Saturday, October 31, 2015

Mostly Treats, No Tricks

I started a sunny, windy Halloween with a knock at the door at quarter after 8. It was Charlie, saying that the electrician was there. He'd be upstairs in 40 minutes or so, after they worked on the wiring downstairs. I had to move everything along the right wall of the back room over so they could check on the plugs on the right wall and get them wired for electricity.

I tidied the apartment and made the bed while watching holiday specials. Piglet's not enjoying the spookiest day of the year in Boo to You Too! Halloween scares him silly. Pooh says they won't have Halloween so Piglet will relax. When Tigger, Gopher, and Eeyore complain, Pooh and his friends become determined to prove to their porcine buddy that Halloween is nothing to be afraid of.

Raggedy Ann and Andy and the Pumpkin That Couldn't Smile sends the rag doll twins and their beloved rag pooch Arthur on a Halloween mission. They want to bring a pumpkin who was abandoned at a booth to a sad little boy who's aunt refuses to let him go out with the other kids for trick or treating.

Woody Woodpecker's having a less frightening holiday in the only episode of the 60's Woody Woodpecker to feature a new cartoon, "Spook-A-Nanny." After spending most of the episode blowing up balloons for his boss Walter Lanz, Woody is ready to enjoy a Halloween party with other Lanz stars like Chilly Willy, Wally Walrus, Buzz Buzzard, and Andy Panda. The others play tricks to keep him out of the party. He joins a ghost music group to get in, but he can't walk through the walls like they can.

Bugs Bunny deals with Witch Hazel in Bugs Bunny's Howl-oween Special. This one is a mix and match of several Halloween and horror-themed Looney Tunes shorts. Sylvester tries to evade a Tweety who has turned into a monster. Witch Hazel wants to use Bugs for a potion, but he uses magic words against her instead. Sylvester and Porky have a close encounter with a pack of mice who don't want them staying in their decaying house.

Headed to the Farm Market around 10:30. Holiday or no holiday, they were very busy with people picking up produce for Halloween and birthday parties. I watched the alpacas - two brown ones this time - munch on hay. Brussels sprouts were out today for the first time this season, but I have plenty of green veggies at the moment. I ended up with two sweet potatoes from the organic booth, cranberries, and small apples. The people at the organic booth were in costume. The girl who sold me the potatoes was dressed as a cow, complete with a "Eat chikin" sign.

Max and Ruby are having their own fun at Halloween. "Max and Ruby's Perfect Pumpkin" has to be the best in the pile at the grocer's. While Ruby tries to choose one, Max chases candy. "Max's Jack O' Lantern" will be carved by Grandma when Max and Ruby draw the face. Ruby wants it to be a happy face, but Max wants it to be scary! Max wants it to be "Max's Big Boo" and scare his sister. Ruby isn't a bunny who's easily scared...but she might have a scare for her brother!

I was Little Red Riding Hood this year. I wore a cape I found at a yard sale a few years ago (I think it was actually a wrap skirt from a dance costume, but it works), a vintage apron with red rickrack trim I picked up from Frugli in Collingswood a few years ago, a red flower and gauze hair band, pearly red plastic beads, and my heavy red tunic sweater and white long-sleeved t-shirt. I wore the apron over my work pants. I figured I'd be doing too much riding around today for a skirt.

Charlie and the electrician finally showed up here around 11:30, as I was making lobster cakes and a spinach salad for lunch. They fiddled in the back room while I was putting on my makeup for my Little Red Riding Hood costume. It took all of ten minutes before they were gone again. I headed for Dad's shortly after.

It was still a perfect fall day at that point. There couldn't have been a nicer day for trick or treating. The sun was out. The sky was blue. It was windy and chilly, but not abnormally so for this time of year. Oaklyn's trick or treat started at noon this year, since it's Saturday and the kids are off. I didn't really see any kids until 1. After that, I saw plenty of them.

There were some cute costumes. One group consisted of a Blue Man, a werewolf, and a very polite doctor in surgical scrubs who called me "Miss Red Riding Hood." There was an Eagles football player, a Native American maiden and her black cat mama and werewolf papa, two Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, a toddler Anna, several witches, Wonder Girl, Batgirl, and Iron Man. I really enjoyed giving out candy. They were all great kids. Even the older kids who didn't wear costumes at least had makeup or masks. I had mini roast beef hoagies between kids. I did get to say "hi" to my sister Rose and see my nephew Khai dressed as the red Power Ranger before I had to rush off to work.

I went straight to work from Dad's. I'm disappointed more employees weren't in costume. I saw one woman dressed in a witch hat and a Halloween shirt and another woman in a Halloween shirt. Otherwise, I was the only one. Work itself wasn't bad. It was busy when I came in and trick-or-treating was just getting started most places. By the time my relief was arriving, trick-or-treating and other local events were in full swing, and we were, pardon the pun, dead as a doornail.

Went straight from the Acme to the Oaklyn School for this year's Town Halloween Parade. By this point, it had gotten cloudy and much cooler. I shivered as I rushed as fast as I could into town. I don't think the crowd was quite as big as last year, but it was still pretty crazy when I arrived. Most of the kids were running around on the School's lawn, ignoring that they were getting grass stains on their costumes. A ragged but energetic troop finally marched (and pushed her bike) down West Clinton Avenue around quarter after five. Everyone waved to the few people lining the street or watching from their homes. (Most folks were probably walking with their kids!)

Some of the kids at the parade had some creative costumes, too. My favorite was the Classic Nintendo family, with a mom Princess Peach, dad Yoshi, and twin Marios. A very tired toddler wore a huge cardboard girl robot costume, complete with ruffly skirt. A little boy was a fireman in a cardboard firetruck. A neighbor's daughter was Ariel. There was a group of boys in black light costumes, complete with black light box masks and purple lights on their arms. I saw two police officers (including a girl), a pretty Cleopatra in a gauzy gown, a cute female "nerd" in a  plaid skirt and a big bow, a "baby" in footie pajamas and pigtails, an older Supergirl, several black cats, another Anna, Captain America, a darling toddler Cheer Bear, and two Minions - an adorable year-old baby and an older boy in a huge, heavy cardboard costume.

Even I competed this year. I joined the 13 and over category. Competing with me was a pink teddy bear teenager and three of the moms. One mom was a gypsy, one was Jem of Jem and the Holograms in a sparkly sweater and skirt and pink wig, and the other was Princess Peach. I thought Peach or the Gypsy would win first for sure...but much to my shock. I won first place! (Peach came in second. The gypsy was third. The teen teddy and Jem got honorable mentions.) I even got to take two small bags of Tootsie Rolls home. (Incidentally, I won ten dollars. Good. That'll buy me a decent lunch somewhere this week. I haven't been to Jalepeno's Grill or the Westmont Bagel Shop in a while.)

When I got home, I washed off the makeup, put the bits of my costume away, and continued with more Halloween programming I didn't get to earlier. Garfield and Odie dress as pirates to try to capture some nautical trick-or-treat booty. What they didn't expect was for Garfield's Halloween Adventure to get so darn spooky when they're stranded on an island that's haunted by pirate ghosts who are after their treasure!

Young Eukeriah Who has a spooky adventure of his own in Halloween Is Grinch Night. A sour sweet wind has sent the Grinch a'prowlin' on the mountain with his cart of bizarre psychedelic scares. Lost in the mountains, Eukeriah takes it upon himself to make sure the Grinch and his cart never make it to Whoville.

It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown for Linus when he awaits the title character on Halloween night in a "sincere" pumpkin patch. A smitten Sally joins him. Meanwhile, Charlie Brown has trick-or-treat problems of his own. Snoopy would rather fight the Red Baron.

Switched to Arsenic and Old Lace next. In this 1944 version of the hit stage black comedy, drama critic Mortimer Brewster (Cary Grant) is having a very hectic Halloween night. He just married the girl next door (Priscilla Lane) after being against marriage for years. He discovers when he comes home to Brooklyn to arrange their honeymoon that his kindly maiden aunts have been poisoning lonely old men with no family for years and letting their son, who thinks he's Teddy Roosevelt, bury them in the basement. As Mortimer tries to figure this out, his crazed killer brother (Raymond Massey) shows up, with another body and his dubious plastic surgeon (Peter Lorre) in tow. And the local cop on the beat (Jack Carson) would rather talk about his new play than listen to Mortimer's blather about bodies in the basement. Mortimer has to figure out how to get his brother out of the house and his aunts out of trouble, before he ends up being a body in the basement!

This dark farce is a great showcase for several character actors and a lot of fun for Grant as the everyman who beginning to wonder just how much insanity gallops in his family. (I like Uncle Teddy - he and his bugle steal the show.) If you want Halloween scares that are dark but not too gory, try this strange comedy on for size.

Finished out my Halloween marathon with an episode of The Monkees. "Monstrous Monkee Mash" is one of the stranger of the very odd later second season episodes. When a vampiress leads Davy to a castle inhabited by her uncle Dracula and several other monsters, the other three come to their diminutive British friend's rescue.

And here's hoping you had an equally surprising and spooky Halloween!

Friday, October 30, 2015

Who Ya Gonna Call?

Started off a sunny, just-cool-enough morning by finishing Lord of the Silent. I then finished out Young Frankenstein and did a few shorts. Olive and Popeye are "Spooky Swabs" when they find themselves on an abandoned ship filled with ghosts in one of the later color Famous Studios shorts. It'll take an antique can of spinach for Popeye to clear out these supernatural pests.

It's a "Fright to the Finish" when Olive's been reading about ghosts and ghouls on Halloween. Popeye assures her there's nothing to be scared of. Bluto plays a few tricks to scare Olive and get Popeye out of the house. Popeye proves you don't need spinach to play a couple of tricks of your own...and get a few treats from your girl.

I spent most of the morning and early afternoon working on my story and ignoring construction men downstairs blasting a local radio station that plays 80's and 90's pop. Maple and Betty return to the bar at the Inn, only to find Holstrom and his men there much earlier than planned. Maple distracts them while Betty and C.J drug their drinks. Holstrom's not fooled, though. Even as his men run around, interviewing their thumbs and dancing on tables, he reveals that the Shadow Realm knows the Rebels are going to attack, and he knows that the Rebel Society has been hiding at the Inn.

Stopped for lunch around 1. Ran The Black Cauldron as I ate leftover Turkey-Vegetable Soup and a slice of pumpkin bread. One of Disney's darkest animated films takes us to the fantasy kingdom of Prydain. Taran, the assistant pig-keeper for the oracular piglet Hen Wen, is supposed to be taking her to safety. What he really wants is to be a great warrior. He gets more of a chance to show true heroism than even he could have guessed when Hen Wen is captured by the evil Horned King to show him where the Black Cauldron is. Even after Taran, with help from Princess Ellonwy, bard Flewfldory Flamm, and fuzzy critter Gurgi, rescues Hen Wen, they still have to find the Cauldron and keep it out of the King's skeletal clutches.

While I've liked this strange, spooky fantasy since I saw it in theaters with my family at the age of 5, I will add that it's not for everyone. I don't know if I'd take five-year-olds to see it today. There's quite a bit of gruesome imagery in this movie, including the Horned King and his army of undead warriors and the witches who have the Cauldron and will turn it over if asked...for a price. The atmosphere on this one is so scary, I generally reserve it for watching around Halloween. (Also, it has very little in common with the book series it's based on, The Chronicles of Prydain.) On the other hand, some of the animation is wonderful, especially in the Horned King's ruined castle. Taran is bland and not much of a hero (even he admits it), but I rather like dear, silly Flewfldor and smart Ellonwy.

Families with older kids and teens who think they've seen every Disney movie or are fans of fantasy or horror may want to try this one on for size. Though it took Disney over a decade to put it out to home media, it's been on DVD twice (I have the most recent release) and should still be fairly easy to find.

I went through my costume bag as the movie ran. I found the red cape/skirt I bought from a yard sale a few years ago and decided to be Little Red Riding Hood. I'll carry one of my Easter baskets and wear a gingham and denim apron and my black skirt and the read flower-and-gauze hair holder.

Squeaked in one more animated short before I headed out. Tom the Cat is having his own problems with witches in "The Flying Sorceress." Fed up with having to clean up after his and Jerry's mess, he sees a job in an advertisement asking for a cat companion and decides to take up the offer. What the ad didn't say was that a witch wanted a companion to ride her broomstick! After a harrowing ride with the witch, Tom decides to take a ride of his own and have a little fun with Jerry.

Work was busy through most of the night. It's a holiday weekend and is almost the beginning of the month. A lot of people may have gotten their money early, since the first day of the month is on a Sunday. Other than some fairly annoying folks, there were no major problems, and it slowed down enough by 7 that I was able to shut down without a relief.

My schedule isn't great. On one hand, the same two days off (Wednesday and Thursday) and some late days means I'll be able to get cleaning done and get further on my increasingly long story. I still don't have enough hours or as many as I usually do at this time of the year, and some of those hours are much later than they have been recently, including until 8 PM on Tuesday.

Got some grocery shopping in after work. I mainly needed to restock meat, but alas, there were no good sales. I bought a 2 pack of lobster's cake that had a manager's coupon (I'll have them for dinner tomorrow) and and did the buy-one, get-one seasoned chicken sale. Also restocked canned mandarin oranges, canned pumpkin, chocolate chips, canned chicken, and toilet paper. Had to pick up my annual bag of mini York Peppermint Patties shaped like pumpkins to stick in the freezer. I should wait until after the holiday is over, but the Yorks are always among the first candies to vanish during post-holiday sales.

As I was riding home, I noticed that Woodlawn Terrace, the next street over from Manor, was blocked off. A huge group of kids were having a basketball-shooting competition at the end of the street. It turns out they were having a Halloween block party. Some of the kids were even running around in costume from Oaklyn's town parade earlier. While they did offer me a seat to enjoy the massive buffet, I did have meat in my bag. I settled for grabbing a mini-hoagie, a couple of slices of spinach and pepperoni pizza rolls, and a chocolate-covered apple slice.

When I got in, I put everything away, then opened a card I got from my mom. Awww. She'd gotten my phone message I left for her on Thursday to say "hi." She sent me a very simple but sweet Halloween card.

Spent the rest of the night watching Ghostbusters. When three paranormal professors (Bill Murray, Dan Ackroyd, Harold Ramis) are fired by Columbia University, they go into business for themselves as professional spook chasers. Their first client is a beautiful classical musician (Sigorney Weaver) who has been seeing ancient gods in her refrigerator. Soon, they go from being broke to having so much work, they have to hire a fourth man (Ernie Wilson) to help and their secretary (Anne Potts) is complaining about not having time off. But there's a reason New York's been inundated with poltergeists, and it all goes back to the unusual building where the musician and her nerdy accountant neighbor (Rick Moranis) live. Even as the guys figure out there's something brewing among the Big Apple's walking dead, a government official (William Atherton) shows up and shuts them down. Now, they're the only guys who can save New York from an ancient god wrecking havoc in the form of a 100-foot marshmallow man.

Like The Black Cauldron (released the same year, 1984), this is a childhood favorite of mine. I grew up in an old Jersey Shore town that, if the stories are to be believed, probably has more formerly living residents than currently alive ones. My sisters and I used to turn off all the lights in our house and walk around with backpacks, pretending we had proton packs and were searching for ghosts. Ghostbusters was one of the first movies we rented after we got a VCR. My sisters and a friend and I saw the second movie in the theater and had a wonderful time.

While some of the ghosts are too spooky today for really little children, older kids on up will probably have just as much fun as we did with this hilarious mix of scares and deadpan comedy.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Animated Monster Mash

Started the morning with breakfast and the remaining two cartoons on the Disney's Halloween Treat special. A bunch of "Lonesome Ghosts" invite ghostbusters Mickey, Donald, and Goofy to their old home to give them something to do. After much blundering, it's the ghosts who end up getting spooked!

"Trick or Treat" is Disney's only theatrical Halloween short to date. Donald gets on the bad side of a good-hearted witch when he plays a mean trick on his nephews. She helps the boys to get even with their stingy uncle.

Moved onto sitcom episodes next. "Haunted," from the second season of Happy Days, takes us back to Wisconsin and urban legends. Ralph is holding a party in an old house that's said to be inhabited by the ghost of it's former owner, who cuts off the heads of all those who enter! Richie is determined not to be scared by the stories. Something does show up at the party...but it's definitely not anything supernatural.

We move from Milwaukee in the 50's to Chicago in the 80's for "Aliens," from the fourth season of Perfect Strangers. Larry and Balki hold a Halloween party to watch a horror movie marathon, but Larry is the only one who lasts all 12 hours. He ends up having a nightmare about Balki being an alien bent on conquering the Earth.

Did a bunch of horror-oriented animated shorts while making a fall collage from old catalogs. Mickey Mouse did two spooky cartoons in the black-and-white early 30's. "The Mad Doctor" has him trying to rescue Pluto from the demented title character...if he doesn't wind up being a victim as well.

"The Haunted House" is one of Disney's earliest horror titles. Mickey's involved again, this time playing the organ for a group of skeletons with a fondness for dancing and outhouse gags.

Moved over to Universal for some spooky Walter Lantz Studio cartoons. "Witch Crafty" feels a bit more like a Warner Bros short of the time than Woody Woodpecker. A witch gets Woody to repair the handle of her broom, but he won't give it back until she pays him 50 cents. She does everything she can to get her property back and not have to pay him.

Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, who was Universal's only animated star during the early talkie years, appeared in several horror-themed shorts during the height of his popularity. "Spooks" was a riff on Phantom of the Opera. Oswald's girlfriend Kitty is helped onto the opera stage by a mysterious fellow in a mask. He's not happy when she would rather be with Ozzy than a masked ghoul!

"Wax Works" spoofs the Universal horror stable and Warner Bros' Mystery of the Wax Museum. The plot has a few things in common with "The Mad Doctor" as well. Instead of a dog, it's a baby Oswald has to rescue from a group of wax figures in his museum who come to life and terrorize the child.

Popeye and his crew had their occasional encounters with ghosts and ghouls, too. "Shiver Me Timbers!" has him, Olive, and Wimpy stranded on a wrecked ship. The ghosts on the ship aren't thrilled with them being there. They attack them and torture them...until Popeye fights back.

Headed out to run errands in the Oaklyn area around noon. Started at the Oaklyn Library. I organized the DVDs while listening to the teacher read the small class of pre-school kids stories about Halloween and trick-or-treating. Their craft this week was painting small rocks to look like jack-o-lanterns. I headed out as they were finishing their "pumpkins."

Next stop was Common Grounds Coffee House for lunch. Despite it being 12:30, the place was pin-drop quiet. There was only one other woman doing work on her laptop. I had a slice of sausage, pepper, and onion quiche and a green iced tea while admiring their resin pumpkins and softly glowing orange lights in the window.

I was originally going to volunteer at Studio LuLoo today, but they weren't around any of the times I looked. I just ended up at home instead. I wanted to get a little further on my story.

Betty just manages to find a paper in the locked drawer in Holstrom's desk before the older man appears, none-too-happy with the mess. As it turns out, the scrolls Betty found are just normal correspondence to King Charles of Weepla...or are they? Why were they locked away?

Betty and Maple bring up their concerns at the Rebel Society meeting. Betty explains why she's looking for the Guardians. The other Rebels don't see the point...but the Leader does. Finding the Guardians and convincing them to join the Rebels could turn the tide against the Shadow Realm. The Leader recognizes the wording on the scrolls - they're in code. While he figures out what they say, he tells the others to get ready to attack the next day, and for Maple to help Betty continue to search for the Guardians.

Around 4:30, I decided I needed a stretch and to run a few more errands. I finally took the luggage I borrowed from Dad back to his house. Thanks to Halloween being on a Saturday this year, trick-or-treating in Oaklyn has been extended literally all afternoon, from 12 to 7. While a lot of moms are complaining that this is far too long for their children to be out, I'm fine with it. It'll give me the chance to give out candy for an hour and a half (and make up for my missing the parade this year). I turned the rolling suitcase over to Dad and said "hi" to Jodie, who was chatting with some of the moms and kids from the neighborhood. Brought the rent to Miss Willa and Richard when I got in.

Spent the next forty minutes or so in a wonderful, luxurious bath. I badly needed one. I can't remember the last time I had one. I kicked back, read Peace and Plenty, and listened to the Marsalis family's Joe Cool's Blues. This fun CD features covers of the jazz tunes from several Peanuts specials, along with their own Peanuts-inspired melodies.

Put on Young Frankenstein while making Cranberry-Chocolate Chip Brownies to go with my leftover turkey-tomato soup for dinner. Dr. Fredrick Frankenstein (Gene Wilder) has been trying for years to avoid references to his family's ghoulish legacy. When he comes to Transylvania to collect an inheritance from his late grandfather, he discovers that his grandfather's work may not be as crazy as it seems. He resolves to pick up where his grandfather left off by bringing an enormous dead man (Peter Boyle) back to life. Trouble is, his assistant Igor (Marty Feldman) brings him an abnormal brain for his very big creation. Now he has to keep the creature from terrorizing everyone, while fending off the local inspector (Kenneth Mars) and his fiancee (Madeline Khan).

One of my favorite Mel Brooks comedies gentles down the satire in favor of an affectionate homage to the Universal horror movies of the 30's. (In fact, it actually uses sets from the original 1932 Frankenstein.) If you're a Brooks fan or are like me and would rather laugh at your fears, this is one of his best and most atmospheric movies. Highly recommended.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Scary Tales In the Rain

Started a late morning with Halloween specials. Halloween Hall of Fame is one of three 70's-80's Disney Halloween anthologies my family taped off the networks and The Disney Channel in 1988. Johnathan Winters is the star of this first one, probably from the mid-70's from the look and some of Winters' Minnesota Vikings references when he's playing with the props. Winters, a security guard at the Disney Studios, encounters an angry jack-o-lantern (also Winters) in a crystal ball. Seems Jack isn't happy with how watered-down Halloween's become. Winters directs him to the shorts "Trick Or Treat" and "Pluto's Judgement Day" and the featurette "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" to prove otherwise.

Headed out around quarter of 1. It had rained overnight, but by the time I got up, it was just cloudy, unusually warm for this time of year, and very windy. It started to sprinkle as I made my way across Newton Lake Park. Needless to say, they weren't busy. I saw one jogger and dodged a huge flock of Canadian geese.

The Haddon Township Library was busy with people dodging the weather. They were doing surveys of the books, but I was able to shelve some things. Organized the kids' DVDs (the S titles are still overstocked). Tried to shelve the adult titles, but there was just no room. I did get some audio books and hold items on the shelves, though.

I have plenty of things to watch for Halloween and Election Day, so I skipped taking out movies this week. I did find two books on women dealing with money management, A Girl's Guide to Money by Laura Brady, and Peace and Plenty: Finding Your Path to Financial Serenity, by Sarah Ban Breathnach. (The latter wrote the Simple Abundance books, two of which I have.) (And I finally returned that Garfield comic book I kept forgetting.)

The rain had returned as I made my way across the street to the Westmont Plaza...and it was coming down in a pretty decent shower. I hurried up the hill and past the stores to Friendly's as fast as I could. I had a coupon for 50 percent off their ice cream items, so I figured I'd eat there. It was nearly 2:30 by the time I ate. There were just a few families and older folks chatting there. I had a tasty Carolina BBQ Supermelt sandwich (roast beef on white with cheddar cheese, onion rings, and barbecue sauce) and fries. I'd never tried their Fribble milkshakes, so I had a half-price coffee shake for dessert.

Made a quick stop at Thriftway next. Their small generic mouthwashes were on sale for $1.99. Also grabbed a quart of skim milk for $1.49, cheaper than at Acme. The teen cashier saw my American Girl coin purse and mentioned she was a big fan. I was glad to meet a fellow fan; we had a nice little chat about our dolls.

The rain was still coming down when I got out of Thriftway. I wasn't going to wait around for it to end. I just headed home. Spent the rest of the afternoon writing. Betty and Maple join a tour of the mayor's house in order to gain access. Betty wants to find out where Holstrom is keeping the Fire Talisman and why he wants it, since he can't do magic. She and Maple are searching Holstrom's office, but one of Maple's spells just made noise that attracted attention...

Turned the leftovers in my fridge into Tomato-Turkey Soup with Fall Vegetables as I skipped ahead on the home-made Disney holiday specials disc to "Disney's Halloween Treat." This was The Disney Channel's Halloween show in the 80's and early 90's. It consists of sequences from Disney animated films and cartoons that feature horror or villains, two segments from The Wonderful World of Disney (one on cats and their use in horror, the other a Hans Conried narrated sequence on villains), and four classic Disney cartoons almost in full, "Donald and the Gorilla," "Pluto's Judgement Day," "Trick or Treat," and "Lonesome Ghosts." My sisters and I loved this as kids. I'm surprised the tape I dubbed this off of still worked, considering how much we ran it during the Halloween season well into the early 2000's.

Oh, and it rained off and on for the rest of the night, rather hard at one point while I was online. I don't hear anything but wind now.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Autumn Blues

It was cloudy and cool when I finally got out of bed and put down the Amelia Peabody book Lord of the Silent this morning. I started the day with breakfast and a spooky episode of Good Eats. "Oh My, Meat Pie" throws a couple of jabs at the Tim Burton Sweedny Todd. Alton's great-grandfather teaches a rather barber and the baker of the "worst pies in London" how to make the perfect shepard's and mincemeat pies.

Went into the original The Muppet Show as I cleaned up from breakfast. Shock jock Alice Cooper's appearance in an episode of the third season was rather controversial in the mid-70's, as his outrageous hard rock style was the precursor to everyone from KISS to Marilyn Manson. Actually, this episode was one of the funnier shows of the season, with Cooper trying to persuade the Muppets to sell their souls (and almost succeeding with Gonzo).

Did a little bit of writing as I tried to ignore the music blasting downstairs from the newly-arrived carpenters. (They've been gone since I've been home. They must have finally gotten back from vacation.) Betty asks Maple how she got to know Scott. Maple had been a thief with Scott, then worked as a maid in a grand house when he was prince regent. When he was found out, she was one of the people who helped him escape.

Did the other spooky episode of The Muppet Show as I made pumpkin bread and got ready for work. Vincent Price was at the height of his popularity as a horror icon when he appeared in the late first season. His spooky elegance made a nice contrast with the Muppets' signature wackiness. I like his interview with Kermit about acting and a skit with Gonzo and Fozzie moving into a vampire's castle and discovering Price and his "beautiful assistant" (monster Uncle Deadly) looking for a room for the night.

Work was a little bit quieter than last night, otherwise pretty much the same - quiet in the afternoon, busy during rush hour, otherwise frustrating. I still can't seem to do anything right. I can't help apologizing when I do something wrong. People scare me. I don't know what they'll do. I get worried and panic. I wish I could explain it better. They don't understand. Thankfully, it had slowed down enough by 7 that I was able to leave with no relief and no need for one.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Stuff that Goes Bump In the Daytime

Began the morning with breakfast and spooky episodes of Tiny Toon Adventures. "Stuff That Goes Bump In the Night" from the first season is an anthology of three tales of mild horror. The first has Montana Max dodging the ghost of Buster Bunny, who was driven out of his hole by Monty's new summer house. The second has Elmyra chasing what she thinks is a cute bat, but is really a vampire who considers her to be his next meal. The third is less scary. Hampton deals with an uninvited house guest - a hungry mosquito.

"The Horror of Slumber Party Mountain" from the fourth season has fun with the B teen horror movies of the 60's and 70's. Elmyra plays Elvira, who hosts the "movie" (complete with a take on the real American International logo of the era) and tries to keep Furball around. Fifi, Babs, and Shirley are on a sleep-over at a cabin in the woods. Buster, Plucky, and Hampton dress as a half-breed monster with antlers that's a local horror legend to give the girls a scare. The girls vow to get even...until it turns out that there's someone else out there that's after them as well...

I got to the laundry around 11:30. It was a little busy when I came in. By the time my clothes were in the drier and the local news was fussing about the rain later in the week, the place was down to me and one other person. I didn't have a really big load, in any case. I was mainly washing work clothes.

When I got home, I put clothes away while finishing out the episodes of Hello Kitty Furry Tale Theater I started earlier. "The Phantom of the Theater" has stolen Catnip's candy stash and My Melody's teddy and gotten Tuxedo Sam tangled in a curtain pull. Who's really behind all the spooky doings? Catnip's not happy about playing "Frankencat," a mad scientist who creates a robot (Grinder) who befriends a little girl (My Melody). She's happier with the more glamorous role of "Catula," a milk-drinking vampire who has sucked all the dairy products out of Transylvania! Hello Kitty and her buddies are called to help get rid of her.

Did a little bit of writing next. Maple is working on a potion that'll give the officers in her bar hallucinations - just enough to distract them from figuring out what the Rebels are doing. When she finishes, she agrees to go with Betty to try to find out more about where Holstrom's keeping the Fire Talisman.

Did a couple of Disney shorts while eating lunch and getting ready for work. "Runaway Brain" is a rare Mickey horror tale from the 90's. Mickey needs to make some money fast to take Minnie on vacation. He sees an ad for "mindless work"...but the ad doesn't exactly state that a mad scientist wants to switch his brain with that of his huge monster!

The 1945 Donald Duck short "Duck Pimples" is even more bizarre. Donald's rainy night at home and a bevy of horror and mystery shows on the radio has his imagination on edge. A simple pulp fiction novel gets real wild when Donald's brain starts working overtime...and the characters literally jump from the page and enact the story in his living room.

Work was a pain. I got scolded about the WIC checks and getting upset with people. I can't help it. I get scared. I don't want to make trouble, and all I do is make more trouble. And a manager scolded me again about not using the right buttons to take off an item...instead of doing it the way I've been doing it for almost two decades and the way everyone else does it. No matter what I do, no matter how hard I try, I just can't do anything right there. I was so happy when my relief was actually early and I was able to get off at a decent time.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

The Shadow Knows

Started off a cloudy, cool morning with Chocolate Chip Pancakes and my old Monster Mash Party Music Halloween cassette. I picked this up from I think the CVS in Wildwood around 2002. Until the last few years, it was the only even remotely Halloween-oriented music I owned. It's your basic covers of mildly horror-oriented pop and rock songs like "Monster Mash," "Spooky," "Bad Moon Rising," and "Abracadabra." (Along with "Macho Man" and for some reason "Batdance.")

Work was busy all afternoon. The sun was coming out, and though it was windy and cool, it was also an increasingly nice day. There were lots of things going on today, including hay rides, fall fairs, and the Eagles-Panthers game tonight. And I accidentally dropped one of the 6-packs of soda cans that are on sale this week. It sprayed all over the register, mostly on me. And of course, it was diet orange soda, one of the hardest to get out of clothes. I'm glad I was wearing my older Eagles jersey that I bought from a thrift shop for five dollars. I cleaned the register and me as best I could, but I still felt sticky.

As soon as I got home, I dumped my wet clothes in the laundry basket and went right in the shower. Normally, I would have waited on the shower until later in the evening, but I still felt sticky, even after washing my arms and wiping off my jersey in the back lounge room at work. I do feel better now, especially my arms.

Went on the computer to do some writing for a little while. Maple LaMarsh is a witch. She's not a very good witch. Her concoctions are notorious for never doing what they're supposed to do. She tends to accidentally turn people into rabbits and give them mustaches when she wants to cure sniffles or make soup.

I made pasta and turkey meatballs with spinach salad and (canned) "red gravy" (tomato sauce) while listening to episodes of The Shadow. Orson Welles was the original star of this long-running pulp fiction radio show. The title character is Lamont Cranston, a playboy who learned the secret of "clouding men's minds" in the Orient and now uses it to appear invisible to criminals as "The Shadow." Margo Lane is his devoted girlfriend who (unlike many other superhero love interests) is very much in on his secret and is as tough as he is.

The first story I did, starting it before I went to work, was "Poison Death." Innocent citizens are turning up poisoned all over town...and someone is leaving notes saying that The Shadow is the cause. Lamont sets out to clear himself and find out who's really behind the poisonings.

"The Bride of Death" is a personal favorite. This time, Lamont and Margo are visiting a seaside village where a priest and four members of his congregation were killed by a bomb. The late priest's daughter is being held prisoner by the head of a cult who is trying to convince an old woman to give up her fortune.

Bret Morrison had taken over the Shadow role by the time of "The Cat That Killed." Lamont and Margo are on a scavenger hunt when they see a huge cat leaping over rooftops. That "cat" has killed at least three watch men at a warehouse owned by a young man. The youth is in despair of finding anyone to replace them. Lamont dresses as an old man to find out who this "cat" is what they're really after.

And...darn it. The Panthers remain undefeated. They out-ran the Eagles 27-16.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Sitcom Spooks and Frights

Started off a late morning with a couple of spooky sitcom episodes. "Haunted House," from the second season of Laverne & Shirley, takes the girls and their guy friends Lenny and Squiggy to the old Ramsdale Manor. The girls need a couch, and the the house is being demolished and the furniture sold. Shirley's heard stories about a monster in the manor that attacks anyone on the grounds. Laverne thinks she's being silly...until they and the guys see strange things going on at the manor...

I rushed off the the farm market around 11. I did take a peek at a few yard sales. One was just knick-knacks. A big one by the Art Deco-style apartment building that overlooks the lake had some interesting Christmas stuff, but I finally decided I didn't really need it.

Even at nearly quarter after 11, the Collingwood Farm Market was bustling. It's on its last month. Several food booths are gone, replaced by more craft booths. Tomatoes, grapes, and cucumbers are also gone, but I saw the first cranberries of the season. Stopped and watched the two alpacas at the first booth. One just ate; the other scratched himself (and probably wondered why those crazy humans were watching him scratch himself). I ended up buying broccoli, small apples, carrots, and the cranberries.

I passed by a little fair by Oaklyn's fire house on my way home. This is Fire Prevention Month. I remember it was a huge deal in Cape May when I was a kid - those fancy Victorian homes are beautiful but also quite flammable. I saw a 'fire safety truck' from Bellmawr enter as I was on my way to Collingswood. There was a fire house-themed bounce house and a wooden house front to squirt with a fire hose.

When I got in, I had leftovers for lunch, then started Oatmeal-Chocolate-Chip Cookies. Ran Moonlighting while I worked. "I See London, I See France, I See Maddie's Netherworld" from the fifth season gets more than a little spooky when a man dies in Maddie and David's office while waiting for an appointment. It turns out neither he, nor the man who came looking for him the next day, or the two men with guns chasing him, are what they claim. The duo have to figure out what they were all after while arguing over the possibility of death being final or there really being something "on the other side."

Switched to Remember WENN as I cleaned up from baking and got the cookies in the oven. Diva actress Hilary Booth is being haunted by "The Ghost of WENN" during this late third season episode. The horror show they're performing and the rainy, noisy weather isn't helping. While Hilary and Betty try to figure out what's going on, Mackie worries about the urban legend surrounding what happened to the last actor who read the dialogue on page 13...

"Caller I.D" deals with the imagination and the magic of radio and of fiction. A "passionate listener" has climbed onto the edge of a building and is threatening to jump if the cast doesn't perform for her. They first throw together a bunch of shows and create cliffhangers to maintain her interest. She's finally reminded that fantasy is really only in the mind...and stories aren't much use without people to hear them.

The cookies took longer than I anticipated. I just barely got to work on time. Not a good thing. We were busy for most of the evening. There's tons of things going on this weekend as we head towards Halloween and the holiday season - hay rides, craft shows, fairs, birthday parties, various fall sports. There were a lot of people who were rude and demanding, or just wouldn't help bag. I was so happy when my relief showed up on time and I was able to hurry out.

Friday, October 23, 2015

You Do Something To Me

Started a sunny, cooler morning with writing. Victor meets Jeff after the Rebel Society meeting. Victor is trying to get information on the Shadow Realm and the Rebel Society for Brittanica. He once lead the Rebels, but gave it up when he "died" after Brittanica was bombed. He wants to know about the new "Leader" and the white crystals. He has to move on to Port Harbor - he'll meet Jeff there.

Went to work not long after that. Work was actually pretty quiet for most of the day. It did get mildly steady on and off. It's getting close to the beginning of the month, and we had a lot of fun people who were demanding or rude. Other than that, there were no major problems, and it was quiet enough when my shift ended for me to leave with no relief and no need for one.

Got my schedule during lunch. On one hand, I'm off at 7 almost all week except for Sunday, when I'm off at 4, and I have Wednesday and Thursday off again. Unfortunately, I only have slightly more hours than I did this week. Considering we haven't been that busy, I can actually understand why. Things should get busier after we get past Halloween (which is more of a party holiday than a big meal holiday) and people start thinking Thanksgiving.

I went online to write again briefly after I got in, then had leftovers for dinner while finishing Magic In the Moonlight. Woody Allen continues his exploration into France's past with this tale set in the French Riviera of the 1920's. Stanley (Colin Firth) is a popular magician and a rather obnoxious pessimist who doesn't believe in hocus-pocus. He spends his free time debunking supernatural claims. Then, he meets Sophie (Emma Stone), who claims to be a real psychic. He can't find any of the usual wires or fakery. Now, she has him believing in real magic...but there's a different kind of magic that's really at work, one that's found in the heart...

While not on the level of the last Allen pictures I saw (Scoop and Midnight In Paris), this is still a pleasant way to pass an hour and a half. I do wish Stanley hadn't switched back and forth between total belief and not believing at all so much, and yes, the romance at the end did seem forced. Still, if you like the cast or romantic comedies in historical settings, this is worth seeing at least once.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Beautiful Indian Summer

It was late when I finally put down He Shall Thunder In the Sky and started breakfast. Finished out the Care Bears set as I ate. "Sleuth of Bears" has the crew playing Scooby Doo (we even get a "meddling kids" reference and everyone running in and out) when they think they've found clues to the "Scare Bear," the spooky ghost of the founder of Care-A-Lot. As with Scooby, the real identity of the "ghost" is hardly frightening.

Poor Grumpy just wants to watch honeyball in "Welcome to Grump-A-Lot," but the other bears keep disrupting his time to himself. When he finally gets fed up, his unleashed anger turns the others equally grumpy. He has to find out how to return them to their original selves.

("Welcome to Grump-A-Lot" bothered me a little. While Tenderheart was right that Grumpy should have been more careful about expressing his emotions, the other bears also should have been scolded for snitching his food and invading his personal space in the first place. He wouldn't have gotten angry if they'd asked to eat with him or just left him alone, especially given they know how he can get.)

It was quarter of 1 when I finally headed out. It was a glorious day for a walk. The sun was shining, the sky was a brilliant blue, and it was breezy but not windy. It was also in the mid-70's, rather warm for this time of year. I didn't need a sweater, much less a jacket. The leaves aren't quite as pretty here as they are up north, but the gardens, helped by all the rain we had a few weeks ago, abound with marigolds, mums, and the last of the roses. Most people have their Halloween decorations up by now. I haven't seen as many elaborate displays as usual, but there are a few, including some houses with orange, yellow, or white lights.

First stop was the Oaklyn Library. The nursery school kids were there, learning about apples and apple picking. While one of the librarians read them stories about apples and had them make prints with apples, I organized the DVDs. The kids weren't done by 1:30. I just headed out. I'll do the kids' area next week.

Since it's just a couple of blocks down the road on the White Horse Pike from the Library, I hit Family Dollar next. I forgot to buy tissues yesterday. I ran out of them almost two weeks ago. I need them rather badly. My allergies have been acting up off and on since the Friday it poured for most of the day.

I was going to volunteer at Studio LuLoo, but they weren't open when I made it back to West Clinton. I hit Phillies Yummies for what will probably be the last time this season instead. I was surprised to see it open this late. I guess they figured with the warm day, people would want ice cream. I tried the home-made pumpkin ice cream they had advertised in their window. It definitely tasted home-made, if nothing else. Actually, it tasted like frozen pumpkin puree with cream, sugar, and spices, though thicker and less spicy than pumpkin pie filling. Not bad, but a little bit odd.

Had lunch when I got in. Ran more Remember WENN as I ate. It's a not-so "Happy Homecoming" for Jeff and Victor in the third season finale. Betty hears Johnathan Arnold on the radio and becomes concerned when she realizes it's a different voice. Meanwhile, Jeff has arrived and is determined to make Hilary listen to his explanation about the Pavla mess. Hilary is equally determined to ignore him. Betty's delighted when Victor shows up at the station, but there's something very wrong with him...

Spent the rest of the afternoon and evening working on my very long WENN fanfiction. I did a lot of re-writing, trying to figure out what the Rebel Society is actually doing. I finally decided that they are going to defend the white crystal mine. They need it and the magic to combat the Shadow Realm. Mackie doesn't want any part of their war. He just wants to act and stay away from magic. Betty doesn't want to fight, but she doesn't like the Shadow Realm, either.

Mackie wants to get out, but as it turns out, they don't have a choice. The hay loft they're hiding in breaks out from under them. Betty lands right in the arms of the mysterious Leader; Mackie uses Eugenia and Mr. Foley for a landing pad. Betty senses that the Leader (and his catchphrases) seem familiar, but he's wearing muffling black leather clothing and she can't see his face. He melts into the shadows before she can question him further.

Started Magic In the Moonlight as I ate leftovers for dinner. I'll finish it tomorrow either before or after work.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Caring Bears and Radio Tales

Got up a little earlier this time, enough to start the day with breakfast and an episode of Remember WENN. We stay in the third season and move to "Eugenia Bremer, Master Spy." A British secret agent arrives at the station, claiming there's still codes going out over the airwaves. While the cast has to paraphrase their scripts, the spy courts Eugenia, the sweet organist, who has a secret of her own.

I watched a few other extras on the disc as I prepared to head out. AMC filmed a series of short commercials with the five main couples on the show during the fourth season. My favorite is actually the Mr. Foley/Eugenia one; they're so cute. Maple's and Victor's (where Maple translates Victor's "grandeloquent" vocabulary) is pretty funny, too. And I loved the little blurb on Tom Beckett, who played Mr. Foley. (I don't think the poor guy ever did get his one line.)

Finally made it to the laundromat around 11:30. I timed it right, for once. It was just clearing out when I put my very big load in the washer. Thankfully, by the time people were complaining about the larger front-loading washers leaking, my things were in the dryer and almost done. (And I never use the front-loading washers, anyway. They cost twice as much as the top-loaders.)

When I got in, I put everything away, then made dinner. I sliced up sweet potatoes, boneless chicken thighs, and broccoli. Tossed them in the Crock Pot with water and a tiny bit of lemon juice for chicken-sweet potato stew.

My first stop after I headed out was Capitol Pizza for lunch. Though I enjoyed the chatter on The Talk about ignoring bad advice and following your heart, it was too nice of a day to eat inside. I took my mushroom and cheese slices out to the wire tables on the curb along the White Horse Pike. It was a gorgeous day for mid-October, in the lower 70's, sunny, and breezy. I was glad I was out to enjoy it.

Went right to the Haddon Township Library next. I tried to shelve the kids' DVD's, but as usual, the S titles were overflowing. Some G titles didn't fit, either. I also shelved audio books and went through the adult DVD's to make sure there were no foreign or kids' titles mixed in.

I did take out some titles this week. Thought I'd give Game of Thrones a shot, since they actually had the first season and I've been writing fantasy. Grabbed two recent semi-fantasies, Magic In the Moonlight and Winter's Tale. Found the newest Care Bears: Welcome to Care-A-Lot set, Mystery In Care-A-Lot.

I needed food in the house, and I couldn't wait for Friday. I rode down to the Westmont Acme to do a little bit of shopping. They weren't too busy. I'm still broke and was trying to keep the list to a minimum. I mostly either bought things I really needed (pumpkin, cooking spray, crushed pineapple), or that were on a good sale (spinach, the Acme's generic shredded wheat, brown sugar) or both (small cups of Greek yogurt, the Acme's chocolate chips, eggs, soup).

When I finally made it home, I put everything away, then spent the next hour writing. Mackie and Betty follow Eugenia, Mr. Foley, and C.J to the stable. To avoid being detected, Betty and Mackie hide in the hayloft, where they watch the proceedings.

It turns out to be a meeting of the Rebel Society, the group that's fighting the Shadow Realm independently of countries like Brittanica and Francois. They're discussing the white crystal mine that they're secretly using to unearth power crystals to fight off the Shadow Realm when the mysterious Leader arrives. No one knows who this person is. They dress all in black and keep their voice low and soft. They claim someone has discovered the mine - it'll have to be stripped and abandoned. While he explains his plan, Mackie and Betty lean closer...and then the hay gets into Mackie's nose, and he has to sneeze...

Did another episode of Remember WENN while eating my Chicken-Broccoli Stew for dinner. Hilary is "Courting Disaster" when Jeff's lawyer claims he wants to sue her for damages! Betty, Maple, and Scott help her fight back and make a mockery of the shyster's double-talk on their court show.

Made a Confetti-Buttermilk Cake while starting the Mystery In Care-A-Lot DVD. In "Nightbears," we discover that it's Sweet Dreams Bear's job to give all the Care Bears happy, gentle dreams when they to go sleep. A "plainbow" cuts off her powers and disrupts her sleep. The bears who do sleep get nightmares instead! It takes all of the bears to fight the "plainbow" and learn that nightmares are a normal part of dreaming...and they aren't necessarily anything to be afraid of.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

As Time and Radio Stations Go By

I slept so late today, it was noon before I had breakfast! After I ate quick, I did a little bit of writing...and a lot of flipping through photos. A former cameraman on Remember WENN took candid photos of the cast and staff during the show's run. Some of them are really gorgeous! They've all been giving me wonderful fanfic ideas.

(Here's the link to the photos - hope you have some time to check them all out! There's over a hundred.)

Manged to get a little bit of writing in there before work. Mackie and Betty see Eugenia and Mr. Foley following Maple to the stable behind the Buttery Inn. They take cloaks and follow them, hoping to find out what's going on and what Maple's hiding.

Work was fairly quiet when I came in, but it picked up considerably during rush hour. There were a lot of WIC checks - checks that allow low-income families with small children and infants to purchase some food and baby formula - today, and a lot of problems with WIC checks. Acme was just bought by Safeway earlier this year and is in the process of switching to Safeway's generic brands. Not all of the new brands are in the computer yet. In other cases, the wrong items are in the computer and are working when they shouldn't. I got fussed at for allowing cans of vegetables that were too small to be rung up, even though they worked. I just wanted to get the women out of there by that point. Thankfully, my relief was right on time.

When I got home, I had leftover soup while finishing the WENN episode I started this afternoon. Quite a few of the shots in the Facebook photo collection were from the classic third season Casablanca spoof "From the Pen of Gertrude Reece." The station's receptionist has written a radio play with a plotline familiar to anyone who's even remotely a classic movie fan. Scott has the Rick role of the former soldier of fortune who doesn't care about anyone...until one woman (Betty) comes back into his life in his bar that's a gathering of many refugees from Europe and Africa. Mackie is the sardonic French major. Maple and Eugenia are musicians; C.J the technician is the bartender. Mr. Eldridge and Jeff are waiters. One of the sponsors give Scott "Letters of Transmit" that could get him out of North Africa. He'd love for Betty to go with him, but she won't leave without her war hero lover (Victor).

Gertie finally reveals that, like the writers of the real Casablanca, she's had a hard time coming up with an ending for her story. She, Betty and Hilary toss around a few ideas, but Betty doesn't like any of them. She finally types the name of the man she thinks the heroine ought to end up with...but then decides Gertie should come up with her own ending.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Late Morning Party With Monsters and Meddling Kids

I slept in this morning. It was still so cold in my apartment, and just so warm under my layers of blankets! I started one of my favorite Elizabeth Peters books, too, He Shall Thunder In the Sky. I didn't get moving until past 10:30.

Since I didn't get a chance to make pancakes yesterday, I had them for breakfast today. I ate Cranberry Orange Pancakes (with the last of the Cranberry Medley I had at Lauren's house) while running a fairly spooky episode of Tales of the Gold Monkey. Sarah receives a "Trunk From the Past" that comes with a whole lot of memories she's not ready to discuss. The trunk is from her father, a prominent archaeologist who was killed by a man wearing the head of an Egyptian dog god. Even as Jake, Corky, and Sarah try to figure out what Sarah's father had discovered before his death, a man shows up claiming to be Sarah's fiancee. Then, they discover that the trail leads them right to an island in the Japanese mandates...and it's occupied by a tribe whose Egyptian rituals haven't changed in centuries.

Moved to the original Scooby Doo, Where are You? while I was doing the dishes. "Scooby Doo and a Mummy, Too" has Mystery Inc. fleeing the remains of an ancient Egyptian king who was said to have cursed his tomb. The professor who found the mummy and the one in charge of the museum seem to have been turned to stone...and if the kids aren't careful, Scooby may be next!

I was originally going to get the laundry done this morning, but I just plain ran out of time. I made Feather Nutmeg Muffins for lunch instead while starting Mad Monster Party. The first feature film from Rankin-Bass has most of filmdom's favorite spooks coming together for a huge shindig on the island of Dr. Frankenstein (Boris Karloff). The doctor's retiring, and he intends to leave his entire fortune - including his most recent discovery - to his nerdy nephew Felix Flanken. The monsters, including The Creature's Bride (Phyllis Diller) and the doctor's assistant Francesca, don't that one bit and set out to eliminate Felix.

When a stop-motion Phyllis Diller is the least-strange thing onscreen, you know you're in for a weird movie. They couldn't figure this one out in the mid-60's. It was lost to kiddie matinees until it turned up on video and cable in the 80's and became something of a cult favorite. I give Rankin-Bass some credit. The designs and animation are amazing, especially in the lush island backgrounds. The music's pretty decent, too, and I love Francesca. If you want to check out the weirder, darker, or lesser-known side of Rankin-Bass, this is a pretty good place to start.

Work was steady the entire night. The Eagles were playing the Giants on Monday Night Football at 8:30. A lot of people wanted to get their shopping done before then, or pick up snacks for the game. One woman got upset when the sale she wanted turned out to only be available with our "MyMixx" online coupon clipping program. To be fair, the sign did say it wasn't a regular sale...but the lettering was small. I tried to explain about the program, but I guess I didn't do a very good job of it. She left with nothing.

Oh, and I got my schedule for this week. I'm not overly happy. While two more days off will allow me to get a lot done around the apartment, it also means my hours are low. Most of the days I do have are evening days, with only one afternoon.

I got home just in time to hear the game, and it was a honey. Though the Giants scored a touchdown early in the first quarter, that was the only time they got anything going. There were so many penalties on both sides, I'm surprised anyone was actually able to play. The Eagles finally flattened the Giants 27-7.

Oh, and I did call Miss Willa this morning before breakfast. She and Richard were on their way back from their own vacation. They said they'd look into the heater. They must have. I saw them getting in as I got home. When I got home, the apartment was definitely warmer.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

I'm On My Way Home

Lauren, her parents, and I headed out to Albany around quarter of 10. Dark clouds gathered even as we left. We actually had several snow squalls as we passed through lovely small towns in Massachusetts and upstate New York. After Mr. and Mrs. Miller stopped at a Rite Aid just outside of Albany to buy something, we headed on to the Albany train station.

The train station at Albany is small but beautiful, all blond wood and dramatic high ceilings. It's also the most recent of the train stations I visit on these trips, apparently having been built in 2002. We all sat in the waiting area, watching Face the Nation and a travel show on CBS, until my train arrived.

This time, there was no trouble on the Albany-New York train. It was flurrying again when I got on the train, but that ended even before we rolled out of the station. Despite the conductor continually claiming the train was full, the car I was in wasn't that busy, and I had no problems getting a seat to myself. I took many photos of the gorgeous view of a partly cloudy sky over green and rust mountains and steel-gray water going back.

New York was, once again, more of a problem. It was the train to Philadelphia that was late, with long lines. We rolled out of the station fifteen minutes after we were supposed to. (Not bad, considering some south-bound trains had delays of anywhere from five minutes to an hour or more.) It didn't help that a hockey game must have just ended at Madison Square Garden over the station shortly after I arrived. We were overwhelmed with a wave of hockey fans in Rangers jerseys.

This train was so busy, I just barely grabbed the last seat in the car. That had it's own kind of romance. I was in the very front of the car with the baggage that either didn't fit in the overhead compartments, or people didn't have time to shove them in. I felt like I was riding a baggage car in the 30's.

When the train finally did roll into the 30th Street Station around ten of 6, I went right to a busy Cosi's for dinner. They're a fancy coffee shop/cafe ala Au Bon Pain and Starbucks. I had water, so I didn't bother with warm drinks. I bought half of a mozzarella, tomato, and basil pizza and a cup of tomato-basil soup. Yum. The pizza was nice and thick and saucy. The soup was delicious, creamy and chunky and a little spicy but not bad.

On my way out of Cosi's, I mis-stepped and turned my ankle. While it hurt, I didn't hear anything crack. I think it's just a little twisted. I spent the next half-hour sitting at a wooden bench, waiting for the departure gate to show up on the old-fashioned flapping board.

Though the NJ Transit train was relatively full for 7 at night, once again, I had no problems getting a seat. Dad picked me up in Cherry Hill. (I doubt anyone would drive into Philly at 7 at night and get me.) I finally got home around quarter of 8.

As soon as I got in, I put everything away. I put any toiletries or items I used purely for traveling in my small overnight case and pushed that under my bed. All of the laundry - including new clothes - went in the laundry basket. I'll do that tomorrow.

Oh, and I called the Acme when I got in to ask when I'm scheduled. I work tomorrow from 3 to 8. I'm actually glad I work later. It'll give me the chance to get the laundry done and call Charlie or his parents. The heater is broken again. It's freezing in here! It was barely in the 50's when I came into the apartment. I'm shivering in my robe and nightgown here.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Rock n' Wrestling n' Shopping

Lauren and I started out around 10:30 to check out yard sales, or tag sales, as they're apparently called in New England, in her area. We didn't do any better than I've been doing in South Jersey. The first one was an estate sale. It was in a creepy old house that was dark, smelled like heavy smoke, and was in horrible shape. Among the things for sale were tools, old weapons, pin-up costumes from World War II and T&A outfits from afterwards, vintage records and games that were falling apart, and quite a few other items. As Lauren said when we left, the owner of that house had some sick hobbies. On top of that, there were tons of people crowded into a small, smelly area. We got out of there as soon as we could.

The next two sales were more G-rated but less interesting. One had clothes and overpriced collectible items like stuffed moose from name companies. The other was a typical clothes-and-kids-toys spread.

The train excursion ride Lauren had discussed all week didn't go any better. The one in Adams isn't running regular service yet. When we went to check out the train and museum in Lenoxdale, they were closed, despite claiming online that they were open on Saturdays.

We ended up back at the Lee Premium Outlets for lunch at their food court. This time, we both ate at the cafe. I had a Coke Zero and a small but tasty cheese and chicken quesadilla. She had a Dr. Pepper and a crispy chicken wrap.

We took a short stroll around the Outlets to stretch and use the bathrooms after lunch. The only store we hadn't checked out in our earlier trips that interested us was the Kitchen Collection. If it was sold by a company for a kitchen, it was probably in there. Alas, most everything I saw I either couldn't afford, couldn't carry home, or could find elsewhere for cheaper. Lauren bought some new chip clips for her parents that were a lot nicer than their old ones.

Our next stop was Lauren's recently-opened Marshall's. This is a discount department store similar to Kohl's and Tuesday Morning. I admired pants and skirts, but I couldn't find anything in my size or the right style. Their jumbled toy department had a few Monster High dolls but no Ever After High that I could see. Lauren did better, picking up a really cute gray sweater with a ruffled collar.

Lauren was out of ideas at that point. There was nowhere else we could go in her area with the time we had. Besides, despite it being off-and-on sunny, it was also windy and very cold. It only got into the mid-40's in Pittsfield today, and dropped to the 20's at night. We stopped briefly at Subway for me to get a sandwich for lunch tomorrow, then headed home.

Lauren's parents had a surprise for her when we arrived. Lauren's birthday is Monday. Mrs. Miller had baked her a yellow cake and frosted it with fudge icing. We watched her blow it out, then all had a piece or two.

We spent the rest of the night eating vegetable beef soup (me) and grilled cheese sandwiches (Lauren) and playing video games and watching wrestling. We did one last round of Mario Party 10 when we got in. We played the Toad Amiibo Board this time. Lauren won by a large margin. She got more stars than anyone and kept kicking everyone's rears at the minigames.

Didn't have as much luck with Yoshi's Wooly World. We had a hard time getting through the first rounds of the second world, especially the volcano-themed one. Poor Lauren got so frustrated, she turned me into an egg and just ran through without getting most of the secret items. She said she'd go back and play the round again and get them later.

Switched to wrestling during dinner. I have no idea who did the movie Lauren showed or what it was called, but from the clothes, hairstyles, the "rock is everything" attitude, and the sleazy main character, I'm going to guess it's from the mid-80's. A small, slender, greasy former music producer in LA is definitely in a free-fall. His last few bands were busts. His car was repossessed. He has a little Asian man with two huge hired mooks on his back for money. In desperation, he talks his way into being the manager for two up-and-coming wrestlers (Roddy Piper and Tonga). Piper's former manager ("Captain" Lou Albaino) isn't happy about his men switching sides. When his current tag team send Piper, Tonga, and their new manager to the hospital, the sleaze comes up with the idea of combining the wrestlers with one of his rock groups and sending them on the road for promotion.

There should have been a lot more wrestling and character actors and far fewer sleazeballs. The greasy manager may have been cool or funny in 1985, but in 2015, he comes off as obnoxious and annoying. Today, guys like Piper and Tonga would be more likely to sit on him than agree to let him be their manager.

The only reason to see this nowadays is for a glimpse of wrestlers like Piper in their 80's prime. The wrestlers aren't great actors, but they (and Billy Barty as an excitable fellow wrestling agent) are a lot more interesting to watch than the scuzzy guy chase a politician's daughter who is too good for him, or try to manage her dad's career, including ruining his campaign dinner. I think Lauren found it on YouTube; for fans of vintage wrestling or vintage character actors only.

Lauren and I are spending our last few hours together online, chatting while the fire sputters in the corner of her room. Tomorrow, I'm heading home. I'll be off around noon. Hopefully, things will be a lot less crazy on a Sunday.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Around the Outlets In 6 Hours

We spent most of the day at the Lee Premium Outlets. It rained around 9, while we were still getting out of bed. By the time we were on the road around 10:30, the rain had taken a temporary leave of absence. There were still heavy clouds, but they were breaking apart.

After a quick stop at the bathroom and Customer Service to get a coupon booklet, we criss-crossed the entire Outlets, starting with second stops at the Gap, IZOD, and Van Heussen. We caught IZOD at the right time - today was their last day. I didn't get anything here, but Lauren picked up shirts for herself and sweaters for her and her mom.

Harry & David mostly specializes in fruit baskets and large containers of fancy snack food, like their caramel and chocolate-covered popcorn. We enjoyed looking, but we've bought enough snack food as it is. We ultimately just moved on.

Lunch was once again at the food court. We ducked around people giving sales spiels about a new LED light bulb (we'd already heard it earlier when we were at Customer Service) and went to make our choices. This time, I hit the grill and had a chicken gyro. Lauren returned to That's a Wrap for a barbecue chicken sandwich. My gyro wasn't too bad. The chicken was tough, but I've had worse. Lauren said her barbecue sandwich was really good. She sure seemed to enjoy it. She actually ate it pretty fast for her.

We dodged a short storm as we made our way to the other side of the complex. Tommy Hilfiger, Lacoste, and Chico's were beyond our budget. Pac Sun, Aeropostale, and American Eagle Outfitters skewered younger than we were interested in. (And Aeropostale had some very thin t-shirts that were practically see-through.) I considered pajamas at Jockey, but ultimately passed. We didn't see anything at Maidenform or Hanes, either. The sales at Ann Taylor weren't that great.

We couldn't resist the call of chocolates. I'd never seen a Lindt's Chocolate store before. We even got to try a sample of the milk chocolate truffles in the red wrapper. They mostly had huge bags of truffles, along with the same bars you could find in many grocery stores. I passed. I'd bought plenty of junk food this week, and those bags and most of the chocolate bars were too big for one person. Lauren found her dad's favorite orange truffles, along with raspberry for her and her mom.

I just ended up buying a black and white plaid flannel shirt at G.H Bass & Co. It wasn't as cheap as I'd hoped, but it was a nice, thick weight and worth the money. Lauren bought a couple of sweaters and a tote bag that was an extra if you gave 10 dollars to cancer research at Polo Ralph Lauren. (They were way beyond my budget.) We looked at Nautica, Banana Republic, and Naturalizer, but finally decided we'd had enough shopping for one day. Lauren bought one last shirt for work at Banana Republic, and we finally headed out for dinner after that.

We once again timed our departures right. The clouds had been building even as we left the Outlets. It poured briefly while we were on the road, and again at Juice and Java in downtown Pittsfield, where we picked up dinner. Thankfully, by the time it rained again, we were long at home, eating our sandwiches (I had turkey, Swiss, and roasted red peppers; Lauren had southwestern turkey) while watching more of Roddy Piper's stint as a host on Prime Time Wrestling during August 1989.

Lauren pre-ordered Yoshi's Wooly World for the Wii U on Amazon. It arrived today. This is a variation on Kirby's Epic Yarn - classic Nintendo characters cavort in a world made entirely of knits, crochets, weavings, and textured fabrics. This time, Yoshi has to gather skeins of yarn to put his friends back together and battle versions of famous Nintendo villains - including an adorable, huggable Bowser Jr. - made of knitted yarn. It's harder than it looks. Lauren and I missed a couple of skeins of yarn and some of the flower beads that give you extra items.

We finished World 1, then switched to Mario Party 10. This time, we did a quick round on the Mario Amiibo Board. I won - I got by far the most stars. Lauren came in second.

We're online now, once again chatting as a fire keeps us warm. We were going to take a scenic train ride in Adams to the north of here tomorrow, but it seems the train isn't running. We'll take in their museum and some local shops and yard sales instead.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

On the Road Again

It was a beautiful, sunny, windy day when we started out around 10 this morning. This time, we headed north towards Stockbridge. We arrived around 10:30 and easily found parking on Main Street, a few blocks down from our first destination. Lauren wanted to check out the Williams & Sons General Store. They're basically a smaller, more local version of the Vermont Country Store, selling a lot of the same things - locally-made kitchen wares, old-fashioned toys, penny candy, fancy soaps and lotions, condiments from New England farms. They're the only local sellers of the "Heavenly Preserves" her dad loves - a jam made from pears, pineapple, strawberries, and raspberries. I didn't want to carry jam home in my bags, so I opted for cranberry soap and three cute cookie cutters in the shape of a horse, a turkey, and a tea cup.

We strolled around Main Street and down past the sprawling, elaborate Victorian hotel the Red Lion Inn. Lauren spotted another chocolate store tucked away in an alley with other restaurants and art galleries. This time, we both found things we could afford. I went with two thick peppermint patties. Lauren grabbed raspberry caramels.

Our next destination was originally going to be Great Barrington, a larger town nearby. Unfortunately, our luck with small towns gave out here. Great Barrington was swamped with road and building construction, including moving or raising a good-sized clapboard church, that took up most of where people would have parked on the main road. We did stop at The Co-Op Market, a small organic grocery store, but decided it wasn't fair to take up their parking when we weren't planning on shopping there. Lauren just could not find parking anywhere. After Lauren went around the block several times, we finally gave up and just hit the road again.

Lauren spotted an interesting-looking pizza parlor on our way into Great Barrington. We ended up stopping there for lunch. Four Brothers Pizza Inn mainly specialized in Greek food and diner basics like burgers, but what I wanted was pizza. We shared a small pizza. Lauren's half had pepperoni, mine had mushrooms. Yum. There were three slices for each of us, and they weren't bad, doughy and full of cheese.

We wound up back at the Lee Premium Outlets to use the bathrooms and for more shopping. Lauren and her parents are apparently regulars at IZOD and Van Heussen...or they were regulars at IZOD. Their Lee store is shutting down. Lauren bought a gift for her father for the very low price of $3.99. We did almost as well at a heavily discounted Van Heussen. I bought a nice, simple green sweater for $19.99 - it was originally $68! Lauren bought two sweaters. I did equally well at the Gap, picking up a pale green long-sleeved t-shirt for $8 dollars. Lauren got a t-shirt and a sweater.

It was around 2:30 when we left. Not only was it too early to go home, it was too nice. The sun was out, the sky was blue, and there were only a few fat, fleecy clouds drifting around. We opted to check out the Berkshire Mall instead of going home. No wonder Lauren says they aren't very good. They're not. Their anchors Target, Sears, Macy's, and JC Penney are pretty decent, but the mall itself is dark and in desperate need of remodeling. Nearly half the stores inside are closed, victims of high rents and owners in Texas who couldn't care less about a mall in Massachusetts.

We drove into Pittsfield to pick up dinner at Angelina's Subs, the hoagie shop next-door to the bank where Lauren works, The Co-Op. They'd had a bit of excitement on Columbus Day when an out-of-control car crashed through their (thankfully closed for the holiday) drive-through! The older women who took our orders knew Lauren on sight and were eager to give us both details. There was sand on the ground where the car had crashed. Lauren said they took out their handicapped railing, which was totally gone.

There was a Duncan Donuts a block away that Lauren also frequents. We went there for dessert. Like the Christmas shop yesterday, they were deceptively small on the outside. The interior was twice the size of the store in Oaklyn, and like that store, probably just remodeled. Lauren opted for an Orange Coolatta. I tried the Pumpkin Pie Coolatta. It was a disappointment, so sour it tasted more like Lauren's orange than pumpkin.

We just opted to take our hoagies home and eat them while watching more of "Rowdy" Roddy Piper's stint hosting Prime Time Wrestling in 1989. Lauren got her favorite Taco Wrap. I went with a pizza hoagie. After we ate, we played more Mario Party 10. Lauren''s Luigi kicked rear at the minigames and won the water-themed Mario Party round. My Princess Peach just won the Luigi-themed Amiibo board by the metal of her gold crown over Donkey Kong.

I took a shower after we finished. When I came down, went online. Now, we're once again chatting, listening to big band music, and enjoying each other's company while a fire roars in the corner. Tomorrow, we're going to dodge rain while finishing up at the Lee Premium Outlets.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Into the Green Mountain State

Got an early start today, heading out to the Berkshire Mall, about a half-hour or so from Lauren's house, around 9:30. It proved to be too early. The mall wasn't open yet. We hit her local farm market first. This farm market is on Wednesday mornings and Saturday afternoons. Lauren didn't need anything; I bought three pears for later in the week.

We did some quick runs into the mall and Target next. I needed new hair clips. The ones I already had were way too small. I wanted headbands as well, but they were expensive. They'll have to wait. Also took out more money for the week. Neither Target nor Jay Street Video Games had the title Lauren was looking for, Mario Party 10. We ended up riding down to a GameStop about five or so minutes away at the Allendale Shopping Center, then heading back to the Best Buy at the mall to pick up three Amiibos - figures that you use to play some Wii U games. Lauren grabbed Mario and Princess Peach. She also found Luigi on a good sale.

We hit the road after that, making our way across Massachusetts to southern Vermont. The view from the highways and back roads were breathtaking. The leaves are at the height of their fall beauty, bursting in amazing shades of rust, orange, golden yellow, and sienna brown. We passed by sprawling ski resorts with huge, rustic wooden hotels, tiny summer cottages, well-restored mill towns, and farms with cows grazing in bright green meadows.

Heavy dark clouds gathered even as we were heading north. They looked like fat gray cotton balls rubbing reddish and deep green streaks on the majestic mountains surrounding us. We were hit by a few showers, including one that came down at a pretty good clip for about ten minutes.

The rain was long gone and the sun was slowly emerging by the time we finally arrived at Weston, home of the Vermont Country Store. This rustic general store is filled with everything from stuffed Peanuts toys to heavy Vermont flannels to maple syrup and penny candy. They were also busy as heck. Not only was a bus filled with elderly travelers in the parking lot, but Lauren and I saw license plates from as far away as Colorado, Wisconsin, and Nova Scotia.

We wanted to eat at the Bryant House, the restaurant next-door to the Vermont Country Store, but they were even busier. Their waiting room was crowded with people who hadn't eaten yet. Lauren gave them her name, and we walked around in the store for a bit instead. I bought a tiny bottle of maple syrup, a bag of vintage chenille candy canes (I remember Mom had them on her tree when we were little until they fell apart), and a box of my favorite Cookie Buttons, tasty crunchy mini-wafers. (I decided to try their new Pumpkin Pie flavor.)

Made it over to the Bryant House around quarter of 2...then waited another 10 minutes or so. We finally got in around 2. The Bryant House is known for their Vermont and New England specialties, made with the finest local ingredients. They're also expensive, which is why we both opted for a simple meal of a cup of soup, a half of a sandwich, and potato chips. We ended up getting the Grilled Cheese - Vermont is famous for its cheeses. Lauren had the Creamy Turkey-Vegetable Soup; I had the New England Clam Chowder. Yum. It was thick and rich, filled with big pieces of clam, potato, and celery. The potato chips were warm and not too greasy - I wonder if they were hand-made.

Lauren spotted a Christmas ornament shop across the street when we were going to the Bryant House. We strolled over there next. It was awesome. It looked so small from the outside, but it was three rooms filled with ornaments of every size, shape, type, and theme you can imagine. Sports, dance, favorite characters, hunting, animals, pets. candy and baked goods, soda, name it, and they probably had it. I saw at least four different lines of Christmas porcelain houses and accessories (including a Disney set and the ones Mom collected when I was a kid) and a small but intriguing section devoted to Halloween. They were the best Christmas shop I'd seen outside of the Winterwood branches in Cape May and Rio Grande. Even so, most of the ornaments were too big for me to carry home. We walked out with nothing.

We did better back at the Vermont Country Store. Lauren saw a pillow that would be perfect to replace the sagging one she'd used for years, and we both wanted to hit the candy jars. I had a hard time deciding among the many varieties of sweets until I saw the individually wrapped fruit slices. That's one of my favorite candies. I bought a half a pound. Also treated myself to some butterscotch peanut butter cups for the way home. Lauren bought raspberry cordials for herself, orange cream drops for her dad, dark chocolate cherry cordials for her mom, and the pillow.

By the time we were driving through Barrington, the sun was out, the clouds were vanishing, and the sky was a lovely shade of blue. We made a brief stop at a Goodwill next to a bank in a small shopping center in downtown Barrington. It was twice the size of the tiny one we visited in Lee yesterday. Alas, the records I would have loved to buy were too big to carry home.

Went straight home after that. After we showed off our purchases and gave Mr. and Mrs. Miller their candy, we went downstairs and had spicy black bean and vegetable soup and turkey deli meat for dinner while watching more of Lauren's wrestling.

Switched to Mario Party 10 after we ate. The latest version of the popular board game franchise switches things up by using "Amiibos" - figures of various classic Nintendo characters - to save game data, roll "dice," and pick up tokens on the boards. You place your figure on the indicated place on the Wii U game pad and gently pull it up again to activate and play. Lauren used Mario; I was Princess Peach. I won the first board, Mushroom Park. She won the Mario-themed shorter "Amiibo board."

Right now, we're chatting and listening to an online radio station that specializes in 20's jazz and big band music while a fire crackles softly in the small cherry wood fireplace in the corner of Lauren's room. Tomorrow, we're going to explore two more near-by small towns, Stockbridge and Great Barrington, including a general store that sounds interesting.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Downtown In the Berkshires

Started a cloudy morning with a trip to downtown Lee, about 20 minutes or so from Pittsfield. Lauren lives just outside of Pittsfield proper in a recently-built house (she says it dates to 2000) on a country lane. It's so out in the country, there's a horse farm on the other end of the lane! We were greeted by horses grazing as Lauren asked a man working on a house near the road to move his construction equipment.

Lee is one of the many lovely old small towns in the Berkshire area. The main street mainly held cafes, antique and collectible shops, local clothing stores, and a very small Goodwill. We checked out the Goodwill first. They had a decent selection for a store that wasn't even as big as my bedroom at home. We didn't end up leaving with anything, though.

Our other stop in Lee was a lovely collectibles shop. We didn't buy anything there, either, but I did enjoy browsing. Their selection was similar to the Barrington Antique Center, in a far smaller and better-organized store. For some reason, they had a lot of large Mickey Mouse items. I saw two vintage Mickey phones, one that looked like it was more recent, and a Mickey gumball holder.

Since they were near-by, we next headed to the Lee Premium Outlets. Like the ones in Atlantic City, they're outlet stores for both fancy names like Banana Republic and Calvin Klein, and mid-priced stores like the Gap and Stride Rite. The outlets are situated on a hill near Lee...and they're huge! There's tons of stores, and even a food court. Also, unlike the outlet malls at Atlantic City and Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, they're all in the same area, only separated by narrow roads. The other two outlet malls are spread out across busy highways and main streets that make it a pain to get from store to store.

We explored a couple of stores today. Our first stop was Bath and Body Works. I liked their new fall soaps, but not the sales that required you to buy five items or more. Lauren bought perfume sprays for her mom. I left empty-handed.

Didn't get anything at Dress Barn, either. I need sweaters, casual pants, dress pants, and a good winter dress or skirt. While they did have plus sizes, the sweaters were mostly huge, chunky knits, not a good idea with my weight. I couldn't find any dresses or pants in my sizes, and I just didn't see any skirts I liked. Lauren bought a new pair of dress pants for work.

I did better at Eddie Bauer. This store did have plus sizes, just mixed in with the regular sizes. After some digging around, Lauren and I both bought nice light-weight knit cardigans. She got leaf green. I got teal. I like sweaters for layering on errand runs in the spring and fall, when it'll often be in the 50's and 60's when I head out...and sometimes get into the 70's by the time I make it home.

We had lunch at That's a Wrap, a sandwich shop in the food court. We got there just as the lunch hour was beginning, and they weren't too busy. Lauren had The Berkshire (turkey, lettuce, tomato, cheddar cheese, and apples) on a grilled pannini. I had the Thanksgiving Preview - cranberry dressing, turkey, stuffing, and lettuce on a whole wheat wrap. Yum. Tasty but very messy. We both got tiny cups of pasta salad with slices of olives hiding at the bottom.

After hitting the bathroom, we headed out. The heavy, dark clouds were slowly gathering, even as we made our way to historic Lenox. They were a lot busier than the Outlets or Lee were. There was apparently an art show going on in town.

We weren't interested in art. Our main reason for visiting Lenox was The Bookstore, a small shop on a side street surrounded by art galleries and boutiques. They mostly specialized in classic literature from local authors like Nathaniel Hawthorne. They did have a fairly decent children's selection. I was finally able to find Emily's Quest, the last story in Lucy Maud Montgomery's Emily of New Moon series, which I'd been looking for all over the place in Camden County.

We mostly just walked around Lenox after that, taking in the beautiful architecture. Most of the downtown seemed to have been built between about the 1770's and the early 1900's. The library in particular was a beautiful old building, I'm guessing dating to the town's founding in the 1700's. We strolled past residential homes and a cute little park with a small playground and baseball field. We took in a little toy store, The Gifted Child, on our way back. They had a nice selection of mostly games and educational items, but I also saw Calico Critters and a few Barbies.

We timed our walk perfectly. It had just started showering lightly as we made it back to the public parking lot where Lauren had her car. As we jumped in the car and Lauren was pulling out, the shower picked up considerably. It was coming down pretty well as we headed down the road to the Chocolate Springs Cafe. This unique coffee shop mostly sold fancy chocolates in every flavor imaginable, from sea salt to pumpkin spice. Alas, the chocolate was also very expensive, and quite out of our budget.

We just dodged more heavy showers and school buses as we headed back to Pittsfield, stopping at a row of mail boxes so Lauren could get hers and her parents' mail. Lauren's parents were slicing rutabagas for dinner later in the week when we arrived. They smelled surprisingly good as they cooked.

We spent the rest of the evening playing Mario Party 8 (the computer-controlled Boo beat both of us at Captain Goomba's Boardwalk board) and Kirby's Return to Dream Land (we got through the first two worlds - I especially enjoyed playing the huge, mallet-wielding King Dedede). We watched vintage 80's wrestling featuring one of Lauren's favorites, the late "Rowdy" Roddy Piper, while eating chicken noodle soup, cottage cheese, and slices of turkey deli meat for dinner. After that, I hit the shower while Lauren listened to online big band and 20's jazz radio stations.

Right now, we've still got the station on, making pleasant background music while we chat online. Tomorrow, we'll take in a farm market at her local mall and drive into Vermont to explore the Vermont Country Store.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Long Day's Journey On the East Coast

Started a beautiful blue, sunny day with cartoons on travel as I rounded up the last things I needed to pack and ate Apple-Dark-Chocolate-Chip Muffins for breakfast. Did a couple of cartoons while I got ready. Strawberry Shortcake In Big Apple City was one of the original Strawberry specials from the early 80's. Strawberry hits the city to compete in a nationally-televised bake-off. The Pieman is close on her tail, but she meet some new friends who help her with his devious tactics.

Garfield isn't much happier out in the woods with Jon and Odie in Garfield In the Rough. He'd rather be on any vacation but camping. Their boring trip into the wilderness becomes a lot more dangerous when they discover that a killer panther is loose in the area!

Austin is having his own problems pursuing "Le Master of Disguise" on The Backyardigans. Pablo can dress up in any costume, making him very hard to find! He can only be recognized through his distinctive laugh. Austin searches for him among the passengers on the Orient Express, including Conductor Uniqua, Cowboy Tyrone, and Circus Performer Tasha.

I dragged my things downstairs at 9:30. Rose didn't show up until almost 10 minutes after that. And I didn't realize she was going to bring her smaller car. I had the other, larger suitcase for her to take home. Between trying to jam two suitcases in her tiny trunk and her being late (and then missing the exit for Cherry Hill), we were not going to make the train to Philly. She ended up driving me to the 30th Street Station instead, letting me off of at the Citra Centre. (I loaned her the toll money - she hadn't planned on going to the city.)

Things went better at 30th Street Station. I like that station. It's so big and elegant, the Frank Sinatra music the guy at the shoe shine booth was playing seemed totally right. I half-expected to see Sinatra practicing with Tommy Dorsey and his Orchestra somewhere. I did make a mistake when I mixed up the train times, but the man at the track turned me around.

The train to New York was relatively calm. I was in the quiet car, which probably helped. It was busy but not full. I quickly called Rose to tell her I was on the train (and to tell Khai the train was passing by the Philadelphia Zoo), then sat back and watched the trees, suburbs, and graffiti fly by.

By the time the train arrived at New York around quarter of 2, Penn Station was more of a zoo than the Philadelphia Zoo! Unlike big, grand 30th Street, it's an ugly neon maze. Unless you want to eat or shop, there isn't much to do. I packed my own food and wanted to save my money. I spent most of the almost 3 hours I was there either walking around in circles or sitting on the floor near the waiting lounge, eating my snacks and reading.

Not only was the Lake Shore Limited to Albany and Chicago more than 20 minutes late leaving, but the line to get on the Albany car went half-way around the main room! I was lucky to get on at all. At least the Asian Indian girl I sat with was sweet. The gorgeous view helped, too. The line is aptly named; the lakes and rivers of the Hudson River Valley area are beautiful. Yachts with billowing white sails bobbed on rippling glass waters surrounded by rolling green hills. It was like a painting or a picture from a storybook. (I hope the shot the Asian Indian girl took of the sunset with her phone camera came out - the sunset was amazing, all pinks and purples and blues. I regret having left my camera in my big bag that went on the rack.)

It was almost 7 when the train finally arrived at Albany. I'd called Lauren about a half-hour before and told her I'd be late - it was supposed to have arrived at 6:20! Lauren, her parents Mr. and Mrs. Miller, and I had dinner at a Denny's about 10 minutes from the station. We all had breakfast for dinner. Mr. Miller had french toast. I had Blueberry Muffin Pancakes (blueberries and white chocolate chips). Lauren had a make-your-own-Grand-Slam - scrambled egg whites, hash browns, bacon, sausage. Mrs. Miller had The Grand Slamwich, a huge egg-sausage-and-cheese on toast concoction. Mr. Miller ended up eating most of his wife's hash browns. I was so hungry, I ate the last of Lauren's hash browns and a bit of Mrs. Miller's Slamwich. We shared Apple Crumble with vanilla ice cream for dessert.

(And I don't know how this happened, but two guys with a baby walked in while we were having dessert. They had a baby carrier with them. As we were leaving, we heard a waitress complain that the guys had eaten their meal and walked out without paying, and left the baby carrier, to boot.)

We finally got into Pittsfield around 9:30. Lauren and her parents live in a big, lovely home on a quiet street in the hills. I'm sleeping in their guest room/office. Right now, Lauren and I are chatting together online in her room in the basement and watching stuff on YouTube. Tomorrow, we're going to begin our exploration of her area with a trip to a bookstore in Lenox and a chocolate cafe in Pittsfield, along with walks in downtown Lenox and Lee.

And I hope your Columbus Day was a lot less hectic - and equally full of discoveries!

Sunday, October 11, 2015

The Eagles March Over the Saints

After staying up late with Lauren online last night, I slept in this morning. When I did get up, I made Gingerbread Pancakes and sipped tea while listening to records. I found Satin Affair about five or six years ago. This instrumental album from I'm guessing the early 60's is sweet and slinky, perfect for a lazy morning or afternoon in the late summer and early fall.

After breakfast, I had just enough time to do some cleaning. I forgot to wash the indoor trash and recycling canisters this week, and they badly needed to be done. I do them twice a year, usually in mid-May and mid-October. I usually take them to the area under my porch where the hose is to be washed. While the water line is set up down there, Charlie got rid of the old hose and hasn't replaced it yet. I just used buckets of water.

Listened to Disney's Splashdance and Mousercise albums while I worked. Splashdance has a cute song called "Chip and Dale's Vacation," detailing what the pair of rodents do when they find themselves in "a tropic paradise." Mousercise is fun to listen to when you're moving around, it being an exercise album. My favorite number there is the hilarious "Get the Money (Uncle Scrooge's Money)," with aerobics moves intended to imitate the Beagle Boys in Scrooge's money bin.

After I finished that, I rounded up some of the Apple-Dark Chocolate Chip Muffins, then headed to Dad's house to watch the game. It was just him and Jodie when I arrived. The game was just starting. Mark showed up towards the beginning of the second quarter with the fixings for chili dogs. I just opted for a hot dog with cheese. Jodie had a very tasty veal stew for half-time. (Vanessa went to get her hair done, an all-day affair for her.) Rose and Khai were out apple-picking and didn't come in until the fourth quarter, when the game was nearly over. It was very busy there - poor Khai was so pooped, he was half-passed out on the couch when I left.

Oh, and once again, the Eagles played much better in the second half of the game than they did the first. While the Saints' quarterback Drew Brees is excellent, the team surrounding him isn't quite at his level. It helped that Sam Bradford was looking much better, throwing two touchdowns and avoiding sacks. The Eagles finally out-threw them 39-17.

I headed out towards the end of the 4th quarter, when the Eagles had built up such a huge lead they were probably going to win no matter what. I stopped by Rose and Jodie chatting with neighbors across the street. Rose is going to pick me up to take me to the train platform at Cherry Hill around 9:30 tomorrow - the train comes at 9:55.

Headed home to organize a few things and grab my laundry. I really wanted to get some things washed before I leave tomorrow. Of course, I got all the way there, only to realize I'd left the money for the change machines on my dresser. I had to run home and retrieve it. Thankfully, once I got the money, I had no problems. It wasn't that busy - by the time it was picking up, I was pulling my things out of the dryer.

(And they had the Patriots-Cowboys game on while I was there. The Cowboys couldn't get anything going against Tom Brady and lost hard, 30-6.)

As soon as I got home, I finished as much packing as I could. As of right now, I've packed everything but this laptop and anything that goes with it (I'll be online while at Lauren's), the snacks for the train (I'll make the tuna sandwich tomorrow), and anything I'll need tonight, like my pajamas, hair brush, and tooth brush.

I'm looking forward to this trip. I haven't been out of New Jersey for longer than a few hours in at least five years. I'm overdue for this.