return in the two-part season finale "Twilight's Kingdom." Twilight is wondering what her role as a princess will be. When Tirek escapes and starts taking magic from ponies, she and the others realize that the items ponies have given them all season are more important than just tokens of friendship. They could be the keys to literally saving Equestria from Tirek's revived rampage.

I got a bit of a surprise at work. I wondered why I was working so late, and only for a few hours. I haven't worked at night in a while. Turns out, I wasn't up front at all. I joined several college kids in working on spring cleaning in the store. While they scrubbed around the bakery displays and the shelves of fruit, I scrubbed the displays of loose and bagged vegetables, organic produce, and bottles of fresh salad dressings and fancy juices like Naked. It took me the entire four hours. My fingers were frostbitten from the cold floor and refrigerated displays and my arm and elbow were beyond sore, but I did get it all done.

I do wish the manager who gave the orders was a little bit more helpful. He just said "go get cleaning supplies and do the displays." He didn't tell me where the supplies were. I had to ask the college kids. Nor did he say when we should go on break. I waited for someone to tell us, then just went on my own. I left five minutes early when there wasn't really anything else for me to do. (And it's probably just as well that I didn't do the registers tonight. As far as I could tell, the front end was quiet the entire evening. They barely needed two cashiers and self-checkout.)

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Look to the Rainbow

Top of the evenin' to 'ye! I hope you all had a lovely St. Patrick's Day. I began mine with a call from Mom. I was working on my journal when the phone rang. Mom wanted to wish me a happy holiday and tell me she'd heard from Rose. Dad is still in the hospital, and will be for the next week. They did get all the cancer out, but they had to remove his voice box to do so. He won't be able to talk again. Mom herself is fine. She's still working erratic hours at the Cape May-Lewes Ferry. She says they should be steadier again once the weather becomes steadier.

I had enough time for a couple of cartoons as I had breakfast. Porky Pig has a surreal encounter with a pack of vengeful leprechauns who think he's after their pot of gold in "Wearin' Of the Grin." Woody Woodpecker also has problems with the Wee Folk in "His Better Elf." A woodpecker-like-leprechaun gives Woody three wishes. When he wishes for gold, the gold turns out to come from a bank...and Woody ends up learning a lesson in the importance of earning his bread.

Work was dead as a doornail for most of the afternoon. It was a gorgeous day, into the 60's. It was too nice for people to be indoors shopping. By the time it the 4 PM rush hour began to roll in, I was on my way out. I picked up cabbage for dinner tonight and raisins for my Irish Soda Bread. I was out of sugar, too. The chain came off my bike on my way to work. A man coming out of the Acme was nice enough to help me get it on so I could get home.

There was a box waiting for me on the steps when I finally arrived. I'm surprised my American Girl order showed up so quickly. I didn't expect it for another couple of days. It arrived just in time to change Samantha into her new mint-green Special Day Dress for St. Patrick's Day. I also bought her limited-edition Flower Picking Dress, which came with a basket of fabric tulips. The modern Coconut Fun Outfit consists of tights, magenta shorts, blue flats, a pink and blue plaid headband, and a cute blue-violet studded t-shirt, all for the miraculously low price of 9 dollars. (I've seen modern AG outfits with fewer pieces go for twice that much on eBay!) The current accessories set for Samantha includes a lace headband with a big flower, a cute velvet purse, and a pretty necklace with a heart-shaped pendant. I mainly got it so Samantha could have a necklace of her own, like most of my other dolls. (I also bought more hangers, which I needed badly.)

AG is clearing out their Historical Character Mysteries with older covers or based around characters who are now retired. I picked up The Cameo Necklace, featuring African-American New Orleans belle Cecile, and The Crystal Ball, my favorite mystery featuring Jewish ragtime-era New York resident Rebecca Rubin, for $1.25 each.

Finished out Finian's Rainbow as I made skinned chicken thighs with cabbage, the last of the fingerling potatoes, and Irish Soda Bread for dinner. I began it before I went to work. Finian's Rainbow was Fred Astaire's last appearance in a film musical. Astaire is the title character, a roguish Irishman who thinks his stolen pot of gold with flourish in the ground near Ft. Knox. After all, if the United States' money seems to grow, why not his? Og, the leprechaun he stole the gold from (Tommy Steele) isn't too happy. Losing his gold is causing him to become human. Finian's daughter Sharon (Petula Clark) is just fed up with her father's stories.

Meanwhile, the people of Rainbow Valley, where Finian buried the gold, are being hounded by nasty, bigoted Senator Rawkins (Keenan Wynn). Rainbow Valley is a commune where blacks and whites live in harmony, including Woody (Don Franks) and his silent sister Susan. When Sharon wishes the senator was black, so he knew how everyone in the Valley felt, she accidentally turns him into a black man. Now everyone has to find that gold, before Sharon is burned as a witch!

Francis Ford Coppola's first major production ran into a lot of the same problems as many other film musicals of the late 60's and early 70's - no amount of up-to-date talk about race and communes could change the fact that this was originally a Broadway hit in 1947, and it does feel a little dated. Things look a little better today. Astaire and several critics complained about the rag-tag choreography. Actually, the odd dance routines, including Astaire's delightful solo to "When the Idle Poor Becomes the Idle Rich," suit the bizarre plot to a T. Steele and Clark do an adorable "Something Sort of Grandish" as well. Steele is my other complaint - he's way too over-the-top as Og, to the point of being a little annoying.

If you're a fan of the cast or the big musicals of the 60's and 70's, this one has a lot to offer and is worth at least a look.

Ended the night with an episode of Moonlighting that features an even more unusual leprechaun. The second season show "Somewhere Under the Rainbow" brings a pretty young Irish colleen to the Blue Moon Agency, claiming she's being followed and that she wants protection. Trouble is, she also claims she's a member of the Wee Folk and that the people following her are after her pot of gold. Maddie and David try to help her find the gold as they argue over the idea of magic and the things we can and can't see.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Loose In Haddon Township

Started off a sunny, breezy morning with the Bowery Boys. I hadn't done them in a while; went with one of my favorites, Loose In London. Sach, Slip, and the other guys are off to Merry Old England in order to inherit a fortune. Turns out that the kindly old earl who invited them is surrounded by less-than-happy relatives who would prefer to get rid of these upstarts and have the earl's wealth to themselves.

Got the laundry done around quarter after 11. It was quite busy for a Monday morning, though I actually had a harder time finding a drier than a washer for once. I read books, listened to The Price Is Right, and ignored obnoxious middle-aged-men who thought they were funny making cracks about my reading when everyone else was staring at Drew Carey. By the time I was done, so was everyone else - the place was almost empty.

I went home, put the laundry away, and went right back out again. I was originally going to have lunch at Aunt Berta's, but I forgot they're closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. I ended up at Jalepeno's Grill instead. They were busy with the tail end of the lunch hour. A family was leaving as I came in. They had the most adorable baby boy I watched them play with. Two police officers had lunch behind me. I had a chicken quesadilla with a tomato/shredded lettuce "salad" and guacamole. It was quite tasty, with lots of cheese.

Made a few stops at the Westmont Plaza after lunch. Mom's birthday is on Friday. I bought her a card; I'll send it out tomorrow or Wednesday. Also bought some plastic containers for doll separates. They're outgrowing the plastic shelves I have. Made a brief stop at Tuesday Morning, but they had nothing new.

The Haddon Township Library wasn't too busy when I came in. I had no problems shelving kids' DVD's. I even had more room for S titles than usual, though there was still an overflow. It was the adult shelves where I had a problem. The M through Z titles were so full, I couldn't get almost anything into them. Even going through them for kids' and foreign titles that didn't belong was no help. I ultimately couldn't shelve much of anything besides a few audio books.

I won't have the time for a lot of long movies this week, but I did take out a few new animated DVD's. They got in two more My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic sets, The Adventures of the Cutie Mark Crusaders and Keys To Friendship. Paramount finally got around to putting out the remaining Peanuts movies on DVD, probably in response to the new one that's supposed to come out later this year. I found Race For Your Life, Charlie Brown, which I haven't seen in at least 20 years.

Went straight home this time. Put on My Little Pony when I got in. I'd met "The Cutie Mark Crusaders" in the horror-themed set I took out a few weeks ago. Scootaloo, Sweetie Belle, and Apple Bloom are three adorable colts with one thing in common. They have yet to get their "cutie marks," aka the symbol on their rears that represents their talents. This leads them to such desperate ploys as Apple Bloom taking a potion that gives her "Cutie Pox," or Scootaloo trying to fly despite her tiny wings in "Flight to the Finish." "The Cutie Mark Chronicles" reveals how the five main ponies got their Cutie Marks. The colts aren't impressed. They'd rather show off their friendship with Twilight Sparkle to their snooty classmate Diamond Tiara in "Twilight Time."

Switched to Lovely To Look At as I made a fried-egg and escarole sandwich on bakery rye bread for dinner and Pineapple-Carrot Muffins for work this week. Lovely To Look At is MGM's Technicolor remake of the Astaire-Rogers 1935 vehicle Roberta. Three performers (Red Skelton, Gower Champion, and Howard Keel) head to Paris when one of them inherits a dress shop. The shop, however, is saddled with massive debt. It may not be financially attractive, but it is run by two lovely sisters (Kathryn Grayson and Marge Champion). The arrival of Keel's girlfriend (Ann Miller) throws a wrench in the works. So does a big producer offering to take their show to Broadway. Will Roberta's rise again?

This is one of the few times I like a remake better than the original. All the Astaire/Rogers in the world can't mask that the original story (a football player was the one who inherited the dress shop) was even flimsier than this. Making the ones who inherit performers and turning the four-person, two-couple structure into an ensemble opens things up quite a bit. The Champions have some nice dances, especially "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes," and the finale, with some fabulous outfits by Adrian, has to be seen to be believed. If you love vintage fashion or MGM musicals, this is worth hunting down at the Warner Archives.

Oh, and Rose called earlier tonight. Dad's fine. They got all the cancer out. He and Jodie will be at the hospital for a couple of days, then he'll be home to recover for the next three months. Rose wants to get Dad something and flowers for Jodie for helping him out. She also said she'll help me get to the Camden City Hall next month if I do get stuck with jury duty. She works with a judge there. She mentioned seeing a 30's-40's revue a friend of hers is appearing in as well sometime in the next couple of weeks.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

The Music of Spring

Started a cloudy, windy morning with Whole Grain Carrot Pancakes and the soundtrack from the 1967 version of Finian's Rainbow. Fred Astaire (his last appearance in a movie musical) is the title character and Petula Clark is his daughter Sharon. They've just arrived from Ireland with a pot of gold that he's hoping to bury, thinking it'll grow like the wealth in Fort Knox. Tommy Steele is the leprechaun who is turning human; Keenan Wynn is the bigoted senator. I don't know if the soundtrack is available in a digital format; I do know the movie is on DVD (I have it).

I went to Dad's briefly to see him before he goes into surgery tomorrow. He's still croaking and not doing too well. He and Jodie were relaxing downstairs. They were the only ones home. I thought Rose was coming over; she seemed to indicate that on the phone last night and this morning. No, she'd apparently been around on Thursday and Friday with Khai. At any rate, I got to wish Dad luck. He'll be in surgery for nine hours tomorrow afternoon and evening. Jodie said she'd call me when he got out.

Put on my The Music of Spring LP collection when I got home. This is pretty much a springtime variation on the Columbia Christmas collections like The Great Songs of Christmas. Although a few songs, like "Spring In Manhattan," mention the season, most make vague references like "Wouldn't It Be Loverly?" or don't have anything to do with the season at all and were probably just grabbed from Columbia's vaults like the title song from Never On Sunday. There's some things I like about it, though, including a nice Rosemary Clooney version of "I Could Have Danced All Night."

The Acme was a mess for most of the afternoon. Given the gloomy, cold weather, I can't figure out why for the life of me. I guess a lot of people really wanted those sales. Either that, or there were still a ton of St. Patrick's Day parties going on. Thank goodness my relief was right on time. I bought milk (I needed to break a five to do the laundry tomorrow) and headed home.

Had leftovers and put on more music when I got in. Finian's Rainbow was not the first time Tommy Steele played a bemused Irishman who finds himself among a lot of crazy Americans. In The Happiest Millionaire, Steele's a jaunty Irish fellow just off the boat who is hired by the Biddle family of Philadelphia as a butler. Dad (Fred MacMurray) holds Bible classes, teaches boxing, and keeps alligators as pets. His daughter Cordelia (Leslie Ann Warren) starts out as a tomboy who'd rather knock out her suitors than date them. Cordy goes to boarding school, where she meets a young man (John Davidson) from a prestigious New York family and falls for him. Meanwhile, Mr. Biddle deals with his alligators getting frozen and his daughter's impending wedding.

I remember this movie being cute but underwhelming when it would turn up from time to time on the Disney Channel during my childhood. The soundtrack album bears this out. Most of the songs are really just ho-hum, including Cordy and her beau's big ballad "Are We Dancing?" My favorite numbers are "Valentine Candy" as a confused Cordy tries to figure out exactly what she wants out of a romantic relationship, the hilarious "There Are Those" for the two snobbish grandmothers from different social standings, and Steele's opening number on opportunity beckoning, "Fortuosity." I don't think the soundtrack is available digitally, but the movie is on DVD if you're interested in the cast or remember it from cable showings.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Rain Is the Reason

It was gloomy and raining when I got up this morning. I tried to brighten the day with another Easter special as I ate breakfast. Yogi the Easter Bear starts in Jellystone National Park, on the morning of the Easter Jamboree. Yogi's not feeling smarter than the average bear after he eats all the goodies that were intended for the festival and gets himself and Ranger Smith into trouble. Hoping to make up for it and to avoid being sent to the Siberian Zoo, Yogi and Boo Boo set out to find the Easter Bunny himself. Two odd plastic-obsessed villains are also after the Easter Bunny - they want to eliminate him and make their plastic eggs the only things children get in their baskets. Yogi and Boo Boo have to find the Bunny and get him to Jellystone fast, before they all end up dipped in plastic!

It was still showering when I went to work. I wasn't going to call for a ride after Rose made such a fuss last week, so I just rode to work and got wet. We were busy all day again, and once again busy with cranky, crabby people stuck in very long lines. We were short on help, too - there were call-outs. And my relief was late. I was so glad I got out just barely on time.

It was raining again when I headed home, but not as heavily as it was in the morning. It's rained on and off for the rest of the evening. I went nowhere else. Spent the next hour or so doing classwork. Our next big assignment is to go through a junk drawer, pick one of three things, then write an essay around it. I didn't even need to pick three things. I chose the spare bike inner tube and got half-way through writing about my love of biking and how important it is to me when I decided to break for dinner. I'll finish tomorrow or Monday.

Had leftovers and made the Acme mix brownies while watching Happily Ever After. This odd sequel to the Disney Snow White was the last project by the TV animation studio Filmation. It does feel rather like "Snow White crossed with He-Man" at times. The wicked Maliss (Malcom McDowell) kidnaps the Prince to revenge his sister, the Evil Queen. Snow White (Irene Cara) gets help from the Dwarfelles, seven goofy little women who control nature, Mother Nature (Phyllis Diller) herself, and the Orko-like "Shadow Man" who follows them through the Land of Doom.

Happily Ever After was made in 1988 but not released until 1993...and it feels like it, from the cast (Sally Struthers, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Tracey Ullman, and Carol Channing play Dwarfelles) to the error-plagued animation, to the synthesizer score. Except for the rather nice song over the end credits, "Love Is the Reason," the music is dreadful. The owl and bat hench-animals are completely useless and feel more like they're there as filler, rather than as actual characters.

For all the problems, there's a reason this has become something of a cult favorite in the last few years. The Dwarfelles are hilarious. Maliss is actually a scary and competent villain, almost on a par with the original Evil Queen. Snow White is a little bit more proactive than she is in most versions of this story. Her relationship with "The Shadow Man" is rather sweet, especially if you figure out who he really is before the end.

While this is on DVD, it's apparently been edited to remove violence, damaging the continuity. If you can find the original on video or online, do so. This isn't a great film, but it's a surprisingly cute animated adventure, especially for girls.

The rain sounds like it's slowed down for now...what I can hear of it over the noise that's coming from the VFW. They have parties there from time to time, and this one is really insane, with music blasting so loud, I can hear it back hear. If I'm really lucky, they'll all get drunk and pass out before midnight.

Friday, March 13, 2015

One Flower Grows Alone In Your Garden

It was still sunny out when I started work. It was far busier than it has been the past week, with long lines all day. I guess everyone decided to get out before the rain comes in late tonight. People were in lousy moods, too. There were a lot of people who wouldn't help bag or were just plain cranky and obnoxious. I ended up staying an extra hour. One of the older female managers who is perpetually sick called out. Again. She's always out at this time of year. They told my relief to take her spot. I was so happy when it slowed down enough that I was able to close on my own.

I wish I was as happy with my schedule. On one hand, I have more hours this week, which will be a big help to my paycheck. However, one of those days is relatively late, until 8, and I only have Monday off. I hate it when I only have one day off. I'm already feeling stressed as it is. I can't concentrate on anything at home. I can't write; I can't think. I can't come up with any ideas for anything, no matter how hard I try. People are going on vacation at the same time again. Can't someone put their foot down and tell employees to be more careful about when they go on vacation? It's not fair to leave ten people to do all the work.

Grocery shopping went much better. I got lucky. The Acme was having a "Buck A Bag" produce sale this week. I really needed to restock my vegetables. I picked up celery, cherry tomatoes, bagged spinach, bananas, grapefruit, apples, and bags of sliced broccoli and cauliflower and a stir-fry mix. I used up the last of my cheese yesterday. That tasty Cabot Farmhouse Aged Cheese was on sale for $2.50; went with the White Oak variety. Frozen food is 10 % off this week. The Green Giant frozen vegetables were already on sale for a dollar each. I grabbed my favorite Broccoli Cuts and Green Beans and Almonds. Restocked canned white beans and tomato paste. Found some interesting deep discount or clearance items, including Bigelow's Apple Cider herbal tea leftover from last fall, the Acme's generic brownie mix for a dollar, their organic Cranberry Almond Cereal, and a multi-grain wheat berry pancake mix.

When I finally got home, I changed into regular clothes, put everything away, and made leftovers for dinner. After I ate, I worked on crocheting a blanket for a present while watching the 1943 The Desert Song. This version of the famous 20's operetta by Sigmund Romberg has been updated to World War II. Here, El Khobar (Dennis Morgan) is working with the Riff tribes to stop the building of a railroad that's vital to the Nazi war effort. Irene Manning is Margot, the beautiful French caberet singer he falls for. I loved this take on my favorite operetta, despite the heavy changes in the script and score. Morgan is especially good as the desert leader with the dual identity. Look for this one at the Warner Archives if you love musical adventures or Lawrence-of-Arabia-style desert tales.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Spring Is On Its Way

I started another sunny, windy day at work. Other than a spurt around noon, we were once again quiet for most of the day. It's too nice for anyone to want to do a lot of shopping, especially after all the fuss last week. I actually did returns for a little while later in the day. By the time it was starting to get busy again, one of the college boys was arriving to relieve me.

I took the long way home, down Nicholson Road and over Atlantic Avenue, rather than down the Black Horse Pike. The traffic wasn't great and a lot of the area doesn't have sidewalks, which is why I rarely go this way. On the other hand, I was trying to avoid the road repair on the Black Horse Pike ramp into Oaklyn, and it was a nice ride despite the wind.

When I got in, I changed into regular clothes, then headed back out on foot. I decided it was too windy for bike rides. Besides, I wanted to see spring coming in. I wasn't the only one enjoying the day. Kids were just getting home from school at that point. I could see bikes left on front yards. Boys tossed a baseball around; girls chased each other.

I ended up at the CVS on the border of Collingswood and Oaklyn. I was originally going to walk through Newton Lake Park, but I didn't feel like dealing with the rush-hour traffic. I needed a few things there, anyway. I was just about out of razors. Hair band were buy one, get one half-off. I can't remember the last time I bought new hair bands. Bought some unusual cough drop flavors for work (watermelon and tropical citrus).

Strolled down to Duncan Donuts and treated myself to a Mocha Coollatta. I was originally going to buy a Lucky Mint Coollatta, but I didn't see it advertised anywhere. They were very busy, mostly with older men on their way from work sitting and swapping stories with their brew.

It really was a beautiful day for a walk, wind aside. The sky was bright blue and cloudless. The wind was cold, but the air still felt warm. There are signs of spring all over Oaklyn. I saw the first crocus of the season at the house on the next block over from the Library. Soft green grass is popping up everywhere. People are starting to spend more time outside, washing cars and cleaning debris out of gardens. The trees have their first buds, too.

After I got in, I had leftover bean and vegetable soup for dinner, then thought I'd try another cake. I bought the Fall Baking cookbook from one of the front register racks at the Wildwood Acme over a decade ago. One delicious recipe from that book that I don't do often enough is the Chocolate Snacking Cake. It's very simple, just butter, cocoa, flour, baking soda, chocolate chips or chunks, salt, and cold water. You even mix it all in the pan. Thankfully, unlike the Pink Velvet Cake, this one came out perfectly, rich and ultra chocolate-y.

Ran The Adventures of Robin Hood as I baked and went through my old journals in the back room. Errol Flynn is the title character in what is still considered the definitive version of the English legends about the former nobleman who robbed from the rich to feed the poor. Olivia DeHaviland is his lady love, the intelligent and spirited Maid Marion. She at first only sees that he's stealing...but then he shows her how badly the people are being treated. Claude Rains is greedy Prince John; Basil Rathbone is his right-hand man, the nasty Guy of Gisbourne.

If you love Robin Hood stories or old-fashioned swashbucklers, this is still one of the all-time greats, especially the classic sword fight between Flynn and Rathbone in the finale.

Oh, and American Girl is having a big 20 % off all spring outfits and accessories sale until the 24th. Coupled with a free shipping code, I just couldn't resist. Almost everything I bought, including two of Samantha's just-released dresses, were part of the sale or on deep discount. The only things I picked up at regular price were more (much-needed) hangers and Sam's Accessories, which I probably would have bought sooner or later.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

There's That Rabbit

Started out another sunny, very warm day with The First Easter Rabbit. This is another Rankin-Bass take on the origins of the Easter Bunny, basically an Easter Velveteen Rabbit. Stuffy the Bunny was the beloved toy of a little girl named Glinda, until she got scarlet fever and he had to be thrown away. A fairy turns him into the Easter Bunny, the beloved symbol of spring and Easter, and directs him to Easter Valley. Zero the Snow Wizard wants to find the magical Golden Lily that keeps the valley warm. With a little help from Santa Claus, Stuffy can still bring spring to Glinda and to all children.

Work was very quiet all day. I didn't think it would be terribly busy. First of all, it's so warm out. A lot of people probably took the opportunity to do cleaning or outdoor chores they haven't been able to do since January, or even December. Second, it's the middle of the month. Third, the only real holiday in March this year is St. Patrick's Day, which is next week. Fourth, I think the vast majority of locals did their shopping last week, before or during the storm. It was so quiet, I was able to shut down at rush hour with no problems at all.

Richard was fixing the heavy front door when I got home. It got loose somehow. I've had to lift it to get it to close right. He tightened the screws. It now closes just fine. After he left, I spent an hour relaxing in a warm bathtub, listening to Count Basie and reading The Way We Lived, a Reader's Digest coffee table book on the 20th century I found at a yard sale a few years ago.

Did an episode of Wonder Woman while eating salmon with mushroom and onions in red wine sauce and green beans and almonds for dinner. The second season episode "The Pied Piper" is the first of four episodes of the show to deal with aspects of the music business in the mid-70's. Diana Prince is baffled by a series of thefts that take place during the concerts of a popular pop singer and flutist (Martin Mull). Someone else is pulling those jobs, but who...and how are they stealing money without destroying anything? Meanwhile, her boss' college daughter is bored with school and has fallen into "The Pied Piper"'s clutches. Wonder Woman finally shows both of them that, no matter how difficult life and the music business is, there are people who care about them for something besides money.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Dark Tales On a Rainy Day

It was just cloudy and damp when I got up this morning. I listened to the original cast album of the stage Newsies while eating breakfast. I didn't get to the first item on my list, my very large laundry load, until quarter after 11. It wasn't that busy, mostly older women doing their own big loads. I watched The Price Is Right and the local news and listened to the families who arrived later.

When I loaded my laundry bag onto the basket, I noticed that the front tire seemed a little low. It was fine yesterday! After I got home, I put everything away, then went downstairs and tried to pump it. It helped...for a few seconds. I figured it had a slow leak. I didn't have the time for messing with it at that point. I had to get to the Oaklyn Library. I headed out on foot.

I didn't get to the Oaklyn Library until past 1:15. The only people there were one guy on the computers and the librarian. For so late in the day, there was a lot to do. They've been getting a lot of new DVD's to organize. Many of those new DVD's still had their stickers on the top and sides. I didn't even have the chance to get them all of before the librarian started clearing people out at 1:50, so she could close for the afternoon at 2.

Since it's about three blocks or so from the Library, I had lunch at Amato Bros. They're a small deli and hoagie shop on the White Horse Pike. I had their "Big Papa" sandwich - turkey, provolone, lettuce, tomatoes, mayo, and sweet peppers. (It's also supposed to have roast beef, but I figured the turkey was enough.) Even at one fourth the size of a regular hoagie, it was still big and thick. It and a couple of oatmeal raisin cookies filled me up very well. I watched people come in and out, getting late lunch orders.

It began to shower lightly as I went to Family Dollar, then headed in the House of Fun to escape the weather. The House of Fun is the collectible toys shop on the next block over from Capitol Pizza. They're always jammed full of every toy, stuffed animal, sci-fi DVD, piece of Sanrio merchandise, video game, comic book, and book on pop culture ever made. A dad was even there with a few kids. It took me almost an hour to decide. I finally went with two DVD's. I saw a copy of The Adventures of Baron Munchhausen with a really neat, period-appropriate cover. The Brothers Grimm was under it; I love Baron Munchhausen and have never seen Brothers Grimm. I got both for a little under $10.50.

The rain was starting to get a little heavier. I made a brief stop in the comic book store next-door before walking home. I ran into my next-door neighbor Richard as he was coming home. I was just about to try to fix the front tire. He said he'd take a look at it.

I just went upstairs after that and spent the rest of a rainy afternoon at home. Finally got to changing the dolls into somewhat lighter outfits for early spring. Felicity's now sporting what was originally her friend Elizabeth's Summer Gown. It has a quilted petticoat; I really think of it as being more appropriate for spring. Whitney and Jessa wear modern green blouses and jeans. I paired Jessa's beaded jeans from the 2004 Ready for Fun modern "meet" outfit with the boots from the "meet" outfit Whitney came in. Whitney wears the turtleneck from the modern Girl Scout Uniform with the 90's basic jeans (they're too tight for Jessa!) and Springfield Collection sneakers. Josefina wears her Harvest Outfit. Molly's in a shamrock-print dress I found at a yard sale and the white t-strap shoes from her Polka-Dot Outfit. I have Samantha in her blue Play Dress and Pinafore; AG only just released her first green dress last month.

Richard came up shortly after I finished the dolls. He took so long because the tire was shot. He ended up replacing the tire and the tube. The bike is now totally fixed. I also asked him about when they're finally going to get around to doing the repair work upstairs. As of right now, it probably won't be for a while, maybe until summer. They found termites downstairs and are still trying to do a lot of major repairs on the kitchen. He did say I could stay at the apartment at the top of their house when the time comes. At this point, it may be my only option. Jodie said I could stay in Jessa's room at Dad's house, but I don't want to disrupt anything if Dad's recovering from surgery. Richard says they admire my spirit - they know I will take my bike or walk in most weather, and only ask for a ride when I absolutely have to. I hated asking Rose for a ride last week.

I went right into making Apple Strusel Muffins, then Bean and Vegetable Soup for dinner while watching The Brothers Grimm. Jakob (Heath Ledger) and Willhem (Matt Damon) Grimm are con men who go around creating illusions to get money off of local villagers. When the French catch up to them, they send the two to one local town that's having particular problems with supposed witchcraft. Ten girls have vanished without a trace, and the town's citizens are getting nervous, to say the least. The duo and a rather annoying Italian soldier venture into the woods to find out what's going on, with the aid of a young woman whose sisters are among the missing...and discover that some fairy tales are not only real, but more terrifying than any illusions they could create.

Whoa. This was a weird one. Director Terry Gilliam claimed this was for kids...but with girls' faces being pulled off and turning into gingerbread men, queens shattering like mirrors, old hags taking the life from young girls, and demonic horses running around, I seriously wouldn't recommend it for them. For teenagers and adults who like their fantasy on the darker side, this is an unusual look at how some of the world's most famous stories came into being. Damon and Ledger do especially well in the reverse of their usual roles, with Damon as the rational, roguish brother and Ledger as the sweet, slightly dorky scholar.

Monday, March 09, 2015

As the Snow Vanishes

I awoke late to a glorious, sunny, windy day. The snow was rapidly disappearing from my porch; I could hear it dripping, even as I ready Penny From Heaven and wrote in my journal. Penny is smart tomboy living in the North Jersey suburbs in 1953. She spends the summer getting used to her mother's new boyfriend and learning more about her father's Italian-American family, their unique traditions, and how her favorite uncle (who lives in his car) is involved in the death of her father a decade before.

It was nearly 11 before I got to breakfast! I ran my first Easter special of the year as I ate Life cereal and a half of a grapefruit fast. The Easter Bunny Is Coming To Town is my favorite of the three Rankin-Bass spring tales. This one is a straight-up origin tale. Sunny the Bunny is raised by the orphaned residents of Kidville to regard himself as one of them. It comes as quite a shock when he tries to sell their eggs to the gloomy all-adult Town and discovers that animals, kids, and any food that isn't beans are outlawed by the nasty Lady Lily Longtooth and her shy ward King Bruce. Sunny and the Kidsville residents do what they can to get around Lady Lily's laws, and invent many Easter traditions in the process.

I didn't head out until around 12:30. By that time, it had to be in the upper 50's. The wind was still a little chilly, but the sun was warm to the point of being balmy. I cut through Newton River Park on my way to the Haddon Township Library. It surprisingly wasn't that busy, despite the nice day. There were a few people out for a stroll and a family with two little boys who wanted to look at everything. The snow was mostly gone from here, too. I could see all of the yellowed, straw-like grass for the first time in weeks. The water was still mostly frozen solid (which tells you just how cold it's been for the past three weeks or so).

The Haddon Township Library was surprisingly busy when I arrived around 1. A librarian said they'd been even busier over the weekend and were swamped on Saturday. That would explain the piles of DVD's and CD's on the return racks. For once, I got all but 6 Scooby Doo titles on the kids' shelves, and everything in the adult racks. There was lots of non-fiction DVD's, CD's, and audio books to put away, too. I didn't take anything out myself. I still have some movies I haven't gotten to, and it's just going to be too nice for most of this week to spend it watching anything inside.

Went across the street to Thriftway to pick up peanut butter and apple cider vinegar. Their vinegars are only 89 cents (as opposed to the $1.39 for the smaller bottles at the Acme). Skippy peanut butter was on sale for $1.99. I bought their Natural Super Chunk. I just ran out of peanut butter yesterday. Thriftway was dead as a doornail. It was too beautiful out to be doing a lot of shopping.

Had lunch at Friendly's. The first thing I saw was a flyer stating that today's 5 dollar special was a bacon cheeseburger with fries. That was fine for lunch. It was pretty decent. The burger was a cheap patty, but it was cooked well, and their fries are cooked just crispy enough. In honor of the warmer day, I had a Hunka Hunka PB Fudge sundae with hot fudge sauce, whipped cream, and a cherry for dessert.

I was originally going to go straight home after that...but it was just too nice out to spend the rest of the day in the apartment. I cut across the park and through Collingswood instead. I was going to put off doing my hair until later in the month, but it's been a frizzy, poofy mess for weeks. I just wanted to do something with it.

Ended up at the Hair Cuttery between the WaWa and the Rite Aid in Collingswood. This time, I got an older woman with a short blond bob. I got exactly the same thing I got last time. I wish I'd gotten it a little shorter. It would have helped with the poof, and we are getting closer to permanently warm weather. At the very least, it's shorter, the curls are more obvious, and hopefully it'll be a little easier to manage now.

Stopped briefly at Rite Aid for a Sparkling Ice Cherry Limeade, then finally headed home. When I got in, I made that Pink Velvet Cake and had leftovers for dinner while watching The Great Muppet Caper. Kermit, Fozzie, and Gonzo head to London, England to catch the robbers who stole Lady Holiday's (Diana Rigg) jewels. Kermit mistakes Lady Holiday's new receptionist Miss Piggy for the famous fashion designer at first. A trip to a nightclub reveals both Miss Piggy's occupation and that Lady Holiday's brother Nicky (Charles Grodin) is up to no good. The Muppets have to figure out how to catch Nicky in the act, before he steals his sister's costly Baseball Diamond.

Probably the funniest of the three original Muppet specials, with more fourth walls broken than in your average Looney Tunes short. Plus, there's the amazing musical number with Piggy and Kermit riding bikes together...and then we see a whole parade of Muppets on bikes. If you have kids, musical fans, or Muppet fans, this one is a no-brainer.

(And darn it. The cake didn't come out. It fell apart when I tried to take it out of the pan. It's too greasy, too - I think I overdid the oil. At least it tastes pretty good.)

Sunday, March 08, 2015

Springtime Sunshine

It was gorgeous and sunny - though a bit windy - when I got up this morning. This week's Sunday pancakes were Chocolate Chip. I've just felt like I needed chocolate lately. I made it taste even more like a chocolate chip cookie with the addition of vanilla, cinnamon, and a hint of brown sugar. Yum. Came out very well, other than slightly burning the first one.

When breakfast was done, it was time to take down the winter decorations and put up what I have for spring and St. Patrick's Day. While there's still snow on the ground at press time, it's also supposed to get into the 50's this week. It won't be around much longer. The cardboard flowers and butterflies wouldn't stay up without a judicious amount of tape. The cardboard is thin, and they keep bending on the edges. Hung two yellow wooden tulips with raffia ribbon from the knobs on the cookbook hutch. Primrose, the sweet 6-inch porcelain doll in the pink dress that Jodie gave me in November, sits on the shelf next to the white lamp. (I need to find or make a scarf for her - she has a very loose head.) The spring stuffed animals - Stuffy the Rabbit, Sharri the Lamb, Lilly the Duck, and Greenwillow the Caterpiller - went up on the DVD shelves.

I had just enough time to rush out to work...and then I came back in briefly to drop my earmuffs and scarf on the table. It was so warm outside, I didn't need them! Maybe that's why we were crazy today. Families that had been hiding from the weather all week could now come and get big orders done. There were still a few unpleasant people around, including one woman who somehow thought 90 dollars would cover a 200 dollar order. She had to put more than half of it back. Other than that, my shift went quickly. It quieted down enough by 6 that I was able to leave on my own, since my relief was late again.

The ride home was even easier than the ride to work. Even by 2, a lot of the snow had already disappeared. By 6 PM, the sidewalks were almost totally clear, especially in sunny places. The wind was chilly, but the sun was so warm, I was sweating in my heavy winter coat.

When I got home, I put on Johnny Mathis while making scrambled eggs with mushrooms and escarole for dinner. With two slices of buttered rye bread and the grapefruit half I didn't get to this morning, it was a surprisingly filling meal.