Saturday, April 30, 2016

Dinosaur Dreamers and Mouse Musicians

Began another cloudy, cool morning at work. We were pretty busy. I spent most of the morning rounding up carts, though I did get to the trash at one point. Thankfully, they had enough help in the register that I wasn't necessary. I got in and out with no problems other than slightly sore arms.

By the time I finished at 1, the sun was trying to come out, and it had gotten a bit warmer. It had become a great afternoon for a Sonic picnic. I strolled over as soon as I let out of work. Not surprisingly, given it was the tail end of the lunch hour, they were still pretty busy. I ordered my usual grilled chicken sandwich, tater tots, and cherry limeade while working on story ideas and watched other diners. There were teens coming in from the shopping center to buy milkshakes and a mother and daughter who pretty much demanded taking half the condiments off their burgers.

Went right back to the Acme after lunch to do this week's grocery shopping. I needed quite a bit, especially to refill vegetables. Good thing there were some good sales. Bagged spinach was 99 cents. Also picked up pears, bananas, grapefruit, and a bag of cauliflower and broccoli. Needed a major pantry restock, too - canned pineapple, mandarin oranges, tomato sauce, apricots, chicken, corn meal, mini chocolate chips, white and brown sugar, and buy-one-get-one cake mix. Found a container of small cooked shrimp and crab cakes with manager's coupons.

Also got my schedule for this week. While I have fewer hours, they're a lot closer to what I usually have at this time of year...and I still have more than I did in January and February. Two days off, Thursday and Friday, which will be a big help. I want to get a lot done this week, including cleaning and finishing off the current story.

As soon as I got home, I put everything away, then went on the computer to do some writing (or re-writing, as the case may be). Actually, I did do some re-writing, eliminating the drugged gingerbread from the two-person ball. They're still at a dance, but Vader just shows up and knocks them both out with his dark powers. (I may save that "drugged" thing for a later story.) Han is taken to the dungeon and tortured by Vader until he's too weak to do much of anything, including come to Leia's rescue. Leia is locked in a tower with Cecil. She puts her hair out the window to let Cecil escape.

Han's tossed in the tower with her. She tries to use her powers and her hair to heal him, but Lando and Vader show up and end that idea real quick. Leia still defies her father's wishes, saying she'll marry no other man but Han. Angry over her letting Cecil go and trying to heal her lover, Vader cuts Leia's floor-length braids...and cuts off her healing powers.

I broke for dinner around 6. Finished out the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse set while making leftovers. "Mickey's Clubhouse Rocks" has everyone taking part in a big musical contest. Donald wants to join one of the bands, but he doesn't seem to fit in least, until Mickey and Minnie need his help with their song.

"Minnie and Daisy's Flower Shower" is a little stranger. Minnie and Daisy are frantic. It's the day of the flower show, and there isn't enough rain to water their gardens! Professor Ludvig Von Drake gives them glitter that'll fashion the clouds into the same shape as their gardens, then "seed" the clouds. (I skipped the last one, "Minnie's Mouske-Calender," which I believe was on a previous volume.)

I have no idea why "Mickey's Big Band Concert" was a bonus episode. It fits the music theme better than either "Flower Shower" or "Mouske-Calender." Mickey and the gang want to accompany elephants dancing at a big concert, but their instruments aren't working. They have to fix their instruments, then figure out how to play in harmony.

The disc ended with two quick Minnie Bow-Toons. Minnie and Daisy attempt some "Rooftop Repair" when their satellite dish gets scrambled on a windy day. The two get "Alarm Clocked Out" after spending a night trying to keep Daisy's new alarm clock from waking up Millie and Melody, who have school the next day.

Finished the night with the original Land Before Time while making my favorite Oatmeal-Chocolate Chip Cookies. This is the simple but touching tale of Little Foot, a "long neck" (an Apatosaurus), who is separated from his family and witness his mother's death while searching for the Great Valley. He ends up leading a motley crew of baby dinosaurs across a hostile, ever-changing landscape in search of some place safe to call home...and learns about the true nature of love, family, and friendship in the process.

Touching and surprisingly dark action-coming-of-age tale from Don Bluth. Despite the cute dinosaur babies, the first Land Before Time movie absolutely isn't for younger kids, thanks to the death of Little Foot's mother, the menacing "Sharp Tooth" (tyrannosaurus rex), and the constant peril. If you have little guys, start them with the later movies in this series instead. For older kids who love dinosaurs and can handle the trauma, this is a beautiful and moving animated film and is recommended.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Dolls On a Cloudy Day

It was still gloomy outside when I got up this morning. I began the day with breakfast and It's Arbor Day, Charlie Brown. Sally wants to honor Arbor Day by planting a garden and an orchard. Somehow, Lucy decides the kids' baseball field is the perfect place to plant. Charlie Brown's not too happy, until it looks like their conservation project might actually help win them a game.

Moved on to one of the two Sailor Moon episodes remaining on the first disc while doing dishes. When Chibi-Usa gets sick, the Guardians have to go inside her mind and dispel the creature that's giving her nightmares. The Chibi-Usa inside her head doesn't know the Guardians yet, but Sailor Moon assures her that she can trust them, inside or outside of her memories.

Spent the next hour or so changing the dolls into somewhat less fancy spring outfits. Jessa is in a mix of several different pieces - the flower-tie-dyed T-shirt and neon yellow ankle socks from the Hiking Outfit from a few years ago, the lavender cardigan sweater from Kit's original "meet" outfit, a pair of lightweight flared jeans Lauren sent me from a yard sale in her area, and flamingo-print sneakers from an outfit I bought at Collingswood's May Fair a few years ago. Samantha wears her Pink Striped Birthday Dress and Pinafore with the striped ribbon from her current hair accessory set, the pink ballet tights, and the white shoes from (Rebecca's) Lace Dress. Whitney wears a polka-dot dress I bought off eBay about two years ago. The seller listed it as being for Molly, but the wide skirt and puffed sleeves really look more appropriate for the 50's. I added the purple strap shoes and white and purple purse Lauren gave me for Christmas with the lavender bow from Sam's Frilly Frock. Molly is in her own rick-rack-trimmed Birthday Pinafore and white t-strap shoes. Josefina sports her Dress and Vest with her gold fringed Heritage Accessories shawl. I left Felicity in her pink Birthday Dress. I really don't have much to change her into.

Headed out to run errands as soon as I finished with the dolls. I've been wanting to bring a big bag of donations (including the books I cleared out from the last round of the book list) there for ages. I finally remembered to do it today. There were a couple of people on the computer, probably trying to avoid the gloomy weather. I organized DVDs and gave the kids' area a quick look (ignoring CNN fussing about politics in the background).

After I really quick stop at WaWa to use the ATM machines, I dodged the on-and-off showers and made my way to the Westmont Bagel Shop for lunch. Had a nice, simple Bacon, Cheddar, and Apple Sandwich with fries. It was nice and salty and delicious, but very messy! I enjoyed it in surprising quiet. The only other people there was one older woman and a mother and her daughter who opted to sit in the front room.

Next stop was the Haddon Township Library. They were slightly busier than they have been the last few times I've been there. They finally moved the children's DVDs to their newer, more colorful shelves. I organized those, then put away a pile of audio books and new releases. Took out more new titles from the kids' area for Strawberry Shortcake, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, and My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic and Equestria Girls.

Made a quick run to Thriftway after I finished at the Library. I just needed skim milk and toilet paper, both of which are far cheaper there than they are at the Acme. I'll do my main grocery shopping tomorrow. I had absolutely no desire to go anywhere near the Acme today!

Went straight home and on the computer to work on my story. Vader uses his corrupted Khyber crystals to torture Han, stripping away his strength. Leia is thrown into a tower cell with Cecil. She convinces Cecil to climb down her hair and escape to find Chewie and the Falcon just before Han is thrown into the tower with her. Leia wants to use her powers to heal Han, but that may not be possible once her father arrives...

Broke around 6 for dinner. Finished out the Sailor Moon disc first while starting Skillet Ground Turkey and Pasta, made over from the recipe for Sloppy Joes in Julie's Cooking Studio, for dinner. I didn't have tomato sauce, so I used condensed tomato soup. Replaced the green peppers (which I didn't have either) with mushrooms and added small whole-wheat shells.

Though Usagi is happy that Chib-Usa's feeling better, she doesn't like how the little girl clings to Mamoru. Hoping to eat her way into happiness, she ends up at a new bakery that's giving out free samples. The Guardians are there, is Esmeraude, the newest Black Moon Clan member to arrive in the 20th century. The girls learn that too much sugar can be really bad for you when they're attacked by a monster made of cake and candy!

Finished the night with dinner and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. Pop Star Minnie is their second musical tale in a row to headline a disc. This time, Minnie is supposed to be having a concert on Melody Mountain. Not only are the gang's musical instruments missing, but she has no idea what genre of music she wants to perform. As they find the instruments, the characters demonstrate what type of musical genre is often associated with that instrument, from Goofy playing a country tune on his banjo to Pete's one-cat accordion polka to a rather nice blues tune done by Donald on his harmonica.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

The Kids and the Dog and the Wacky Mysteries

I slept in again, trying to stay warm on a chilly, dreary morning. Warmed things up a bit with more Be Cool, Scooby Doo. "Me, Myself, and A.I" discusses the current obsession with technology and just how important it should be in our lives. Velma is thrilled when the gang is invited to a technology company to help them figure out why their latest creation, a robot butler, has been attacking designers. Daphne's not as happy. She doesn't like technology in general and would really prefer people didn't let it take over their lives.

Spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon writing. Leia doesn't like what she smells in the gingerbread, but Han's already eaten it. They start dancing again, this time to a slow number. They're both feeling romantic...until Han starts to fall asleep, then Leia. She realizes too late it was all a trap, especially after Vader and the Imperial army appears. They were both drugged and tricked, their fantasy ball becoming a nightmare.

Had a quick muffin and fruit lunch while doing another Scooby episode. The gang is "Area 51 Adjacent" after encountering a group of hikers who saw an alien landing in New Mexico. Daphne is determined to make friends with this strange being from another planet. Velma and Fred think there's more going on than an alien encounter. The kids run into real trouble when the government finds them snooping around and locks them up, believing them to be the aliens!

It had just started showering as I arrived at work. There was no way around it. I just got there wet. That was probably the most exciting thing that happened all afternoon. I was cashiering today, but it probably didn't matter where I ended up. We were dead for most of the day. It did pick up a bit during rush hour, but it didn't last for more than an hour at most. My relief was on time, and there were no major problems.

(The on-and-off customers may have partially been explained by on-and-off weather. It wasn't raining when I got out, and looked like it hadn't rained in a while. It did rain briefly later in the evening, but I  haven't heard anything since then.)

When I got home, I had leftovers while finishing out the Scooby Doo set. "Where There's a Will, There's a Wraith" has a similar plot to an episode of the original Scooby Doo, Where are You? Scooby Doo is once again set to inherit big bucks...provided he can stay one night with the gang in a spooky old mansion. While Daphne insists on treating it like a slumber party, the others try to figure out what happened to the other family members who were mentioned in the will.

And I have to admit, this show ended up growing on me. As much as I enjoyed Scooby Doo Mystery Incorporated, something didn't seem quite right with that one. Some shows just aren't meant to be multi-level epics with dark undertones and demon animals and everyone in love. Sometimes, a story is just a bunch of kids running around, pulling masks off local criminals, and that works fine, too. I also like how the kids frequently use real-life history and facts to solve crimes (see the episode about the moving gargoyle and the technology show).

My biggest complaint is the only character they didn't nail was Daphne. Velma, Shaggy, and Scooby haven't changed much from Mystery Incorporated, and Fred actually comes off a bit smarter than he has in the last few Scooby shows. Daphne, on the other hand, has become a total ditz whose only use is as comic relief and to obsess over something weird. While this is occasionally useful (she's the one who figures out how to control the alien spaceship in "A.I,", and she surprisingly didn't make a bad stand-up comedian), it mostly comes off as annoying. From what I've gathered, the show isn't even finished with its first season yet. Hopefully, they'll dial that down a bit as the series goes on.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Fairy Tales and Funny Mysteries

I slept way later than I planned today and barely had the time to work on some writing. (I got some writing in later after dinner as well.) Lando escorts Han and Leia to a beautiful white, gold, and ginger-brown ballroom, assuring them that yes, he'll send people to find the missing Cecil. It turns out the ball is a party of two, for Han and Leia are the only guests. When the musicians strike up a lively tune, Leia offers to teach Han how to dance. They're both happy but breathless after they finish and decide to partake in refreshments...

Had just enough time to change, throw lunch in my bag, and rush off to work after I finished. I needn't have rushed. Work was dead almost the entire afternoon. I rounded up carts when I arrived and after break, but I mostly did returns. I spent an hour pulling items on Aisle 1 to look more presentable. I did get stuck in a register a few times, including for a half-hour before I left so two cashiers could go on their breaks. Thankfully, I finished gathering baskets just in time to head out the door.

When I got in, I took out the trash, then had the last of the chicken salad over romaine lettuce for dinner while watching more Be Cool, Scooby Doo. Mystery Inc is going to "Party Like It's 1899" when they're invited to a shindig that allows guests to dress as Victorian characters to solve a century-old monster mystery. The kids find how difficult it can be to try to solve a mystery when you're supposed to be someone else...especially when the ghost turns out to be real...

The ghost haunting the Star Theater is a real "Screama Donna." She's the phantom of a former singing star who has been driving away the bands that are supposed to play with popular singer Boots Malone. The kids form their own band in order to solve the case, but Velma's more than a bit nervous - she's no singer. She may not be Beyonce, but the others remind her that she has a talent all her own - explaining the culprit behind the mystery.

Even the kids question the appearance of a Yeti in a local restaurant in "Kitchen Frightmare." Scooby and Shaggy have a good friend who has opened his own cheese cafe. He's desperate to get good reviews, but the Yeti is driving off his staff. Shaggy and Scooby have to buckle down and serve food without eating it, while the others try to figure out why a snow monster is turning up in a cheese place in the dead of summer.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Mysteries and Meddling Kids On a Rainy Day

Began the day with breakfast, baking Ally's "Snappy" Ginger Snaps, and more Be Cool, Scooby Doo. Scooby and Shaggy are "All Paws On Deck" when the gang helps a friend of Fred's who owns a small-time treasure hunting ship clear out a sea beast that's ruining business. Hollywood beckons the gang in the form of "Poodle Justice," a popular show about a female detective and her super-smart poodle. Despite the pedigree of an episode being directed by a famous director, it's been attacked by a gargoyle that seems to have come to life. The kids have to find out what's going on, while Scooby develops a nice little crush on that pretty poodle.

Work was a lot less crazy than yesterday. Actually, it was dead for a lot of the afternoon. I rounded up carts, did the very few returns there were, and bagged. I did get stuck in the register for a while, including for the last 20 minutes of my shift. 

There were dark clouds gathering as I rushed home, but the clouds were sort-of broken, like Mother Nature didn't know if she wanted to rain or not. It spit a little when I was on Kendall Boulevard, but the rain had stopped by the time I got home. I had debated all day whether or not to get the laundry done this afternoon, or wait until tomorrow. The weather had spoken. It wasn't raining, so I figured I'd get it done now.

It was fairly busy when I arrived for an afternoon with such weird weather. I ended up using one of the expensive washers. The driers were available by the time I was ready, though. Maybe it's just as well I didn't have a very big load. I spent the time listening to the news (which was all about politics and the rain on its way), watching the downpour when it did arrive, and working on story ideas.

My next story after I finish the fairy tales will probably be a short original kids' story, based after my own childhood - I haven't decided what yet. After that, I'll either be doing the Star Wars 80's High School AU, or the 30's Adventure AU. I worked on the 30's story today.  Inspired by this aesthetic post on Tumblr, Leia is now an Amelia Peabody-type archaeologist, fresh out of the University of Arizona with her sweet-natured reporter brother Luke. They both want to change the word in different ways, but while Luke is content to be an intern for world-weary journalist Ben Kenobi, Leia wants to find lost treasures for Martha Mothma, who runs a museum in Los Angeles. Her current obsession is rescuing the priceless (and reportedly magical) treasures of the lost Kingdom of Alderaan from nasty Governor Tarkin.

Luke convinces her to hire Han Solo, a pilot with a dilapidated cargo plane who runs his own charter service, to take them to the site where the treasures were last seen. Leia's not thrilled with the idea at first. Han is rude, arrogant, and only cares about getting his share of the reward for the treasure. Not to mention, a couple of Han's former bosses make Tarkin look like a kitten. Tarkin turns out to have a rather formidable underling as well, the corrupt industrialist Derek Vader. And even after Kenobi gets into trouble with Vader, Luke insists on bringing along another teacher, venerable old Asian archaeology professor Yoda. 

But Luke and Leia turn out to have ties, not only to Vader, but to the treasures themselves and the magic they supposedly hold...

I'm really having a hard time deciding which one to do next. This 30's idea is so delicious, but I've already worked out most of the 80's story. We'll see how I feel when I actually finish the current story. 

I got very lucky with the weather today. I managed to get out of the laundromat between storms. It started sprinkling again on the way back to the apartment, but thankfully waited until I was inside and putting away the laundry to really rain. 

(And there would be one more storm a bit later, and at press time, that was it.)

Finished out the first disc of Be Cool, Scooby Doo while tossing together various leftovers for dinner. Shaggy and Scooby are devastated when their favorite baseball team might have to dissolve, due to a "Grand Scam" that's caused the ghost of their best player to appear and attack players. Velma teaches kids about statistics as everyone else discovers what they love about the Great American Pastime - and good teamwork. 

"Trading Chases" is kind of odd, even for this series. The gang switches up a typical "catch the Egyptian God Ghost at the museum" case by letting a museum guide lead Mystery Inc, while Fred leads a group of younger kids. It works about as well as you can expect. (Which is to say, it doesn't, and everyone learns a lesson about what makes a good leader.) 

"Be Quiet, Scooby Doo" also experiments with the regular formula a bit. Once again, the gang helps out a friend of Fred's who is guide that's exploring treasures. This time, the "treasures" are a beautiful crystal cavern found deep underground. The crystals are very delicate - even the smallest noise can shatter them. Mystery Inc has to figure out how to solve the crime without making a sound...and by deciphering Fred's rather cryptic series of hand signals. 

Monday, April 25, 2016

No One Is Alone

Started a sunny, breezy morning with Be Cool, Scooby Doo. The latest incarnation of the mystery-solving Great Dane and his teen pals dials down the darkness that permeated the last version of the franchise to concentrate on hipper, more kid-friendly ghost-chasing antics. (It also has an odd, rather blocky animation style that has more in common with Cartoon Network's current offerings than classic Hanna Barbara.) "Mystery 101" introduces the gang as they head to a prestigious college Velma is dying to get into. No one may enter it ever again if they can't find out whose behind the sightings of the ghost of the college's founder, who is chasing off incoming freshmen.

I continued to work on my writing (or re-writing) today, even after I read Tina's comment in my last entry. (And seriously, folks. If anyone has any suggestions for any story I'm working on, I'd be glad to hear them. Just keep it pleasant, please. No flames!) While Leia is glad to feel like a princess again in Lando's palatial estate, she can sense that something is wrong. Just because the gingerbread house tastes good doesn't mean it's good for them. Leia voices her objections to Han, but he reminds her that they need rest and Lando IS his friend.

(I rushed it this morning, but I'll likely re-write this part to make it more obvious that several days have passed, and Leia's been looking for Cecil ever since he disappeared.)

Returned to Be Cool, Scooby Doo while eating a quick chicken salad on romaine lettuce lunch. A friend of Fred's leads Mystery Inc on an unusual "Game of Chicken" when they follow his tracks through an old cave in Mexico. He vanished while searching for a lost Aztec treasure. Could the Aztec chicken warrior ghost have anything to do with his disappearance?

Headed to work shortly after the episode ended. I really wish I hadn't. I was in the express register all day. Though it wasn't busy when I came in at noon, it picked up around 1:30-2 PM and continued for the rest of the day. The lines got absolutely crazy, and we didn't have anything resembling enough people to deal with them. I panicked and got upset. It just seemed like the lines were relentless. I was so happy when my relief was a few minutes early and I could get out as quickly as I could.

I felt horrible when I got home. My story wasn't coming out as well as I wanted, and I was a mess at work. I just rested on my bed until I decided I needed to get out and enjoy a nice evening. I changed into regular clothes and hopped on the bike to find dinner. Ended up at Phillies Phatties on West Clinton. It was a great night to eat a Mushroom-Swiss Burger on the picnic tables outside. (Given it was 7 and a ton of kids had just let out of the dance studio next-door, they were pretty busy when I arrived. I had to wait a while in a very hot storefront for my meal.) I had Moose Tracks (vanilla-fudge ice cream with peanut butter cups) from Phillies Yummies for dessert while watching the little ballerinas and their older teen counterparts chat on phones or with friends or beg their parents for ice cream.

Finished the night in a desperately-needed bath. That felt sooo good. I read fairy tales and listened to my live Bernadette Peters CD, Sonheim, Etc. Peters performed numbers from throughout her career in this concert from the mid-90's, including songs from Into the Woods, Sunday In the Park With George, Gypsy, Dick Tracy, Mack & Mabel, Dames at Sea, and her stint on Saturday Night Live, among others.

And I'd better get off. There was a really noisy thunderstorm just 20 minutes ago (one crack was so loud, I screamed bloody murder!), and I don't think Mother Nature's quite done yet...

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Larger Than Life

Actually, I spent most of the morning reading The Hound of the Baskervilles and writing in my journal. When I did finally get out of bed, I put on my Bee Gees Greatest Hits album while making Banana Brown Sugar Pancakes. (Which came out quite nicely.) Some of my favorite Bee Gees songs came out in the later 70's - early 80's, when disco was just on the wane. Among the numbers I fondly recall dancing to with Rose during my early childhood are "Winds of Change," "Nights On Broadway," "Love You Inside Out," and "Spirits (Having Flown)."

Headed to work as soon as I finished breakfast, changed, and packed lunch. I was bagging today, and I was glad. It was too nice of a day to spend entirely indoors. I did get to round up carts for an hour, but they already had two other guys out doing the same thing, and they weren't eager to share duties. I spent the rest of the day doing returns (and was in the register for 20 minutes). There were no really major problems, and I was able to head out with no complaints.

It was such a lovely day, I rode home the long way down Nicholson Road. Though it was busy with Sunday traffic heading to the Shore, I still enjoyed the ride. The sky was a brilliant, hurts-your-eyes blue, the sun shown softly, and the wind was down to a gentle breeze. Once I got onto Manor Avenue, it was downright perfect. There were lots of people out and about - I dodged a ton of fellow bike riders, including a pack of kids on Nicholson and some pleasure riders near Audubon Park.

Spent the next few hours working on my story. Han and Leia have arrived at the Kingdom of the Clouds in the Bespin Mountains. It's an elegant, airy land of fine gingerbread mansions and lovely old cobblestone streets. Han's friend Lando Calrissian lives in the largest of the gingerbread Tudor estates on the end of the main road. He seems a bit antagonistic at first, but eventually welcomes them in. Leia, however, senses that all is not well under Cloud Village's glittering facade...and Cecil gets a similar idea when he accidentally runs into Imperial guards who knock him out and toss him in the dungeon.

Luke also senses the growing unease, even in Dagobah. He does end up leaving to help them. Yoda and the ghost of Sir Ben Kenobi are in despair...but as the ghost of Ben's former mentor reminds them, there is someone else who will defeat Vader...

I listened to the original cast album for My Favorite Year while making scrambled eggs with broccoli and mushrooms for dinner and Pineapple Muffins to take to work this week. This musical version of the 1982 comedy about a young writer who has to chaperon a drunk, once-beloved actor around New York before a big variety show is better in its comedy numbers than the dramatic ones, despite the presence of Tim Curry as the former swashbuckler. Andrea Martin also gets to have fun as the show's only female writer.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Little April Morning Showers

Actually, I began the day with relatively early work. It was raining when I headed to the Acme. Everyone I know is either out of town or working, so I just got wet. The rain kept it steady but not that busy in the morning. Once the rain vanished, everyone came out. It picked up later in the afternoon, and we had some decent lines by the time my relief arrived. There were no really major problems. I picked up baking powder, buttermilk, and vanilla on the way out, which I forgot to do yesterday.

Thankfully, it was sunny and windy by the time I headed home. When I got in, I put away my groceries and went into writing. Maz sends Leia and Han off with food and a warning - they'll get protection from her in the Woods, but once they leave, they're on their own. Han, in fact, wants to get to the Kingdom of the Clouds, where his friend Lando, a former huntsman-turned-nobleman, is running a mining colony. Leia has some very bad feelings and isn't sure she likes the idea, but Han reassures her that Lando is his friend and has no love for the Kingdom of the Empire.

Meanwhile, Boba Fett has snitched on them to Lord Vader. Vader can't go in the Woods...but he can fly over them. He wants to get to the Bespin Mountains first and set a trap for his wayward daughter and the gypsy thief who has stolen her heart...

I finished the night with a meatball sandwich, romaine lettuce salad with home-made balsamic vinaigrette dressing, and the latest Strawberry Shortcake episodes. The Berrykins shut down Berry Bitty City after a power surge knocks out all the power in town. The girls think of ways to get them outdoors and away from the noisy repairs. In the first story, they hold a relay race. In the second, they have fun with a scavenger hunt, and Cherry Jam tries to work on a new song and not get stressed. The repairs continue into the third story, despite the Berrykins' insistence that they'll be finished by tomorrow. The girls have a camp-out...but they're scared when all their camping gear keeps disappearing. They set a trap for the creature that's taking them. At first, they get Huck, but when it turns out he didn't steal their supplies, they decide to take matters into their own hands and find out just who the thief is.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Writing For the Earth

I was up really late last night. My eyes opened around 8...and I closed them again and didn't get up until around 10. When I did finally get out of bed, I had breakfast while watching Sailor Moon. The four vain sisters who had been attacking the Soldiers earlier join their side when they show each of them in turn that they're being used by the evil Rubeus. The Black Moon Clan of the future doesn't understand these human emotions, but the Guardians are willing to teach them.

It was quarter of 1 when I headed out to to this week's grocery shopping. I had a lot to do, too, mainly restocking fruit and vegetables. My crisper was empty - I filled it with romaine lettuce, grapefruit, pears, mushrooms, an onion, a small container of broccoli florets, and fingerling potatoes. I didn't really need peanut butter that badly, but $1.50 for Skippy was too good of a sale to miss. Restocked I Can't Believe It's Not Butter, two cans of tuna, cereal (the Acme/Safeway generic Shredded Wheat had the cheapest sale this week), powdered sugar, frozen peas and green beans, and two packs of $1.99 ground turkey (the only meat on a good sale).

Mixed feelings on the schedule this week. On one hand, I have far more hours than I have since late March, a good thing given my lousy hours before and after vacation. On the other hand, I only have one day off, and it's next Friday, along with a lot of early hours in the beginning of the week. I have no idea when I'm going to get my laundry done. This is the last week before our vacation cycle starts over. A lot of people are taking their remaining vacation time before they lose it.

When I got home, I put everything away, then had a quick lunch and spent the rest of the afternoon and evening writing. The candle Maz gives Leia reveals that Han is under Jabba's control...and Jabba wanted to marry him off to one of his ugly daughters. Han doesn't really want to leave her or marry someone else, but he fears what Jabba will do to those he loves. Leia takes down her hair to heal him. She lets him play with it - an honor, since Aldran noblewomen consider their hair to be sacred. They fall asleep in each other's arms, to the delight of Maz and the Enchanted Woods...and the disgust of the unromantic Boba Fett, who has followed them and intends to tell Vader where they are.

Meanwhile, Luke is still in the Dagobah Swamps, training with Yoda. He's working on meditating and focusing. As he tries to levitate rocks, he does get a vision...of his friends being tortured. He wants to go help them, but Yoda says that might cause more harm than it helps...

Continued Sailor Moon as I added a romaine lettuce salad with home-made Lemon-Wine-Honey Sauce and pan-fried fingerling potatoes to the leftover chicken legs for dinner. Chibi-Usa is fed up with Usagi's fussing and whining. She doesn't want to believe that someone as silly and childish as Usagi could be the great Sailor Moon. She couldn't have picked a worse time to steal her Silver Crystal. Rubeus kidnaps the other Sailor Guardians when Usagi can't join them. Usagi's angry at Chibi-Usa, and the kid knows she did wrong. Usagi wants to get the girls back on her own, but Chibi-Usa follows her. While they're fighting, Rubeus is trying to impress Prince Demand and get Esmeraude and her annoying laugh off his back.

Switched to The Lorax in honor of Earth Day after dinner. The Lorax is a little orange fellow who speaks for the trees. Specifically, the Truffula Trees. The greedy Onceler is chopping them down to make his faddish Thneeds...but he's destroying the balance of the forest in the process. The Onceler thinks that progress is the most important thing, but when the trees start vanishing, both creatures learn a sad lesson in the damage unchecked "progress" can do.

Moved to two episodes of Tiny Toon Adventures while making Pear-Banana Crisp for dessert. (It didn't end up being very crisp. I added too much juice.) Babs and Buster get involved in a "Whale's Tale" when they rescue a mother and baby whale from overzealous Elmyra and poacher Gotcha Grabmore, who wants to use the whales for her own line of cosmetics. "Toons Music Television" is a spoof of MTV in the early 90's. While the cracks at popular singers of the time and VJ "Downtown" Julie Brown have dated, this does feature some classic music videos, including the videos for the They Might Be Giants hits "Istanbul Not Constantinople" and "Particle Man."

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Quiet Morning at Home

I didn't really have a lot planned for this morning. I looked over Ultimate Star Wars while finishing The Cat In the Hat Knows A Lot About That. Though I had seen some of the ocean-themed episodes already, a few were new to me. "Pretty In Pink" takes the Cat and the kids to Goony Goon Lagoon, where they learn how to dance like flamingos. "Puddle Puzzle" teaches kids about condensation and how the vapor cycle works as Nick, Sally, and the Cat explore a cloud.

Switched to The Backyardigans while I worked on a collage. I make collages once every couple of months to recycle old catalogs, usually from L.L Bean, American Girl, The Vermont Country Store, and Bed Bath and Beyond/Christmas Tree Shops. They're pretty much representative of the current season and whatever strikes me right now.

I actually did rent Cave Party from the Haddon Township Library several years ago, but their DVD copy disappeared shortly after and I hadn't seen it since. In the title episode, cave critters Pablo, Uniqua, and Tyrone have to invent ways to get to Tasha and Austin for the world's first party. "Race Around the World" has Austin, Tyrone, Uniqua, and Pablo running against each other. Austin's worried he'll be too slow, but he ultimately teaches the other kids that it's always best to be prepared. "Eureka!" has miners Tyrone and Pablo and archaeologists Uniqua and Tasha at cross-purposes when they search the desert for very different treasures. Uniqua, Pablo, and Tyrone are "Castaways" who think they're all alone on a deserted island. They're not - a shy Austin is there too, helping them out.

Headed out around 12:30-quarter of 1. First stop was Common Ground Coffee House for lunch. They were unusually busy for mid-afternoon, with a family with a toddler playing and a couple of people working on laptops. I had a slice of sausage, potato, and scallion quiche, that tasty spicy-sweet iced tea, and a blueberry bagel while reading the inspirational quotes on the walls and watching the cars go by on West Clinton.

It was still a beautiful day for a ride through Newton Lake Park. Needless to say, they were fairly busy as I dodged dog-walker, joggers, fellow bikers, and Canadian geese and ducks looking for lunch. The trees remain that brilliant shade of lime-green. Yellow dandelions burst through the grass along the banks of the lake. The whole park looks something like a Technicolor musical of the 1950's. I half-expected someone to dance in the rain.

Haddon Township Library wasn't that busy. I had one children's DVD to shelf, one audio book, and a small pile of CD's. They were taking book inventory today, so I was kind of iffy on shelving any actual books. I spent more time choosing books for myself than volunteering. I ultimately ended up with two volumes of fairy tales (one focused on female-centric stories in folklore and fairy tales) and new releases for Strawberry Shortcake and the current Scooby Doo show, Be Cool, Scooby Doo.

Made a very quick stop at WaWa on the way home for skim milk and an orange-mango sparkling water, then headed back to my place. Spent the rest of the evening working on my story. Maz gives Leia a candle that'll reveal what Han is hiding. What he's hiding is he's basically a slave to Jabba, including a mark that gives the evil ogre power over him. The mark is beyond Leia's power to heal, but she can heal him in other ways...

Finished the night with pasta shells, turkey meatballs, and sautteed escarole and onions. The birthday order I bought with the gift card Mom gave me finally arrived today. I did end up grabbing the second half of the re-dubbed Sailor Moon R (second season), along with the Princess Leia-centric Star Wars novel Razor's Edge and the TV musical Jack and the Beanstalk.

Decided to start with Jack and the Beanstalk. I have fond memories of this 1967 live-action/animated musical showing up from time to time on cable during my childhood. Jack (Tommy Ripa) sells his cow to a roguish peddler (Gene Kelly) in exchange for magic beans. The giant beanstalk that grows from the beans takes them the castle of a nasty giant (Ted Cassidy). who has turned a princess into a golden harp. While the peddler tries to free the princess, Jack befriends the mice in the castle, who help them all escape.

Not bad. The songs aren't particuarly memorable and the animation is typical Hanna-Barbara late 60's style, but Kelly's numbers are cute, and Ripa's pretty decent as well. I wish Warner Archives had dug up a better copy. It looks like a recording someone made of it during one of those cable runs in the 80's, murky and scratchy. It's not the most necessary thing, but if you're a fan of Kelly, musicals, or Hanna-Barbara, it's worth a look.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Me and the Birthday Boy

Began a quick morning with more Cat In the Hat. The Cat takes the kids and the fish into the desert to learn how the animals who live there deal with extreme heat - and how humans can, too - in "Be Cool." They go on an "Elephant Walk" to find out how some of the largest mammals on land use their noses like hands.

Today was my first day back at work in over a week. It was...not that bad. Actually, it was pretty quiet for a lot of the day, and never more than on-and-off steady. Not only does the weather remain gorgeous, but other than the Flyers' current run in the playoffs, there just isn't much going on right now. (They finally beat the Capitols 4-1 today, by the way.) My relief was a bit late, which meant I was almost late getting out. Otherwise, there were no huge problems.

Went straight home after work and onto the computer for some writing. Han, Leia, and Cecil pull in at the "mobile Inn" that belongs to Maz Kantana, the strange old Witch of the Woods. Her Inn is on chicken feet - it always moves around. She's not Force-sensitive, but she does have her own kind of neutral magic, and she's known Han for a long time. She gives Leia a candle that'll allow her to discover his true feelings for her.

Rose called as I was finishing for the evening. I still wanted to bring Khai his birthday present. It turned out they were having green beans, spaghetti, and pork chops for dinner. Craig was at work, and she made way too much to feed her and Khai. Did I want to join them? Sure, why not?

They drove me to and from Rose's house. Khai barely waited until we were in the door to open his gift from me - a small box set of Legos, featuring scuba divers and a shark. Rose said she'd gotten him another set from the same line that had an octopus, so I made the right choice. (I wasn't the only one who gave him Legos, either. I also saw boxes of DC and Marvel super-hero-themed sets, and another small set based around The Force Awakens.) Khai also got water balloons and the live-action Paddington movie on DVD.

Dinner was delicious. We had simple buttered spaghetti with green beans and pork chops in some kind of sweet sauce. Rose's dogs Toby and Kelsey kept trying to beg food. I ignored Kelsey and pushed Toby away. Khai had no problems slurping his spaghetti. It took longer to get him to eat his pork chop.

I watched Khai play Lego Jurassic World on the Wii U. I really don't think the kid was able to figure out where to go. He didn't get far. (Oh well. His mom will help. Rose has always been a great video gamer player.) When he gave up on that, we watched the new CGI Alvin and the Chipmunks show. (Alvin rented their house out as a time-share to make enough money to afford a Hawaiian vacation for Dave. Dave, despite his adopted son's altruistic intentions, was not amused) while Khai ate a "mystery flavor" Popsicle. The two of them finally took me home around 7 PM.

Did one more Cat In the Hat episode while I had Snickerdoodle Cake for my own dessert. The kids want to learn to flutter like a butterfly in "Flutter By, Butterfly." Cat introduces them to Bernadette the Monarch Butterfly, who proves that her wings aren't just beautiful - they're useful for getting her long distances and telling predators she's not good to eat, too.

Playing video games with Khai made me want to give my own Wii a run, which I haven't done in ages. Finally did the first couple of rounds of Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga. You start off in The Phantom Menace, with Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon's "short negotiations" and rescuing the Queen. If nothing else, we discover Jar Jar actually has a purpose. Those long legs may make him clumsy, but they also allow him to be a super-jumper, leaping to heights even the Jedi can't manage. Padme and her guards don't have the Force, but they do have good aims and can use grappling guns to get up to higher levels. I missed a lot of extra stuff and pieces, especially in the first round - I'll have to go back later.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Against the Wind

Began another sunny spring day with banana-chocolate chip muffins for breakfast and The Backyardigans. I thought I'd take a break from the Cat In the Hat to do that Polka Palace Party DVD I picked up on Saturday. The title episode has Tyrone trying to get Sherman the Worman (the cute Technicolor worm-like critters who appear on the show from time to time) to his brother's party in the Wild West. He also plays the tuba, because he loves polka, and wishes he could form a band. He eventually runs into clarinetist Uniqua, accordion player Pablo, and drummer Austin along the way, who ultimately help him with his wish.

First on my to-do list today was the laundry, which I was going to do yesterday but put off because it was so nice. It was fairly quiet when I arrived, just me and one other woman. I chatted with her and worked on story notes while half-listening to The View. I really didn't have much to do under any circumstances. I was mainly washing clothes from the last week and whatever new clothes I bought on Thursday, including all those socks. I was in and out in less than an hour.

Put everything away as soon as I got home, then went right back out again. Though it remained bright and spring-y outdoors, it was also much windier than it was yesterday, and the wind was chilly. I actually regretted not bringing a sweater this time as I made my way to Haddonfield. I got a slightly later start and decided to take a quicker route, cutting through the parking lot for the offices that's under the PATCO rails and past the Westmont PATCO station. (At least as well as I could. They were putting new gravel on the ramp into the parking lot - I had to walk my bike around the construction work.)

I had lunch at the Bistro when I got into Haddonfield. It was exactly 1 PM by then, and they were still incredibly busy with the lunch hour people. I'm surprised they were able to find me a small table outside, next to the signs for the shops on the corner. I enjoyed my divine Pear Salad (a Bistro specialty - pear chunks, blue cheese crumbles, bacon slices, and candied walnuts on spinach) while watching the cars go by on King's Highway.

Next stop was the little bookshop a couple of blocks down King's Highway from the Bistro. I saw some Star Wars books there a while back in the kids' section. I was hoping they'd have some novels, but I only saw one, and it didn't interest me. I did pick up the coffee table book Ultimate Star Wars for the nice photos and to help with research for my fanfiction.

I was mainly in Haddonfield for counseling. I made it literally just in time! Mrs. Stahl had just peeked to see if I was there as I arrived. I told her about my long and busy month - the long hours last month, all the trouble with the plumbing and my kitchen around St. Patrick's Day, finding out why I was made a bagger (three weeks late), Dad-Bill being diagnosed with cancer, my neighbors catching the animals in the walls (they're long gone - haven't heard anything in nearly two weeks), my birthday mall trip, Dad and Jodie's dinner the day before, seeing Zootopia, the work I've been doing on my writing. I really don't have much planned for this month. I mainly intend to concentrate on writing. Lauren's visit is coming up in mid-June, too - I need to consider ideas for things for us to do while she's here.

Stopped for a water ice at Primo on my way home. Despite the cool wind and a few clouds, it was still a pretty nice day, 73 according to the sign at the Westmont Fire Department. I enjoyed a thick, tasty Chocolate Peanut Butter water ice, managing to get there well before the kids out of school, for once.

Rode home across Newton Lake Park. The lake was gorgeous today, both going to and from Haddonfield. The waters are still so clear and green! I hope they can keep them like that all summer. It was surprisingly quiet for after school, though. Once again, maybe I just missed the crowds.

When I got home, I looked over the Ulitmate Star Wars book while finishing out the Backyardigans DVD. Tyrone, Uniqua, and Pablo think "High Tea" will be boring. Not tea the way Tasha does it! She shows them how a tea party can be an adventure when she takes them to the jungles of Borneo, the hot water springs of the Gobi Desert, and introduces them to grumpy Chinese emperor Austin in the search for the perfect cup of tea.

A trio of Tarzans (Tyrone, Pablo, and Austin), each representing a typical Tarzan trait from various media over the years (Tyrone talks to animals, Pablo is strong, Austin talks like a cave-kangaroo), take Professor Uniqua to "The Heart of the Jungle" to return a Wormen to its natural habitat. Uniqua keeps insisting that finding quicksand and talking to animals isn't "scientific," but the guys remind her that pulp fiction doesn't exactly abide by the strict rules of science.

"Viking Voyage" once again has Pablo, Uniqua, and Tyrone on a journey and Tasha trying to show off. In this case, she's a mermaid who wants to prove she's tougher than any silly viking. Meanwhile, the kids are just trying to discover a new world.

Called Rose right before dinner. I wanted to bring Khai's birthday present over - he turned 6 today. Rose said no, he had t-ball practice and was tired from school. She'd take him to Friendly's for dinner, but she wasn't going to do anything else. They had a big party at a kids' center in Marlton on Saturday. I'll bring his present around tomorrow.

Finished the night with a few Cat In the Hat Knows a Lot About That episodes while making Coffee-Hazelnut-Chocolate Cookies as a further cake mix experiment (and to use up the last of the hazelnut flavoring). A blue-footed booby teaches Sally and Nick how to walk on the mud without getting stuck in "Blue Feet are Neat." The Cat and a couple of fish and squid teach the kids some "Reef Magic" when they learn how aquatic animals protect themselves from predators.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Out In the Sunshine

I slept in today. Ran episodes of The Cat In the Hat Knows a Lot About That while eating breakfast and making Cinnamon Buttercream Frosting for my Snickerdoodle Cake. The kids learn about traveling in "I See Seeds." I knew about maple tree seeds, of course - they're the whirly kind you throw in the air - but not that gorse bushes spit out their seeds. "Teeny Tiny Adventure" introduces us to the smallest organisms on Earth, including an amoeba, the one-cell organism party!

Headed out around 12:30. My first stop was the Oaklyn Library. As you can guess on a warm day that was so beautiful, the door was open to catch breezes, they weren't busy. I saw maybe two people chatting with the librarian the entire forty minutes or so I was there. I organized the DVDs and gave the kids' area a cursory glance before moving on.

My original plan for today was to get the laundry done, then write. I still wanted to write...but the day had gotten into the mid-to-upper 70's. It was sunny and bright, with just the barest hint of a breeze. I wanted to celebrate that somehow. I just ended up riding over the bridge on Atlantic and down to Haddon Heights. I thought of eating there, but most of the restaurants in that town are so expensive! I just turned around and rode back.

As I was passing Pine Street in Audubon, I remembered a small shopping center on the next block over from the Concentra Care Medical Office. They had a bagel shop and a Chinese place. I'd passed them many times, but had never tried them...until today. I opted for the bagel shop. I had a cheese and tomato sandwich and a can of Diet Pepsi. I didn't have much time to eat. I got there at ten of 1, and it turns out they closed at 2. I knew I should have gone for Chinese. I thought there was a reason the kids behind the counter were in a hurry and almost rude. They wanted to get out of there and enjoy the nice day, too.

When I got home, I went into writing (after opening as many windows as I could - the apartment was in the 80's!). Han comes up with a plan to trick the Imperial soldiers into leaving the Wookie herds alone. Leia and Cecil (Threepio) dress as Jedi and pose as ghosts, luring two soldiers into the Woods so Han and Cecil can take their armor. Han is able to trick the remaining guards long enough for Leia to free the horses and let them run ragged over the Imperials. Like the dragons in the previous stories, the herds are grateful to the trio for helping them and offer their aid if it's ever necessary.

Finished out the day with leftovers and the rest of the first disc of the Cat In the Hat set. The Cat and the kids have "A Howling Good Time" when a wolf pup shows them how he finds his way home when he's lost. Sally needs help to make her flower grow, so the Cat recommends a farmer and her "Secret Super Digger" - a worm whose tunnels provide light and water for her crops. They learn how to whistle from a wren in "Pucker Up and Blow." A skunk teaches them to identify different smells in "Sniff and Seek." "Aye Aye!" is the Halloween episode. The kids want to be a scary aye aye (a jungle critter) for Trick or Treat, but he thinks he's more useful than scary.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

It's a Lovely Day For a Walk

I slept in this morning after staying up late chatting with Lauren. Began another glorious spring day with Confetti Pancakes (pancake mix made with butter and colored Easter pastel wafers) and the Hansel and Gretel/Thumbelina/Blinky Peter Pan LP. Hansel and Gretel and Thumbelina are pretty much straight-forward short renditions of those fairy tales. Blinky is the tale of a lonely little lighthouse ship who just wants a boat friend. The bigger boats ignore him...until there's a storm, and he (and his light) are the most important things in the harbor.

Switched to Alice In Wonderland while cleaning up from breakfast. This is another Peter Pan title, one I've had for a while. Along with some really cute songs, the most notable thing about this set is the distinct artwork in the book. It looks like "Alice as drawn by Marvel Comics in the early 70's." The artwork has a very comic-book style that makes it look even more surreal than the original story.

Headed out for a nice, long walk around quarter of 1. I like taking long walks on Sundays when I'm off and there's no football on. After a stop at CVS for a lemon-lime sparkling water and Honey Nut M&Ms (which tasted a lot more like honey than the coffee-nut flavor tasted like coffee), I strolled across the street to Newton Lake Park.

The park was absolutely perfect today. There had never been a more glorious day in mid-April. The trees are soft shades of pale lime green. The apple blossoms are in bloom; tulips and pansies brighten gardens. Children chased each other and their parents in the playground. I said "hi" to one of the neighbors' kids, who had gone out fishing in a kayak and was paddling back to his house on the lake. (He claims he caught a three-pound fish today, too.) Buttercups, starflowers, and dandelions were tiny bursts of yellow and snow white between the fresh green sprouts on the banks of the lake. The barest hint of a cool breeze ruffled the deep, glassy water. I took in the view first at the patio where I saw the kid, then at a small dock further along, near the stone pedestrian bridge.

I climbed up the hill at the Haddon Township Environmental and Historical Center and found myself wandering amid a row of new trees in cardboard and burlap bags ready to be planted. Strolled down the street and across the White Horse Pike to WaWa, where I treated myself to a turkey hoagie with spinach, cucumbers, and spicy mustard and a heavenly Chocolate Banana Smoothie. Enjoyed my lunch at the picnic tables on West Clinton Avenue as I watched the kids and families and couples pass by.

Spent the rest of the afternoon at home, working on my story. Leia tells Han that there's poachers in the woods, Imperial soldiers who were sent to capture the Wookie herds and lure Han and Leia into a trap. The soldiers think the Woods are haunted (though several of them deny this). Han thinks they might be able to use this...

Made a "Snickerdoodle Cake" (cinnamon in yellow cake mix - actually supposed to be white, but I didn't have any) and had leftovers for dinner while listening to more records. I should have checked the labels on the records more closely yesterday. The cover for the Dancer K-Tel collection actually held a Peter Pan Looney Tunes set. That was even better. I really don't have that many kids' albums. As far as I could tell, one story had Bugs as a plumber for Porky and Petunia and one had a space theme.

Stuck with the kids stuff and ran Strawberry Shortcake and the Winter That Would Not End as I cleaned up from dinner. I thought it was kind of appropriate after the snow last weekend. Strawberry and the kids are worried when winter doesn't seem to want to stop. Elderberry Owl brings news that the King of Snow's crystal has been stolen by a mole. He wants it to always be winter so he can remain in his nice, dark burrow forever. The kids have to convince him that spring isn't so bad.

Did Babes In Toyland as I put things away. This is a studio album of the Disney version. It's kind of odd. I think I hear Ed Wynn in his version, and the opening number is virtually unchanged...but everything else is different. On the other hand, it's worth it just to hear Thurl Ravenscroft sing "And We Won't Be Happy 'Til We Get It."

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Yard Sale Bonanza

Began another glorious, sunny morning with The Cat In the Hat Knows a Lot About That. Nick and Sally learn about "Reindeer Games" when the Cat brings them to meet another caribou who'll help them figure out how to find their sled in the snow. "Along Came a Spider" who taught the Cat and the kids how to make nets and how a spider weaves its web.

Headed out around quarter of 10. Spent the next few hours in Audubon, checking out their town-wide yard sale. I'm glad I got a chance to do this. Last year, Audubon's town-wide yard sale was later in April. Not only did I work too early to do it, but I think it rained for part of that morning. It was perfectly sunny and in the mid-60's, if a bit windy, a great day for riding around, looking for good yard sales.

I probably missed a lot of the better stuff, coming out as late as I did, but I still made some good finds, starting with two early Backyardigans DVDs, Cave Party and Polka Palace Party. The American Girl historical story Meet Marie-Grace and a hardback copy of Garfield On the Town, came from a sale to raise money for Audubon's Recreational Center. The third was an old paperback copy of The Hound of the Baskervilles.

Picked up five records from two different houses. My best find here was a Peter Pan kids' LP that my family actually owned in the 80's, featuring adaptations of Thumbelina and Hansel and Gretel, along with an original story about a lonely lighthouse named Blinky. The others were:

Super Stars Super Hits - Collection of late 60's pop hits.

Dancer - Another K-Tel collection, this one focusing on dance-oriented pop tunes.

The Divine Miss M - Bette Midler

Breakaway - Art Garfunkel

I was on my way over to Simply Soups for lunch going down the White Horse Pike when a branch got stuck in my gear. I wasn't hurt, but the chain came off my bike. Damn it. Good thing I wasn't that far from Simply Soups anyway. They're a small local restaurant that specializes in simple soups, sandwiches, and baked goods. I got in shortly after 1. They were still pretty busy with the lunch and yard sale crowd when I sat down with my cornbread, can of Diet A&W, and cup of Chicken Orzo Soup. The soup was nice, with lots of thick shredded chicken hunks and huge slices of carrot.

I got lucky. There's a small car repair shop about a block or so from Simply Soups. I'm glad I remembered they were there. The boy who was working there was nice enough to get the chain back on my bike and oil it so I could get home.

When I got in, I put everything away, then spent the rest of the afternoon writing. Luke's training with Yoda is continuing. He's learned how to lift things with his mind, how to run further and jump higher, and that when your mentor tells you not to go into a dark, spooky cave with your weapon, you'd be better off listening. However, Luke's powers falter when he's unable to get his beloved horse Tauntaun out of the same swamp-monster-laden bog he and the other two were trapped in during the last story. Yoda can get him out, but he's disappointed that his student thinks he can't.

Meanwhile, in the Kingdom of Kashyakk, the repairs on the Falcon are going slowly, but surely...and so is Han and Leia's relationship. Han continues to argue with her during the day and be tender to her at night. Cecil (Threepio) hates the outdoors - he just wants to get out of there. The peace is about to be shattered when Leia hears something in the woods...something that's ready to attack the Wookie herds...

Broke around 6:30 for dinner. I made Merlin's Baked Chicken and defrosted frozen green beans and almonds. Had them with the last of the biscuits and croissants from Wednesday evening while watching The Three Stooges Meet Hercules. In this later-day Stooges outing, the trio are three pharmacists who help a young scientist and his girlfriend with his time travel machine. They land in ancient Greece, where, after two stints as slaves on galley boats, the scientist builds up his muscles so much, he's mistaken for Hercules. The Stooges take advantage of this to have him fight local beasts and earn them enough money to make it back to Greece, but the real Hercules doesn't like their using his name one bit!

One of the better and more creative of the full-length Stooges films of the early and mid-60's. I especially love the four taking over the slave ship. Nothing absolutely necessary, but fun for kids and Stooges fans.

Finished the night with a nice, hot bath. Ahhh. It felt so nice to soak for an hour in rose-scented bath salts while reading fairy tales and listening to the Broadway Cast Album for The Scarlet Pimpernel. Very nice end to a fun week.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Bike Ride Across Oaklyn

Started the day by sleeping in. It was nearly 11 before I got moving. Did one last birthday-themed short during breakfast. "Pluto's Party" gets pretty crazy when the mini-mice Mickey invited treat the birthday pup like a horse, then eat his party food. Mickey does have one last surprise waiting for his best friend, though!

Headed out around 12:30 to run errands and enjoy another absolutely glorious, perfectly sunny mid-60's day. I was originally going to start it with volunteering at the Oaklyn Library. Though the door was unlocked, it turned out the small staff was having a meeting. Oh well. I'll go back tomorrow.

Since it's near-by, I hit the House of Fun next. It was surprisingly busy for the middle of the day. The games were even on. Alas, I didn't run into anything really interesting this time, not even books. Maybe it's just as well. I saw signs advertising Audubon's Town-Wide Yard Sale tomorrow.

Next stop was Desserts By Design. I felt like a treat. Everyone must have gone shopping, because they weren't busy at all. I bought a nice, moist chocolate cupcake with coconut frosting from the young lady behind the counter. Enjoyed it outside, on a bench in front of the dance studio.

Rode down Market Street next and over to the Audubon Crossings Shopping Center. I explored a few stores. Didn't see any work pants I liked at Avenue. Briefly looked at Rue 21's accessories as well. Considered a few pairs of boots, but they were kind of cheap.

Went to the Acme next for my schedule and what very few groceries I needed. I really don't have much of a schedule next week. I'm only working Wednesday and Saturday and only a few hours on Wednesday. On one hand, I really could have used the hours and the money. On the other hand, I could probably still use the rest, and I want to work on my story.

Actually, the only groceries I really needed were fruit - pears, bananas, and grapefruit. I was out of unbleached flour, too. I found a box of whole-wheat pasta shells on the clearance shelves for 69 cents. I was almost out of pasta, and there's no arguing with that price. Not to mention, I haven't had pasta shells for years.

When I got home, I put everything away, then continued My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic (which I began this morning) while eating the last of the tuna casserole for lunch. The Mane Five continue to spread friendship throughout Equestria in these stories. The most interesting was "Slice of Life," the series' 100th episode. This was a massive "day in the limelight" tale for Equestria's many supporting characters, tied together by the wedding of two donkeys happening the same day the Mane Five deals with a huge bug-bear monster. (Look for the hilarious spoof of The Big Lebowski in this episode, complete with a pony version of Jeff Daniels.)

Twilight Sparkle is "Amending Fences" when she's realized she's neglected her old friends from Canterlot. While she's able to get back in touch with most of them, bookish Moondancer refuses to talk to her. Twilight Sparkle tries to figure out where she went wrong.

Rarity and Applejack are "Made In Manehattan" as they travel to the big city on a friendship mission. They're not sure what they can do at first, especially down-home country girl Applejack. When a friend of Rarity's explains she's having a hard time getting a big Shakespeare In the Park-style outdoor show together, Rarity offers to help with the costumes, while Applejack says she'll clean up the park and the stage. Applejack finally discovers that she can't do everything...but that doing even just one small thing can make a big difference.

Applejack's good friend RaRa is now Colorata Coloratura, "The Mane Attraction" at the Ponyville Music Festival. Applejack is disappointed with how much her once laid-back friend has become a diva. Is it really Colorata, though, or her sleazy agent who's making the demands and causing trouble?

I worked on writing after lunch. Vader has just addressed the biggest scum in the Alliance of the Kingdoms - huntsmen. Especially one huntsman, the personal one for King Jabba of Tatoon, Boba Fett. He's put out a reward for the man who brings back his runaway daughter and the thief and his horse who have her - alive. And while Vader himself can't go to Kashyakk - the witch who lives there has strong magic that protects the woods - he does know he can do some investigating on his own and find out where Luke and his magic may have gone...

 I had leftovers for dinner and made Banana-Chocolate Chip Muffins while finishing out the Ponies and watching Barbie: Spy Squad. The most recent Barbie Is/As tale introduces us to a trio of gymnasts who are recruited as spies by the aunt of one of them. She wants them to stop a very flexible cat burglar who has been stealing jewels for an organization that got its hands on a super weapon. If the jewels are put in a certain case, the weapon will be activated...and it could possibly destroy the world. Though the girls enjoy their training (and one is having fun flirting with the awkward guy who makes their gadgets), Barbie is having trouble focusing. Aunt Zoe teaches her how to visualize what she wants and go for it...which turns out to be very useful when they discover that the cat burglar is a familiar face, and the villain is closer than any of them know...

Not bad. The Barbie series doesn't often do pure action without fantasy elements, making this one a little bit different. (Also refreshing to see the guy fall for someone besides Barbie.) If your little girl is more into action than princesses, she'll probably find a lot to love in this one.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Having a Hoppy Good Birthday

I awoke to Charlie banging and cursing downstairs. Not the best way to begin one's birthday. At least the weather was gorgeous. In honor of the day, I read three American Girl birthday-themed stories. In Happy Birthday, Addy!, Addy makes friends with a kind older woman who lives in the same boarding house as her family. She has difficulty helping her friend because of the color of her skin, but her friend reminds her that prejudice doesn't need to hold you back. Did excerpts from Happy Birthday, Kit (Kit's Aunt Millie's "Penny Pincher Party" turns out to be far more fun than anyone expected) and Happy Birthday, Samantha (Sam's looking forward to her fancy party with her new friends and cousins Agnes and Agatha, until the nasty boy next door Eddie makes trouble).

Ran two cartoons about very busy birthdays while eating breakfast. The original World of Strawberry Shortcake takes place on the title character's sixth birthday. Strawberry thinks the other kids have forgotten her big day. They have a surprised planned...but so does the Peculiar Purple Pieman, who is determined to rain on her berry parade.

The final episode of The Yogi Bear Show revolved around Yogi's birthday. The sponsor wants to have a big surprise birthday party for Yogi on TV. Ranger Smith tells Yogi he's going to be on a variety show. Yogi thinks he actually has to perform, but it's really just a gathering of the Hanna Barbera funny animal crew to wish him the happiest of days.

Headed to the PNC Bank first after the cartoons ended. I wanted to follow up on a suggestion Rose made last year and start a second savings account for "fun" things, like vacations and large electronics. I put some of the money Dad gave me yesterday in the new account. It took a few minutes to do. I keep meaning to update my ID, but you have to go into Camden to do that. You couldn't pay me to go into that town on my own or on the bike, no matter what Rose says. Thankfully, the lady was able to get my updated information from my other account. I even got a really nice bag to carry my paperwork in.

Stopped quickly at Walgreens for change and a Sparkling Pomegranate Berry Soda, then rode down to the Haddon Township Library to pick up the bus to the Cherry Hill Mall. The bus was empty except for one or two other people, and there was absolutely no traffic by 11. The ride was uneventful and quick.

Wandered around the Cherry Hill Mall for an hour or so after I got in. They weren't that busy at first, either. It was the middle of a Thursday. I rather badly needed new work pants and two packs of socks on sale at JC Penney's. At least four pairs of my socks have worn out in the past month. Found the most adorable little bright blue chick on clearance at Build-a-Bear. She got an outfit with a tutu-skirt and a tank top that says "love," too. Bought Sea Salt Citrus hand soap at Bath and Body Works. Grabbed the iced tea sample at Teavana. Explored the Lego Store, the Disney Store, Layne Bryant, Fashion to Figure, and Jay Street Games, but found nothing of interest.

Headed out to Cherry Hill's "Restaurant Row," a line of fancy eateries hugging the back end of the Mall alongside Nordstrom's, for lunch. There were a couple to choose from, but I finally opted for Bahama Breeze. I hadn't had seafood in ages. They were basically a more tropical-themed Red Lobster, with the same emphasis on cocktails and seafood. I forwent the former in favor of iced tea, coconut shrimp, and the simple house salad. I wish there had been more than four coconut shrimp with the meal for the price paid, but at least they were nice and big and very crunchy. (Oddly, despite the windows being open, the veranda I sat on was very hot by the entrance and the bar. I don't know if they still had the heat on, or if it was the kitchen, or what.)

Went over the pedestrian bridge and straight to Target next. My big find there was the last Ever After High doll currently available that I wanted but hadn't been able to find, Melody Piper. I also picked up a birthday present for Khai, Herbal Essences conditioner, and those delicious coconut-covered marshmallows.

Cherry Hill's movie theater, Lowes 24, is right next-door to the Hillview Shopping Center. I made my way around the fence separating the two and headed right for theater. After enjoying my experience seeing The Force Awakens in theaters back in January, I decided one of my New Year's resolutions was to catch more movies I was dying to see in the theater. I got there at 3. Even with buying popcorn and playing Fast and the Furious: Continental Drift (I was the pink car), I was still over a half-hour early for the 4 PM showing of Zootopia. I arrived so early, I got to see the credits from the previous showing.

Lowes isn't quite as nice as the theater at Sommerdale. The seats are smaller and not as comfortable, and there's far less legroom. This turned out to be a moot point, since I was the only one in the theater the entire time. (Unless one counts Melody Piper, the stuffed chick, and the one guy who came in to sweep up between showings.) In fact, I believe I was the only person in the entire building at 4 PM who wasn't an employee or a toy. I plopped down in the wide aisle intended for the handicapped and proceeded to do everything AMC said not to do during a showing - talk to the screen and on the phone (Mom called to wish me a happy birthday about half-way through the film), not turn off my cell phone, and generally behave like...well, like I was the only person in the building.

The movie was just as much fun. Zootopia is Disney's latest big animated epic. In a world where predatory animals and their regular prey live in harmony, Judy Hops (Ginnifer Goodwin) is a hare who is determined to become the first small mammal in Zootopia's police department. Yes, she's tiny and cute compared to the big rhinos and oxen who mostly populate the station, but she's also tenacious, intelligent, and speedy. She's first given a meter maid job, but when a poor female otter (Octavia Spencer) is begging for someone to help her find her husband, she quite literally leaps into the case. She eventually gets help from fast-talking con artist fox Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman), whom she attempted to arrest for fraud earlier. It turns out that there's far more to this seemingly simple case than either Judy or Nick suspect...and it could have vast implications for Zootopia and its simmering mix of breeds and races.

Disney's animated winning streak continues. This has gotten some of their best reviews since Frozen. After Rose and Linda Young gave it glowing reviews of their own, I had to see it. They're right - this is a funny, thoughtful ride that deals with some difficult questions on racism, what one wants do vs what one should do, and following one's dreams despite incredible odds. As Rose pointed out, violence and the relatively mature subject matter makes this one for older kids on up, despite the cute animals. She says she probably got more out of it than 6-year-old Khai.

It was very late when I headed out, almost 6 PM, and I was tired. Made a quick stop back at the Cherry Hill Mall to try red velvet and Nutella macarons (the recently-popular French sandwich cake-cookie) before hopping on the 6:25 bus and heading home. There was a little traffic near Cooper River Park, but the bus wasn't too late. I made a very quick stop at WaWa for a turkey hoagie on my way home. I was now too pooped to even make leftovers.

Ran one final birthday-themed cartoon while I ate. "Mickey's Birthday Party" becomes pretty wild when Donald dances with Clara Cluck and Goofy's attempts at making a cake turn Minnie's kitchen into a disaster area!

I got Melody Piper out while chatting with Lauren. Melody is Ever After High's premier DJ, the daughter of the Pied Piper. Unlike a lot of her fellow students, this music-loving lass doesn't crave the spotlight. She's happier putting together song mixes that'll send all the kids' feet tapping. Melody has a rather odd, puckered face, and her wavy white-purple hair was a mess coming out of the box and shed badly. I think I'm going to need to wash the bangs, too. On the other hand, she's one of the few dolls from the previous round to come with some decent accessories, including her own turntable.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Dinner With the Family

I began a sunny, bright day with lots of writing. Han teases Leia about her inability to take care of herself. She may be a warrior and a leader, but she can't cook or make a basket. When she picks berries for their dinner, she scratches herself badly. After she brings him the berries, she uses her magic - and her long hair - to heal herself. Han, coming to the river to catch fish for dinner, sees her washing her cuts and healing them, her long hair flowing around her like a wood nymph. He's entranced, but has no idea how to say it without coming off as snarky or obnoxious. She finally flees.

Later that night, Leia is sleeping outside, near the Falcon. She's looking out to the twinkling stars and the horses sleeping peacefully and the glossy leaves on the trees, thinking about Han and his kiss and what happened earlier. Just as she's falling asleep, she feels Han lay beside her and gently wrap his arms around her. She's too drowsy to protest his forwardness. Besides, she rather likes the feeling of him being there, so safe and strong.

(I was also ignoring Charlie banging around and cursing his brains out downstairs. He said he shut off the water for 15 minutes sometime around 11. I guess he did. An hour or so later, he asked me to check and make sure the hot and cold water were running, which they were.)

I broke for lunch and errands around 1. First stop was Phillies Phatties for lunch. Though it was a beautiful, sunny day, it was also windy and a little chilly. I ate my slice of cheese and slice of mushroom and drank my can of Diet Pepsi inside, while the guys behind the counter chatted and ESPN Sportcenter blared in the background.

It was a fabulous day for a ride through Newton Lake Park. Everything is in full bloom now. The trees have soft, pale-green leaves. The grass green like emeralds, dotted with the intricate yellow bead work of buttercups. Needless to say, there were quite a few people out and about enjoying the weather with me, mainly folks out for a walk. I dodged them as I headed to the Haddon Township Library for this week's session there.

They weren't really much busier than they have been the past few weeks. The weather was just too nice. I organized the still-weirdly-stacked kids' shelves and put away new releases and one lone audio book. Took out last year's movie version of The Man From UNCLE, this spring's spy-themed Barbie special, and new releases for The Cat In the Hat Knows A Lot About That and My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, along with another Star Wars book, Allegiance.

I had a little shopping to do, starting with a trip to Dollar Tree. Inspired by this post by Matt of Dinosaur Dracula from last year, I decided my first birthday present to myself would be a bunch of fun little stuff I could use for a one-person-birthday party. Since I also needed to buy sponges and birthday cards for Rose (whose big day was last week) and Khai (next week), I limited my budget to six dollars. I ended up with a British Farmer's Market Cookbook, a Sofia the First coloring book, a butterfly suncatcher, a bottle of Sparkling Ice Blackberry Soda, a small bag of York Peppermint Patties, and rose-scented bath salts.

Dollar Tree was a mess. It was past 3:30 by then, nearly rush hour, and the line was half-way across the store. The poor cashier did call for help, but they never appeared, at least not while I was there. People were obnoxious and rude, complaining about having only one thing and why did they actually have to wait and why wasn't she moving faster? Geez, it's a line. A little waiting never killed anyone.

I was so happy to get out of there. My stop at Thriftway was far briefer. In fact, it took about 10 minutes. I only needed their 18-pack of eggs (they're much cheaper than Acme's) and a Bed, Bath, and Beyond gift card for Rose. (You'd think they would be even busier, but they were dead as a doornail. Maybe everyone needed small stuff today?)

Went straight home after leaving Thriftway, dodging the early traffic. When I got in, I finished the Sailor Moon episodes I started during breakfast while putting things away and getting organized. Serena Tskino is having the worst birthday ever in the third season episode "Birthday Blues." First off, she thought everyone forgot. Then, she has a fight with Darien when she thinks he's forgotten. (He didn't. She forgot to tell him.) And even after she and the Guardians do get their party, the witch Kaiorinite turns Darien's gift of glass shoes into a monster that tries to take Serena's pure heart! Things get even worse when the monster turns Darien into a glass sculpture and takes Serena's transformation broach. Now, Serena has to rescue her beloved boyfriend, while the other girls (including the mysterious Sailor Uranus and Neptune) do what they can to save her.

Since I had some time before dinner at Dad's, I worked on painting my butterfly suncatcher. Watched birthday-themed episodes of Max & Ruby as I worked. "Surprise Ruby" has Max leading Ruby on a chase to retrieve her tiara before her big surprise birthday party. "Ruby's Birthday Party" is a fun affair, with lots of games and merrymaking - but Max only cares about the cake. Ruby's enjoying opening her gifts in "Max's Presents." Max is more interested in her nifty wrapping paper that she insists on keeping.

Headed to Dad's house around quarter of 5-6 PM. Jodie and Dad were the only ones there when I arrived, chatting with a neighbor and Khai's friend Chloe on the porch. Rose, Craig, and a very tired and cranky Khai arrived a bit later. Everyone gave me pretty cards (I loved Rose's card that had cupcakes with "sparkly" candles that lit up and played "Walking On Sunshine). Dad and Jodie gave me money, $325 all told. (And that last 5 dollars was in dollar bills, which will be very useful for the bus to the Cherry Hill Mall tomorrow.) T.J and his new boyfriend and Dana showed up a bit later.

Jodie made roast beef, potatoes, and carrots in a Crock Pot, Caesar salad, and pop-can biscuits and croissants for dinner. Dessert was a small half-chocolate, half-vanilla cake with very rich cream cheese frosting and chunks of chocolate on the side from Desserts By Design. Yum. Every bit of it was delicious. I very rarely make beef at home (it's expensive and not very good for you), so this was a rare treat. I even got to take the remaining biscuits and last slice of cake home with me. We watched Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune while finishing the cake before I headed out.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The Sunshine Cometh

It was raining hard when I got up this morning. Fine by me. Today was my day off. I just spent an hour writing in my journal and reading Luke Skywalker and the Shadow of Mindor while the rain beat a drum concert on my roof. It was nice and relaxing.

When I did finally get out of bed, I decided it was the perfect morning for baking. I had breakfast, then made Orange Snowdrops. Actually, they were supposed to be Lemon Snowdrops, but all I had was orange extract. We used to love the Lemon Snowdrops that came in boxes when I was a kid. They were so tart! I miss those. These, alas, aren't tart, but they still taste pretty good. Nice and rich.

Watched The Adventures of Robin Hood as I baked to brighten the gloomy morning. Since there are Robin Hood elements to the fanfic I'm currently writing, I thought I'd take a look at one of the most famous versions of this story. This is the 1938 movie with Errol Flynn as the charming rogue of Sherwood Forest, Basil Rathbone as dastardly Guy of Gisbourne, and Olivia DeHaviland as Maid Marion. If you love swashbucklers, this is an absolute must-see. The Technicolor cinematography is gorgeous, the action is fun, and Flynn is still considered to be one of the definitive Robin Hoods on film.

Though the rain was slowing down by the time I was doing the dishes, I still ran the first-season Tiny Toons episode "Rainy Daze." Buster and Babs demonstrate three ways of having fun when the rain comes down. Montana Max runs through dozens of rental friends, until Buster finds a way to turn the tables on him. Babs discovers how a little bit of imagination can turn the dullest rainy afternoon into a wild adventure! Tired of the rain, the two rabbits flee Acme Acres, only to accidentally end up in the Arctic and have to rescue a cute baby seal from the obnoxious poacher Gotcha Grabmore.

Headed out to do the laundry as soon as the rain ended. The weather must have scared everyone off. They were pretty quiet when I arrived, with only one or two other people there with me the whole time. It was just as well. I had a big load of laundry to do, including the flannel sheets I stripped off my bed last night. I worked on story notes while listening to Action News and The Chew.

When I got home, I folded the laundry...then went right back out again. By this point, it was past 2:30, and I was starved. I bought a roast beef hoagie at Viola's International Deli. I was going to get milk there, too, but all they had were half-gallons of whole. I rode to WaWa and bought a quart of skim milk and a Sparkling Ice Cherry Limeade. Besides, the clouds had vanished, and the day had become absolutely gorgeous, still a little chilly but sunny and bright. You'd never even know it poured this morning if it wasn't for a few remaining puddles.

After I came home and ate, I figured it was time to get the spring clothes out. I was going to do it last week, but it got cold over the weekend. The National Weather Service said it's going to be sunny and in the 50's and 60's for the rest of this week and up to the 70's by next week. I think it's time. Thankfully, unlike with winter clothes, there wasn't a lot that I needed, or anything I really needed to get rid of. I just piled turtlenecks, sweaters, and heavy pants into the gray plastic container and pulled out shorts and lighter blouses, along with my summer-weight purse.

Spent the next few hours working on my story. After arriving in Kashyakk and meeting Chewbacca's family, Han challenges Leia to a race. I was originally going to let the race have a darker ending, but I decided to save the nasty stuff for later and just let them end in a tie and have Han go off to fix the Falcon while Leia tries to figure out what's up with him.

Did a quick Three Stooges short while having leftovers for dinner. "Three Dumb Clucks" find themselves having to break out of jail when their dad is going to marry a gold-digger. Turns out Curly bears a striking resemblance to their dear old pop, one they make use of when it turns out the blond has a couple of cohorts who are going to off their dad for his money.

Though it was getting chillier by 6:30, it was also still a pretty decent, sunny day. I decided to celebrate the weather with a water ice at Phillies Yummies. It was a nice little walk. I saw a lot of people out and about, including several families with strollers and one man who let the kids in line for ice cream pet his handsome Irish Setter. I ended up with that mint chocolate chip water ice that's an absolutely amazing shade of emerald green. Tastes great, too, very minty. The neighborhood looks really beautiful now. The tulips are out, all orange and red and purple egg-shapes against the very green grass.

Tomorrow is my first actual day of vacation. Though I'm just going to run errands and write during the day, Dad want to have me over for dinner for my birthday later in the evening. Jodie called me tonight to confirm.

Monday, April 11, 2016

I Need a Vacation

I spent most of a sunny morning and early afternoon continuing my fanfiction. Han drives the carriage through the Enchanted Woods to the Kingdom of Kashyakk. This is the home of the wild Wookie Stallions, wild horses that roam free in the grasslands and forests. The gypsy thief was more-or-less raised by the Stallions and the local bandits after his own parents abandoned him. He's hoping they can stay there, with Chewbacca's herd and his old friend Maz, until the Imperials lay off their search and Han can finish fixing the Falcon.

Ran the last few episodes of the second season of Sailor Moon while eating leftovers for lunch and getting ready for work. I noticed some really interesting parallels between Rini's storyline in the end of the series and The Force Awakens. Rini, like Ben, was seduced by a creepy, supposedly "wise" creature who was really using them for their own agenda. She was turned against her parents and friends and did try to kill them...and actually did kill one person (though he wasn't related). Both Ben and Rini are more-or-less brainwashed into believing their family doesn't love them, though I believe the effect was far more prolonged in Ben's case. Rini was, like Ben/Kylo, turned into a different person after she was brainwashed - she's even a different age. The fact that Sailor Moon was eventually able to get through to Rini leaves me hope that Ben will see the light eventually in a movie or two, though it'll probably be a far more tortured process. (And maybe serve time for patricide.)

It was an absolutely, positively gorgeous day when I headed to work. The cold of the weekend had been replaced by warm sun, a stiff breeze, and nice lower-60's temperatures. No wonder we were on-and-off steady for most of the evening, and just barely that. There were one or two annoying people, but most folks seemed to be in pretty good moods. It was short and painless, and my relief was right on time. I was in and out with no problems.

(Oh, and I got a lovely birthday card from Lauren today, a pretty spring-ish one with nice colors. She and her parents gave me a 20 dollar bill. Cool. That'll buy me tickets to Zootopia or Batman Vs. Superman on Thursday and a bag of popcorn.)

I was in a really good mood after work and writing went so well, so I went with a comedy as I ate dessert. The Great Muppet Caper is probably my favorite of the 80's Muppet films. Reporters Kermit, Fozzie, and Gonzo are off to London to investigate a jewel robbery. What they find is Miss Piggy, an aspiring model who works for the fashion designer whose gems were stolen (Diana Rigg) and her less-than-trustworthy brother (Charles Grodin). With the dubious help of the other Muppets, who live and work in the dilapidated Happiness Hotel, our fuzzy trio set out to discover who's behind the thefts...and break more fourth walls than previously thought possible. Not as iconic as Muppet Movie, but the plot is better, and there's some great gags, including Miss Piggy's water ballet sequence.

And as of tomorrow...I'm off work. My actual vacation doesn't begin until Wednesday. Still, a day off is a day off. It sounds like it's just as well. It's supposed to rain for part of tomorrow, anyway. I'll get the laundry done and work on writing.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

A Disney Kind of Day

Started out a beautiful spring morning with Pear Spice Pancakes. One of the juicy pears I bought on Friday got bruised on the way home. I cut it up, threw it into the pancake mix, and added cinnamon, allspice, cloves, and nutmeg. Oooh, so yummy! Didn't cook very fast (I didn't cut up the chunks enough), but tasted nice.

I loved riding to work. The weather was glorious today. It was still a little chilly and windy for the time of year, probably in the mid-upper 50's, but nothing like yesterday. This may be why work was on-and-off busy, and actually not as bad as I figured it would be. There were a few problems, especially with a buy-one-watermelon-get-one sale that wouldn't work, but the time otherwise went quickly, and my relief was there when she was supposed to be.

It was so nice, I took the long way home down Nicholson Road and Atlantic Avenue. The day was too beautiful to be rushing anywhere. There was quite a bit of traffic on Nicholson, more than likely a lot of Sunday drivers also enjoying the weather. 

Spent the rest of the afternoon working on my writing. While Han and Leia head towards the Kingdom of Kashaykk and Vader prepares to go after his children, Luke has returned to the Dagobah Swamps. He's hoping to find a great Force sage. What he finds is a little green goblin who gets into his things and seems to know (and annoy) Arthur the Mute Blacksmith. The last thing Luke is expecting is for this strange little fellow to be Yoda, the sage he's seeking...or for Yoda to almost turn him down for training. It takes the ghost of Sir Ben Kenobi, Luke's late previous teacher, to convince him.

I'd been listening to my Disney music collections all day, including during breakfast and while making leftovers for dinner. I bought this collection with a birthday gift card from Lauren about five or six years ago. It's too bad it's probably wildly out of print today. I like that it includes songs not only from the usual animated musicals, but numbers from older live-action films (Kirk Douglas surprisingly doing well with "Whale of a Tale" from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Haley Mills' adorable "Let's Get Together" from the original Parent Trap, several songs from Summer Magic and Pete's Dragon, the very early 60's title song from The Monkey's Uncle performed by the Beach Boys and Annette Funicello), TV shows ("The Ballad of Davy Crocket" from the original Disneyland show, two Ludvig Von Drake ditties and "Stop, Look, and Listen" from Disney's Wonderful World of Color, "The Mickey Mouse Club March"), and theme songs from the Disney parks ("It's a Small World," "The Tiki Room," the original "Pirates of the Caribbean"). 

Saturday, April 09, 2016

April Showers Bring Snow Days

I had enough time for a couple of cartoons today before heading off to work. "Springtime Serenade" introduces us to a later, cuter Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. Oswald and his fellow farm and forest critters are delighted by the return of warmer weather and start spring cleaning. A grouchy groundhog is determined to spoil their fun with his cold weather predictions. "Slide, Donald, Slide" pits the irascible duck against Spike the Bee in a battle to see whether they'll be listening to baseball or a classical music concert on the radio.

Oswald wasn't the only one baffled by today's weather. It was snowing and raining a little when I headed to work, but not heavily. According to my customers, it started to pick up by 10:30 and continued with larger, fatter flakes through 2:30. I never saw any of it. I was at the register all day, dealing with customers who were annoyed by the weather that just didn't feel very spring-like to them. I don't know what they were fussing about. The snow here never stuck the ground and mostly amounted to very pretty rain.

It was down to heavy showers when my relief came in for me at 4. Even as I was riding home, the snow returned. It didn't last long, though. The rain continued through the evening before finally stopping somewhere during dinner.

I went right into writing when I got in. King Palapatine addresses his demon slave for the first time. He can see the merits of turning Luke to the Dark magic. He also reminds Vader that he'd made a bargain with him years before - in exchange for power, Vader would give Palapatine his daughter. Vader has yet to fulfill that bargain. The half-demon swears he's sending men after his wayward child and he will have her, her strong magic, and the prosperous Kingdom of Aldran.

Watched most of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang while having turkey meatloaf and sauteed escarole and mushrooms for dinner. The Millennium Falcon is far from the only vehicle to have "more than a few surprises" in her in fantastic cinema. Chitty was once a turn-of-the-20th-century race car. She's rescued from the junkyard by an eccentric inventor (Dick Van Dyke) and his two children. On a trip to the seaside, he spins a very strange tale for his kids and his friend Truly Scrumptious (Sally Ann Howes). It seems Chitty is wanted by the nasty Baron Bombhurst (Gert Frobe), who desires a flying car and to off his annoying wife (Anna Quayle), in approximately that order. A kindly toymaker (Benny Hill) helps the family bring justice to Vulgaria and rescue the inventor's father.

Overlong but generally enjoyable late 60's fantasy has too many slow minutes and some pretty strange ones. This is offset by the charming performances of Howes and Van Dyke and the Sherman Brothers' lovely score, including "Truly Scrumptious," "Hushabye Mountain," and the Oscar-nominated title tune.

Friday, April 08, 2016

V for Philly Victory

Started a sunny but very windy morning with a little bit of Tiny Toon Adventures after Kingdom of the Crystal Skull ended. "Cinemaniacs" from the first season has Babs and Buster doing some (literal) theater-hopping as they check out three shorts spoofing popular movie franchises. "SuperBabs" has fun with the DC Universe as superheroine Babs saves Acme Acres from being inked out. Plucky, Hampton, and a rare speaking Furball go on a "Duck Trek" to avoid Gossamer Monster on a very hairy planet. "Pasadena Jones and the Secret of Life" has Buster channeling Indiana Jones as he dodges Montana Max and searches for that all-important artifact.

Work was busier than it has been the rest of this week. Though many people probably went to the big parade honoring college basketball national champs Villanova in Philly, others opted to take advantage of the sun before the rains come to get their shopping done. I mostly did returns, but I did have to duck into the register a few times.

Got my schedule during break. I'm working short shifts on Sunday and Monday, then I have a regular day off Tuesday, and then...vacation! It's running through the 19th. I'm not doing anything major besides a mall run, the usual chores, a lot of writing, counseling, and enjoying my birthday on Thursday. I was so busy through most of March, between work and everything going on here, I desperately need the week off.

I had a ton of grocery shopping to do today! They were running a lot of really good sales. Jenny-O Lean Ground Turkey was only $1.99! I couldn't resist that, even though I have ground turkey in the fridge. Chicken drumsticks were on sale, too. Took advantage of the continuing clearance of the older Acme generic brands to pick up a 12-pack of AA batteries at a good price. Had a ton of restocking to do, especially baking items - sugar, chocolate chips, bubble bath, tissues (I was almost out), pears (the ones I had last week were so darn juicy!), grapefruit, bananas, condensed Acme/Safeway generic Cream of Chicken and Tomato soups, brown sugar, Greek yogurt, aluminum foil, muffin cups, and peanut butter. Since I'd gotten a coupon for Wheat Thins Chips in one of the Monopoly game pieces, I thought I'd give them a shot.

When I got home and finally got everything put away, I did a quick writing session. Vader doesn't exactly take his daughter and a lowly criminal out-foxing his men well. He uses his magic to choke the man responsible to death. Another officer tell him the huntsmen he's called (the equivalent of bounty hunters in this universe) has arrived. They're scum, but as Vader points out, they're useful scum. They know Han better than the Imperial Army does. Meanwhile, Vader's master, King Palapatine, has arrived to talk about young Skywalker...

Finished the night with a quick leftovers dinner and an episode of Good Eats. The Wheat Thins are a rare treat for me. I almost never buy crackers in a box. Alton Brown provides three alternatives in "Going Crackers." The graham crackers look especially tasty. I need to look around for graham flour the next time I'm shopping for baking items.