Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Out In the Sunshine

Began the day with an early work shift. Thankfully after all the trouble I've had in the last week or so, today was relatively painless. I mostly spent it doing returns and rounding up the few carts. It being the last day of the month, the middle of the week before a major holiday, and gorgeous outside to boot probably helped. It didn't really get busier until around noon. I got stuck in the register once. By the time the crowds were picking up again, I was done for the day.

Rushed straight home, changed into regular clothes, and went back out again to run errands. First stop was Phillies Phatties for a quick lunch. I had my usual slice of cheese and slice of mushroom, along with a can of Baja Blast. It was quarter 2 by the time I made it there, and the place was deserted. I listened to a college football show on ESPN and ate my pizza in silence.

Headed across Newton Lake Park after I ate, on my way to Westmont. It was an absolutely glorious day, hot and a little humid, but not too bad. I really wish we'd get some rain. The grass in particular looks so brown and brittle! I saw a few dog walkers and fellow bikers as I passed.

The Haddon Township Library was really busy when I arrived. Once again, the carts were overloaded...but they had more help this time, including a teenage girl. I just shelved the kids' DVDs and the overflowing CDs and audio books. (At least, as many CDs as I could shelve. They no longer close to all fit in the reduced CD shelves.)

I want to concentrate on writing and cleaning this week, so I limited my DVD rentals to animation and short movies. They had the newest Strawberry Shortcake set in. I've seen the Shirley Temple vehicle Captain January before, but not in a very long time. One of the Star Wars AUs I have planned is based around The Nutcracker. I found an animated film called The Nutcracker Sweet that could work for inspiration. I also took out two kids' books on the 80's (my current fanfic is set during the summer of 1983).

Made a very quick stop at Dollar Tree on the way home, mainly for sponges. That was a bit of a pain in the rear. The line was literally half-way across the store! Thankfully, there were two lines open, and they both moved relatively fast.

Did a few hours working on my story after I got home. Hera tells Leia that "Fulcrum" is going to talk to them at the party about saving the Cottages. Hank and his buddy and first mate Charlie watch Leia as she strolls home. Charlie can tell Hank is already smitten, but he'd never admit it.

Luke's friends are notorious for their wild parties. Leia's not as amused. She winds her way through the drugs and lobster races and Atari games to find Hera and some of the others on the porch in the back, talking about what Empire Industries might have planned for the properties they're buying. She can't help but listen in...

Ran episodes of Strawberry Shortcake while making chicken sausage with sauteed zucchini, red onion, and mushrooms for dinner. Camping and tall tales told around the fire are the themes of these stories, which also introduce three new characters. Apple Dumpling is obsessed with filming her experience...but she's missing all the fun with the others. Sweet and Sour are a pair of accurately-named twins. Sweet's shy and gentle, Sour is mouthy and a bit of a whiner.

The first story has Plum, Orange Blossom, and Lemon Meringue telling a tale that gets wilder and wilder when they show up at the campsite without the food they brought. The second focuses on Sweet and Sour. Sour tells her own wild story around the fire, but Sweet isn't good at improv and can't figure out how to join in...until her sister backs herself into a corner and needs a little sibling intervention to get out.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Wanting More

Began the day with breakfast and one of the Garfield travel specials. Garfield In Paradise takes the fat cat, his human, and his dog buddy to a tropical tourist trap, where the hotel owners dress like rejects from the mid-70's and like to make Jack Benny jokes. The guys rent a snazzy 50's car and go cruising. A sojourn at the beach is fun, but the car eventually takes them to a village of doo-wop worshiping natives who think the vehicle is the key to stopping their volcano from blowing the whole island sky-high.

I worked a little bit on writing after Garfield ended. Didn't get out to running today's errands until quarter after 12. First stop was the Collingswood PNC Bank. I finally got the check from the Union yesterday. I kept 20 dollars and deposited the rest for as much of my rent as I can afford to pay right now.

Kept going straight on Haddon Avenue, down to Westmont. I had lunch at a small bagel shop in the same mall as the Yogo Factory and the pizza place, across from what used to be the Westmont Theater (but is on its way to becoming Planet Fitness). They're run by two Asian people. The lady was nice enough, but I don't think her husband quite understood my order. At any rate, I had a "Turkey Fresco" sandwich on a whole wheat bagel - turkey, red onion, lettuce, tomato, chipolte mayo (that thankfully wasn't too spicy or slathered on) - and a huge raspberry jam sandwich cookie covered in powdered sugar.

There was a new and unusual tenant next-door to the Yogo Factory. Rocket Fizz is basically a larger version of the Candy Jar in Collingswood or the candy section of the Vermont Country Store. It's shelves and shelves and bins and bins of rare and unusual candy, and more rarely, retro pop culture toys and collectibles. Fun and colorful, but nothing I needed at the moment.

Dodged the lunch hour traffic going into Haddonfield. Made a brief stop at Happy Hippo Toys. I love all the great retro-inspired items Fisher Price has out now. I know we had that "old fashioned" cash register with the red-green-blue buttons as kids, and Rose used to love her original, boxy Chatter Phone.

Counseling was next. I was right on time. While I had fun on vacation, I haven't had a lot of fun since getting back. I overspent and am totally broke right now, to the point where I can't pay my full rent. Work has been a stressful pain in the rear. I haven't been able to concentrate on my story at home. I feel like a total idiot for spending so much on junk.

There has to be more to life than working at a dead-end job and living from paycheck to paycheck. Nobody around here really understands about that. Everyone either lives with someone who can provide a second paycheck, or they have a real job, or they're older or younger than me. I know I'm better than the Acme job. I just wish I knew how to talk to people and prove it, or where to find a job I'd be good at that's equally steady. I can't accept that this is it, and there's nothing else for me.

Basically, she said "write." Keep writing. Oh, I will. It's one of the few things that makes me happy, even when I'm taking forever on a story.

There was some road repairs going on in Westmont that were a bit of a pain. I ended up taking the long way back to Haddon Avenue, heading through the residential areas and past the Crystal Lake Park pools on my way to Primo's Water Ice. Though it was in the lower-mid 80's today and nice and breezy, I was hot from all the riding around. Apparently, so was every other kid in Haddon Township. I wound my way through a long line of bikes leaning against the wall outside and a longer line of pre-teens asking for gelatis and milkshakes inside to make my choice.

Ultimately went with a new one, Lemon Sweet Tea. It didn't really taste much like lemon or tea. It was more like sugar with the faint hint of mint. It was wet, anyway. I enjoyed it at one of the black metal tables, watching a grandmother feed her toddler grandson vanilla soft-serve.

Stopped at the CVS next-door to the Westmont Acme on the way home. I was just about out of toothpaste. Grabbed Colgate MaxClean on sale. Also picked up a generic strawberry-kiwi sparkling water for the way home.

Haddon Lake Park was surprisingly quiet for a really nice day. I did see some dog walkers, but it was mostly me and the Canadian geese. We need rain badly. Everything is starting to look dry and brittle again.

Went back on the computer as soon as I got in and continued the story. Leia wants to talk to Hera Sylendulla (of the Rebels cartoon), one of the few women fisher-folk. She, her crew, and the teens they take care of are year-round residents of one of the cottages. On her way to Hera's boat the Ghost, she passes a dilapidated fishing vessel, the Millennium Falcon, and stops to ogle the guy walking around on-deck in tight shorts and Ray Bans. The guy sees her staring and starts teasing her, asking her if she's going slumming and calling her princess.

Leia finally finds Hera, who tells her some of the cottage residents are having a party that night, and she and Luke are invited. Unfortunately, so is the owner of the Falcon, Hank Solokowski. He tries to get her on a date, but she turns him down..and then wonders what would have happened if she said "yes."

Finished the night with leftovers, sauteed leeks with corn meal, and an episode of Good Eats about leeks. I fell in love with leeks around the same time I first got this episode. I wish I could have at least made the Leek-Potato Soup, but I don't have a stick blender or potatoes.

Monday, August 29, 2016

The Tale of the Merc With the Mouth

I way overslept this morning and just barely made it to work on time. I wish I hadn't. Work was a pain. Every time I'd try to get something done, one of the managers would call me to do something else. I'd start mopping the freezer leaks, then someone would want me to return cold items...and while I was doing that, I'd get called to do carts. And then another manager would want me to mop up the dirty spots in the narrow alley between register 1 and the self-checkout registers. They even called me during my break. I was trying to help the other bagger round up carts when I got called in again. I got stuck on the register for a half-hour. Today was the last day of a huge 4-day sale, and we were really busy. I was not very happy when I got out.

When I got home, I changed and rested for a little while, mainly reading the novelization of Raiders of the Lost Ark. It was quarter of 4 when I finally got moving to do the laundry. I didn't have a huge load, but I did want to get my work clothes done. I'm actually glad I waited. The laundromat was pin-drop quiet when I got in. The only other people there were the anchors on NBC's 4 o'clock news show. It did pick up a little later, but by that time, my clothes were in the drier.

Spent the rest of the afternoon working on fanfic. Leia asks Ezra where Hera and the rest of the crew of the Ghost are. Here, Hera is a fisherwoman, and Zeb and Chopper are part of her crew. Kanan works at Ackbar's as a cook. He's teaching Ezra about surfing, having been one of the youngest members of the Jedi Knights before they disbanded.

Ate leftover summer vegetable-ground chicken casserole and honey-glazed carrots while watching Deadpool. Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) is "The Merc With the Mouth," a wisecracking mercenary who tracks down deadbeats and guys making love with other people's women for a price. He himself is happy in with life, having found a wonderful girlfriend in Vanessa (Morena Baccarin)...until he's diagnosed with terminal cancer. An agent claims there's a government project that can "cure" him. The cure turns out to be far worse than the sickness when he's tortured and maimed by an insane doctor, Ajax (Ed Skrein) and his assistant Angel (Gina Carano). When he escapes the labs, he covers his damaged body with a red suit and calls himself Deadpool. Now he's out for revenge on Ajax and the people who did this to him...if Colossus and one of the teen mutant girls of the X-Men can't slow him down first...

So, yeah, the R-rating on this one is justified, from a couple of sex scenes to lots of swearing, blood, and violence, not to mention the fairly graphic torture sequence. Reynolds' constant stream of jokes (along with his breaking the fourth - and probably fifth and sixth - walls) makes the blood a lot more bearable. Colossus and his friend seem kind of shoehorned in to make this feel more like an X-Man film, though they are a big help in the end.

While I didn't love it as much as Ant-Man, this was still fun, and once again another try at something different. The black comedy lifts this one out of the current glut of superhero films and gives it a different, wackier feel. I can't emphasize enough that this is NOT for kids, or even young teens. For older teenagers on up, especially comics fans, if you love superheroes or black comedy, you'll probably have a lot of fun with this.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Snow In Summer

Slept in this morning after chatting late with Lauren. Made Apricot Pancakes for breakfast while listening to the soundtrack from the MGM musical Til the Clouds Roll By. Without the occasionally overblown numbers as a distraction, you're able to appreciate the all-star cast performing some great Jerome Kern tunes. My favorite is still the hilarious version of "I Won't Dance," performed by Van Johnson and Trudi Erwin (who dubbed dancer Lucile Bremer).

Work was crazy busy when I arrived. I think I figured out why it's been nuts this weekend. We're having a big 4-day sale on chicken and bananas, among other things. I did get stuck in the register a few times, but it slowed down enough by the second half of my shift for me to concentrate on gathering carts, doing returns, and vacuuming up all those leaks. (A couple of the college guys found a vacuum in the back area that can handle sucking up water. It beats the heck out of mopping.)

I also came up with another Star Wars story idea. Whenever I manage to get to this one, it'll be my first Star Wars fanfic set in the actual universe. Taking place between New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, Han, Chewie, Leia, and Luke find themselves on a remote snow planet that's a little more hospitable than Hoth, to the point where it is inhabited, at least by criminals, tundra animals, goblins, and the Snow Queen, the ruthless head of the country who commands ice powers. The goblins make mischief by breaking evil ice shards over the trio. They make the person they stab the opposite of their usual personality. Luke gets stabbed with them in his eyes and heart, making him cold, indifferent, and nasty. He runs off from Han and Leia and is found by the Snow Queen, who takes her to her palace at the top of the planet. His friends get help from a band of local thieves as they search for him...and run afoul of the seemingly kind Summer Queen, who has her own plans for Leia...

Yes, this is a take on the original Hans Christian Anderson version of The Snow Queen. I got the idea from the story Lauren and I are working on now in our private two-person writings that involves a snow queen and an invasion. (We've long stopped posting the stuff we write together. It's just too personal.) I might end up doing this one after I finish the 80's summer story, or after I finish the 30's story. We'll see how things go.

I've now updated my Upcoming Stories and Story Ideas page at my writing blog with this idea. 

I did some writing when I got home. Leia strolls into Roseman's Landing, a series of islands that border Ocean View. It's mostly the home of diners, fishing shacks, and marinas, but it also houses a popular seafood restaurant/marina, Ackbar's. Leia stops in to say "hi" to Ezra Bridger, who is working behind the counter at the fish market. She interrupts his music video-watching long enough to ask him where the rest of his friends are. "Around," he says while bopping to the tune of "Hungry Like the Wolf."

I couldn't find a recipe for beans and hot dogs that didn't involve canned baked beans. I don't eat canned baked beans. Most canned baked beans include junk like high fructose corn syrup. I finally made my own. Cooked onions and the beef hot dogs in olive oil before adding tomato sauce, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, and molasses. (Wish I could have added barbecue sauce, but I didn't have any of that, either.) I probably shouldn't have used red kidney beans, but the can was almost out of date, and I couldn't find the navy beans.

Listened to the soundtracks to Flashdance and Streets of Fire while I ate. Flashdance would have been out by the time my story is set in the summer of 1983 (according to Wikipedia, it was released in April of that year), and probably would have been wildly popular, especially with girls. Personally, I never got the interest - it's overheated melodrama - but it does have some great music that's very evocative of its era. Though Streets of Fire didn't come out until a year later (and wasn't a hit at the time), the theatrical music is even closer to the feel I'm going for.

Finished the night with more Lego Indiana Jones 2. I didn't get far with either the last Treasure Round or the first bonus round I tried. The last treasure round is a point-and-shoot round...but you have to shoot at barely visible targets on a circus train, and you have to do it fast! I'm just not fast enough. I did manage to get through the hot rod race that lets you win two more characters...including one with a book that can open the door to Marshall College, where Indy works. The book said to shoot a switch to your right with a gun, but I couldn't figure out which switch they meant. There were no switches to the right, and nothing seemed to happen when I shot the two red squares behind Indy. I'll try again tomorrow or later this week.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Sunshine Harvest

I slept longer than I'd planned on. It was nearly 10:30 before I had breakfast. Ran another episode of The Backyardigans while I ate my cereal and peach. The kids are cave people who spend their time inventing everyday things and thinking of names for them. Tasha and Austin invent the "Cave Party" and invite valley cave dwellers Uniqua, Tyrone, and Pablo up to their cave to dance and howl at the moon. The other three have to invent ways of getting up the snow-covered mountain.

It was past quarter after 11 when I finally made it out to this week's Collingswood Farm Market. It wasn't quite as busy so late in the morning. A lot of the produce was already gone, but I did grab a few things. Berries are gone, but I did see grapes, potatoes, and Gala apples for the first time today. I ended up with nectarines (the small peaches were gone), tiny green apples, Chinese beans, mushrooms, and corn. At least it was a nice day for it, hot but not humid, with a very blue sky and a little breeze.

Put on The Good Dinosaur and had Pumpkin-Chocolate Chip Muffins for lunch after I got everything put away. Pixar once again gives us another odd premise - what would have happened if the dinosaurs never became extinct? Apparently, the answer is "go west, young dino." An Apatosaurus family lives on a small farm near a river. Arlo desperately wants to prove to his parents that he can overcome his fears and be worthy of a mark with the rest of them, especially after his father dies trying to save him from the raging waters. He finds a small feral human eating his family's food and tries to get rid of it. After the two get lost, they have to find their way home, meeting a variety of dinosaurs (and western cliches) on the way.

I get the feeling people were expecting a lot more of this after Inside Out was such a revolutionary hit. This is no masterpiece, but it is a very pleasant cross between Old Yeller, The Land Before Time, Bambi, and John Ford's westerns. (The Tyrannosaurus ranching family were my favorite characters.) Be warned that there is some violence and at least one death onscreen - you'll want to have a hand to hold for little ones. Mostly, this was a very sweet coming-of-age tale that deserved far better than it got in theaters and is recommended.

Work was a pain during the first half. It was really crazy, with very long lines. Every time I tried to shelve items or bag or help with carts, I'd get called right back in to the registers. Thankfully, it slowed down enough by quarter after 4 that I was able to finish out the carts and work on the returns with fewer problems. I was able to grab honey (which I forgot yesterday) and hurry out.

Did an episode of Danger Mouse as I ate leftovers for dinner. "150 Millions Years Lost" is actually one of the ace rodent secret agent's less-strange adventures. Penfold is accidentally sent back 150 million years by resident scientist Dr. Squakncluck. Danger Mouse first follows him into the past, then has to figure out what to do when the statue of Lord Nelson in Trafalgar Square is accidentally replaced with Penfold and a Dipldocus.

Finished the night with a little writing. Ben tells Luke and his other surf-crazy buddies about the Jedi, the elite group of surfers he and Luke's late older brother Adam once belonged to. They were considered legends in the surfing culture who won every local tournament and helped keep the town safe from trash like the Imperial Gang. Luke and his buddies want to learn their moves. Tomorrow, Ben says, when he's up to it and the waves are better. Someday, Luke thinks, I'm going to be that good. I'll be legendary, too.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Return of the Crystal

Spent most of the morning writing, and actually getting somewhere this time. Luke and Ben hit the beach to meet his buddies Wedge and Deak for some surfing. (Hobbie took Biggs in their cottage to get him cleaned up after the fight with the Imperial Gang.) The boys admire Leia as she heads down to the docks. (Luke doesn't get it - she's just his sister.) Ben used to be a part of an elite group of surfers known as the Jedi in the 50's and 60's. The group disbanded in the late 60s, but Ben says he might be able to teach Luke and his buddies some of their tricks now.

Ran Backyardigans tales of adventure and exploration during breakfast and while getting ready for work. "High Tea" has Tyrone, Pablo, and Uniqua unable to decide on an exciting thing to do, so they let Tasha choose the activity. She goes with a tea party. This elicits groans from the other kids...until they realize that Tasha's idea of a "tea party" involves trips to Borneo, the Gobi Desert, and a meeting with the Emperor of China (Austin) for the ingredients for the perfect cup of tea.

Uniqua heads to "The Heart of the Jungle" to return a wormen, one of the bright-colored worm-like critters that appear on the show from time to time, to its home. Tyrone, Pablo, and Austin all represent facets of Tarzan's character or personality over the years - Tyrone talks to animals, Pablo is super-strong, and Austin doesn't talk much. Uniqua insists she's a scientist, and scientists don't believe all that pulp fiction mumbo-jumbo.

Work wasn't too bad when I got in. I did returns right when I arrived and around quarter after 3. It started to pick up shortly after...and got to be a pain. I got stuck in the register at least three times. The manager told me to do returns instead of going on my break, which was a half-hour late. When I tried getting out there again, they put me back in the registers because the lines were so darn long. By the time I made it back outside, I only had ten minutes left. And I was alone for my last hour there, which was probably a mistake.

Pretty decent schedule this week. Thankfully after all the trouble today, the latest I work is 4 on Sunday. The rest of the week is all morning work, Tuesday and next Saturday off (the former for counseling). Nothing abnormal for the time of year, and slightly more hours.

I didn't really need all that much this week, especially since I planned on doing my produce shopping at farm markets. Restocked sugar, canned chicken, tomato sauce, crushed pineapple, chocolate chips, skim milk, and buttermilk. The clearance shelves are still full - I grabbed more vanilla extract and Pillsbury Cranberry Quick Bread mix to stock up for the holidays, along with tomato soup and chicken and dumplings soup. They really didn't have too much in the way of meat on good sales. I bought chicken sausages with a manager's coupon on them and beef hot dogs I'll cut up and make into my own home-made beans and weenies.

But mostly importantly, I saw a display for Crystal Pepsi in the front of the store. Matt at Dinosaur Dracula mentioned last Christmas it was coming back, but I hadn't seen it around here yet. I had to buy a bottle. It didn't disappoint. It was just as sweet and good as it was when I used to drink it occasionally in the mid-90's.

When I finally made it home, I changed, put everything away, then went right back out. Today was Oaklyn's Final Friday Festival, aka their Farm Market and food booth block party. This time, they had three farm booths. They had a small selection but good prices, and even a few things I'd never seen before. I went with a tomato, two leeks, an eggplant, two small green peppers, and a new one on me - a white cucumber. Stopped and admired kids scribbling on a long piece of white sketch paper to make a unique banner at Studio LuLoo's booth.

Bought a gyro from one of the food trucks for dinner. It was very tasty, but soo messy! I had a hard time finding a place to eat. It was still packed on West Clinton at quarter after 7. I finally sat down across from a family with a baby and an older boy who looked like they were just about ready to leave. Bought a sweet and butter slice of pound cake from Viola's International Deli's booth on the way home.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Rainbow Flight

Once again began the day with work. Work was more-or-less the same as yesterday, and even less busy. By the time it started picking up, I was done. I rounded up carts when I arrived and after lunch, did a few returns, and gathered trash. (And I found out what all the secrecy was with not telling me why I can't do returns yesterday. I'm guessing someone saw me peeking at the books in the magazine aisle. I really, really wish they'd tell me this stuff when it happens and not wait.)

One of the customer service mangers called me up as I was leaving. The union the Acme belongs to was giving out money leftover from its strike fund. Did I want my share? Uh, yes! She let me call them in the office. It amounts to about $230 and will be here in a day or two.

Had lunch when I got home and finished out My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. "Testing, Testing, 123" has Twilight Sparkle trying to help Rainbow Dash study for her entrance exam to get into the Wonderbolts, an exclusive flying squadron. Rainbow just doesn't seem to pick up any history from Twilight's endless flashcards and notes, or Rarity's historical fashion parade, or Pinkie's rap. She thinks she's stupid...until she discovers her own method of learning. She finally makes the cut in "Newbie Dash," but messes up badly her first day in the Wonderbolts. The other members of the team dub her "Rainbow Crash." She loathes the nickname and tries to find a way to out-fly it.

The Cutie Mark Crusaders have finally earned the symbol on their rears that represents their talents by the time of "On Your Marks." They want to continue to find other ponies who need help understanding their Cutie Marks, but they can't find anyone together. Apple Blossom is upset when the other two leave to pursue separate interests. She can't find anything for her to do on her own, until she takes up tap dancing and meets a young male colt who wants to dance more than anything, but has horrible stage fright. She corrals the other two to help make his dreams come true...and show her that we can expand our horizons (and our pool of friends) when we break out of our shells and try new things.

Spent the next couple of hours working on my fanfic. Luke eventually joins his friends at the beach. The guys tell him about their summers and how they're hoping to help stop Empire Industries from buying the Cottages. Meanwhile, Leia decides to go for a walk down to the docks, where she meets a certain fisherman and his big, hairy English buddy...

I had just enough time to throw together a summer vegetable casserole from ground turkey and various old veggies I had in my refrigerator for dinner. Ran an episode of Faerie Tale Theatre while I cooked and ate. "The Emperor's New Clothes" is an adaptation of the comic Hans Christian Anderson tale about a ruler (Dick Shawn) who is more obsessed with his clothes than anything else. He constantly taxes his subjects to finance his wardrobe. Two con men (Art Carney and Alan Arkin) invent an "invisible" cloth that fools can't see and use it to take the whole court, including the vain Emperor himself, for a ride.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Modern Musical Mayhem

Began a hot, sunny day at work. Which was a pain. It was fairly dead all morning. I did carts and returns during the first half of my shift. We were so quiet that the carts didn't really need to be rounded up later. I did gather baskets, but they wouldn't let me do returns again. Why, I asked. "No reason," they said. "The manager said." I cleaned up the back room, gathered trash, and wiped up a spill in the bakery instead.

I was so frustrated when I got home. My bike didn't help. I thought the brakes weren't working, but it turns out the back wheel is loose again. I'll just have to ride it like that until I can get to the bike shop in Haddonfield next week.

Relaxed and had lunch when I got home while listening to the Hamilton original cast album. This musical adaptation of a recent biography of the "ten dollar founding father" introduces us to a tenacious young man (Lin-Manuel Miranda) who comes to New York after surviving a rough childhood and early adolescence in the Caribbean. He went on to become George Washington's (Christopher Jackson) "Right Hand Man" during the Revolutionary War and marry one of the wealthy Schuyler Sisters, Eliza (Phillipa Soo). He'd keep going on after the war, becoming the first Secretary of the Treasury, writing most of the Federalist Papers, and helping to create the US' financial plan. Alas, his later years were marred by his son's death in a duel, affairs, and rumors of embezzlement. He, too, would die in a duel at the hands of rival Aaron Burr (Leslie Odom, Jr.). Meanwhile, King George III (Jonathan Groff) gloats that the US will return to him, then tear each other apart.

I'm not normally a fan of rap, but the music here is surprisingly thoughtful and well-written. I can understand why this has become wildly popular, especially with people who aren't normally musical fans. While not 100% historically accurate (starting with the diverse casting), the story is compelling and even thrilling, kind of the flip-side of the political wrangling in Broadway's other major Revolutionary War musical 1776.

(Warning - do heed the "explicit content" label on the CD. There's a bit of nasty language and minor sex in the second half.)

Teenagers and college students in particular seem to have fallen in love with this show (it's sold out at the Richard Rogers Theater in New York for the foreseeable future), but if you have a taste for rap and/or Americana and don't mind the rough language, you might be willing to enjoy this little-known slice of history, too.

Did the laundry around 3 PM. The laundromat wasn't busy when I left or when I came in, but it did get pretty crazy in between. Good thing I had a small load anyway, mostly clothes from vacation last week.

Tried to concentrate on writing, but I was too tired. Leia and Luke listen to Ben as he explains what's going on. I'm still stuck on this. I keep looking up stuff on the 80's at the Jersey Shore and getting distracted.

I finally gave up around 7:30 for a late dinner. I just had a quick tuna salad on red-leaf lettuce with tomatoes and radishes. Watched a couple of episodes of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic as I ate. Resident flyers Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy are in the spotlight in these flight-themed tales. Pinkie Pie and Rainbow Dash are having fun with pranking their friends until Rainbow Dash's buddy Griffon arrives in "Griffon the Brush Off." Pinkie doesn't like Griffon's grouchy attitude or her bullying, especially of Fluttershy. Rainbow Dash inadvertently turns the tables at a party for her new friend.

"Hurricane Fluttershy" is one I can definitely relate to. Rainbow Dash is training all of Ponyland's Pegasus to fly as fast as they can, in order to create a hurricane that'll bring Cloudville its annual water supply. Flutteryshy is terrified of flying. She isn't very good at it and was teased mercilessly about her slowness as a colt. Rainbow Dash just wants to beat last year's speed record. Rainbow discovers how important even the smallest contribution can be when Flutteryshy finds a way to help after all.

Returned to Lego Indiana Jones 2 to start the "treasure"  (aka Free Play) levels. These are the rounds you do to collect more "artifacts" after you've finished the regular story rounds. Did a very short level in the diner where the brawl occurred in the regular story mode. During the night, you have to have Mutt repair a jukebox, then break things and have a College Girl jump for beads and smack rats to get the artifacts. No sweat.

The treasure mode bike chase round was even simpler. It was an urban version of the jungle bonus round Lauren and I did in the second part. Thankfully, except for a few by the library and in the park, the balloons were much easier to see! I'll move on to more treasure levels the next time I play.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Scent of a Summer Day

I slept in this morning and didn't get going until past 10. I couldn't believe how much cooler it was when I finally started breakfast. It had to be in the 70's, at least, sunny and breezy. It was a great day to bake. I hadn't baked in ages. Added some of that canned pumpkin and maple extract I got on clearance and the last of the chocolate chips to Alton Brown's Old School Muffin recipe and created Pumpkin-Chocolate Chip Muffins. Oh yum, they came out so nicely, wonderfully moist and flavorful.

Finally headed out to run errands around quarter after 1. First stop was the Oaklyn Library. They were surprisingly busy for a nice day and them being so close to closing. There were several people on the computers and a mom helping a little boy with his summer school lessons. I worked on organizing the DVDs. They were a mess! You'd think people would be able to figure out where to put things by now.

Stopped at Capitol Pizza really quick for lunch. It was 1:30, and they were just a bit past lunchtime. There were two other guys watching The Chew when I arrived. By the time I was eating my slice of mushroom, slice of cheese, and drinking Diet Pepsi, I had the place to myself.

Dodged the traffic on Cuthbert and the White Horse Pike as best I could as I headed for Westmont. I checked out Rite Aid first. They weren't having good sales on pads or ibuprofen. Thriftway's pads were a decent price, but they had practically no stock of almost any medicine in their small pharmacy section. I settled on the pads and their 75 cent toilet paper, which I ran out of this morning.

The Haddon Township Library was even busier than the Oaklyn Library. Their return carts, for books and DVDs, were overflowing! Everyone must be coming back from vacation, or returning items they took out during the recent heat waves. It took me almost an hour to shelve the piles of titles. The only title I couldn't get in was an E, Ex Machina. Everything else went in, even foreign films and kids' titles. I never even got to the audio books or CDs or new releases.

I took a couple of things out this week. After I've enjoyed all the other obscure comic book adaptations I've seen this year, I was definitely willing to give the irreverent Deadpool a shot, despite its R rating. They had one of Disney's most recent films, The Good Dinosaur, as well as the latest release for My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. Digging around in the Library's electronic card catalog website uncovered Five Minute Star Wars Stories, a collection of easy reader adaptations of famous moments from various Star Wars movies (including The Force Awakens), and a gathering of the novelizations of the first three Indiana Jones movies.

It was too nice of a day not to ride across Newton Lake Park on my way home. I'm surprised it wasn't much busier. Maybe the fact that I didn't get out until past quarter after 4 had something to do with it. There couldn't have been a nicer day in late August. The sun was shining, the river was sparkling, and the flora seemed a little bit perkier than it was the last time I was in the park. The humidity must have vanished with the torrential rain on Sunday.

Stopped at Phillies Yummies for a treat. I've been wanting to try their ice cream sandwiches all summer. They're a pretty decent price, compared to the rest of their stock. I tried the chocolate. Not bad. I suspect it may have come from a store, but it was very big, cool, sweet, and quite messy.

I ate a very quick dinner when I got home. Finished up the Pepe Le Pew Looney Tunes All Stars DVD as I did. Although Pepe's various attempts at wooing female cats could be formulaic, unlike Wile E and Road Runner, they did try to switch things up with different settings (Old New Orleans, modern Paris, the Louvre, the French Foreign Legion, a French movie studio, the Alps) and young "ladies" to be wooed (domestic cats accidentally doused with paint, a chihuahua trying to impress her friends with a fluffier coat, a wild panther who escaped the zoo, even a male cat trying to avoid dogs and people's boots). One cartoon even had Pepe mistaking Sylvester for a skunk in a gag in the very end of what was otherwise a Sylvester/Tweety romp.

The only cartoon to not have him chasing some hapless "beautiful young lady skunk" was "Odor of the Day." Here, Pepe vies with a dog for the bed in a warm cabin. It was kind of odd and really seemed more like a Daffy or solo Sylvester outing than a Pepe short.

Finished the night with writing. Ben says he and the other residents of the Cottages are trying to figure out what the Empire Industries wants with all the beachfront property they're buying. Leia and Luke agree to help figure out what's going on.

Monday, August 22, 2016

The Coyote, the Road Runner, and the Secret Agent

Slept in a bit this morning. Started the day with breakfast and Wile E Coyote/Road Runner shorts. Most of the cartoons in the All-Stars set were from the mid-late 60's, shortly before the Warner Bros Animation Studios shut down for good. My favorites, though, were the modern shorts. The first three all looked pretty recent, given their well-done CGI animation, and they all captured the flavor of the original shorts very well. Two shorts from the 90's were also fun (especially "Chariots of Fur"). I know most Tunes fans are down on the Baby Looney Tunes series, but the short "Little Go Beep" was hilarious. I loved mini Wile E using toys to trap mini Road Runner.

Spent most of the morning writing. I didn't get far. Ben tells his adopted niece and nephew that Empire Industries is buying up as many properties as they can. They've offered to buy the Cottages, but he declined. Leia thinks there has to be more to this than dominating business on the island and is determined to find out what.

I had a quick chicken salad lunch before heading off to work. My first day back at work was mostly very busy and very annoying. I ended up in the register a lot more than I would have liked. I would rather have been doing returns, or at least spending a nice day outside. I rounded up carts for about 10 minutes before they pulled me back inside to take customers again.

Did a little grocery shopping after I finally got off. I mostly needed fruit - grabbed peaches, the cheapest fruit I could find. The Acme's huge clearances continue. I picked up the Pillsbury Cranberry Quick Bread Mix Dad loved for Thanksgiving, a dark chocolate cake mix, and something called "Perfect Portions," a small cake for one or two people, complete with frosting and cake mix. I went with Lemon Bliss.

Got my schedule for the rest of this week as well. I have tomorrow off, then work more four-hour shifts either early in the morning or in the mid-afternoon. All fine and fairly normal for this time of year. The later shift on Saturday will allow me to get to the Collingswood Farm Market.

Since I didn't get to have my usual Sunday pancakes, I made Maple-Chocolate Chip Pancakes for dinner. I wish I hadn't burned one side of the first one. The second one was amazing, just sweet enough and very fluffy.

Ran The Man With the Golden Gun while I ate and cleaned up from dinner. The title character in this mid-70's James Bond outing is Scaramonga (Christopher Lee), a very elegant assassin who is so good at what he does, he asks for a million dollars per kill. Bond (Roger Moore) is worried that he's after him. Scaramonga's real target is the creator of a solar device that helps to create a solar ray that could end the (then) current energy crisis, or become an efficient laser gun. Scaramonga has something of an obsession with taking down Bond, whom he sees as his equal. Bond has to make his way through the back streets of Bangkok and a karate school in Hong Kong in order to find the world's most dignified killer, with the (dubious) aid of fellow secret agent Mary Goodnight (Britt Ekland).

Lee's presence as one of the best Bond villains elevates this rather strange outing. My biggest complaint was too much padding. The whole solar subplot was unnecessary, as was the goofy sequence with the schoolgirls and the martial arts school. (As much as I loved seeing two Asian schoolgirls able to kick butt even better than James.) They did NOT have to bring back the annoying hillbilly sheriff character from Live and Let Die, either. Britt Ekland's Mary Goodnight was both useless and dumb - getting stuck in the trunk of a car while she was planting a bug was especially stupid. Also not a fan of the derivative theme song, which sounds like a very bad imitation of the theme from Goldfinger.

Though I've heard this doesn't usually rank very high with hard-core Bond fans, I did end up enjoying it. For all the goofiness, it has a surprisingly gritty feel, with Moore's Bond acting far tougher than usual for his movies. He very nearly breaks the arms of the Bond villain woman (Maud Abrams) at one point. Lee's Scaramonga is terrific. He's a man who loves what he does, makes good money off of it, and is glad to meet someone else whom he thinks of as an equal. He's not a showy or obvious villain, but Lee makes him elegant and effective. His dwarf sidekick was pretty awesome, too.

If you're a Bond fan, particularly of Moore's run, or want to try a slightly outside-of-the-box Bond, this is far better than its reputation suggests and is recommended.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Wait For It

It was still relatively sunny when I heard Lauren's parents moving around 7:30. I read, wrote, and packed until Lauren emerged at 9. We spent our last hour together playing more Rayman Origins. She'd already been working on the first level of the next world, your basic ice world. We did another ice world, then finished with the fire levels. We got one level in the ocean-themed fourth world in before Lauren realized it was time to go.

The clouds were starting to gather as we headed through the countryside of western Massachusetts and upstate New York, but they still weren't really threatening at that point. There was no traffic, and we arrived at the Albany-Rensslauer Train Station with enough time for me to buy a Chicken Caesar Salad for lunch, and for us to watch some of the Team Rhythmic Gymnastics finals, one of the last Olympic competitions. Incidentally, we did see Russia's eventual gold-medal-winning performance. I thought the crowd seemed to like the routines from Israel and the Ukraine (the latter did theirs to Madonna's "Vogue") better.

The train had no trouble leaving the station on time, around 12:05. They were crazy-full. I was able to eat my lunch before I was joined by a young man who spent most of the ride either sleeping or messing around with his phone. I listened to music on my iPod and enjoyed the spectacular view. The view going to New York is glorious, all shining lakes and green mountains dotted with mansions and cabins. It's so postcard-worthy.

We were a little late getting into New York, but it wasn't a big deal. The trouble started after we finally made it to Penn Station. I kept checking the departure monitor every few minutes. The train with my number on it was coming to Boston, and it was 50 minutes late. It took them nearly 20 minutes to figure out that the same train on its way to Washington DC was not going to be on-time. It first said 35, then switched to 45 around 4 PM. I spent most of the time reading Lando Calarissian and the Star Cave of the Thromboka, using the bathroom, and constantly checking either the monitor or the main board. When the train did finally arrive, it was so full, the line had to be split into two entrances just to get everyone on.

By the time we finally rolled out of Penn Station at nearly 5, the rain that had threatened in the New York suburbs was now coming down in torrents. The train was so darn full, I grabbed one of the last seats in the very back of the car, next to the bathroom. I was initially joined by an older woman and a man and his adorable daughter. The woman got off at Elizabeth; the man and his daughter eventually joined the rest of their family. I finished the ride with two teen boys in goth dress and a college-age girl, all of whom spent the ride playing with their smartphones and hand-held video games

Didn't make it to Philly until 6:30. I just barely had enough time to grab a hoagie at Jersey Mike's, eat it fast, and dash to the NJ Transit train. Thankfully, by this point, the rain had stopped. In fact, there was a rather nice sunset. Also, once again, we left on time but were late arriving in Cherry Hill, thanks to stopping to let another train go past. Dad picked me up at the platform and drove me home.

I called the Acme as soon as I got in, even before I unpacked everything else. I'm working 1 to 5 tomorrow. Good. That'll give me time to get organized and do some writing, and it's not too hard for my first day back in over a week.

And yes, today ends my vacation. I'm glad I did it in August this year, instead of waiting for the fall. I had an even better time with Lauren this year than I did last year. We're talking about Lauren coming to New Jersey earlier next year, in May instead of June. It's too hot in June for all the walking we do, not to mention to keep the air conditioning off. (Lauren doesn't like air conditioning. Her family has no air conditioners.) The kids will still be in school, and a lot of the places we frequently visit here will be quieter.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Goin' Up the Country

Today was yard sale day, or tag sales, as they're called in New England. Lauren and I were up around 9 and out by 10 to take in a couple near-by. Most of them just had knick-knacks, although one had a really nice collection of soft blankets and linens. Lauren bought a comfy blue plaid blanket and some hangers. (She says her parents are in perpetual need of them.) Otherwise, neither of us came up with anything. The one large estate sale mostly had dishes that were too fancy and fruit-painted for my taste, frilly pink linens, and a lot of books on Israel.

Finally headed into Vermont around 11 (after Lauren stopped for gas). Vermont is gorgeous country. It's moniker "The Green Mountain State" is well-earned. We rolled by endless forest-covered mountains, meadows carpeted with wildflowers in every color of the rainbow, historic ski lodges, ancient faded brown barns selling tractors or furniture, and whole families of horses frolicking in brilliant green fields. The view from the highway was amazing. You could literally see the mists rolling off the mountain tops. It was a glorious day for a ride, too, sunny, warmer than yesterday (but not out of line for August) and still dry.

Had lunch at Bennington Station. This restaurant is situated in a gorgeous restored stone train depot. It was noon when we arrived, but surprisingly for Saturday, they weren't that busy. There were a few other people in the glass-enclosed back room where we ate, a group of older women and a family of four women (including one middle-school-aged girl). Their sandwiches were huge and incredible. My burger patty was as thick as the stone in the walls around us. Lauren's Vermont Turkey Sandwich was stuffed to the top of the whole wheat bread crusts with turkey slices, apples, and local cheddar cheese. Other than it was really salty, my burger was amazing. I'm glad I passed up the condiments when the waitress suggested them. The lettuce, red onion, and tomato was more than enough!

Weston is a small village nestled snugly in the mountains in the heart of Vermont. It's known mostly for the popular Vermont Country Store. This venerable old building is filled with everything from Vermont plaid flannels to hard-to-find shampoos from the 70s to giant Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls to penny candy. They were elbow-to-elbow busy, almost as much as they were when we visited last year.

Lauren bought shirts for her dad and candy for herself and her parents. I don't have much money left. Even the sale items upstairs were either outside of my budget or too big to carry home. They sell their own brand of fancy milled soaps. I've seen sandalwood, lavender, citrus, rose, and oatmeal and honey scents in other stores...but I've never seen apple cider vinegar-scented soap! I also found a set of neon colored pencils

I love the Vermont Country Store's Cookie Buttons! They have samples of each flavor of cookie scattered throughout the food area. I tried a couple, but I fell in love with this year's new fall flavor, Apple Crisp. Wow! It's so spicy and sweet. (And, oddly, it comes in a bag, rather than a box like most of the other flavors.) I had to get it.

After we left the Store, we bought sodas at Mildred's Dairy Bar (named for the Orton family's long-time matriarch, who passed on in 2010), then went across the street to the Weston Country Store. Kind of the same thing, but with more Vermont-themed merchandise and slightly better prices. I didn't get anything here...and Lauren just wanted to go home.

Lauren had been having problems with her cell phone ever since we crossed the border between Massachusetts and Vermont. She was trying to text her parents and tell them we were at the Store, but it either wouldn't go through, or was taking forever. She'd grown increasingly frustrated the further we went into the mountains. Tired of the cell phone problems, she insisted we skip anything else and just go home.

We did stop at a small KFC/Taco Bell in Bennington to pick up dinner. She grabbed the large Doublelicious sandwich. I was still kind of full from that burger and just went with the Chicken Littles sandwich. We bought bought biscuits. I grabbed a Mountain Dew Baja Blast as well.

The van finally made it into the garage around 6. Lauren showed her parents her finds. I started to do a little packing and rounded up my two new CD's to sync them onto my iPod to listen to on the way home. We ate our sandwiches around 7, then went online.

Right now, we're chatting, listening to 80's pop music on an internet radio station, and sipping tea and eating soft bakery chocolate chip cookies. Tomorrow, I'm heading home at noon after Lauren's folks go to an early appointment.

Friday, August 19, 2016

You Spin Me Round and Round

I couldn't believe how gorgeous it was when we headed out this morning. The sky was a searing blue, the clouds were gone, and the breeze felt great. It was just barely in the lower 80's. There couldn't have been a nicer day for a ride around Lauren's area, starting at a near-by Barnes and Noble. This was smaller than the other ones we'd explored, with no toys or electronic media area. Lauren didn't find anything she wanted. I looked at the Star Wars paperbacks, but I ultimately just grabbed a journal.

We had an early lunch at a rustic branch of a local coffee shop chain called Juice and Java. Lauren knows the owners, and she knows they make some of the best sandwiches in the Berkshires. We got there early enough for me to order off the breakfast menu. I had an egg wrap with peppers, cheese, and salsa and a Dasani Mixed Berry Sparkling Water. She had turkey avocado panini and a Dr. Pepper.

It was a glorious day for mini-golf. There's a course just outside the Berkshire Mall. Lauren grabbed a purple ball, I grabbed a red ball, and we played through all 18 holes. The course is small but wonderfully cheesy - Lauren said she played it as a kid. There's all kinds of typical traps that still work, like tiny houses with narrow openings that balls get stuck in (it happened to both of us) and fiberglass bears you have to navigate your ball around. There was a family - a mom, a dad, a pre-teen girl, and a grandma and grandpa - ahead of us. They were taking forever and finally let us skip ahead. The "19th hole" is a pinball-type game that allows you to either get points off your score or a free game. We each got three points off. Even with that, I still beat Lauren by 1 point in a very close game.

Since we were in the area, we swung over to the Berkshire Mall proper, first hitting their Target. This time, we both made scores. They didn't have the new Ever After High signatures (regular characters), but they did have most of the Epic Winter snow-themed dolls. I went with one of only two new characters introduced in that line, the limited edition Crystal Winter. Couldn't resist my favorite toasted coconut-covered marshmallows anymore. Lauren found Christmas presents for her Dad.

Unlike the other malls we've visited this week, the Berkshire Mall is largely dead. It's only half-full, mainly with mall mainstays like Bath and Body Works and Jay Street Video Store. I didn't get anything at the latter. Lauren picked up a Wii U game and a Sega Genesis port of several popular 80's arcade games she could play on her Retron (a machine that can play up to 5 older game systems in some newer versions).

The mall does have one new tenant - Toy Giant, a toy store that mixes in toys from smaller companies with a few selected items from larger corporations. It's a lot like Happy Hippo Toys in Haddonfield, or Toy Genius at the Cherry Hill Mall. I didn't find anything, but Lauren picked up an action figure of popular WWE wrestler "Uncle" Dean Ambrose for her dad.

Started out to Jiminy Peak around 2:30. Jiminy Peak Mountain Resort is mostly a ski lodge...but in the summer, it has a few unique rides. We skipped the swing and the trampoline in favor of our two favorites, the Mountain Coaster and the Alpine Super Slide. The really cool thing about these rides is you control how fast and slow they go via levers in the cars. You have more control over the speed of the slide car, but there's less around you. The slide is a fiberglass course, and it's longer and twistier. Lauren says she's gotten burns several times, and wipe outs have been known to happen.

You have to take a chair lift to get to the start of the slide, which is a nice ride in and of itself. The lifts pass over the slide, giving you a great view of people going down. At least two little kids waved at us as they whooshed away. (The girl with the Afro curls and sweet smile was adorable!) You get an amazing view of the mountainside and hiking trails right before you arrive at the top, too.

Our last chair lift ride of the day was marred by a family with a grade-school age girl who kept bouncing her legs up and down. Every time she bounced, so did the cable...and us with it. Instead of telling her to stop, her mother and her father and older sibling in the car ahead of us egged her on, and even joined in. Please, if the rules say "don't swing your legs on the lift," remember the people behind you and don't swing your legs on the lift...or encourage others to.

The Mountain Coaster is shorter and you can't control the speed as well, but it does have its virtues. It's a sturdy steel track that doesn't feel quite as wild as the slide; the car has a belt and shoulder harness. It can still go fast, though! While it does rattle, it mostly goes around. There's a few up and down hills, but no steep hills (except the first ascent), no huge drops, and no loops. Beats the heck out of the Comet for non-coaster people like Lauren and me.

(It actually reminds me a little of the Flitzer at Morey's Pier in Wildwood. That was one of the only roller coasters I'd ride on the boardwalk as a kid. In fact, it was my first coaster. Mom, who loves roller coasters, talked me onto it and rode with me. While you don't control the ride, the track is very similar, all turns, no dips, hills, or loops.)

(Oh, and incidentally, Lauren and I were both fine when we finished. No burns or wipe outs here today, or even pulled muscles.)

We went around on each ride five times before we finally decided it was time for dinner. Lauren drove us back down to the Berkshire Mall. This time, we hit their one and only sit-down restaurant, The Garden. The Garden is pretty much a smaller, slightly cheaper version of Applebee's, a neighborhood bar and grill. They have great sandwiches and pretty decent Mexcian, too. Lauren had a spinach and mushroom quesadilla. I had a Monte Cristo with raspberry jam and fries. My Monte Cristo was very filling, and very different from the open-faced sandwiches that Monte Cristos usually are in New Jersey. This had the same turkey, ham, and Swiss Cheese filling on French toast, but the sandwiches were fried before being sliced. Wow. They were so decadent and delicious, very yummy with the jam. They were also very thick, too much for me to finish. Lauren finished her quesadilla, though, possibly the first time she ate more than I did!

Full and tired from our rides, we just headed home after dinner. I went in the shower. Lauren watched the Toronto Blue Jays-Cleveland Indians game with her parents. (Cleveland won, BTW, according to Lauren.) When I got out, I had cookies, we both had water, and we went online.

Our last outing will be out and about in the area again to check out a couple of promising yard sales, then up through the wilds of Vermont to visit the Vermont Country Store.

Oh, and meet Crystal Winter! The daughter of the Snow Queen and King is happy with being in charge of the winter, partially because it allows her to play her favorite sport - ice hockey! She's the star of Epic Winter, the newest Ever After High special that has the kids searching for a rose to end eternal winter at the high school.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

I'll Follow the Sun

Started out around quarter of 10, this time through downtown Pittsfield, Lee, and Lenox (which we visited when I was here last October). We made a brief stop at the bank where Lauren works in Pittsfield, the Co-Op, for her to get some money for the rest of the week and to introduce me to her co-workers. I met two young lady tellers, a sweet older woman teller, and her manager, a very young, bright-looking fellow named Steve.

Lee took us to the Masspike for almost an hour. It was a gorgeous day for a long ride, sunny and breezy and blue with no humidity in sight. Lauren cranked up Irish jigs, polka, classic rock, and 80's hard rock as we headed down the highway, the wind in our hair. We arrived in Holyoke to visit their huge mall by almost noon.

First stop of the day was their Target. It was surprisingly busy for noon, mostly with kids and their parents buying back-to-school stuff. Lauren didn't make any finds, but I picked up a few things here. Mattel just put out a bunch of new Ever After High dolls in the last couple of months. There were a few to choose from, but they were all $20. At that price, I was only taking one. I finally went with Jillian Beanstalk - I love her bright smile. I also picked up two CD's I've been wanting:

The Monkees - Good Times (their latest release)

Hamilton Original Cast Album (I've been searching for this for a decent price for ages. Everyone else offline has it for between $27 and $30. Target had it for $18.99, cheaper than it is even at Amazon right now.)

We were both hungry. Lauren doesn't like eating in the mornings, and I'd only had a small breakfast. Ruby Tuesday was a short walk from the Target mall entrance. They're basically Applebee's with a more elegant, rugged atmosphere. We slid into a dark brown vinyl booth that was as smooth as the bright ball the women volleyball players spiked over a net on the TV screen. Lauren had a chicken BLT. I had the Avocado Turkey Burger. Yum. Even if the turkey burger patty wasn't hand-made, it was at least huge and juicy, with fresh avocado slices, tomato, and lettuce, and crispy bacon. Both sandwiches were enormous. Lauren couldn't finish hers. I did finish mine and poked around in her fries as well. (They were good, too - the kind with the skins on, like at the Pop Shop and that hot dog booth at the Moorestown Mall in June.)

We browsed around for a couple of hours. She didn't get anything at JC Penney. I finally found decent khaki pants for work. (I just hope these last longer than the ones from Macy's.) A brief review of Game Stop yielded no finds.

The FYE was smaller than the other two, but it still had some decent stock. Instead of buying more movies, I took advantage of a buy two, get one 75% off sale and bought my first Funko Pop figures. For those who aren't pop culture nuts, these are bright-colored toys and bobble heads that are basically cute-ified versions of favorite characters. I've seen everything from Sesame Street to Doctor Who to WWE wrestlers (Lauren has Ric Flair and "Rowdy" Roddy Piper and bought the Ultimate Warrior for her dad) represented. Yes, I ended up with three Star Wars figures, my first toys for The Force Awakens. I got the older Han Solo in his brown leather jacket, General Leia in her uniform, and Rey with the blue lightsaber on Starkiller. (Rey was the 75% off.) Lauren bought more wrestling T-shirts, which were apparently also on sale.

There are plenty of AC Moores and Michaels in South Jersey, but this is the first time I've ever been in a Hobby Lobby. Same deal, really - lots of hobby and craft-based merchandise, from yarn to doll clothes. I considered the latter, including a brand I'd never seen that does sell some historical costumes, but my AG dolls are spoiled enough as it is. Hobby Lobby is apparently owned by a Christian company. They sell quite a few religious items, including lovely metal crosses. Lauren bought two, one for her and one for her parents, on sale.

The Christmas Tree Shops continue to be good to us. Like Hobby Lobby, they have their fall stock out. Lauren found the Krusteaz Pumpkin Spice Cookie Mix and another box of those soda frozen bars. I settled for another container with 50 muffin papers.

Made a quick trip back to Macy's. Neither of us came up with anything here. I just went to the bathroom. Even Lauren couldn't find the blouses she likes for work. We passed through Target on the way out, looking for their seasonal section. Disappointingly, no fall stuff yet. They're still on back to school.

When we were wandering around earlier, Lauren saw that the Uno Pizza and Grill had a small cart outside that sold single slices for surprisingly cheap. We both spent a little over five dollars on a deep-dish slice of pizza and a soda. She had pepperoni and Pepsi. I had chicken-pepper and Diet Pepsi. Yum.

It was quarter of 5. We'd spent the last three days hiking around three large malls and an amusement park. We just decided to pack it in early. We dodged traffic and headed for Masspike, making it home by around 6.

Spent the rest of the night playing video games. Lauren saw a couple of guys at a store playing Rayman Origins on the Wii and thought it looked like fun. It's...odd. The weird, colorful animation looks like a Cartoon Network show. As far as I can tell, Rayman is a bird-thing that has to rescue his buddies, who have all been captured. They collect tiny yellow beings called Luma to unlock characters at the main hub. Weird, but actually kind of fun, once you get the hang of it. We got through the desert/music themed second level before finally calling it quits for the night.

Right now, we're online, chatting and listening to 80's music online. We're going to stay in the Pittsfield area tomorrow, checking out her local mall and mini-golf course, along with Jiminy Peak, a ski resort that has a really neat slide.

Oh, and meet Jillian Beanstalk, one of the newest students at Ever After High! Life's an adventure for the daughter of Jack and the Beanstalk, who loves a good beanstalk climb and will never turn down a chance to live life to the fullest. She didn't come with a brush or a stand, but she did have a cute purse (it holds the magic beans) and a lovely flower headdress. I'm glad they've started giving different characters different expressions, too. Jillian's fun-loving smile fits her to a T.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Down at Great Escape Park

We pulled out of the garage around 9:30 again, this time headed to Six Flags Great Escape in Lake George, New York. After a stop for gas, we made our way back into the upstate New York countryside...but this time, we went beyond Albany and Troy, mostly along the Interstate. While the clouds were in and out, there was a nice, cool wind, and it wasn't nearly as hot as it was yesterday or as it's been in South Jersey.

Finally made it to Six Flags around 11:30-noon. Getting into the parking lot was easy, much easier than it was the last time we went in 2009. They just needed to ring the bar on the parking voucher Lauren got online. We left the car in the half-full Dove parking lot (all the parking lots in Great Escape are named for Mars candies) and strolled across the pedestrian bridge to the main entrance.

Getting in the park was a LOT more complicated. They now have metal detectors in front of the main entrance. I know it's necessary these days, but it was a pain. I had to take off my gold necklace, and it got tangled in the cup. Good thing Lauren's more patient with this sort of thing than I am.

Once we made it in the park (and hit the bathroom), our first stop was the Magic Carpet Sky Ride in the Storybook Town area. It's your basic Sky Ride that glides over the Storybook Town and Hot Rod USA areas, but it did give us an idea of what rides were there now. We noticed Thunder Alley, Great Escape's 50's-themed version of Disneyland's Tomorrowland Raceway, was now hidden behind the brand-new Greezed Lightnin' "Fireball" endless loop coaster and seemed to have been spruced up sometime in the last few years. We'd take in that one later. The Swan Boats and park railroad (now the Storybook Town Railroad) were still there, too.

We wandered through Storybook Town and Timbertown Station (the more generic North-Woods-themed replacement for the Looney Tunes kids area) to take in two walk-through rides. The Alice In Wonderand walk-through started in a black-lit, green striped tunnel and went past a shrinking Alice drinking her "drink me" bottle into the Tulgey Wood. This seemed to consist mostly of bright-colored, gigantic snails and huge polka-dot mushrooms. We past the Caterpillar and his hookah, a wooden house featuring Mad Tea Party figurines, and the Queen of Hearts and her court. (The Queen was much too pretty to be screaming at anybody.)

Alice and the Jungle Rope Bridge Walk-Through date back to when the park was entirely called Storybook Town in the 50's and 60's. The small Bugs-and-Daffy figures we saw on the walk-through in 2009 had been replaced by nifty fiberglass jungle animals, including a huge hippo, an elephant, a tiger family, and a very realistic snake that bares his fangs in greeting you as you enter. The rope bridges remain the same - wobbly! We were still wobbling when we bounced off.

(My friend Linda Young, who went to Storybook Town in the 60's and 70's, will be happy to know the rope bridge walk through is still very popular. The mom in front of us mentioned her two toddlers had tugged her onto the walk-through at least 10 times this summer.)

It must have taken a half-hour to find the Comet, Great Escape's popular wooden coaster. It's got some interesting history, too. It was built in 1927 and spent 40 years in a park in Ontario before it shut down in 1989. It was moved to Great Escape in 1994. Lauren wanted to try at least one roller coaster and thought this wouldn't be so bad. I hadn't ridden a wooden coaster since Keefe talked me into going on The Great White in Wildwood in 2002. I hadn't been thrilled at the time, but I survived. How bad could it be?

I don't know. I kept my eyes closed most of the ride. The moment it went up and over that first steep hill, it was too much for me. I screamed at Lauren twice before I settled for clenching my teeth and holding on for dear life. It went around corners like a wild horse, bucking and rattling on the track. I swear I felt myself fly up in the seat at several points. I read online that this is considered to be one of the best wooden coasters in the world. Maybe some coaster fans wouldn't have a problem with it, but it was too crazy for us! We were wobbling more than on the rope bridges when we stumbled down the exit queue.

Lauren stopped to check our photos on the ride at the kiosk to one side of the queue. I didn't join her. I knew what I looked like on that ride - terrified! After she changed her mind about the photos, we decided we needed something a tad more grounded and easier on our stomachs. We strolled past Splashwater Kingdom, Great Escape's outdoor water park, and the wacky-colored Dr. Seuss-esque kiddie area Kidzopolis to the Fest Area.

The Fest Area is the home of Lauren's favorite ride, the Raging River. You ride in a large tube with five other people, passing under and through waterfalls, sprays, and jets of water (often shot by people on the path going by the rapids). We did it twice, once before lunch, and once afterwards, and had a lot of fun. The first time, we rode with three young-teen girls who giggled and laughed and screamed and compared one of their teachers to a chicken leg. The second time, we went with a mom, a grandmom, and a younger girl.

We had lunch between rides. The Alpine Fest Haus was a fast-food style eatery just a little down the road from the Raging River. We settled for simple chicken salads. Lauren bought a souvenir refillable cup. I thought they were way too much and went with a 12-oz Poweraide.

The second go-around on the Raging River left us both thoroughly drenched. We played games in the Fest Area while we were dripping. Alas, I just could not win. Lauren beat me at Whac-a-Mole and got a rather odd hat shaped like a purple and yellow squid. She won the skee ball horse race game and got a ladybug to give to her mom, who collects ladybug items.

We took in some less wild rides while we dried off. The Storybook Town Train took us past fiberglass versions of Hickory Dickory Dock and Humpty Dumpty, as well as "Popo the Purple Cow" (who looked far more like a friendly dragon or dinosaur) and ruined carriages and antique cars that represented Ghost Town. (And scared the dickens out of the two toddlers sitting in front of us, who squeals that they kept seeing ghosts around every corner.) The Swan Boats took a similar route on the River Dee, passing Popo and Humpty as well as several flocks of very real ducks looking for a snack.

Thunder Alley is my favorite ride at Great Escape. It had been cleaned up considerably since we were last there. In fact, the whole area had been themed around it, now made to look like a small town in the 50's and now called Hot Rod USA. The little cars sported bright new paint jobs. I rode in a black hod rod with "flames" on the front. The Technicolor tulips in the landscaping had been joined by vintage "billboards" for Storybook Town and Coca Cola. The genuine 50's and 60's building on the street across from Great Escape added to the atmosphere, including a neon sign with a giant chicken perched on the top. (Also, unless they're riding with a little kid, people can only ride one at a time in a car now.)

Had a small dinner at a pizza booth near Thunder Alley. I had cheesebread - cheese covered flat bread - and Lauren had a slice of pepperoni. After that, we returned to the International Village to go shopping. She bought a giant yellow neon bear with Six Flags Great Escape embroidered on its paws. I found the most adorable fuzzy pink hedgehog with a heart-shaped gemstone collar and embroidered heart cheeks. Her name is Miss Hedgie, and she's a sweet southern belle. I also grabbed a metal Six Flags key chain.

We were both worn out, and I pulled a muscle in my right leg climbing out of the Swan Boats and was sore as heck. It was time to go home. We headed out around 6, stopping briefly at Rite Aid for Lauren to try to find what her dad asked her to get yesterday. (She didn't.)

Finally got in around 8:30-ish. I showed Mr. and Mrs. Miller my hedgehog, then hit the shower. We're now finishing up tonight's chat session. Tomorrow, we're going to take in another mall, this one in the opposite direction in Eastern Massachusetts.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The Rain, the Malls, and Other Things

I was up by 8 this morning. It was hazy and sunny but not nearly as hot as it's been in Oaklyn. I finished Lando Calarissian and the Mindharp of Sharu, and wrote in my journal. Had cereal and an apple for breakfast, eating in the living room to avoid waking up everyone else. Lauren was finally up by 9; we were out the door by 9:30.

The countryside in Western Massachusetts and Upstate New York is absolutely gorgeous. They're just so GREEN for mid-August. Southern New Jersey's barely had any rain. The grass looks more like it should be piled in a barn to feed cows. Up here, the grass is brilliant and soft and smells sweet. Colorful wildflowers, black-eyed susans and Queen Anne's Lace, dot the roadsides. We wound our way through lovely historic towns with whitewashed old churches and chrome-covered diners, and rugged farming villages dotted with ancient, peeling barns and wind-blown farm houses.

An exit off the highway took us directly to our first mall of the day. Crossgates Mall has a good-sized Best Buy. I didn't see anything I wanted, but Lauren had a real reason to be there. Her stereo speaker is old and keeps sputtering. I browsed the store while she bought a new one.

I've never seen a Best Buy that opens directly into a mall. In Camden County, big box stores and malls tend to end up in separate buildings. They seem to be more common as anchors up here. After Lauren stowed her new stereo in the trunk of her van, we headed into the main mall to explore.

Our first stop in the mall proper was Jay Street Video Games, a chain that sells vintage used games along with recent titles. Lauren didn't get anything here, but I found a book with detailed maps and tips for Lego Indiana Jones 2.

We both hit pay dirt at FYE. This one was not only pretty big for a mall store, but it looked like it had been recently opened or remodeled. The sign was orange letters in simple white circles, very different than the old blue logo. I took advantage of a buy two used DVDs, get one for a dollar sale to pick up three of the four Daniel Craig James Bond movies. (Spectre is still kind of pricey, even used.) Also found the only "official" Bond film I haven't seen at all, Roger Moore's second outing The Man With the Golden Gun, on sale for $4.99. (I saw bits and pieces of For Your Eyes Only on cable as a kid.) None of the films were expensive. I got all four for around $18. (Incidentally, Quantum of Solace was the dollar movie.)  Lauren picked up wrestling t-shirts for her and her dad.

I didn't do well anywhere else. Lauren wanted to check out Bath and Body Works, but despite some tantalizing new fall scents, we didn't walk out with anything. Her local Macy's just closed a few months go. She's been trying to check out every one she can to find outfits for her job as the head teller in a Pittsfield bank. She bought two colorful blouses. I'm still mad about the pants I bought for work from the Moorestown Macy's in June barely lasting a month. She bought shirts for her and her parents at the Disney Store. I settled for admiring the Star Wars toys and Animator's Collection toddler dolls. Checked out Game Stop on the way out. Lauren found the Captain Toad's Treasure Tracker puzzle game.

It was showering when we made it out of the outdoor Best Buy entrance. We rushed to the other end of the parking lot as fast as we could. Good thing our next stop was less than a minute from the mall. Lauren's constantly been seeing ads on Albany-based TV stations for a local fast-food chain called Ted's Fish Fry. The prices seemed decent and I love fish, so we thought we'd give it a shot.

The Ted's we ate at was based in what clearly was once an older Wendy's, but left (intentionally?) unpainted and whitewashed on the outside to give it that fish shack look. Inside was more polished, with black and white checked floors and shiny black vinyl booths. We both had the Fish Fry meal. The "fish fry" turned out to be a very long, salty fried cod stick on a hot dog roll with fries and a cup of cole slaw. The fish was amazing, hot and flaky, and even better on the bun (once it fell apart enough to fit on the bun). The cole slaw was even better. I've never had such tasty fast-food cole slaw. It was crunchy and savory, with just enough mayo, and unlike the fish, not too salty. Even Lauren loved it, and she says she usually doesn't like mayo-based cole slaw because the mayo gets too soupy. Watched the US women play Japan in Olympic Indoor Volleyball as we ate. (The US eventually won.)

Headed a few minutes down the road to the Colonie Center. If it was odd to see a big box store as an anchor, seeing a grocery store anchor a mall was downright weird...and yet, we parked outside of a massive Whole Foods.

Our first stop was L.L Bean. I tried on a pair of black suede flats. They were comfortable, but way too big, and I couldn't find another pair closer to my size. Lauren looked at socks and sweaters, but didn't have much more luck.

Once again, we did far better at FYE. While not as new as the Crossgates store, it was even bigger. I settled on Zootopia and two Looney Tunes sets for Pepe Le Pew and Wile E Coyote and Road Runner for that buy two, get one for a dollar sale. (Wile E Coyote and Road Runner was the dollar title here.) Lauren bought wrestling sets.

The Colonie Barnes and Noble was the first time I ever saw that store as a mall anchor. It was even bigger than the massive freestanding store in Moorestown, with a good-sized CD/DVD area and kid's areas for toys and for books. I actually got lost in there. I couldn't find the Star Wars paperbacks, but I did pick up Indiana Jones and the Army of the Dead and found Red Velvet Cupcake Murder in hardback on the Bargain Priced shelves.

While I was book shopping, Lauren found a place for dinner. I've only seen Moe's Southwest Grill twice in Camden County, in Moorestown and Cherry Hill. It's a Mexican fast-food restaurant that lets you choose the fillings for your tortilla-based meals. I had a quesadilla with cheese, chicken, salsa, and fresh cilantro. Lauren had a layered fold-over burrito. The girls at the counter were a little rude, but the 70's and 80's music was great, and the food was worth it, hot and saucy.

Colonie has a Boscov's, one of the only ones in the area. I found a pair of jean capris for $10. (My old jean capris don't fit anymore.) Lauren bought more blouses for work. She found something unusual in with the board games in the toy area - a mini table-top pool table, It was only 20 bucks, too. I can't carry that home and have no one to play with, but Lauren thought it might be fun for her and her folks.

We browsed through the Jay Street and Game Stop next. Lauren found a Mario game; I came up with nothing. She bought more blouses at Macy's. I just used the bathroom. She wanted to look at Christopher & Banks, and I had no problem going there, either. They're one of the few boutique clothing stores who sell a good selection of plus sizes. Alas, neither of us found anything we needed.

Finished the night at Christmas Tree Shops. She bought light-up, personalized teddy bear keychains for herself and her parents. I found more cheap tea, this time the now-discontinued Bigalow's Girl Scouts Caramel and Coconut.

After hiking through two large malls for nearly 7 hours, we were both sore and dead tired. We finally headed home around 7. Thankfully, by this point, the clouds and the traffic was long-gone. Lauren got a little turned-around at first, but that had its good points. We went right by a Rite Aid...just as Mr. Miller texted his daughter to pick up something for him there. (Lauren didn't walk out with it - she said the store's stock was too close to expiration.) After we left there, we got back on the highway and went straight home the way we came, through darkened historic towns and hazy moonlit mountain vistas.

Mr. and Mrs. Miller were watching WWE Smackdown! when we got in. We showed them our finds, then joined them for the show briefly. Mrs. Miller cut slices of raspberry strudel from their local grocery store for us.

We're online now, chatting and watching YouTube videos. The weather's looking much better tomorrow. It's finally time to hit Six Flags Great Escape in Lake George, New York.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Ride Captain Ride

I wanted to sleep in a little this morning, but I was just too excited. Instead, I read short stories from the Disney anthology Storybook Land and The Paddington Treasury, the first two chapters of Felicity Saves the Day, and the first chapter of Samantha Saves the Day. Lissie and Sam demonstrate common vacations in their respective time periods. Colonial Virginian Lissie visits her beloved grandfather at a plantation. Sam and her family travel to Piney Point in upstate New York to enjoy a vacation in their private cabins by a lake.

Even before I had breakfast, I finished the last of the packing. Tossed the laptop, mouse, and all the attendant wires into a bag and loaded it into the blue rolling suitcase. Added other things I'd needed to use in the morning or the night before, like my toothbrush and hair brush.

Ran Strawberry Shortcake In Big Apple City while eating Honey Bunches of Oats and blueberries for breakfast. Strawberry is off to the title metropolis to compete in the Big Bake Off and win a fancy gazebo. The Peculiar Purple Pieman is the other contestant. He'll stop at nothing to make sure he's the winner! Good thing Strawberry made a lot of new friends in Spinach Village who are willing to help her out, including long-time series regulars Orange Blossom and Lemon Meringue.

The train to Cherry Hill didn't leave until 12:20. I didn't feel like sitting around in my apartment for two or three hours, so I took a ride to the Oaklyn Library. It was still very hot and humid (though not quite as hot as yesterday), and the heat once again must have scared people off. Once again, it was just the librarian, the TV, and me. She had on Women's Field Hockey when I came in. (New Zealand won 4-2 over Australia). They were about to go into Individual Dressage, but she changed to CNN, insisting horse-back riding isn't a sport. (I know quite a few people who would disagree with that, including my friend Linda Young, my cousin Samantha West, and her daughter Faith.) I looked over the DVDs (the adult titles were especially bad) and worked on the easy reader and picture book shelves.

Spent the rest of the morning making my bed, gathering the last few things I needed for my trip, and doing a few things around the apartment. Ran cartoons while I puttered. Garfield In the Rough takes the famous fat cat outdoors for a camping trip with Jon and Odie. He'd rather be doing anything else, including exercising. Just as he starts to wonder if nature ain't so bad, they hear that there's a black panther on the loose...and it's heading their way...

The Pink Panther has an even harder time on the road in "Pinto Pink." He's trying to find an easy way to get to California and thinks a horse is a perfect solution to his problems. The horse, on the other hand, has other ideas.

Rose picked me up at 11:45. I had far fewer problems than I did when I traveled to Albany on Columbus Day last year. None of the trains were remotely full. The train to New York was right on time. The one going to Philly was about 5 or so minutes late; the one going to Albany was almost 20 minutes late, thanks to having to sit on the track and wait to pick up passengers from another train. Had a tasty Waldorf Turkey sandwich for lunch at the 30th Street Station Au Bon Pain. 30th Street Station and Penn Station were busy, but not abnormally so. I took advantage of the extra time to color an old Care Bears coloring book (did Harmony and Cheer in a field of flowers) and work on story notes.

I learned my lesson last year. I checked a digital departure monitor when I arrived. It wasn't anywhere close to showing the gate yet. I sat down on the other side of the monitor and had a snack, then went for a walk around Penn Station, checking out a large Hudson Booksellers. On my way back, I noticed a sign that said it was the queue for the train going to Albany. I was the third person in line.

Met Lauren and her parents Mr. and Mrs. Miller at the gate. As soon as we loaded the luggage into the back of their van, we headed to a Denny's about ten minutes or so from the station. It was nearly 8 PM by then, well past the dinner hour, and they were very quiet. Mrs. Miller had a vegetable omelet. Lauren had a ham and cheese omelet. Mr. Miller had the Grand Slam. I had the Banana Pecan Pancakes, turkey bacon, and egg whites. (And Mr. Miller and I split Lauren's hash browns when she couldn't finish them.) We all had lemonade iced teas. Supposedly, Denny's had improved their buttermilk pancakes. I didn't see any difference, but they were still very tasty. I liked the turkey bacon, too. I might have to try that at home.

Mr. Miller, Lauren, and I were originally going to have Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie for dessert. Alas, they were all out. Mr. Miller and Lauren shared the Apple Crumble with Ice Cream. My Coconut Cream Pie was just as tasty as chocolate would have been. Mrs. Miller stuck to her cheesecake.

I'm set up in Lauren's room downstairs as we listen to an 80's pop station on Pandora, chat online, and enjoy the cool temperatures. It was in the mid-70's by the time we got out of Denny's, much cooler than it's been even here, and certainly down south.

We were originally going to go to Six Flags Great Escape tomorrow. First of all, the weather isn't supposed to be great. They're talking about major thunderstorms. Second, I just took three trains for 7 hours. I'm dead tired. We're going to ride back to Albany to hit up some malls there Lauren likes instead.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Road to Vacation

Was up with Lauren very late last night. I slept in this morning, then finally had Zucchini-Apple Pancakes for breakfast. Ran two vacation-themed Monkees episodes as I savored my meal and did the dishes. Mexico's "A Nice Place to Visit" in the second season opener, but the boys aren't sure they want to stay there when Davy falls for the girlfriend of a bandit. The other three dress as bandits when the group kidnaps their British friend. They're "Monkees In Manhattan" in the late first season when they're invited to New York to star in a new rock musical...but the show may never get off the ground if they can't first find a way to stay in their hotel room, then get the show a backer.

Headed out to the laundromat as soon as I finished breakfast. I had to get a big load done if I wanted to finish my packing. I'm glad I showed up when I did. About ten minutes after I stuffed my clothes in the washer, the room started to fill with families and older people getting their things done. I listened to Olympic Women's Basketball (the US walloped China 105-62) and worked on story notes.

I went home, put everything away, packed what I needed for the week, and headed right back out. I wanted to use that $5 WaWa gift card I got from the Haddon Township Library before they closed and I left town. A lot of the shelves are missing items, and the displays are gone, but I still was able to pick up a roast beef hoagie on a whole wheat roll, a bag of baked multi-grain chips, and their amazing Chocolate Banana Smoothie.

When I got home, I ate my hoagie and chips and watched most of Road to Rio. Musicians Hot Lips Barton (Bob Hope) and Scat Sweeney (Bing Crosby) stow away on board a luxury liner bound for Rio after they accidentally burn down a circus. Scat's a sucker for a sad story from a weeping female, and despite Hot Lips' admonishment, he finds himself stopping an heiress named Lucia (Dorothy Lamour) from jumping overboard. Lucia is being hypnotized by her scheming aunt (Gale Sondergaard) who is after her money. The more she blows hot and cold, the more baffled the two performers are. They do sneak her off the boat and make her part of their act with a trio of Brazilian singers...but even then, she stops the performance and reveals the singers don't speak English. The two follow her to her family's home in the country to find out what her aunt is really after and save her from a loveless marriage.

Not one of my favorite Road to...movies, but it does have its moments, especially on the boat and in the finale. Bing also gives us two standards, the lovely "But Beautiful" and the jaunty "You Don't Have to Know the Language," the latter with the Andrews Sisters. This was actually the biggest hit of all the Road movies at the time, in fact the top hit of 1948. Doesn't hold up as well today, but it's still cute if you're a fan of the Road series or Bing and Bob.

I hadn't gone swimming since Dad's birthday party a few weeks ago. I desperately needed it. The pool was empty, to my surprise, when I arrived around 3. Rose and Khai were at a birthday party for a friend of his at Chuck E Cheese's, and most everyone else is on vacation. I had it totally to myself the entire hour I was in it. It was soooo warm! The thermometer tied to the ladder on the deep end said 95 degrees. I think that's the warmest Dad's pool has ever been. It was like bath water. And no wonder - it was hot and hazy and humid again today, still in the upper 90's. The patio chairs were so boiling hot, I couldn't sit in them. I took my shoes off sitting on the faux brick patio.

Went inside to say "hi" to Dad and Jodie when I finally managed to climb out of the pool. They were both working on their computers while listening to Law & Order: Special Victims Unit episodes on USA. Jodie told me either Craig or Rose will drive me to Cherry Hill tomorrow, and I really needed to call Rose when I got home.

Which I did. As soon as I got into the shower and got organized, I rang her up on my cell phone. She couldn't talk long. She was on her way to another party with Khai. We did confirm that she'll be there tomorrow at 11:45.

Did some writing after I finished lunch. Ben explains to Luke and Leia how Empire Industries tore down many of the older and more venerable businesses on the west side of town to make room for newer hotels and condos. The twins are disappointed that many of their favorite haunts in the past are now gone forever and vow to help their uncle fight to keep more businesses from falling to the company.

Broke for dinner around 6:30. I made a simple meal of a cheddar cheese omelet and fruit salad while watching the end of Road to Rio. Ran a few black-and-white Mickey Mouse shorts while I cleaned up from dinner. Some "Wild Waves" carry Minnie out to sea. Mickey rescues her, then cheers her up on land with the help of some friendly beach critters. Mickey competes in the cross-county event of the "Barnyard Olympics." Pete's in there, too, and would do anything to get ahead of his rival and impress Minnie and Clarabelle!

Finished the night with Lego Star Wars. I looked up online how to get through "Lego City." Turns out I missed two metal items I couldn't destroy with blasters or lightsabers. Bounty hunters have to set bombs to get rid of those. Good thing I'd just splurged and bought Greedo. For once, I didn't mind if he shot first! He and Darth Maul got through it in about 25 minutes, better than the 40 it took me last night, though not as good as some experienced players online.

That's the last bonus round I'll be doing for a while. You need 50 gold bricks to get into the last bonus game, and I only have 43. I'll be going to Free Play for a while to earn more money and more bricks when I get back from vacation.

Saturday, August 13, 2016


Kicked off a hazy, killer hot morning with travel-and-vacation-themed Looney Tunes shorts. It's "All Abirrrdd" for Tweety when his owner sends him alone in a train's baggage car. Sylvester's also on board, and he's decided Tweety will be an easy lunch. This time, not only Spike the dog, but the conductor make sure he doesn't get his yellow meal.

Porky's on vacation by a beautiful mountain lake. He's hoping to paint some scenery and enjoy the view. Daffy would rather he had a view of him being crazy in "Boobs In the Woods." Porky shows him who's the real boob when he reveals his odd collection of licenses.

Made a quick run to the Collingswood Farm Market around 10 AM. It was surprisingly busy, despite the continued hot spell. (The heat index today was 105.) The tables are groaning with tons of summer produce. I saw grapes for the first time this year. My only real interest were those little yellow apples. which would be the perfect size to carry in my luggage and bring to New England. Also grabbed two small organic onions, one red, one white.

When I got home, I watched two more Sailor Moon vacation episodes, these from the first season, as I got organized, ate lunch, and did a little packing. "Last Resort" takes Usagi and her family to a hot springs, where they hope to have some bonding time. Their vacation becomes dangerous quickly when Mamoru also arrives. He unleashes a demon in the lake, hoping to harness its power, but loses control of it very quickly. The demon thinks Usagi is the one who imprisoned her there and attacks her and her family. The blond teen wants to help, but she can't transform in front of her brother and parents...

"The Summer, the Beach, Youth, and Ghosts" is what it says on the tin. We go back to earlier in the season, when the group consisted of Usagi, Rei, and Ami (and Luna). They've come to the beach for a relaxing seaside vacation...but the trip is anything but relaxing when they get lost and find themselves in a mysterious mansion. Usagi is afraid of the monsters who run the place, but they're more scared of the "ghosts" that have been randomly appearing. Ami wonders if the "ghosts" have anything to do with the young girl and her stern father who own the house.

Headed to work around quarter of noon. Once again, it was fairly dead, especially for a weekend. Everyone must be at the Shore. I did get stuck outside for nearly an hour and a half rounding up carts - and I didn't really need to go out for the half. I had plenty of help from two of the college boys. I mainly mopped and cleaned up the back room.

(I got to see a little of the Olympics while cleaning in the back, mainly rowing and women's diving preliminaries. No wonder so many people around here, especially college students, are rowing fans. The Men's Sculls final was genuinely thrilling. It was literally neck and neck in the end - the Croatian rower won by the tip of his boat over his New Zealand rival.)

When I got home, I went on the computer to work on some writing, but I was tired and didn't get far. Ben asks the twins what they know about Empire Industries. Leia explains that they're an oil and biochemical company that's branched out into entertainment and hospitality over the past few years. Her boss and idol Senator Marta Mothma has a running feud with them. They violate environmental laws and building codes and get away with it because they're influential and very wealthy.

Had the last of the leftover chicken fillets in mushroom-leek sauce with tomato and cucumber slices for dinner while watching Tiny Toons: How I Spent My Summer Vacation. The Toons are hoping for a summer filled with adventure, but they all get more than they bargained for. Plucky regrets having joined Hampton and his family for a trip to Happy World Land - they're a super-cutsey-Brady Bunch kind of a family who pick up psychotic hitchhikers, play inane games, and bring their own food to fast-food restaurants. Shirley the Loon gets stuck on a date with Fowlmouth - she'd rather toss him into the cosmic either. Fifi La Fume wants an autograph from her favorite movie star, but he turns out to be nothing like she expects. Elmyra terrorizes the animals at a safari park. Babs and Buster spend the whole trip down river after a water gun fight gets out of hand, dodging packs of wild swamp critters who think they're on the 4th of July barbecue menu.

I always liked this one as a kid, and I still enjoy most of it today. The larger stories, especially Plucky's car ride from hell, tend to work better than the cliched side stories (and the whole thing with Elmyra is just annoying), and a lot of the gags and references haven't dated well. If you're a fan of the series, by all means, you're going to want to seek this one out, too.

Finished the night with a second attempt at the bonus rounds in Lego Star Wars. I did finally get through the Vader "New Hope" round, despite those annoying buttons you have to run over to get C-3P0 taking me at least ten minutes or more to get all lit up at once. At least I've figured out how to set up the colorful "Lego" sign now. That helped a lot in "Lego City" as well. The problem there was I didn't have the right character to blow up the metal pieces needed to get the last 100,000 beads. I'll try that one again tomorrow or when I get back from vacation.

Oh, and incidentally, my schedule this week is my own vacation. I have a regular day off tomorrow. The real vacation begins Monday. I'll be visiting Lauren in Pittsfield in western Massachusetts, as I did last October. I've been waiting for this ever since we figured out when I was going to go up there in late June. We always have fun when we're together.