Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Rain Continues

It was still raining when I finally finished out Shadows of the Empire this morning. Ran The Backyardigans during breakfast. They did two spy spoofs. The longer, more elaborate "International Super Spy" was an hour-long "special" episode from the second season. Pablo is the mini-Roger Moore, who likes his apple juice shaken. He seeking three thermoses at locations around the world in order to keep them from the evil Lady In Pink Uniqua and her hench-moose Tyrone.

I was going to get the laundry done today...but the weather still wasn't cooperating by 10:30. The rain continued to come down, sometimes heavily. I ended up working on my story instead. The group manages to capture Phasma, who gets them aboard King Snoke's sleigh. The Nutcracker's worked for her before and is delighted to rub it in her face that she's in their power. Leia tries to get him to calm down.

At least I got the vacuuming in today. It took a little bit longer than usual, since I was doing the baseboards and under as many pieces of furniture as I could move on my own. I really want to finish the Christmas cleaning  and start the decorating before I go on vacation next week. Amanda is visiting my first day off.

Ran episodes of Garfield and Friends while I cleaned and ate lunch. In the first show, Garfield tells "The Legend of the Lake," about how nothing could stop a determined cave-cat from crossing a lake to the lasagna-filled island of his dreams. "Double-Oh Orson" is a US Acres spy spoof. Orson's on another reading jag. This time, he's imagining himself and the others in a spy thriller. His overactive imagination actually turns out to be useful when Booker and Sheldon's worms from their worm hunt go missing and Roy claims he doesn't know where they are. Garfield gets into a "Health Feud" with a bulked-up exercise instructor when his show starts to have too much influence on Jon.

Did another as I got ready for work.  "Pros and Cons" gives us a con-artist cat who cheats Odie out of their grocery money. Garfield ends up helping him out. Orson gets his "Rooster Revenge" on prankster Roy in the most evil way not playing a prank and letting Roy think he is. It's "Lights! Cameras! Garfield!" when the fat cat accepts a job in a new movie. He thinks he's going to be a star...but he's really just a stunt-cat stand-in.

The rain was already slowing down as I headed to work. It ended all together shortly after I arrived. It was a good thing. Once again, other than gathering baskets, I spent most of the day outside. They just don't have enough people scheduled right now to have baggers inside and outside. I'm surprised we were even as steady as we were. Even when it wasn't raining, it was cloudy, humid, a bit too warm for this time of year, and just flat-out miserable. And of course, it started to rain again on my way home. (Thankfully, the really heavy rain waited until well after I'd gotten in and taken out the trash. It's rained on and off, sometimes heavily, for the rest of the night.)

Hit the shower as soon as I got in, then had leftovers for dinner while playing Lego Star Wars. I'm still working on the blue-piece challenges. I did finally get through "Invasion of Naboo" and "Mos Espa Pod Race" today. Tried the rest of the levels in The Phantom Menace. Got the furthest on "Negotiations." There's one piece that I just cannot find on that level. Oh well, next time.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Rainy Day at Home

It was pouring cats, dogs, pigs, and chickens when I awoke this morning, and would pretty much continue to rain off and on all day. I brightened up the gloomy weather with breakfast and an episode of Tiny Toon Adventures. "Rainy Daze" from the first season shows what Buster and Babs do during wet weather. The first short has Buster ending up at Montana Max's house as his "rent-a-friend." Rent-a-punching-bag is a bit closer to what Monty's doing...but Buster has a way to turn the tables. In the second short, Babs uses her imagination to turn a boring wet afternoon into one filled with fun. Babs and Buster flee the rain in the third story. They were aiming for hot weather, but end up chasing a poacher who is after a seal in the Arctic.

Spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon cleaning and listening to a couple of Christmas albums. The Perry Como Christmas Album is my favorite of his two holiday albums that I have. It features the sweet "Christmas Eve" and "There's No Christmas Like a Home Christmas." Merry Christmas With the Williams Brothers introduces "Kay Thompson's Jingle Bells," "It's the Holiday Season," and Andy Williams' familiar version of "The Most Wonderful Time of the Year." Barbara Streisand's A Christmas Album is mostly hymns, but it does have her very funny version of "Jingle Bells."

Got the bathroom and the kitchen done this morning. They weren't too bad. I did just do them at the beginning of the month, but I like to get major cleaning done before I put up the Christmas decorations. Actually, the worst of it should be the dusting, which I probably won't get to until at least Friday. I didn't get to the dusting when I did the rest of the cleaning.

Had fried eggs and a salad for lunch while finishing A Walt Disney Christmas, which I began while I was working on the kitchen. I dubbed this collection of Christmas and winter-themed Disney shorts off of a very old clamshell tape from Blockbuster. It's so old, "Donald's Snow Fight" and the Santa Claus Silly Symphonies are shown in their entirety. (I'd never seen a non-censored version of "Santa's Workshop" until I bought this tape.) "Donald's Snow Fight" is probably my favorite. It's war when Donald knocks down his nephews' snowman and they retaliate by ruining his winter coat. It somehow ends with flaming snowballs taking down giant ice boats and Donald getting that sinking feeling.

Worked on my story for a few hours after lunch. The Nutcracker and Chewie finally help Rey to the top of the pit. Leia and Luke are with them. Leia has turned them all into mice to get past the guards. The human girl tells them what the mice have planned for Han. Leia and the Nutcracker are both livid and want to go after them right away, but Rey points out that he'll be guarded. They'll need another plan...

Broke for dinner around 5:30. I made chicken salad, steamed broccoli, baked acorn squash, and roasted acorn seeds. Yum. Roasted acorn squash seeds are some of the great hidden delights of fall. Scoop them out of the squash, wash off the guts, spread them in a pan, spray them with olive oil or butter spray, shake a little salt on them, and roast them as you would other seeds. So delicious, and much better than throwing them out.

Switched to making Cranberry-Orange Muffins and Cranberry Flummery while watching The Spy Who Loved Me. The fourth Roger Moore James Bond movie takes us to Egypt (after an interlude in the Alps). Someone's been hijacking British and Russian submarines. James is supposed to pick up microfilm with the blue prints for the machine that's causing the damage. Turns out Moscow has also sent their best agent, the woman XXX (Barbara Bach). XXX has her own reasons for wanting this mission - James killed her agent boyfriend on his last mission. The two find themselves working together to discover the secrets of the ocean-obsessed billionaire Stromberg and his strange Atlantis hide out...and dodge the metal toothed and immortal Jaws (Richard Kiel).

This is the by far the best of the Roger Moore Bond movies, and my personal favorite of his tenure along with Octopussy. They hit all the right notes here - it's just campy enough but still fairly dark, with one of the best Bond women ever and probably the best henchman, nice locations, and an interesting plot. Great music, too - the Marvin Hamlisch score is awesome, and the theme song, Carly Simon's "Nobody Does It Better," was nominated for an Oscar and was a hit in its own right.

My only complaint is that, as cool as Jaws is, his boss Stromberg is fairly bland by comparison. He comes off as a dull imitation of Dr. No and Blofeld. His ultimate plan is pretty ridiculous, too, even for this series. I do like how Bond eventually gets rid of him, though - no invitations to dinner, just quick and neat.

If you ever wanted to check out the Roger Moore Bond movies, I'd recommend starting here. It's by far one of the best Bond films and Moore's best Bond film.

Monday, November 28, 2016

We'll Have the Brightest Christmas

Began a sunny, breezy morning with breakfast and a couple of episodes of Max & Ruby. "Ruby's Puppet Show" will be a hit...if Max would sit in the audience and not keep trying to push his toys onstage. Ruby and Louise are practicing their pirouettes, but "Sugar Plum Max" would rather snack on the fruity confections intended for after their program. Ruby panics when all the ants in "Max's Ant Farm" get loose during a fancy party she's holding for her friends. She and Max try to collect the ants without her friends discovering them.

Worked on writing for the rest of the morning. Rey finds that she really is in a pit. The only light comes from the pit's entrance...which is quite a ways off. She ends up climbing the rock wall. She climbs trees all the time at home. How hard could it be? Very hard..but very rewarding, as she can now hear familiar voices...

Did a Backyardigans holiday episode while eating a quick lunch of leftovers and getting ready for work. Uniqua wants to know "The Secret of Snow" so she can have fun in the cold weather. She goes to Ice Lady Tasha, but the bossy hippo girl has no time for her questions. Austin sticks up for Uniqua, but Tasha is too busy to pay attention. Tasha first sends Uniqua  to the desert, where she meets Cowboy Pablo, then to the jungle, where she and Pablo are rescued by Tyrone of the Jungle. Eventually, the kids learn that there is no "secret of snow," but the secret of having fun during the holidays is to share it with your friends.

Work wasn't really that bad today. It was on-and-off steady, and likely only that because we're getting close to the beginning of the month. They're now remodeling the front entrance, which was a problem. A lot of our customers aren't even aware that we have an entrance on the other side near Nicholson Road, or that the wide back entrance is several steps away from the narrow and slightly hidden exit. A lot of people kept trying to exit through the entrance and vice versa. Not to mention, I had to figure out where to put all the carts that could no longer go on the other side. I was also alone all afternoon, with no help. After filling the hand sanitizer bottles, I alternated between gathering carts and baskets for the rest of the day. Grabbed brown sugar and bran flakes on the way out.

When I got home, I made scrambled eggs with mushrooms, onions, and cheddar cheese for dinner, then made Fudgy Pumpkin Spice Chip Brownies while watching Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol. Animation's favorite blind as a bat old codger headlined the very first network cartoon holiday special in 1962. Magoo is Ebeneezer Scrooge; fellow UPA Studios alumnus Gerald Mc Boing Boing has a rare speaking role as Tiny Tim. Gorgeous music by real-life Broadway tunesmiths Bob Merrill and Jules Styne is the real selling point, including the ballad "Winter Was Warm" for Scrooge's fiancee Belle and "We'll Have the Brightest Christmas" for the Cratchit family.

Played Lego Star Wars for about an hour after the brownies came out of the oven. I tried some of the individual round challenges that have you seeking 10 blue pieces in 10 minutes. The only one I completed was the short boss round "Count Dooku." I tried "Gunship Calvary," "Negotiations," and "Darth Maul," but just could never find all those pieces in time.

Spent the rest of the night online, listening to the Eagles game. Long-time Eagles radio announcer Merrill Reece (this is his 40th season as the Eagles' announcer), along with former Eagle Jeremiah Trotter, were inducted into the Eagles Hall of Fame during half-time. It was awesome. Too bad the game wasn't as good. The Eagles lost to the Packers 24-13.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Christmas Is Coming

I was in bed reading Shadows of the Empire when the phone rang. It was the Acme. One of the managers had found some extra hours for me. Did I want to work on Friday evening? Sure, why not? My only plan for that day was going grocery shopping anyway.

Had breakfast when I finally made it out of bed. Tried Pumpkin Spice Chip Pancakes sprinkled with powdered sugar. Not bad. Next time I try something like this, I think I'll add a little sugar to the batter.

Spent the rest of the morning listening to Donna Summer and the Bee Gees while taking down the Thanksgiving and general fall decorations. I meant to do this on Friday when I got home, but I was just so wiped out! I really wasn't up to doing much of anything besides writing. The Christmas decorations will probably start to go up next week, after I give the apartment a thorough cleaning.

Went on the computer for the next few hours to catch up on writing. Kylo Ren comes into Han's cell to interrogate his father. Rey can hear them through the walls. Han tries to convince his wayward son to admit he's not what he claims he is. Ren insists he's too powerful to be a simple fairy. Hux, the head of the Mouse Army, suggests cutting off Han's wings in a public demonstration of the Kingdom of the First Order's power. Ren is hoping to lure Leia and force her to agree to become King Snoke's queen. They lead him away to Gingerbread Town, intending to execute him in the town square.

He goes to Rey's cell next to question her. She tells him she's not talking to a mask. When he takes it off...he reveals that he resembles her brother, Benjamin. He tries to get her to talk. Not only is she not revealing the Candy Army's location, but she gets into his head, telling him he'll never be as great as his idol. the wicked Lord Vader.

She continues to use her powers on his guards. She manages to convince one to not only give her a full four-course cheese meal, but to let her go. The girl sneaks out, hoping to find Leia and the others and tell them about Hux's plans.

Went for a walk around 4:30. I was tired of sitting. It was too nice of a day to be inside the whole time. Though the clouds were off and on, the sky I could see was sunny, and it was breezy but not that windy. It was chilly, but nothing abnormal for late November.

I ended up at Dad and Jodie's house. I wanted to give them the list for my Secret Santa and say "hi." The Eagles play tomorrow, but there were a lot of other interesting games. Dad's Dolphins had beat the 49ers earlier, which meant he was in a decent mood. We got to see the Buccaneers pull off a surprising win over the Seahawks and the Jets give the Patriots a run for their money. (They lost, but it wasn't for a lack of trying. Considering the Patriots are top contenders, they played really well.)

Chatted with Jodie, Jesse, and Sandy for a while. I seem to be the only person on this side of the family who really enjoys shopping. I love it. I don't even need to buy anything. I just like looking at the merchandise. I like it online and offline. It's hard to explain it to everyone else around here, who considers shopping to be more of a chore than a pleasure. As long as I get it done well before Christmas Eve, it's one of my favorite parts of the season.

Had a strange kind of pizza they got at a gourmet pizza place in Cherry Hill. It was a plain tomato pie with blobs of fresh mozzerella and a very soft crust. Ok, not bad, other than it was a tad bland and I wish the crust wasn't burnt. I got to try the lemon cake Vanessa brought for Thanksgiving (and bring home a slice, too).

I saw a lot of people putting up their Christmas lights on my way to Dad's. By the time I was walking home, the neighborhood was aglow with bright-colored displays. I guess people decided to take advantage of the decent weather and the Eagles playing tomorrow. Dad put his up, too. Jesse set up one of those projection displays - his is red and green waves.

Finished out a quiet day with Lego Star Wars. Got through the Super Stories for Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. Got Clones in well under an hour, but I had problems with "Chancellor In Peril" and "Ruin of the Jedi" and couldn't get the hour on Sith. Tried the blue pieces challenge on "General Grevious," one of the shortest rounds. I did manage to get all of them, but just barely in time.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

What To Do About the Holidays

Started out the day with work. It was still sunny when I got in. I spent a lot of the morning doing carts. It wasn't busy at all when I arrived. It picked up later, around 10:30-11, though it never got super-busy. It never does on Thanksgiving weekend. People already have a ton of food at home. That may be why we were training new baggers today. I had to show them where the carts went and all the cleaning supplies are, despite not being entirely sure myself. (No one ever bothered telling me those things when they switched me to bagging.) Spent the last hour or so doing returns. It was cloudy and blah by the time I finished, making me glad I had no other outdoor plans for today.

I was livid with my schedule when I saw it. I only have 12 hours next week. How am I supposed to live? Good thing I did ask for that one week in December off. I'm going to need the money badly  now. I'm not the only one, either. All of the baggers but the head bagger have 12 hours this week; the new recruits (who look like high schoolers) have 8 each. Supposedly, it's just not going to be busy enough this week for even a little help. This happened the last time Thanksgiving was early, too.

I calmed down while doing some grocery shopping. Needed to restock cream of chicken soup, bananas, skim milk, peanut butter, jelly (got apricot preserves), and mushrooms. Eggs are so cheap right now. I got a carton of 18 large eggs for 99 cents! (Beats the heck out of last year, when they were over three dollars in some places.) Bags of oranges and clementines are on sale. I bought the latter. Also got my annual advent calendar with the cheap chocolate. I picked a really cute cover - a Santa bear brings gifts not only to a good bear family, but to their badger and hedgehog friends, too.

When I got home, I put everything away, then went on the computer to write. Rey flees into the woods, frightened by Mother Maz and Luke telling her that the blue sword is her destiny. One of Maz's gingerbread children follows her to bring her back. Before she can go after him, she's captured by Kylo Ren, who appears in the forest with his soldiers. He reads her mind, then finally puts her to sleep.

She awakens in the Pit of Darkness...but she's not alone. Han is imprisoned in the next cell. His wings are still chained, and the combination of iron and no light has severely weakened him, but he's still as ornery and gruff as ever.

Jodie called me twice while I was writing. Evidently, instead of buying gifts for this side of the family, we're having a Secret Santa. Which I can understand. There's a lot of people here. Also, they'd already chosen who everyone gets. Fortunate, my Secret Santa partner wanted something very, very simple that I could get at work.

She did, however, say not to bother making cookies for everyone, and that instead of buying me DVDs, I could get a free Netflix account. Now they're missing several points. I LIKE making cookies, shopping, wrapping, the whole nine yards. I LIKE Christmas. I generally don't find it stressful. Not only that, but I don't really have too many other people I can do things for. I don't have kids, pets, or significant others. I think a lot of people in the family don't quite understand that, or forget it.

I've decided that I'm just going to bring Christmas treat bags and a bucket of whatever cookies I have left by Christmas Eve and Christmas Day to Dad and Jodie's parties. Instead of bringing them the cookies, they can take their fill.

Broke for dinner around 6:30. Added roasted broccoli drizzled with olive oil and mashed sweet potatoes to my Italian sausage dinner. Watched Barbie In a Christmas Carol as I ate. The second of three Barbie In/As holiday tales takes us first to Barbie's bedroom on Christmas Eve. Her little sister Kelly is hiding because she'd rather stay home and do what they always do than go to a big charity ball. To make her understand the importance of charity, Barbie tells her the story of Eden Starling, the toast of London in the late 1800's. She's a marvelous singer, but also a selfish diva who won't even allow the members of her troupe to go home for Christmas break. Needless to say, four ghosts come along to show her the error of her ways and teach her kindness to others.

Finished the night with video games. I figured out that you can use most of the extras (except for the ones that give you extra studs) on the individual level bonus challenges. This proved to be a godsend. With the extras turned on, I got through all the levels but one on the first try, most well under the five minute mark. The only one I had to do a couple of times was Bespin, and even that, I only had to redo twice. Next time, I'll return to the Super Stories or do more of the blue pieces challenges.

Friday, November 25, 2016

There and Back Again

I awoke to yelling downstairs, probably Rose and Dad arguing over politics. I read Shadows of the Empire and wrote in my journal until Dad went to work. When I did make it down, Mom had a spread on the table nearly as large as last night's dessert buffet. Along with my pumpkin and cranberry bread, we had a bowl of fruit and the cheesecake, pies, and pumpkin cake from last night. I finally got to try Rose's wonderfully sweet French Apple Pie and the deliciously moist pumpkin cake. (Dad did come home later, thankfully in a better - and quieter - mood.)

Anny and her crew didn't arrive until around 9:30. After the kids ate, Collyn and Khai wanted one more session with the scooters and bikes outside. Khai was having so much fun, he really didn't want to leave. He kept trying to drag more bikes and scooters out, which I said "no" to. I didn't want a mess on the front lawn like the one the kids left last night.

We didn't roll out of Erma until past 11. The roads were mostly clear, even around the malls, and we had no problems with traffic. We did stop at a WaWa about mid-way through to pick up snacks. Khai wanted chicken strips. Rose bought a wrap. The rest of us settled for soda and soft pretzels.

It was 12:30 before I finally made it home. I spent an hour getting organized and checking out the gift Mom gave everyone. She found tins of Whitman's Chocolates with tops designed to look like the folk-art calendars she loved in the 90's and early 2000's. I sampled two before finally settling down to catch up online and post the blog entry I wasn't able to get up last night.

I was originally going to go to the Haddon Township Library today. By the time I finished my blog, it was 3:30. Not only was I still worn out from chasing the kids around yesterday, but I was hungry, and the weather wasn't looking pleasant. It was cloudy and damp again, like it was yesterday morning. I settled for a walk down to Common Grounds Coffee House for a slice of broccoli and cheddar quiche and a cup of hot green tea. Watched a mother and her daughter admire the decorations in Common Grounds' window and chat about the passers-by as I ate.

When I came home, I went right back on my laptop to work on my story. Rey finds a sword in Maz's basement. It allows her to see what looks like her uncle fighting a huge mouse...and then fighting a much younger fairy who nearly kills him. She's so frightened that she finally runs off.

After I got off, I heated up leftover tuna and peas for dinner while playing Lego Star Wars. When I got stuck on the Attack of the Clones super story, I decided to try something different. Every area has two bonus levels along with the Super Stories. I tried the ones for Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones. The "character" levels has you earning a million studs by having the characters attack enemies and break objects. The minikit levels is the flying variant, using the vehicles your pieces from the individual levels built. I was able to earn the studs, but not in the allotted five minutes needed to get the gold bricks. The only one I did in well under five minutes was the Tatoonie level on Phantom Menace. I got a lot of "Power Ups" (blue balls that allows you invincibility and to attract studs) in that round.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

To Mom and Dad's House We Go

I got an early start, so I could get everything packed and ready before Rose arrived. Finished out the book on Thanksgiving history Linda Young gave me last year, then did the Thanksgiving material in Colliers. They had an essay on the First Thanksgiving, lyrics to the song "Over the River and Through the Woods", and a couple of Thanksgiving hymns and poems.

Found a short story in the early 60's Storybookland anthology collection that was Thanksgiving-themed, "Pilgrim's Party." Mickey takes the Disney gang to the real Plymouth to enjoy a recreated Pilgrims and Indians holiday feast. It's all fun and pilgrim cosplay...until Pluto steals the turkey!

Kit Kitteredge is facing a tough Thanksgiving in the last two chapters of Kit Learns a Lesson. Her parents are in dire financial straights. thanks to the Great Depression. They've been taking in boarders to make ends meet, but Kit's tired of the endless chores and feeling like people are invading her home. She's sure that her father will find a job soon. When she and her friends Ruthie and Stirling takes the basket from their school's food drive to a soup kitchen, Kit's shocked to see someone familiar in the bread line...and learns a lesson about being grateful for those around her.

Ran cartoons while I ate breakfast and got organized. It's A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving when Peppermint Patty invites herself, Marcie, and Franklin over for dinner. Trouble is, Chuck's going over to his grandmother's for dinner. Peppermint Patty's upset by the simple meal of toast, ice cream, jelly beans, and pretzels she's offered, until Linus and Marcie remind their friends of the real reason for the holiday.

The Mayflower Voyagers also deals with the history behind the holiday. In fact, some of the same things discussed in Mouse and the Mayflower are also touched on here, including the beam in the Mayflower that cracked in a storm and nearly caused the travelers to turn back. The Peanuts gang play pilgrim kids and the ship's dog and hen, who find themselves dealing with the hardship of a harsh winter and losing family in the New World. When local Indians come out of hiding and agree to help, it's a true miracle...and a real reason to give thanks.

Garfield's Thanksgiving isn't as heartfelt at first. Garfield's livid when Liz the Veterinarian puts him on a diet the day before the holiday, then Jon invites her for dinner. Which would be nice if Jon had any idea of how to cook a turkey, or if his mind was on the food rather than romance. Good thing Grandma from the Christmas special is around to make things right.

Did two quick Mickey Mouse black-and-white shorts while waiting for Rose. He's "The Grocery Boy" who delivers food for Minnie's big meal, and even helps her cook. Once again, Pluto's desire for turkey causes all sorts of problems. "Mickey's Good Deed" takes us back to the bleak Depression years. Mickey and Pluto are playing music on the street for pennies. When Mickey tries to help a mother with a passel of kittens who won't be getting presents, he gives up what means the most to him to get the money. His own Christmas seems bare...until he gets a nice surprise in the end.

Rose and her family picked me up around 10:30. We had no problems getting down to Erma whatsoever. The roads were clear. It rained a little while we were on the interstate, but by the time we were in Dennisville in southern Cape May County, it was just cloudy and damp. Khai spent the entire hour and a half playing Mario games on his Nintendo DS and cuddling his two-foot stuffed deer. I read Shadows of the Empire and talked to his parents about Thanksgivings and holidays when we were younger.

We arrived around noon. Everyone else was already there. The kids are getting so darn big! One and a half year old Lilah can walk just fine now. Her big thing is dinosaurs. She was thrilled with the realistic plastic toy dinosaurs Khai brought with him. Skylar spent most of the early afternoon watching Paw Patrol on Nick Jr. and Spongebob Square Pants on Nickelodeon. He's 12, almost a teenager, as he reminded everyone several times.

Collyn is 7, the closest to Khai's age. They were inseparable all day. We were in and out all afternoon. When we were indoors, we'd play with all the toys in the playroom/laundry room and eat the big appetizer spread Mom had out for lunch. There was a vegetable tray, a yummy cheese ball covered in breadcrumbs, fancy crackers, fresh crab meat with cocktail sauce for dipping, and Mom's home-made ranch dip.

When we were outside, the boys mostly rode scooters or bikes. Anny's boyfriend Jay went back to their house at one point to get Skylar's bike. (It's an older bike they found for 20 dollars at a yard sale, but it seems to have cleaned up really well. Sky had no problems doing wheelies on it, anyway.)

At one point, the boys got so rambunctious, Jay and I took them for a walk/scooter ride/bike ride around the neighborhood. All the boys' yelling attracted a bit of attention. They watched one little boy ride a motor bike. Another, younger boy in his pajamas ran outside and watched all of us stroll, ride, and push by.

At least it was a nice day for it. By the time we were on our walk, the sun had come out. The morning chill had become warm late-fall sunshine. It was really lovely, though thankfully not quite as warm as last Thanksgiving, probably into the mid-50's. The last of the bright red and gold fall leaves seemed to glow in sunlight. A few folks in their neighborhood already had up holiday decorations. Most settled for round orange pumpkins or leaf-strewn banners.

When we returned, Jay went inside to talk to Anny. I opted to stay out and keep an eye on the boys. Skylar and Collyn ran races with two kids about Skylar's age, Geo and Nicholas. While the boys raced on foot and on scooters, I pulled Khai down Mom and Dad's dead-end street in their red metal Radio Flyer wagon.

(Talk about memories. I've been doing that with various siblings since I was old enough to move the wagon on my own. I used to pull Anny in her metal Radio Flyer wagon in the late 80's. Keefe had a wooden variation in the early 90's that he loved, then a thick plastic one. When he was really little, I used to take him to the movies in that wagon.)

After Skylar went back inside, Collyn, Khai, and I went in the backyard. The boys grabbed colorful plastic water guns and pretended to shoot zombies. I figured "why not play along?", grabbed a gun, and told them I was Princess Leia. I had a great time chasing the boys around the yard and in one of Mom and Dad's sheds, but whew, did they wear me out! I'm not used to running around with two energetic kids for several hours.

We finally had dinner around quarter of 4. Dinner was Mom's usual wonderful feast. Along with turkey (that came out just fine this year), there were pearl onions in white sauce, carrots in honey glaze, green bean casserole, sweet potatoes with marshmallow topping, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, rolls, and a new cornbread sausage stuffing recipe Mom wanted to try. Oh yummm. I had everything but the mashed potatoes (I'm not the biggest fan of white potatoes), and it was all amazing. I might have to e-mail Mom for the sausage stuffing recipe.

(The only person who wasn't happy was Skylar. He was very upset that he wasn't allowed to sit at the adults' table. He argued with his mother about it before and after the meal.)

I went back out with Collyn and Khai after dinner. We continued with the zombie apocalypse at first. As it began to get dark, we switched to tag, then to hide and seek. Lilah even joined us at one point. The boys loved that. Despite the small size of Mom and Dad's backyard, there's all kids of places small children can wedge themselves into. Collyn in particular was having so much fun, he wasn't happy when we had to drag him inside. The desserts were out, it was too dark for me to find the kids anymore, and sometime between dinner and our zombie battle, it had clouded over again and was starting to shower.

Mom makes the best pumpkin pie ever. Collyn and I both swarmed towards that as soon as we got in. She had real whipped cream for it, too. I was too full from dinner and lunch to have more than a slice of that, one of Anny's "turkey legs" (Rice Krispies Treats shaped like turkey legs, with white chocolate-covered pretzels and marshmallows as the bone), and a couple of Mom's famous chocolate chip cookie bars. Too bad, because there were lots of other great choices. Rose brought a French apple pie and cheesecake. A neighbor gave Mom pumpkin cake with cream cheese icing. There was ice cream sundaes for the kids, too.

After dessert, Rose and Anny went up to the malls to do some early shopping. Everyone else settled down by the TV to play with Matchbox cars and watch TV. We ran Mythbusters and the very end of Back to the Future Part III until Skylar got bored and went into the playroom. Dad switched to football after that. He'd had the Vikings-Lions game on earlier, but it wasn't terribly exciting. (The Lions just barely won, 16-13.) We saw the second half of the Cowboys-Redskins game. It was a heck of a lot more interesting. Every time the Cowboys got a touchdown, the Redskins would answer with another one. In the end, the Redskins just got outplayed. The Cowboys won, 31-26.

Jay finally ended up taking the kids home. (Anny and Rose didn't arrive until much later.) I went upstairs as they were leaving. Spent the rest of the night looking at old family photos and all the great old kids' books Mom has in her office.

And sorry I wasn't able to get this up last night. Mom and Dad have a limited Verizon internet plan, and apparently most of their minutes tend to go to cell phone usage on the Internet. I wasn't able to get on. At any rate, I hope all of you had a safe, happy, and full Thanksgiving with all the people you love.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Busy, Busy Fall

Began the morning with baking the Cranberry-Orange Bread after breakfast. I always bring two loaves of bread to Thanksgiving. It's a tradition that goes back to when I was in college. The only things I had the time or the room to make were the Pillsbury bread mixes. I used to make them for my roommates, and they loved them so much, I thought I'd try them on my family. Mom said they had plenty of desserts...but they were perfect for Black Friday breakfast for ten or fifteen hungry (and hungover) people after my family's late 90's-early 00's Thanksgiving get-togethers.

Ran a couple of holiday specials while I ate and baked. The Stingiest Man In Town is a Rankin-Bass adaptation of a 1950's TV musical of the same name. This is another musical Christmas Carol, this time with Walter Matthau as Scrooge, Robert Morse as the young Scrooge, Tom Bosley as the bug narrator E.A.H Humbug, and Dennis Day in one of his final TV roles as Nephew Fred. I love the music in this one, especially the opening number "An Old Fashioned Christmas" and Martha Cratchit's "Yes, There Is a Santa Claus."

Threw on a Max & Ruby episode while cleaning up the dishes. "Max's Thanksgiving" has Ruby setting the table for Grandma's big feast. Max is more interested in the nut stuffing.

Spent the next couple of hours writing while waiting for the bread to come out of the oven. Rey's glad she's traveling with her new friend the Nutcracker. She likes him a lot, but she wonders if there's a lot more to him than he claims.

Mother Maz turns out to be a very old woman in a huge dress that looks like a cake and is big enough for her gingerbread children to run in and out of! She offers the group food and shelter while they prepare to rescue Han. She knows where he is - in the Pit of Darkness, deep within Starkiller Fortress. He's alive, but weak. Fairies can't survive without light.

Did two Thanksgiving TV episodes while getting packed for tomorrow and eating lunch. Jack of All Trades had a very unique Thanksgiving episode in its second and last season, "One Two Three, Give Me Lady Liberty." Jack teaches Emilia and the citizens of the tropical island where they live about that most American of holidays as Napoleon prepares to give a very tall statue of a woman carrying a torch to the US. When the duo find out what the miniature emperor really has in mind for the statue, they distract the guards surrounding it with another Thanksgiving tradition - football!

Balki and Larry are having their own problems with "Wild Turkey" during a seventh season episode of Perfect Strangers. Larry took in a whole flock of fresh turkeys to sell. The feathers really fly when Jennifer thinks one ate her wedding ring. The boys have to try to persuade a family who bought a turkey to give it back when they suspect it's the bird with the ring.

Threw on a quick Three Stooges short while getting ready for work. The trio are "Boobs In the Woods" when they're sent by England to help defend the new colonists from Indians. They immediately fall for three pretty pilgrim lasses, but have less luck with the natives. When the Indians capture Larry, Moe and Curly dress as members of the tribe to rescue him.

Work was surprisingly quiet when I got in...but that didn't last long. By 2:30, it was starting to get busy. By the height of rush hour around 4:30-5, we had lines down the aisles and no carts. I did help bag for the first half-hour and occasionally gathered baskets, but once again, I was mostly outside. It got really crazy about an hour before I finished. The traffic was crazy, and I dodged as many cars as I could, in the parking lot and going home.

When I got in, I put on another short while eating leftovers for dinner. Molly's Pilgrim won an Oscar for best short subject in 1985. I can understand why. It's very sweet. Molly and her parents are Russian Jewish immigrants who came to America for religious freedom. Molly may appreciate her freedom, but she doesn't like how the kids at school make fun of her old-fashioned clothes, her trouble with English, and her unusual lunch. She's worried that she'll be teased even more when her mother makes her pilgrim doll for a class project look more like a Russian pilgrim than the traditional Mayflower puritan. But one of Molly's classmates is really right - it does take all kinds of pilgrims to make a Thanksgiving.

Took a shower, then did Planes, Tranes, and Automobiles while settling down online. All ad executive Neil Page (Steve Martin) wants is to get home to Chicago for Thanksgiving. A blizzard strands him in Wichita and leaves him perpetually stuck with Del Griffith (John Candy), a shower curtain salesman who is a very nice guy, but also overly chatty and a mass of bad habits. As the two make their way across the frozen Midwestern landscape, Neil realizes why Del is on the road...and learns a lesson in being thankful.

This enjoyable tale of holiday travel gone wrong is a little dated (many of Neil's problems would be solved with a cell phone call or by checking an app today) and the sentimental ending is a bit jarring. It's worth seeing if you're a fan of Candy, Martin, or director John Hughes - it's some of their best work.

Thanksgiving specials don't often turn up on DVD. Here's a couple of lesser-known specials from YouTube to whet your palate for the big dinner tomorrow.

The Bernstein Bears Meet Big Paw
The Mouse On the Mayflower (Rankin-Bass' only Thanksgiving special)
The Turkey Caper
Saturday Supercade: Q-Bert - Thanksgiving For the Memories
Care Bear Family: Grams Bear's Thanksgiving Surprise

For those of you who won't be online tomorrow, I hope you all have a happy Thanksgiving! Everyone else, enjoy the last days of fall.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Have Yourself a Dolly Holiday

Started off a sunny day with Winnie the Pooh: Seasons of Giving while I had breakfast. I mainly ran it for the Thanksgiving special in the middle of the "full-length" film. The Hundred Acre Woods crew is gearing up to share a feast of honey, haycorns, and hot chocolate ice cream when Rabbit butts in. He insists that Thanksgiving is about tradition, and tradition means eating the right foods. Trouble is, Tigger and Eeyore can't find the cranberries, Pooh and Piglet are terrified of the turkey they're supposed to be catching, and Gopher's making pumpkin pie "with attitude." When the party goes wrong, Rabbit cancels everything. It's Pooh who finally remembers that we celebrate Thanksgiving not for the food, but for the friends we share it with.

Spent the next hour and a half dressing the American Girl dolls for the holidays. I never did get around to dressing them for this month. They were due. Samantha is in her Cranberry Christmas Dress and the red shoes from her Spring Day Dress. Josefina looks like a Spanish princess in her yellow striped Christmas Dress and Mantilla. (They replaced it with a blue one this year. I may get that and use it for regular winter wear.) Jessa is in the 90's Chinese New Year Outfit with Josefina's black mules. (The velvet shoes that originally came with that outfit fell apart years ago.) Felicity wears her beautiful bright blue Christmas Ball Gown with Josefina's Heirloom Accessories choker. Molly's feeling glamorous in her Evergreen Velvet Dress, white Springfield Collection socks, Samantha's "meet" shoes, and Whitney's ruffled petticoat. Whitney gets the blue-violet Snowflake Ball Gown with a black Springfield Collection spencer (the dress is sleeveless), black stockings, and the velvet strap shoes from Ivy's Chinese New Year Dress.

Had a quick lunch while doing Mickey's Christmas Carol. This 1983 adaptation of the famous Charles Dickens novella is usually listed as Mickey's theatrical comeback. Actually, Mickey has the role of Bob Cratchet here. Uncle Scrooge, as a perfect Ebeneezer Scrooge, is the real focus. Donald is his nephew Fred, Daisy is Belle, Jiminy Cricket, Willie the Giant, and Big Pete are the ghosts, Minnie is Mrs. Cratchet, and Goofy makes a better Jacob Marley than you might think. (Also look for rare animated appearances by comic-books-only characters Grandma Duck and the Three Little Wolves.)

Headed out around 12:30 for a walk to the Oaklyn Library. It was a nice day for it. It's still windy, but not nearly the gale-force winds we've had over the past two days. It was chilly, but nothing out of the ordinary for late November, probably in the lower 50's. The trees are getting more and more bare. A smattering of yards already have Christmas decorations out, but most have settled on pumpkins, scarecrows, mums, and bright-colored fall banners.

The Oaklyn Library wasn't busy today. I listened to one of the older patrons chat with the librarian and tried to ignore all the political blather on CNN. I was thankful when the librarian got tired of it too and switched to The Weather Channel. I mainly shelved books in the children's area, though I did also look at DVDs.

Went home to pick up my laundry, then right back out again. I had a huge load to get done, including the sheets I stripped off the bed yesterday. Thankfully, they weren't that busy. A family did show up later, and there were people here and there. I mostly just worked on story notes and sort-of listened to Steve Harvey.

When I got home, I put everything away, then put the ripped sheet in the back room to be cut into dust cloths, then went into writing. Rey suggests disguising themselves as slaves to get into the salt and pepper mines and rescue the captured toys. The Nutcracker points out a place where they can get into the Starkiller Fortress and free Han. Leia adds that they can stop at the home of Mother Maz, an old woman who runs a place for stray gingerbread children, and get supplies and aid.

Let the DVD continue into The Small One as I made Tuna With Peas for dinner. Tun and Peas is basically what it sounds like, a tuna casserole cooked on a stove top. I didn't have sour cream around (I don't like sour cream), so I used cream of chicken soup instead. Yum, Came out very well. I might have to get some more of that Acme natural tuna if it's still on the shelves.

The Small One came out in 1979, four years prior to Christmas Carol. We move from London in the 1840's to the Middle East in biblical times for the touching tale of a little boy and his small, elderly donkey. The boy's father says the donkey doesn't earn his keep anymore and must be sold. The boy is heartbroken, but he's determined to find Small One a good home. Small One is too old and frail to attract a buyer. Most of the city people laugh at him...until one kind fellow named Joseph who needs a gentle donkey to carry his wife to Bethlehem offers to buy him.

Very sweet tale of faith and friendship from Don Bluth, shortly before he broke away from Disney. (In fact, I think this was his last completed project with the company.)

Switched to Meet Me In St. Louis as I made Pumpkin Bread to take to Mom and Dad's house on Thanksgiving. This is six months in the life of the Smith family as they prepare for the opening of the big St. Louis World's Fair in 1903 and 1904. Esther (Judy Garland) is playing matchmaker for her older sister Rose (Lucile Bremer) and her long-distance beau while pining after that cute boy next door John (Tom Drake). Tootie (Margaret O'Brian) is making snowpeople that look like her siblings' friends and claiming her dolls have "four fatal diseases" so she can bury them and give them nice funerals. Everyone's plans are in an uproar when Mr. Smith announces that he's moving the family east to New York, and an eastern-bread beauty seems to make a play for the boy Rose is after. Rose and Esther have their own plans, but things ultimately work out for everyone, right in time for the Fair to finally open.

This adorable coming-of-age tale has been a favorite of the women in my family since Mom bought the video in the early 90's. Men don't seem to be as fond of it. I don't think Dad knew what to make of it, and Keefe was scared to death of the Halloween sequence for years. I mainly had it on for the Christmas sequence. This was the debut of the much-loved holiday standard "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas."

Watching this one always brings back a lot of memories of growing up in a similarly large and female-dominated family. Phone calls (even after the advent of the cell phone) were often heard by at least three or four other members of the family, especially if they were from the opposite sex. Anny could be as macabre as Tootie at that age. She used to make up equally weird stories about her school at the dinner table and have "crab graveyards" at the beach where tiny crabs would bury in the sand.

I don't know how other guys would handle it, but for ladies, if you're a fan of Garland or of other nostalgic musical tales like On Moonlight Bay, this is one of MGM's best musicals of the 1940's and is absolutely recommended.

And I found another animated film I was fond of during my childhood on YouTube. This 1974 Japanese version of Jack and the Beanstalk used to show up from time to time on cable when I was little. It has a really interesting premise that deviates from the original story once Jack gets up the beanstalk - the castle in the clouds is really ruled by a princess who is under the spell of a witch. The witch has enchanted the princess to marry her ugly giant son so she can be Queen of the Clouds. All the citizens of the land were turned to mice. Jack's more interested in the giant's gold at first, but his conscience finally kicks in, and he learns that even a clever farm boy can make a difference and rescue royalty.

Jack and the Beanstalk 1974 Japanese animation

Monday, November 21, 2016

The Great Windy Outdoors

Began the day with breakfast and The Great Outdoors. I picked this up (along with She-Ra) from a couple of yard sales last month, but just hadn't gotten around to it until today. Chet (John Candy) is looking forward to some family bonding time in the same lakeside cabin he spent his summers in as a kid. The cabin's looking a lot smaller when his obnoxious brother-in-law Roman (Dan Ackroyd), a rich commodities trader, shows up with his snarky wife (Annette Benning) and his two strange twin daughters. Chet's determined to have fun anyway, but Roman is competitive and annoying and doesn't make it easy. When Roman finally comes clean about what he's really doing, he and Chet learn that, no matter which side of the class divide they're on, they're still a family.

I was surprised at this one. It was really fun. It reminds me of a cross between Candy's previous vacation-themed vehicle Summer Rental and National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. Here, it's the rich guy who is annoying and is imposing on the lower-middle class guy, rather than the other way around. It also has some things in common with Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, including an overly sentimental ending.

If you're a fan of Ackroyd, Benning (this was her first movie), Candy, or John Hughes (who wrote but didn't direct this), this is actually a lot of fun and is recommended.

Made the bed during the second half of Great Outdoors. I'd normally wait a few weeks, but first of all, it did just finally get cold here, likely for good. Second, I found a rather large hole in the bottom of the fitted sheet. That's going to have to be replaced. I just put the flannel sheets on a bit early.

Work was pretty much the same as yesterday. Spent the entire afternoon outside, rounding up carts. I didn't mind. While it was still windy, the sun had come out, the clouds had mostly vanished, and it was a tiny bit warmer than it was yesterday. One of the managers did say I could come in later and do returns, but the carts kept disappearing, even though we weren't that busy.

(We're lucky we just got gale-force wind. One of the customers outside mentioned her daughter in Minnesota got a ton of snow, and Lauren spent a lot of last night complaining about the foot she got.)

Took the long way home down Nicholson Road. I'll be working too late the rest of the week to do it. Surprisingly, except around the Wal Mart entrance and down Nicholson, they weren't that busy, either. Had no problems dodging traffic.

When I got in, I got organized, then went on the computer to work on a little writing. Jessika the Candied Ginger Soldier finds Rey some clothes for battle. Rey mentions that Han had called Kylo Ren his son. Jessika explains that it's not known who Ren is, though rumor maintains that he's the runaway son of Han and Leia.

Made Italian chicken sausage with sweet potatoes and fried mushrooms and onions for dinner while watching Muppet Family Christmas. All of the Muppets who existed in the mid-80's come together to celebrate the holidays at Fozzie's mother's farm. Doc and Sprockett of Fraggle Rock are there too, renting the house for a nice, quiet Christmas. Between joke-telling snowmen, the Swedish Chef pursuing the turkey, and Ernie and Bert leading the Sesame Street Christmas pageant, this holiday party is anything but quiet! Meanwhile, Kermit and Robin visit the Fraggles while they wait and wait for Miss Piggy, who is stranded in the huge blizzard that surrounds the farm.

I love this special, but thanks to the three groups of Muppets being owned by three different companies, it's not easy to find intact today. Try YouTube and other online sharing sites.

Climbed into the bath next. Ahhh. Boy, did I need that after spending a lot of my weekend gathering carts. I looked over a Wilton Christmas cake book and It's a Wonderful Christmas, on how the mid-20th-century shaped our holidays. Listened to the New Age/Jazz collection On A Winter's Night as I relaxed.

Finished my night on the couch while watching Mame. Lucile Ball is the title character, a madcap dilettante who considers every day to be a holiday and encourages everyone around her to live their life to the fullest, including her adoring nephew Patrick and her shy nanny and housemaid Agnes (Jane Connell). Her best friend Vera Charles (Beatrice Arthur) tries to help her out when she loses her money in the Great Depression. She eventually marries a southern gentleman (Robert Preston) and keeps the grown Patrick from marrying a spoiled, shallow socialite.

I had this on because the score produced the standard holiday tune "We Need a Little Christmas." Mame, having just been fired (again), decides to give out presents early to cheer up the household. (Agnes dressed as a Christmas tree is adorable.) I love this musical. A lot of people think Lucile Ball is miscast, but I think she's just fine. She and Beatrice Arthur are hilarious in the sniping friends number "Bosom Buddies." If you're a fan of the cast, songwriter Jerry Herman, or the big musicals of the 60's and 70s, you may find yourself loving Auntie Mame, too.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Winds of Fall

Began a cloudy morning with my Sunday pancakes. The pumpkin spice chip oatmeal cookies came out so nicely, I thought I'd recreate the flavors in a cookie and make Pumpkin Spice Chip Oatmeal Pancakes. They were ok. I probably should have added a little brown sugar along with the chips.

Ran one of my favorite Christmas CDs as I ate. A Broadway Christmas is a collection of holiday songs from various shows. A few are well-known, such as "We Need a Little Christmas" from Mame or "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" from Meet Me In St. Louis (which turned up on Broadway as a stage show in the late 80's). Others were from lesser-known shows ("Christmas Child" from Irma La Douce), Broadway flops ("Be A Santa" from Subways are For Sleeping), taken from stage shows that haven't made Broadway ("Christmas Gifts" from a musical version of It's a Wonderful Life), or were cut numbers (the lovely "Christmas Eve" was dropped from the operetta She Loves Me). There was even an older song that had just then been rediscovered, Irving Berlin's "The Happy New Year Blues."

Did some writing after I cleaned up from breakfast. Queen Leia is ready to greet them when they arrive at the Ribbon Candy Village. Leia is a lovely older fairy, dressed in a lavender and plum-colored gown, with soft purple wings. She praises Rey and the Nutcracker for their bravery and reveals that she knows where her husband is being held. They're connected. He's in Starkiller Castle at the Kingdom of the First Order, over Dark Chocolate Mountain.

Put on a holiday cassette as I ate lunch and got ready for work. I think I like the second Disney Christmas Collection far better than the first. The strange number here is a very odd Little Mermaid version of "Deck the Halls." Otherwise, there's a lot of fun material here. I love the Disney characters' attempt at "The 12 Days of Christmas," and the not-bad original choral number "Celebrate."

Work was pretty much the same as yesterday, busy when I came in, quiet when I left. Once again, other than cleaning up a coffee spill in aisle 4, I was outside rounding up carts most of the night. This was complicated by weather that was very changed from yesterday. While we thankfully didn't get the foot of snow Lauren ended up with in Massachusetts, we did have a huge storm last night and some very heavy gale-force winds. The winds continued all throughout work (and are still continuing as I write this). It was cold and cloudy and grey. At least I had plenty of help. At one point, there were two other baggers helping me, and there was always one other person out there with me.

When I finally made it home, I made the last of the leftover Chicken Soup wit Lemon and Orzo while playing more Lego Star Wars. Finally got the last pieces I needed for "Speeder Showdown" and "Dagobah," which finished out Free Play. Tried Super Story, which is a cross between Story Mode and the Challenges. You play all six rounds one after the other, trying to finish them in under an hour and gather 100,000 studs. I did The Phantom Menace levels. I was able to gather the studs easily, but I missed the hour mark by 15 minutes. Oh well. We'll see if I do better on Attack of the Clones next time.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Last Harvest of the Season

Had breakfast while watching one of two Backyardigans holiday episodes. "The Action Elves Save Christmas Eve" is from the fourth and final (to date) season. Uniqua, Tasha, and Pablo are the title characters, who have to rescue Santa's sack from the goofy Abominable Brothers (Tyrone and Austin). The duo don't even realize they've stolen Santa's sack - they just think they found a cool bag. Santa (voice of Conan O'Brian) keeps tags on them via Uniqua's cell phone.

Headed out to run errands soon after. Today was the final Collingswood Farm Market of the season. They always end the Saturday before Thanksgiving. I'm glad I was able to go. Between the beautiful weather and people looking for produce for their big meals on Thursday, they were absolutely mobbed by 10:30. I could barely move around. Pumpkins were gone and a lot of regular booths were replaced by craft tables. I was still able to pick up broccoli, red leaf lettuce (a small bunch from one of the organic booths), bananas from the tropical fruit sellers, apples, and cranberries for the bread I take to Thanksgiving.

Since the one booth was out of apple cider donuts, I decided to try another treat on the other end of the block. One of the Italian restaurants in Collingswood has a booth that sells, among other items, zeppoles. These seem to be fried pieces of dough covered in powdered sugar. I ended up with three. Tried one as I was leaving. Yum. Not bad. Very soft, sweet, and egg-y. Kind of like a fried popover.

It was an absolutely gorgeous day for a ride around Collingswood and Haddon Township. I checked out the Rite Aid in Collingswood and the Westmont Acme for something. No luck. Took a look at a yard sale on the border of Collingswood and Westmont. It was all junk, and junk in bad shape, at that. Nothing of interest.

Rode home through Newton Lake Park. The park was almost as busy as yesterday. In addition to people fishing, walking dogs, or going for bike rides, a local church was hosting a lake clean-up. I finally avoided the lines of people searching for trash by hauling my bike up a wood and stone staircase to the neighborhoods above the park.

Did a little bit of writing when I got home. Lady Kaydel explains that Queen Leia has been driven to the Ribbon Candy Village. She conjures up a sleigh made of molded sugar and foil-wrapped chocolate to take them to the Sugar Plum Fairy Queen's domain.

Ran two episodes of Good Eats on fruits that are often consumed during the holidays as I put my fruit and vegetables away and ate a quick lunch."Cran Opening" shows how the very tart and extremely nutritional cranberry can be made into everything from sauce to Cosmopolitans. In "Orange Aid," he takes the round citrus fruit out of the juicer and into Orange Julius, orange sherbet, and my favorite, orange marmalade.

Although work wasn't bad when I arrived, it got very busy later on as people began to come out of the bazaars and church fairs and into the stores. I spent almost the entire four hours outside gathering carts. Not that this was a bad thing. Far from it. It was so warm, I was able to wear short sleeves for most of the night with no problems. It was too warm, really, into the upper 60's.

I had a few things I wanted to pick up on the way home. Someone finally had what I've been looking for the past couple of days. I normally don't read People Magazine, but this week's issue had an article on Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher I was dying to see. I was starving after pushing carts around for four hours - I needed a pretzel.

I'd also finally saved enough stickers to get a free pot. Usually when we have that pot promotion, the pots they carry are either too big for my apartment, or not something I really need. This time, they had the perfect pot for me - a cute little pot with pour spouts on either side. They're Farberware, too. They're a really good brand. The pot was the smallest in the promotion and cost the fewest stickers, too.

Oh, and yes, they were able to switch with a college student who wanted extra hours and get me Thanksgiving off. I'm disappointed I wasn't able to pick up extra hours on Tuesday. Maybe I'll see if I can stay an hour or two later this week. They'll very likely need the help. This is the week before the biggest food holiday of the year. We're always mobbed.

When I got home, I put on soup really quick, then spent a few hours working on Lego Star Wars. Finally got the last pieces on "Bounty Hunter Pursuit," "The Battle of Endor," and "Betrayal Over Bespin." There's only two rounds left in Free Play I can't figure out, "Dagobah" and "Speeder Showdown." I'll work on them the next time I play.

Took a shower, then finished out the night with Anastasia as I got settled on the couch, in honor of the stage version debuting on Broadway this March. This 1997 animated musical takes us to Russia in the 1920's, shortly after the Bolsheviks came to power. Anya (Meg Ryan) is a young orphan searching for her past. Her only clue is a necklace that says "Together In Paris." She seeks out Dimintri (John Cusack), who has papers that can get her to France for a price. As it happens, Dimintri and his friend Vlad (Kelsey Grammar) are looking for a young woman who can play the missing Princess Anastasia and get them a big reward from her grandmother the Dowager Duchess (Angela Landsbury). They take her to Paris...but the more she learns, the more Dimintri begins to wonder if she might not really be royalty. And her arrival has awaken the evil Rasputin (Christopher Lloyd), who put a curse on her family and is determined to make sure it's fulfilled...

 Don't come here looking for a history lesson. This is pure 90's animated fairy tale. Great music by Broadway tunesmiths Lynn Aherns and Stephan Flahtery (including the lovely "Once Upon a December") and some really nice animation, though. Violence and the nasty gimmick of Rasputin literally falling apart makes this for older princesses, but if you have older girls who are wondering about the start of their own journeys (and don't mind the historical inaccuracies), this is very much recommended.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Very Warm for Fall

Started off the day with The Care Bears' Nutcracker. Funshine and Grumpy are originally sent to help a little girl named Anna whose best friend has just moved away. Their mission gets a lot more complicated when a nutcracker and a couple of rats end up in Anna's bedroom. They're from Toyland, which has been enslaved by the evil Vizier and his rat army, including the rather goofy rat king. Anna heads off with the Nutcracker and a couple of the Care Bears and Care Bear Cousins to find the ring that belongs to the true prince of the kingdom, the only one who can stop the Vizier. Meanwhile, Baby Hugs and Tugs are searching for their very own Christmas tree ornament, and Anna's brother just wants some adventure.

Worked on my own Nutcracker story late in the morning and after getting online later tonight. Luke explains how he ended up there. The Land of Sweets was originally run by Queen Leia the Sugar Plum Fairy and her cavalier Han as regents for Prince Finnegan, the rightful ruler, until he was old enough to inherit the throne. King Snoke, a miserable old rodent from the evil Land of the First Order, took over the land, banishing the queen and her husband to the outer villages. Luke tried to defend the prince, but ended up banished as well. He has no idea where the prince is now, if he's alive or dead or cursed.

They finally arrive in the Snowflake Meadow, a field of glistening white. Lady Kaydel, the Head of the Snowflakes, is in charge of this domain. She and her snowflake fairies are in charge of keeping the world white for the winter. Kaydel agrees to take them to Queen Leia, who is awaiting word in the Ribbon Candy Village on the edge of the Mint Sugar Forest.

Didn't get out to run errands until nearly 1. Made a quick stop at WaWa to use the ATM machine, then rode to Audubon. I had a ton of grocery shopping to do! I needed to restock sugar, ground turkey, cooking spray, skim milk, buttermilk, chocolate chips (thought I'd try those pumpkin spice chips I've seen around), I Can't Believe It's Not Butter, cheese (buy one-get one free sale on the Acme generic cheese), frozen vegetables, and tuna. (Found the Acme's generic "natural" tuna on clearance.) Italian chicken sausage was on a semi-decent sale and had a manager's coupon. A coupon for Domino's Sugar coupled with a good sale allowed me to get powdered sugar along with the white. Bought a small bottle of orange juice for the cranberry bread I'm going to make this week.

At least, I hope. Because I'm not off Thanksgiving. I was listed as working from 9 AM to 1 PM. I couldn't believe it. I didn't ask for Thanksgiving off because I didn't think I'd need to. I've had every Thanksgiving off for the past 15 years but this one. It's never been a problem before! I didn't even sign up for it. I already told Mom and Dad I'd be coming down to Cape May County! I guess it's because there's so few baggers. The two head baggers likely asked off that day, and most of the kids only work later. Good thing it was busy and the head front end manager had just opened a register. I told him how angry I was. He said he'd talk to the woman in charge of the schedules.

I was still angry when I rushed to Arby's across the parking lot for lunch. It was past 2 by then, and the place was dead except for a few couples. I just had a quick roast beef gyro, curly fries, and Diet Dr. Pepper while stewing over my schedule.

When I got home, I put everything away and finished The Care Bears Nutcracker, then headed back out. Stopped very quickly at Rite Aid to see if they had something I was looking for. They didn't, so I moved on.

The Haddon Township Library was almost as busy as the Acme when I arrived. Most schools were out by 3:30. Kids were looking for books and movies with their parents. I shelved children's DVDs, CDs, and audio books, but otherwise wasn't around for long. Not only was it getting late, but they had plenty of help from high school volunteers.

Went up the hill to Acme on Cuthbert Road. Still couldn't find what I was looking for there. Couldn't find it at the small CVS next-door, either, but I did get dish washing liquid and a sparkling water there.

Cut through Newton Lake Park going home. It was certainly a nice day for a bike ride. In fact, it was probably too nice, in the upper 60's with the barest hint of a breeze. The park was the busiest I'd ever seen it! I dodged walkers, joggers, bike riders, dog walkers, kids going fishing on the edge of the lake, and kids strolling together on their way home from school.

When I got in, I put on March of the Toy Soldiers to cheer myself up while making Oatmeal-Pumpkin Spice Chip Cookies. Laurel and Hardy headline the first talkie version of Babes In Toyland. This time, the young lovers are Little Bo Peep (Charlotte Henry) and Tom Piper (Felix Knight). Barnaby holds the mortgage on her mother's shoe and will throw them all out if Bo Peep doesn't marry him. Stan and Ollie are boarders in the shoe. They're determined to help the old lady and her children, even if it means going to Bogie Land to face the terrible demons who live there!

While I don't think this one has held up as well as the Disney version, it has its moments. I especially like Stan and Ollie giving Barnaby a "present," them at the wedding, and them waiting (in vain) for Barnaby to come out of Bogie Land.

The cookies came out really nice, too. They were originally Macadamia-White Chocolate Chip Cookies made with a yellow butter cake mix, but macadamias are expensive. I replaced the white chocolate with the pumpkin spice chips and replaced the nuts with extra spices. Yum. A little sweet, but not bad.

Put on By the Light of the Silvery Moon while eating lobster cakes and the last of the leftover frozen green beans for dinner, Majorie (Doris Day) is patiently awaiting the return of her boyfriend (Gordon MacRae) from World War I. She's devastated when he says he wants to make money before they get married, but she comes around. Meanwhile, first her brother gets attached to the Thanksgiving turkey, then thinks their father is running around with a French actress after he finds a supposed "note" from him to her. Marjorie and the family maid Alice see it, too. Marjorie tries everything she can to bring her parents together...but then her boyfriend sees the note and thinks it's from another suitor...

I put on the follow-up to the 1951 hit On Moonlight Bay because it has a sequence set at Thanksgiving, including a rather nice version of "Ain't We Got Fun?" If you liked that film, or similar coming-of-age musicals set in the early 20th century like Meet Me In St. Louis, you'll probably enjoy this one, too.

Moved to the 1965 version of Rodgers' and Hammerstein's Cinderella as I settled on the couch with my laptop. Leslie Ann Warren is Cinderella in the second of three versions of the only musical Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote directly for TV. None of them are alike. This one is in color and has one additional song ("Loneliness of Evening" for the prince) and a great cast that includes Ginger Rodgers (as the queen), Walter Pidgeon (as the king), Pat Carroll (as one of the stepsisters), and Celeste Holm (as the Fairy Godmother).

The version of this show you go for really depends on which one you grew up with, which cast you prefer, and whether pictorial quality is an issue. The restoration of the 1965 version on my copy looks great. The colors are rich and vibrant. It even includes the original CBS station identification card. If you remember this from showings on cable in the 80's or are a fan of the cast, fairy tales, or Rodgers and Hammerstein's other work, this is very cute and highly recommended.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Getting Ready for Christmas

Today was my early work today. Not a whole lot going on. I rounded up carts when I arrived, but I was mainly inside. I gathered baskets, emptied the trash cans for the wet wipe containers as you enter the store, and helped a manager with heavy boxes filled with register tape and an old woman with her groceries. Wiped down a new display case in the deli. Spent the last half-hour doing returns. There really wasn't a whole lot to do. We just weren't that busy, and there were two other baggers there when I finished.

Headed straight home after work. I took the long way down Nicholson Road. There was some late lunch traffic in Audubon. Otherwise, the streets weren't much busier than the Acme. It was too nice a day for people to be in a hurry! The sun was out, the sky was blue, and it was unusually warm for mid-November, probably in the upper 60's. 

When I got home, I had lunch while watching Snowed In at the House of Mouse. This "feature length" animated movie tells what happens when pretty much every Disney character in existence in the early 2000's gets stranded at Mickey's club on Christmas Eve. Most everyone takes it pretty well...except for Donald, who's just being grouchy. Mickey plays a series of shorts and sketches to put him in a better frame of mind. 

I normally love House of Mouse, but the only reason to see this is for the utterly hilarious spoof of "The Nutcracker." Mickey is the Nutcracker, Minnie is Marie, Professor Ludvig Von Drake is Herr Drosselmeyer, Donald is the Mouse King (!), and Goofy is the Snow Fairy. John Cleese attempts to narrate. It's pretty wild stuff, feeling more like a Looney Tunes short at times than Disney. Unless you're interested in that or want a copy of Mickey's Christmas Carol (which makes up most of the second half of this "movie"), this is fun but unnecessary for all but major Disney fans. 

Spent the next few hours working on my story. Luke shrinks himself and Rey down to help Han, the Sugar Plum Cavalier, with the mouse army. Rey's shocked when she finds herself small enough to ride her kitten Bee Bee...and even more so when her Nutcracker is leading the charge!

Han finally confronts Kylo Ren, the Mouse Army's greatest warrior. He doesn't look like a mouse to Rey! He looks like a skinny human in a mouse mask. Han calls him his son and tries to shoot magic at him, but Ren deflects it into the older fairy. Han's dazed long enough for the mice to capture him and bind his wings with iron chains. Luke and Rey are surrounded by mice. Many of the toys are taken away as well. 

The Nutcracker jumps in, hoping to stop them. He and Ren duel, but Ren gets the better of him. He's about to run him through when Rey distracts him by throwing her slipper at his wrist. Luke finally knocks him into a mouse hole with his green candy crystal staff. 

Broke around quarter after 5 for dinner and chores. I wanted to get my Christmas lists organized. No, it's not what I want for Christmas. It's what I'm giving. More specifically, it's my Christmas card, baking, and shopping lists. I usually do them about a week before Thanksgiving, so I know who's getting what and what to make whom and who gets presents in the mail and who gets them given out on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. 

Stuck with Disney as I worked, switching to the 1961 Babes In Toyland. This time, Mary Contrary (Annette Funicello) and Tom the Piper's Son (Tommy Sands) are the lovers, the comics are Barnaby's henchmen, and Barnaby (Ray Bolger) is after Mary's inheritance. The "babes" are Mary's siblings, who go into the Forest of No Return to find Mary's sheep, so she won't have to marry Barnaby. They all end up in Toyland, where the Toymaker (Ed Wynn) and his assistant Grumio (Tommy Kirk) are having trouble meeting the big Christmas toy deadline. Tom and Mary nominate themselves and the kids to help. But Barnaby and his men aren't far behind them...

I know this one has it's detractors, but it's my favorite version of this story. The sets are cute and colorful, the costumes are adorable, and Bolger in particular is a delight playing against type as the mustache-and-cape villain. 

Took a quick shower before going online in the living room. Watched The Adventures of Baron Munchhausen as I got settled. The title character (John Neville) is an old man who breaks into a play in an English seaside town about the life of Germany's most famous liar. Trouble is, this little town is ruled by reason and practicality and nothing but, says the town mayor (Johnathan Pryce). Balderdash, says Munchhausen. Everyone needs a little fantasy in their lives, which the Baron proves as he tells the story of how he and little Sally (Sarah Polley) travel to the moon to meet the King whose head detaches from his body (Robin Williams), dance with Venus (Uma Thurman), and get swallowed by a whale. When the Turks really do invade, it's the Baron to the rescue...and who shows the town that it's not so bad to be a little bit extraordinary. 

I've loved this delightful bit of lunacy since it first started turning up on cable in the late 80's and early 90's. Neville in particular is marvelous as the Baron, whose stories may or may not be true, but they're sure as hell entertaining. If you love fantasy or the work of maverick director Terry Gilliam, this is one of his best movies and is highly recommended. 

Went back to YouTube for two rare shorts and TV show episodes. This Hello Kitty version of The Nutcracker is the only other cartoon besides The Nutcracker Prince I've ever seen adapt the original story "The Hard Nut."

Shirley Temple Storybook Theatre was an anthology of fairy tale, fantasy, and literary adaptations, narrated by and starring an older Temple in the early 60's. Their Christmas offering in their second and last season was Babes In Toyland. This one has Johnathan Winters as Barnaby, Temple as Floretta the Gypsy, and Joe Besser and Jerry Colonna as two of the three comic lackeys. This is probably the closest any screen version of this show has come to the original 1903 stage version, with the emphasis on the kids and comics rather than a pair of lovers.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Kids In Mysteryland

Began today with breakfast and "A Nutcracker Scoob." Fred joins Shaggy, Daphne, Scooby, and Scrappy in the early 80's show for the first of three Christmas stories done for this franchise. The gang is helping a group of orphans with their big holiday show...but the show may not go on when an old miser threatens to shut down the orphanage, then the Ghost of Christmas attacks the production! The kids try to keep rehearsing while they figure out what the "Ghost" is really after.

Worked on my story for the next few hours. Rey can't sleep. Her mind is on everything that happened at the ball, her parents and Snoke and Ben and Finn and the Nutcracker. She creeps downstairs with Bee Bee to take another look at her newest toy. She's just almost fallen asleep when the wooden owl on the top of the grandfather clock suddenly comes to life, swoops down, and turns into her Uncle Luke. Her uncle is dressed very differently now, in a simple black cloak and uniform. A tiny ball of light flutters down, insisting that Luke has to help them out. The light's gruff voice sounds an awful lot like Rey's father...

Continued with winter-themed Scooby Doo while eating lunch and getting ready for work. "A Scary Night With a Snow Beast Fright" is from the third season of Scooby Doo, Where are You? that aired in the mid-70's. The gang heads up north to visit a professor studying the Inuit. When they arrive, the professor is gone, supposedly captured by a huge snow dinosaur. While the kids try to figure out where the professor went, Scooby woos an attractive female husky.

Work was actually pretty busy for the middle of the week and the middle of the month. A lot of people are probably starting to get ready for Thanksgiving next week. I spent the first half of my shift alternating between bagging and scrubbing the registers and the railing and woodwork by the back exit, and the second half returning carts after the other bagger went home. It started to shower lightly while I was doing carts, but it didn't last long. It was gone before I went home.

Put on the 1955 Babes In Toyland while eating leftovers for dinner and making Cranberry Muffins. This is the second of three live TV adaptations of the Victor Herbert operetta done in the 50's. Here, the story is told by a department store Santa (Dave Garroway) to a young girl who is waiting for her mother to taker her home. Dennis Day and Barbara Cook are the lovers, Tommy Tucker and Jane Piper. Wally Cox is Grumio, the timid toymaker who is in charge of puppets that come to life (the Bill and Cora Baird Marionettes). Barnaby is determined to marry determined, he first lures her siblings, then kidnaps Tucker. Grumio and the puppets eventually come to their rescue. Cute if you like older operettas or are a fan of Day, Cox, Cook, or TV musicals.

Continued Lego Star Wars after the muffins came out of the oven. I did manage to get one more piece and the red brick on "Bounty Hunter Pursuit" and the last piece for "Hoth Battle." Still can't get the last piece on "Battle of Endor" or "Betrayal at Bespin."

Tried something different. Along with "Free Play," every round has a "Challenge" listed that'll get blue pieces. You only have ten minutes to gather all the blue pieces - with no extras allowed and no studs to gather. This isn't as easy as it sounds! I ran out of time only half-way through "Secret Plans" in New Hope, and it's one of the less-complicated levels.

Moved to another early TV musical as I got settled down with the laptop. Fredric March appeared in a semi-musical live version of A Christmas Carol in 1954. Evidently, this was popular enough to be re-done the next year and have a soundtrack album released. I think it's in the public domain - I found it on a random video I got from YouTube. Fascinating if you like early television or March.

Finished the night with another 90's animated movie on YouTube. MGM's Babes In Toyland came out in 1997. While it does use a few elements of the original story (including kids in peril, Barnaby, Mother Goose lovers - Tom Piper and Mary Had a Little Lamb here - and the demon finale), it mostly goes for an original story that's closer to the Disney animated musicals that were popular at the time. It's ok, fun for what it is, nothing special other than a decent voice cast that includes Charles Nelson Reilly (as narrator Humpty Dumpty) and Bronson Pinchot (as one of the goofy henchmen).

Babes In Toyland 1997 (Animated)

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Very Merry Holiday Stories

I slept in today. It was rainy and gloomy early in the morning, but by the time I was up and about, the sun was coming out. I put on my first holiday special of the year as I ate and got organized. Very Merry Christmas Songs is the expanded DVD release of the Disney Sing Along video of the same name from the late 80's. It's holiday and winter sequences from Disney shorts and films up to the early 2000's set to music. Most of the songs are traditional carols, but there's also some pop numbers, including Gene Autry's version of "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer" and two songs from Bing Crosby, "Let It Snow" and "White Christmas." My family traditionally watched this after the kids got home from school on the first day of holiday break in the late 80's and early 90's. This isn't the most necessary thing, but it makes great background music if you or your kids are big Disney fans.

Called Mrs. Stahl after breakfast to cancel my appointment. I barely had the money for the things I needed this week, much less counseling. I was hoping to see her again during my December vacation, but she's booked. We won't be getting together again until January 3rd.

Headed out around quarter after 12 to run errands. Started at the Oaklyn Library. For once, they were very busy, with plenty to do. I shelved a big pile of board books in the kids' area while the librarian and other volunteers prepared for their basket auction this week. Looked at the DVDs as well.

Strolled down to the Family Dollar next. It was a nice day for a walk. By 1 PM, it was sunny and warm, actually a bit too warm for the time of year. The neighborhood is looking so beautiful now, with the trees all gold and green and red. Most houses are festooned with pumpkins, scarecrows, and the remaining mums and roses, or just settle for fall banners waving in the breeze.

I really only needed pads. I was almost completely out. Family Dollar was very busy when I arrived, probably with people coming off their lunch breaks on the White Horse Pike. Thankfully, they'd just opened another line when I got up there.

When I got home, I ran another holiday special while eating soup for lunch. The Leprechauns' Christmas Gold is one of the strangest stop motion cartoons Rankin-Bass ever made. A young Irish sailor stops on a remote island to get a Christmas tree for his captain. When he cuts down the tree, he accidentally frees a banshee. She's needs a leprechaun's gold to survive, or she'll turn into tears on Christmas morning. Art Carney is the leprechaun and Peggy Cass  his wife, separated by the banshee's spells. The sailor tries to help, but he also succumbs to the banshee. It takes a lesson in forgiveness to banish the wailing spirit and free the sailor.

Went right back out after lunch to get the laundry done. Good thing the place was dead, with only one other cheerful woman watching Steve Harvey and Ellen. I had a huge load to do, including towels and sweaters.

Worked on the story for the next couple of hours. The rest of the party goes very well. Rey happily dances with her father, her uncle, and her friends. She plays dolls with Kaydel and Jess and tries to ignore the boys crashing through their games and introduces them to Bee Bee the kitten.

After the party, she overhears Snoke kissing her mother's hand, laying on the flattery. Hans Stahlbaum doesn't appreciate this one bit. He argues with Leia over the snobbish tutor's attentions to her and Benjamin. Leia's beginning to wonder if her husband is right. She hired him after getting good recommendations from a friend, but she agrees that he's being too forward with her and has too much influence on their son. Rey sticks around long enough to see them kiss on the top of the steps, silhouetted by the Christmas Eve moon.

Rey takes Bee Bee to the kitchen to get her fed. She chats with Mrs. Maz, the cook and housekeeper. Mrs. Maz is a very old woman, and she knows pretty much everything that goes on in the household. Rey asks her why her parents argue and if they really love each other. Don't worry, dear, Maz explains. They adore one another. They just have such strong personalities, they tend to clash every now and then. It's just their way. Everyone has their own way of showing love.

Since it was on the same disc as Leprechauns' Christmas Gold, I ran How the Grinch Stole Christmas while eating scrambled eggs with mushrooms and onions for dinner. Snoke's not the only grouch making trouble during the holidays. The grumpy Grinch is determined to steal the Whos' yuletide fun and keep his mountain quiet on Christmas Day.  He finally learns that Christmas is about more than gifts and noise when the Whos manage to keep their traditions going, with or without gifts.

Moved on to Barbie In the Nutcracker while working on crocheted flowers to make into ornaments for family for Christmas. The first Barbie As/Is movie was a Christmas tale. Barbie is Clara, who travels with the Nutcracker to find the Sugar Plum Princess in a remote island. The Mouse King (Tim Curry) is determined to stop them and continue his evil rule over the land. But the Princess is closer than any of them believe. Clara learns that, when we have courage and stay strong, we can all be kings and queens.

I like this better than I did when it came out in the late 90's. The CGI animation is waxy and stiff, and some of the effects (like the rock monster) haven't dated well. On the other hand. the story is a creative take on mainly the ballet (though the end with who the Sugar Plum Princess turns out to be feels like a bit of a cop-out). Not the best of the Barbie specials, but if you don't expect it to follow the ballet to the letter, it's a lot of fun.

Ran The Nutcracker: A Fantasy On Ice after taking a quick shower. Dorothy Hamill is Clara in this lovely ice skating version of the ballet from the early 80's. Lorne Greene narrates as a grandfather telling the story to his granddaughter. This was my first Nutcracker, well before I knew it was a ballet, and I still have very fond memories of it.

Ended the night with The Nutcracker Prince on YouTube. This 1990 animated film is pretty much the only movie version I've ever seen use the original story The Hard Nut. We still have Clara and her prince and the Mouse King, but we also found out how the Nutcracker was enchanted. (It also briefly includes the older sister Louise, who is often dropped from most versions.) Like Barbie, I enjoy this more than I did when it made occasional appearances on cable in the early 90's. If you like animation from the time or the original Nutcracker story, it's worth a look.

The Nutcracker Prince

Monday, November 14, 2016

March of the Fantasy Tales

Started off the morning with more She-Ra. Adora saves He-Man in "He Ain't Heavy" (where he's kidnapped by the Horde) and evades Skeletor in "Horde Prime Takes a Holiday." She has to rescue her own voice when Shadow Weaver seals it, and the voices of a group of locals who want to join the Rebels, in bubbles in "A Loss for Words." Madame Razz the witch, her talking broom, and Bow's koala/owl thing Kowl end up saving her from the Sixth Dimension in "Three Courageous Hearts."

My favorite episode from the last round was "Enchanted Castle." When Bow and She-Ra help an old woman, she does them kindness in return when they're captured by an evil queen who wants to keep them as slaves. The old woman proves the old adage about doing kindness and having kindness done in return, for she's not what she seems to be...

And...yeah, for all the camp, this ended up being fun. No, it hasn't dated that well, but I sort of liked it this time around. It's actually pretty funny, an odd and charming cross between sword-and-sorcery tales, superhero comics, and Hunger Games-esque dark sci-fi.

What I love most of it, especially as a girl who grew up with this show, is how awesome She-Ra was. She probably inspired many of our childhood stories that had girls rescuing boys. Although she occasionally was the one saved, she more often than not was the one who kicked rear, not only with her sword, but with her mind. She tricked the villain of the week as often as she fought them (probably because this was a kid's show).

Though I enjoyed it, I don't really recommend it unless you grew up with it, are a huge fan of the old Filmation action cartoons of the 70's and 80's, or have a daughter who is an action or fantasy fan and won't mind the limited animation and stilted dialogue.

Worked on cookies as I watched. I tried a recipe from one of the cookie cook books Lauren sent me last year, Double Chocolate Chip Cookies - namely, chocolate cookies with chocolate chips. I've really been craving chocolate lately. Oh yummm. They came out beautifully, perfect little chocolate morsels.

Headed to work around quarter of 11. It was still a beautiful day at that point, bright blue and sunny. I spent most of the day doing carts. We're sort of low on them right now. A lot of the carts are being used to by the carpenters doing remodeling to hold equipment or pieces of wall or shelves. I wish they'd bring their own trolley or something. We need those carts for our customers.

At any rate, it was never really busy. Perhaps people were scared off by the weather. I saw clouds on the horizon as early as 11:30. By the time I was done at 3, it was cloudy, cool, and breezy. I headed home quickly, hoping to avoid the rain that was supposed to come later.

Finished out the last episode on the She-Ra set, then worked on writing. Luke has presents for everyone at the party. He saves the most special present for Rey - a funny old nutcracker, dressed as a soldier. Luke shows her how to crack nuts with it. Rey's older brother Ben is jealous of the attention his sister gets. He grabs the doll and tries to crack the largest nut in the bowl, breaking it's jaw in the process. Rey is horrified. Their father Hans is angry and makes Ben apologize. Snoke tries to soothe Ben's outburst, while Luke temporarily repairs Rey's new toy.

Did more Nutcracker while eating leftovers for dinner and making Cranberry Flummery. This time, I ran a favorite of mine, the 1977 version featuring Mikhail Baryshnikov. This one is fairly traditional, though it naturally places more emphasis on Clara and her nutcracker prince, giving them the Sugar Plum Fairy's dances in the second act. Given how short it is, it's not a bad starter Nutcracker for kids if you can find it.

Went back to Lego Star Wars after I finished dinner. Finally got the last three pieces on "Through the Jutland Wastes" and two more pieces on "Hoth Battle." Otherwise had no luck. I just couldn't get to that last piece in "The Battle of Endor."

Ended the night with the more comic Snow White and the Three Stooges. We move from ballet to ice skating for this unique version of the famous fairy tale from the early 60's. The first half of the story is pretty true to the original fairy tale, other than Snow White's (Carol Heiss) fondness for ice skating. In this tale, though, the "dwarves" are the Three Stooges (by this point Moe, Larry, and Curly Joe), whose adopted son Quatro may not be whom they think he is. A lot of Stooge fans have problems with this, especially since the Stooges' routines are sort of water-down compared to their earlier shorts. I find it charming and colorful. If you love the later-day Stooges or ice skating extravaganzas or fantasy musicals, there's a lot to recommend here.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Birds Vs Birds

It was lovely and sunny when I got up this morning. Made Banana Pancakes while listening to two versions of the 1903 operetta Babes In Toyland. The first was released on CD by Decca about a decade ago, coupled with another Victor Herbert hit, The Old Mill. Kenny Baker and Eileen Farrell perform most of the numbers here, including one I haven't heard anywhere else, "Song of the Poet."

My LP for the Disney Babes In Toyland is only kind-of a soundtrack. Ed Wynn can be heard on "The Workshop Song," and I'm pretty sure that's Ann Jillian doing Bo Peep's solo on "Never Mind, Bo Peep." Otherwise, it's all studio singers. This has its advantages. "And We Won't Be Happy 'Til We Get It" sounds far more menacing when one of the singers is Thurl "Tony the Tiger" Ravenscroft!

The Acme was insanely busy when I arrived. There were NO carts outside. Seriously. I saw one cart at noon, and that was one of the green metal ones that hasn't worked right in ages. Between the Eagles-Falcons game and this being a holiday weekend two weeks before Thanksgiving, there were lines down the aisles. Thankfully, it finally started to slow down a bit around 2. I spent the first half of my shift helping the two baggers outside with carts, and the second half doing returns.

When I got home, I changed into regular clothes, then headed back out to Dad's. Jodie and Dad picked up fresh-cured bacon from and Amish farm market and was inspired to make BLTs for dinner. Jessa was passed out on the couch when I arrived, but she did wake up eventually, with time enough to tell me about her taco appetizers in phyllo shells. Dana arrived with a taste casserole made of sausage and cream cheese, with a croissant topping. Joe arrived later, with stories about how crazy the Eagles game was. (Evidently, Vanessa and Mark and Rose and Khai had been around earlier. The latter had to leave before the game ended because Khai was cranky and misbehaving.)

I also found out why Dad hadn't been around on Veteran's Day. He and Jodie had gone to her sons' grandmother's funeral. Evidently, they were out all day.

Ended the night with more Lego Star Wars. I'm just about done with Free Play. Completed "Into the Death Star," "Mos Espa Pod Race," "Darth Maul," and the very complicated "Jedi Destiny." Tried "Dagobah" again but didn't get far.

Oh, and for once, Dad's got a reason to be in a very good mood. Not only did the Eagles soar past the Falcons 24-15, but the Dolphins got an unexpected and much-needed win against the San Diego Chargers, 31-24. (I actually saw the Eagles score the game-winning field goal in the back room at work before I went home.)

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Seasons of Sunshine

I overslept and had just enough time for a few Max & Ruby shorts before I dashed off to work. "Max's Thanksgiving" has Ruby setting the table for Grandma's big feast. Max would rather sample Grandma's stuffing. "Max's Pretend Friend" isn't pretend at all, but Ruby thinks he is. He tries to point this out while she sets up a "pretend tea party." "Fireman Max" wants to play with his rescue toys while Ruby and Louise are practicing their jump rope. Dodging Max's toys is more helpful for Ruby's jumping than she can imagine!

Work was actually pretty quiet up through noon, when things started to pick up a lot. I wish the new manager had listened to me about the plastic bags. We put out the boxes because our customers tend to go through them. He only wanted four or five stacks per register. We'll be putting them out constantly! He'll have to learn the hard way.

I'm kind of glad I spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon outside, rounding up carts. It was too nice to be inside arguing over plastic bags anyway. It was cold, in the upper 40's, probably the coldest it's been since March, and very windy. The air was nice and crisp, though, and had that snap to it that says winter - or at least late fall - isn't far off.

Got my schedule during break. Not too bad. On one hand, a late day next Saturday will allow me to get to the last Collingswood Farm Market of the season, and I'll get to see most of the Eagles game tomorrow, too. On the other hand, I still don't have enough hours.

And I put in a request for December 6th through 12th off. My friend Amanda from Vineland is visiting the 6th anyway. I'd wait for February or March, but I really need the extra money now. It might be nice to have time off in December, anyway. I'll be able to finish what little shopping I had planned, wrap presents, and get the cards done. Besides, a lot of single older employees tend to take their vacations in late February and March.

I did have some grocery shopping to do today. Restocked skim milk, toilet paper, cake mix, bran flakes, canned black beans, whole wheat flour, bananas, and diced tomatoes. Applesauce cups were cheaper than mandarin oranges. They finally had fresh cranberries, too.

When I got in, I put everything away while doing one more episode of Max & Ruby. "Max's Shadow" makes for a fun playmate for him while Valerie and Ruby work on a ballet poster. But it also proves to be quite helpful when the girls can't get the pose on the poster quite right...

Worked on my story for the next couple of hours. Rey's delighted when Uncle Luke Drosselmeyer, her mother Leia's brother, arrives. He's a toy and clock maker who comes bearing wonderful gifts. He performs the story of a cursed prince in his puppet show, then lets his mechanical Spanish soldier, Asian candied ginger doll, and toy soldier dance for them. He's helped by his new apprentice, a handsome young lad named Finn. Rey likes him immediately, but stuffy Snoke, the Stahlbaum household's tutor, reminds her that she's not supposed to be chatting with apprentices.

Broke for dinner around 6. Made Turkey Cheeseburgers, (frozen) green beans, and applesauce while watching Winnie the Pooh; Seasons of Giving. This made-for-home-media movie is really two episodes of The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh and the Thanksgiving special strung together with some new material. The first segment has Rabbit, Tigger, and Pooh dressing Piglet as a groundhog to find out when spring is. The second is the Thanksgiving cartoon. The gang is ready for a feast of honey, haycorns, and hot chocolate ice cream. Rabbit insists that Thanksgiving is all about tradition. When the party doesn't go the way he planned, the others remind him of what the holiday is all about. The final sequence has Rabbit raising a little girl bird named Kessie. She wants to fly south for the winter, but he's afraid to let her go.

Moved to Lego Star Wars next. Finished out "Battle of Coruscant," "Gunship Calvary," "Death Star Attack," "Darth Vader," "Ruin of the Jedi," and "Count Dooku"; got the red brick on "Calvary" and True Jedi on "Darth Vader." The only round I wasn't able to complete today was "Bounty Hunter Pursuit," though I did find most of the pieces and the red brick.

Tried something different tonight. I'm typing this on the couch instead of at the dining area table. I'm tired of dragging the old desk chair out, and the wooden dining area chairs aren't comfortable enough. This isn't really that comfortable, either, but it beats the chair.

Did a couple of episodes of She-Ra as I got comfortable. "The Laughing Dragon" is Sorrowful, who is afraid of just about everything. He learns about true bravery when She-Ra places supposedly magic flowers around his neck that gives him the courage to stand up to the Horde. Sorrowful is captured by the Horde in "The Prisoner of Beast Island." The others go after him.

She-Ra insists on going alone to help a former colleague who wants to defect to the Rebellion in "Friendship." Bow and Kowl follow her anyway. Adora's friend is forced to turn her in. When Kowl returns her sword, she finds out why her friend betrayed her.

"The Peril of Whispering Woods" is a poison that the Horde is using to destroy the Rebellion's magical hiding place. Good thing the son of Horde Pride, the head of the Horde, winds up being captured by the Rebels and takes their side.

"King Miro's Journey" brings He-Man and his grandfather to Etheria so he can meet his granddaughter. The twins get a chance to show their grandfather their teamwork when the Horde tries to trap them in the Whispering Woods.

Finished the night on YouTube. I've been watching a couple of different performances of The Nutcracker for story inspiration. My favorite was this interpretation by the San Francisco Ballet in 2007, set in a residential neighborhood in San Francisco in 1915.

The Nutcracker: San Francisco Ballet 2007