Sunday, April 30, 2017

Not-So Easy Rider

I turned over in my bed, stretched and yawned, and looked at the clock. It said "8:34." I had to be at work by 9. I'd never jumped out of bed so fast in my life! I rushed around as fast and as hard as I could, trying to eat muffins, get changed, and grab my bag and phone and a snack for work. I heard Charlie leave a message on my phone. I ignored him. I didn't have the time to deal with him at the moment.

Charlie was outside when I was leaving, screaming at the top of his lungs that I was being noisy upstairs and I sounded like bowling balls rolling around and why wasn't I more considerate? I've had quite enough of him. I yelled back that he needs to stop screaming obscenities at his silly dogs at all hours, especially when he's outside and in public, and that I couldn't help the noise. I was late for work. I took off without another look back.

After all that, work was a little less of a pain. It was busy for most of the day - the beginning of the month is tomorrow. I did end up in the register for about 20 minutes when another cashier's register went down. Otherwise, I was mostly either outside or doing returns.

I couldn't bring myself to go home. I was kind of afraid to. Checked my phone at work. Wrote story notes while watching people stroll down the street at the picnic benches on West Clinton. Rode over to Dad and Jodie's, but they weren't home.

Out of options, I finally went back to the apartment. I'd seen bikers riding everywhere, in Oaklyn and at the Acme, all day. I figured out why when I saw the gathering of men and women on motorcycles across from us at the VFW. They were holding some kind of party or rally. They kept Charlie occupied for the next few hours, long enough for me to change, grab a quick lunch, listen to The Carpenters' Greatest Hits, and head out.

A new Dollar General just opened on the White Horse Pike. I wanted to check it out. It turned out to be a plain, very industrial pale gray cinderblock building about a block or so from the post office. It was pretty much Family Dollar with slightly nicer merchandise, but the inside was clean, and it was a monumental improvement over the abandoned Italian restaurant that used to be there. I want a second fan for my apartment, but the rent is due tomorrow, and I really don't have the money. I settled for sponges, hand soap (the pump in the bathroom just ran out), a Sparkling Ice (never seen Grape-Raspberry before), and a Reeces Fast Break.

Headed home and worked on writing for a few hours. Leia is listening to Hux rattle on about Vader's trap to capture the Crimson Hawk at the Royal Regatta when she spies two figures across the street. They both wear heavy cloaks, odd for June, and carry baskets laden with food. She follows them into a pottery shop, where they seem to have vanished. The impoverished shop keeper admits that the Crimson Hawk and Golden Eagle have been bringing him food and money for ages, but he has no idea where they go afterwards.

Broke around quarter of 7 to finally make those tacos for dinner. Added green beans with sliced cherry tomatoes cooked in olive oil and fresh chicken broth for extra color and vitamins. Figured Steppenwolf's Greatest Hits was appropriate to listen to while I ate, since the rally continued to rage across the street. "Born to Be Wild" is often associated with bikers and other such tough-guy travelers to this day.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

The Mouse and the Magic

Began a cloudy, humid morning with breakfast and episodes from the Chibi-Usa-focused fourth season of Sailor Moon.  In the first episode, a popular local fashion designer is feeling like he's lost his creativity. Fish Eye steps in, but his controlling nature and smothering isn't what the guy needs. It takes Usagi's request of a wedding dress to get him back on track. Minako, Sailor Venus, is in the spotlight in the second story when she's blithely dating two guys at the same time. They turn out to be Hawk's Eye and Tiger's Eye. She thinks they're after her, but what they really want is her dream mirror.

It was still cloudy when I headed out. Stopped at my first yard sale of the year on my way. It was only a couple of blocks down Manor. They mostly had knick-knacks, but I did spy a big box of CDs and DVDs on my way out. I ended up with DVD copies of Ever After and the 1995 Sabrina and the two Frank Sinatra Duets albums on CD.

Just made it to work on time. Good thing, too. They were busy for most of the day. I spent the majority of the afternoon outside, rounding up carts. It was hot, humid, and on-and-off sunny, the first really hot and humid day of the year. Also did the outside trash - the one in front was overflowing. The head manager unlocked the trash compactor and said "toss those in" - without saying "please" or "thank you" or lifting a hand to help himself. And at least one of the bags were broken. I had to load all the trash from it into another bag. (Those huge trash bags the store uses are so fragile! If they catch on anything, even something that isn't blunt, they'll tear.) He didn't tell me how to lock the compactor again, either. I had to get another manager to do that.

Got my schedule when I arrived. Pretty much the same hours as this week, only with slightly earlier hours on Sunday. Alas, early Saturday hours and late Wednesday hours means I'll miss the first farm markets of the year. Otherwise, everything is pretty much the same, including the days off.

Had a bit of grocery shopping to do afterwards, especially once I found out that I'll need produce. I bought green beans along with bananas and grapefruit for dinner this week. Found three fish fillets and a canister of shrimp with good manager's coupons. They were having a decent sale on small tubes of ground turkey, too. Couldn't resist a buy-one get-one sale on that delicious Talenti Gelato. They're expensive, but so worth it. Restocked Chobani yogurt, skim milk, canned crushed pineapple, applesauce in cups for lunches this week, yellow cake mix, and peanut butter. Bought tortillas for tacos later this week.

Went straight home after that. Did another Sailor Moon episode while putting everything away. Usagi is upset when Mamoru offers to share his umbrella with an older woman and she's rude to him. Chibi-Usa and Diana aren't happy, either. They learn that the lady is living all alone in a big old mansion, waiting for someone to return. Meanwhile, she's fending off men who want to buy her massive home, not to mention Hawk's Eye, who is after her dreams of running a restaurant.

Spent the next few hours writing. Leia is downtown with her aunt and Mon Mothma visiting with several senators Mothma knows. Among them are the obnoxious and snobbish Brendol Hux (eventual father of Armitage). Leia argues with Hux over the importance of the people to the land and his poor treatment of the Wookie natives who are basically regarded as slaves. He puts down Henry Solo for being an outsider and allowing Charles to be "one of the family" and Luke for his relationship with Wedge Antilles.

Broke for dinner around 6:30. I was too hot and tired to make tacos by then. I settled for shrimp with a spinach and cherry tomato salad.

Returned to crocheting while watching The Secret of Nimh. Mrs. Brisby is a timid widow mouse living on a farm field that's about to be planted. She and her children can't leave their home, thanks to one being deathly ill. The Great Owl orders her to go to the rats who live in the rose bush near the farmer's house for aid. They turn out to be a society of highly intelligent rodents who were injected with a serum from Nimh that made them very smart. They're tired of stealing food and supplies from the farmer and want to leave, but a splinter faction doesn't want to upset the rose bush. Mrs. Brisby finds herself thrown in the middle of all this when they move her house and she helps them with the farmer's cat. When push comes to shove and it's her children who are in danger, Mrs. Brisby discovers the true depths of a mother's love, and that courage comes from the real magic of a loving heart.

Don Bluth's first full-length film on his own is truly lovely, with lush animation and a haunting score. Brief violence, three gristly on-screen deaths, and frank discussions of death, illness, and animal testing make this for older children on up. If you've got kids who love animals and can handle the relatively mature subject matter, this is one of the most beautiful animated movies of the 1980's and gets a major recommendation from me as well.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Spring Into Summer

Kicked off a beautiful, sunny spring day with the end of Neverwhere (which was weird as heck, but pretty good) and a couple of Arbor Day-themed stories and poems from Colliers Harvest of Holidays. The first involved a little old shoe maker who enjoys admiring a tree in the park across from his shop. When the tree is to be cut down, he goes straight to the mayor. The head of the town doesn't want to listen at first...until he complains that his shoes hurt. The shorter story was simply an old man explaining to a nobleman how important planting trees is.

Ran It's Arbor Day, Charlie Brown as I ate breakfast. Mr. Plum and the little old man aren't the only ones who know how important trees are. Sally's been learning about Arbor Day in school and now wants to plant trees of her own. The others agree to help her, but Charlie Brown gets a major shock when it turns out that their garden ended up on the baseball field! He's less upset when it looks like the superfluous flora might actually help them win a game.

Spent the rest of the morning working on writing. Henry watches Luke and Leia practice their fencing. Not only do their styles resemble that of the Jedi (and Sir Kenton and Ahsoka), but they themselves are very much alike. They seem to anticipate each other's every move. Henry won't admit it, but he's a tad bit jealous of how easily Luke gets along with Leia, whom he's starting to fall rather hard for. He invites Leia and her aunt along with them to the Royal Regatta in a few days. She accepts, not only to keep an eye on them, but because she may be starting to have feelings for Henry, too...

Broke around 12:30 for lunch. Did a quick episode of The Backyardigans while I ate and got organized. Uniqua and Tyrone are a pair of galactic police officers in "Cops and Robots" who are after "bad bots" Tasha and Pablo. If they get to the robot factory, they'll turn all the robots in the galaxy bad!

Headed out to run errands as soon as the episode ended. First stop was at the Oaklyn Library. They were relatively busy for such a gorgeous day, with several people reading or on the computer. A family showed up as I was working on the kids' DVDs. Glanced over the adult DVD titles, then shelved books in the kids' area.

It was a glorious afternoon for a ride in Newton Lake Park. The sky was blue, the breeze was cool but not cold, and it was the warmest day yet, into the lower 80's at quarter of 2. I'm actually surprised the park wasn't busier. I mostly saw Canadian geese and ducks, along with a few joggers and fishermen. The park's really beautiful now. The leaves get bigger every time I see them.

The Haddon Township Library wasn't nearly as busy as Oaklyn was when I arrived. I shelved some audio books and non-fiction DVDs and organized the fiction titles, but there wasn't much to do. There weren't even any new releases on the cart.

It took me forever to choose them, but I did take out movies and books this week. I think I might have seen the Fleischer Brothers' Gulliver's Travels as a kid, but it hasn't turned up anywhere but public domain DVDs in years. Kubo and the Two Strings is said to be excellent - it was one of this year's Oscar-nominated animated films. Thought I'd try another film series after having fun with Harry Potter. Star Trek: The Motion Picture isn't highly regarded by fans, but a woman has to start somewhere. Also grabbed the cult 70's sci-fi favorite Westworld. Found an older, non-Amelia Peabody Elizabeth Peters novel I hadn't read, The Love Talker, along with a modern pirate adventure story, We are Pirates. Also grabbed two books on crocheting for beginners and with one skein of yarn.

By the time I finally made it out, it was past 4. I dodged heavy rush-hour traffic on Haddon Avenue and Cuthbert Road to the green field next to what's now Planet Fitness, where Studio LuLoo's CD release party was being held. I hadn't seen on Sarah's busy poster that it was running from 4 to 9. That was too late for me to catch the whole show, but I did see some of the kids sing along with "Can't Fight This Feeling" and "Let It Go."

It was nearly 5 when I rolled into Oaklyn. Phillies Yummies finally opened today. I celebrated Arbor Day, their opening, and the nice weather with a Pina Colada Yum Yum (a creamier, grittier water ice). Had a quick slice of bacon and sweet corn quiche and a Deb's Spicy-Sweet Iced Tea from Common Grounds Coffee House for dinner on their metal tables outside. Enjoyed listening to the band playing on the veranda at the Oaklyn Manor Bar while watching locals go by with their frozen treats.

Finished out the night crocheting while watching Gulliver's Travels. This very loose adaptation of the first half of the famous book has Gulliver washing ashore after a storm wrecks his ship. Turns out he's in Lilliputa, a land of tiny people, including annoying Gabby. The king of the land is about to go to war with the king of a neighboring country over which song to play at the prince and princess' wedding. Gulliver does his best to stop the war, while reuniting the prince and princess.

A lot of animation fans have praised this one, especially the rotoscoped Gulliver, lush backgrounds, a couple of nice gags, and some decent tunes. "Faithful Forever," the combined version of the songs that started all the fuss, was nominated for an Oscar. Gulliver's number as he laments being unable to return home is also lovely.

I just wish they'd figured out a way for it to work together in a cohesive whole. The realistic prince, princess, and Gulliver clash with the cartoony Lilliputians. Gabby and his shrill, high-pitched voice are annoying as heck. (Someone at the Fleischers' studio liked him a lot more than I did. He got his own short-lived spin-off series.) A couple of comic spies don't come off much better. The plot is utterly ridiculous, too. Even Gulliver calls them out for it. It's also just barely an adaptation, lacking the savage wit of the original story. (And actually lacking most of the original story - Gulliver went on a lot more travels after this.)

If you're a fan of classic cartoons, animation history, or the Fleischers' work, or you have young children who won't mind the plot problems and may enjoy the gags and music, this is worth seeing at least once.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Return of the Sunshine

Began the day at work. It was still cloudy and a bit cool when I arrived. I spent the first 40 minutes or so returning carts. Got stuck in the registers for a little while after that so one cashier could get some other stuff done and another could go on break. Thankfully, I spent most of the rest of the day doing returns. We were occasionally steady, but never really that busy.

I suspect we were dead at least partly because the sun had come out. By the time I finished, it was a little cloudy, but far warmer and more humid than it has been, probably in the 70's. The sun returned as I headed home down Nicholson Road. Dodged a lot of cars today. I guess I wasn't the only one who wanted to take advantage of the weather.

When I got home, I changed, then put on more Rick Steves while eating lunch. Returned to Austria and Vienna this time, as we admired Renaissance painters and traveled up the (not-so-blue) Danube to check out wine country and an ancient abbey. Loved the amazing library at the abbey, with its centuries of books, and learning about Maria Theresa, empress of the Hapsburg Empire in the 1700's.

Worked on my story for the rest of the afternoon. Henry and Luke test a new device with Leia's help. It runs on khyber crystals, producing beams of light and signals that can aid navigation. To celebrate its successful test, they have a big lunch in the dining room. Luke and Henry then take Leia in the back to their servants' quarters. Henry has a workshop in the upper rooms, but he's skittish about showing it to Leia. Luke distracts her with the fencing practice area he's set up downstairs.

Broke around 6 for dinner. I decided to try something simple. Had Chicken-Spinach Salad - canned chicken on a bed of spinach, with cherry tomatoes, the last of the scallions, and a home-made honey- (cooking) wine dressing. Not bad. The dressing really brought out the sweetness of the tomatoes.

Played video games after dinner (and after I pulled out the fan - it was almost 80 degrees in my living room). Decided to go back through all the worlds on Kirby's Epic Yarn and see what I missed. Not much, actually. So far, mostly just the music CDs in a few rounds. Got two out of three items in two rounds I hadn't gotten anything in. Seem to have done the best in Water World. Only one round was missing anything there, and that was one of the CDs.

Finished out Triple Trouble when I got off the Wii and replaced the batteries in my controller. The Bowery Boys are in major trouble in this prison tale. After being accused of robbing a store, Sach and Slip go undercover in prison to ferret out the real thieves. Whitey's newest hobby is amateur radio. He's been hearing someone on another line, saying what they're going to rob and when...including Louie's! While Louie panics, the boys get caught in a jail break before going after the thieves and their ringleader mother.

Switched to another comic crime tale to end my night. The Great Muppet Caper has Kermit, Fozzie, and Gonzo as reporters in London interviewing Lady Holiday (Diana Rigg), a glamorous fashion designer whose jewels were recently stolen. Miss Piggy at first lies to Kermit about being her. They do reconcile, but shortly afterwards, Holiday's shady brother (Charles Grodin) frames the pig for the theft. Now Kermit and the wacky residents of the dilapidated Happiness Hotel have to stop another jewel robbery from taking place...and Piggy has to save her frog from dastardly villains.

I had the soundtrack for this on before work this morning and figured I'd do the movie, too. One of the best Muppet movies, with enough fourth walls broken to stock a brick and siding store. Not bad music, either. Not as many cameos as the other Muppet movies, but the few that are there include Peter Ustinov, Peter Faulk, John Cleese, and briefly, Jim Henson himself.

If you're a fan of the Muppets, this is a no-brainer. Fun for kids, families, lovers of musicals and comic capers, and those who grew up watching it on cable and video, too.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Adventures With Penguins and Bowery Boys

Began the morning with Hello Kitty Furry Tale Theater. Tuxedo Sam, the action-loving blue penguin, is in the spotlight in most of these stories. "Peter Penguin" brings Kitty and Chip to Never-Say-Never Land to rescue his friend Dinglebell (My Melody) from Captain Catnip. He's "Tar-Sam of the Jungle," who protects Hello Kitty Jane and his adoptive gorilla family from poachers Grinder and Catnip. Sam plays Sir Lancelot to Chip's King Arthur in "Paws of the Round Table." "Crocodile Penguin" has Sam as the famous Australian wrestler, who's brought to New York by Catnip (with her bad Brooklyn accent) to fight Hulk Alligator (Grinder). He and Kitty find "Grinder Genie and the Magic Lamp" under the streets of Baghdad. They want his wishes to help save Grandpa Kitty's fishing boat from Sultana Catnip's heavy taxes, but Catnip has other ideas.

Worked on writing for about an hour in the morning and another hour or so after dinner. Leia comes to Corellia Manor, the home of Henry Solo and Luke Skywalker, in a downpour. Mon Mothma wants to find out what Henry's working on and what he intends to use it for. They're worried about Vader. His other Death Star airship is almost finished its repairs. It should be ready in time for Palpatine's coronation.

As they show Leia their chemistry lab, where Henry concocts new fuels for his shipping lines, Luke tells him he wants to leave temporarily. Before he died, Ben told him Liang Yoda, one of the greatest of all Jedi Guards, was alive and living in the Dagobah swamps. Henry gives him his consent, as long as he doesn't leave until after the Royal Regatta.

Finished out Hello Kitty, then headed for work. Work was very busy when I came in, with long lines. I had to take the register shortly after I arrived. It slowed down within the hour. I returned unwanted items until my break, then gathered carts for the rest of the afternoon. It wasn't the most pleasant day for it. While it was a bit warmer than yesterday, probably into the lower 60's, it remained cloudy and damp.

Went straight home after work. Had leftovers for dinner as soon as I got in. Put on one of my favorite Bowery Boys movie while I ate, before I returned to writing. They're "Angels In Disguise" when their friend Gabe Moreno, a cop, gets hurt during a shootout and another local cop is killed. They ferret out the leader of the group...who turns out to be a psychopathic young intellectual who reads Spinoza and doesn't tolerate bad manners or mistakes from anyone, including his men. Even Slip realizes he's out of his league dealing with one of the nastiest villains in the entire series and brings in the other guys, including a worried Louie, to help deal with them.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Riding In the Rain

Began a cloudy morning with more Rick Steves' Europe. We moved to Denmark for a further exploration of their largest city, Copenhagen.I love the lively sailor's quarter and especially Tivoli Gardens, Europe's most popular amusement park. It reminds me a bit of both Six Flags Great Escape and the photos Mom brought back of Hershey Park in the early 2000's.

Worked on writing for a few hours and did some things online. I was writing when I heard the phone next to my desk ringing. It was Charlie. I had a package downstairs. Thankfully, it was between showers when I dashed to the front of the house to get it. Charlie was even nice enough to keep it in his van, so it wouldn't get wet or eaten by his dogs.

I rushed right up to my place with it before the rain started again. It was my last birthday present, this one from Linda Young. She sent me the just-revised American Girl Ultimate Visual Guide. This is a coffee-table-sized reference book with photos of all the historical dolls and how they were designed, all of the Girls of the Year (even the low-selling Lindsay from 2000), and some of the more recent modern dolls and outfits. It doesn't cover everything, especially older items, but it does give you a good overview, with some wonderful photographs. (It also includes recent BeForever additions Maryellen and Melody.)

Included with the book were two small prints and a cute Peanuts card. The larger print was a lovely drawing of Princess Leia looking up at the stars and the dark-blue skies, likely one of the many tributes to Leia and to Carrie Fisher done after Fisher died. The other is bookmark-sized, depicting Poe, Finn, and Rey happily giving each other a group hug. One side is a black-and-white version with no background. The other has color against a floral background and a Rebellion/Resistance symbol. (I suspect both prints likely came from one of the many conventions Linda and James love to visit.)

Awww! Thank you guys so much! Both the book and the prints are much-appreciated.

Headed out about 40 minutes or so after opening the package. First stop was Phillies Phatties for lunch. Needless to say, they were dead. One other guy came in and chatted with the college students behind the counter. Otherwise, it was me and ESPN Sportscenter talking about the NFL Draft. I half-listened while eating my usual slices of cheese and mushroom and gulping a can of Diet Pepsi.

It was showering even harder as I made my way across Newton Lake Park. I had no choice. I had to get to counseling. I just got wet. Thanks to the cold and damp weather, the park wasn't terribly busy either time I went through it. I saw a few Canadian geese, three ducks, and two dog walkers.

Got into Haddonfield a little early. Didn't feel like doing more roaming around in the rain than necessary, so I just went to counseling 20 minutes ahead of schedule. Mrs. Stahl and I mainly discussed my busy month - my new cell phone, all the fun on Easter and my birthday, Khai's birthday party, my birthday gifts from Dad and Jodie, them inviting me over more often. I also told her that I'm in the market for a new apartment or small house. I'm not really comfortable here anymore, and I really don't think Willa is going to have much else done besides the roof and the porch (and heaven only knows when they're going to get to that). It's not going to happen anytime soon (for one thing, I don't have the money for moving at the moment), but I'm hoping to leave within the next two to three years.

I'm also tired of the Acme, even more so now. My current head managers are both pains in the rear. I want to do a job where I feel like I'm making a difference and my contribution actually means something. Mrs. Stahl is still convinced I have some kind of neurological problem or disorder. Yeah, it's called "introversion and extreme shyness." I still don't buy it. If I had that kind of problem, some doctor or the other would have told me decades ago. I'd at least like to find another part-time job that would be more appropriate to my talents and personality than retail, which I quite obviously don't belong in. And I need to somehow drum up enough courage to sell my writing.

Mrs. Stahl says "Google jobs that people with neurological problems can do." Oh, I jobs for introverts and shy people.

It was still raining when I started home. The digital sign at the Westmont Fire House said 57 degrees by quarter after 3. The weather was too chilly for water ice. I opted to stop at McMillan's Bakery in Westmont, across from Walgreens', instead. They make some of the best donuts in Camden County. Their vanilla cream-filled was bursting with frosting and powdered sugar.

Headed straight home after that, dodging the beginnings of rush-hour traffic. At least the rain had largely stopped by the time I rolled into Oaklyn. It started again while I was eating dinner, and has been off and on, sometimes heavily, for the rest of the night.

Did some more writing for a while when I got home. Leia, Henry, and Charles commandeer a taxi and pay the driver to get them away from the man and his carriage. The fellow is Robert Fettson, a bounty hunter who is well-known for his ruthlessness and tenacity. He chases them through the streets of Ord Mantell, until Leia shoots out his wheel and Henry manages to get a fruit cart in front of him.

Wanting to make up for the trouble, Henry invites Leia to his home Corellia Manor for lunch the next day. She accepts. She wants to learn more about him and what he's up to.

Broke around 6 for leftovers for dinner. Watched more Rick Steves while I ate. Small-town Denmark is even lovelier than Copenhagen, all colorful houses and quaint villages. In addition to the island of Aero, with its tiny towns and church, I liked seeing Hans Christian Anderson's home town and watching a storyteller relate his most famous fairy tales.

Inspired by the previous episode, I finished the night with the Danny Kaye Hans Christian Anderson while baking an Apricot-Lemon Cake. Unlike most movie biopics, this one is pretty upfront about being "a fairy tale about a spinner of fairy tales." Hans (Kaye) is technically a cobbler, but what he really loves is telling stories about naked emperors and snow queens to the children of his village. His stories keep them away from school, which enrages the schoolmaster. Hans and his apprentice finally flee the village to see Copenhagen. There, Hans falls in love with a beautiful ballerina (Jeanne Marie) who inspires his most famous and romantic story, "The Little Mermaid." The ballerina, however, is already happily married to the troupe's choreographer and director. Hans is heartbroken...but he'll always have his stories.

This has been a favorite of mine since it used to turn up a lot on local independent TV stations in the afternoon in the 80's and early 90's. It introduced me to the delights of ballet, Kaye, and songwriter Frank Loesseur. If you're a fan of Kaye, ballet, or the real Anderson and his stories, you'll want to look around for this one.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Cloudy With a Chance of Bonds

Began a gloomy, gray morning with early work. It wasn't too bad when I got in. I spent most of the first hour doing carts. (Including moving carts from the Nicholson Road entrance to the more-frequented one on the Black Horse Pike.) Managed to get about half the returns done before break...and only got to them for about 20 minutes or so afterwards. It had picked up considerably by noon. For some reason, one of the cashiers had been called to produce. Not only did I get stuck in the register, but so did the other bagger they had there. This, of course, meant nothing else got done, including carts.

Went straight home after that. Did a couple of Rick Steves' Europe episodes while eating a quick lunch. I love Rick's visits to Scandinavia. Such beautiful, clean, simple countries! The fjords of Norway looked all glowing and majestic, like something out of the book of Scandinavian fairy tales I used to take out all the time in high school. Bergen, Oslo, Stockholm, and Helsinki are all simple, elegant cities. I especially love the domed cathedrals of Helskini, remnants of their years under Russian rule.

Headed to the laundromat after Rick ended. I was originally going to do the laundry tomorrow, but it's supposed to rain for a lot of the day. I'm glad I didn't put it off this week. The laundromat was pin-drop quiet when I arrived. I saw maybe one or two other people for the entire 40 minutes or so I was there. Pretty much concentrated on story notes and ignored everything else. I didn't really have a lot of laundry, anyway.

Put everything away when I got home, then went on the computer to work on writing. Leia spies a man in a green and red suit across the street from them. He's hiding his face...and he's armed with a gun and a knife. Luke brushes it off. Henry isn't so quick to ignore the man a few days later. They see him again after he, Leia, and Charles emerge from a vehicle exhibition. He does recognize the man...and he's not someone he wishes he knew. Charles immediately pulls them both along to the nearest carriage.

Broke for dinner at 6:30. I baked the fish cakes I picked up on Friday, along with the last of the green beans and some cherry tomatoes drizzled in olive oil. After I finished dinner, I worked on the crocheting project I've been doing for a while.

Finished out the night with Diamonds are Forever while I crocheted. Sean Connery's last Bond film for over a decade has him trying to ferret out a diamond smuggling ring, first in Denmark, then in Las Vegas. He's helped by mouthy Tiffany Case (Jill St. John), one of the links in the ring. The links keep ending up dead, thanks to a pair of very peculiar hit men. His search takes him to the Whyte House, a luxury hotel and casino run by Willard Whyte (Jimmy Dean), a reclusive millionaire. Is he behind the thefts, or is there someone else who wants the diamonds? And what do they have planned for them?

By far the strangest movie of the Connery Bond run. I've always had a soft spot for this one, from the garish neon lights of Vegas to several odd chases (including the one with the moon buggy in the desert) to Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd, the world's weirdest killers. Extra points for an awesome theme song by Shirley Bassey. If you love the older Bond films or enjoy the campier aspects of the series, this is one of the most unusual and gets a major recommendation from me.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Spring With the Family

Got a quick start this morning with breakfast and one of my Have a Nice Day! 70s CDs. Since I had a little time, I thought I'd make Banana Pancakes. They took longer than I thought they would. I ended up burning one on the bottom. I had just enough time to eat them, get dressed, pack lunch, and rush off to work.

Work was a pain in the rear. We were, once again, a lot busier than we have been. Everyone must be restocking their larders after spring break. I spent the morning doing returns. There was another bagger outside doing carts. He left at noon, but they didn't send me out until 12:30. I was supposed to go on break at 12:30. The manager said "but you can do carts! You don't have to go on break now!" I did carts. Another bagger finally came out to relieve me twenty minutes later.

I can understand their concern. By the time I came back out, the cart corrals were full. I have no idea what the other bagger was doing this morning - one of the managers must have called him to do something else. Spent the rest of the afternoon gathering carts with the other bagger. Not that I was complaining once I'd had my break. It was too nice to be inside anyway. The afternoon was sunny, breezy, and warm, but not above average for this time of year, probably in the lower 60's.

Took the long way home down Nicholson Road to extend my time out in the sun a little longer. I was far from the only person enjoying a Sunday drive. I dodged cars and other bikers all down Nicholson. Atlantic Avenue had fewer cars, but it did have its fair share of bikers.

As I was riding past West Clinton, I noticed a folding sign set up next to Phillies Yummies stating that they were finally opening for the season on Friday. Yay! Either the kids changed their minds and decided they'd be able to manage it, or they found someone who did have the time.

As soon as I got in, I changed into regular clothes, then settled down at the computer to work on my story. Henry and Luke invite Leia and her aunt to see the sights of Naboo. They both accept. Not only does Leia want to learn more about them and what they do, but regardless of local politics, they are still on vacation. She tries to question Henry as they leave, but he ends up attempting to flirt with her instead.

Jodie called me around 4. Did I want to come over for dinner? She and Dad were making chili. Sure, why not? The fish cakes I was going to have could wait another day. I headed over to their house about an hour later. The chili was ready when I arrived. It was delicious, salty and hearty and filling. We had Italian bread and butter with it while switching between Donnie Brasco and the Phillies-Braves game. (The Phillies won, BTW, 5-2.) I went outside to chat with Jodie and some of the neighbors for a while before heading home.

(I also asked Jodie about the doctor. No, she hasn't heard from her. She's going to call her this week.)

Finished the night with more writing. Luke and Henry do, indeed, take them to see all the tourist sites they said they would. Luke even takes the women shopping and proves to have quite a knack for it. When Leia asks him about it, he says he used to help his Aunt Berta make his clothes, since he grew out of them so fast. His aunt told him it was a knack he picked up from his fashionable mother. Leia's a bit surprised when Luke tells her his mother's name was Padme. Padme also happens to be the name of the previous queen of Naboo, who was killed by her own guards when Coruscant invaded.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Celebrating Our Earth

I wish Mother Nature had been a bit more pleasant-looking for Earth Day when I awoke this morning. I ignored the gloomy clouds and celebrated the day with a first-season episode of Sailor Moon. "Usagi's Panic: Rei's First Date" has Usagi in a flutter because Rei netted a day out with Mamoru. Usagi grabs nerdy Umino and follows them out to a local park. Ami is also at the park, trying to figure out the strange behavior of her friend, an old gardener who is about to lose his job when the park closes. When the animals of the park attack the people involved in demolishing it, Ami and Luna begin to suspect a Negaverse plot.

Work was busy for most of the day, a lot busier than it's been since before Easter. The lines were long for most of the morning. We're still shorthanded. I ended up in the register around 11:30 so another cashier could go on break. Pretty much spent the rest of the afternoon bagging. I picked up a few things I forgot when I went shopping yesterday after I finished - skim milk, an onion, and toothbrushes.

My schedule for this week is pretty much what it's been for the past few months. I wish I could have kept those extra hours. Otherwise, one relatively late day on Monday, Tuesday and Friday off, Tuesday for counseling.

It rained lightly for most of the day, including when I got to work. Thankfully, by the time I was heading home, the rain was just ending. It would continue to shower lightly off and on for the rest of the afternoon.

I spent that time inside, working on my story. Henry invites Leia and Aunt Breha to go sightseeing in Naboo with him, Charles, and Luke the next day. Leia and Breha both think this is a wonderful idea. Leia especially - it's a great way to keep an eye on them.

Leia asks Luke how he came to live with Henry. Luke tearfully explains how he'd grown up in Tatoonie, the corrupt badlands on the border of Naboo, on a grain farm run by his Aunt Berta and Uncle Owen. One day, he'd come home after chasing a dog to the home of hermit Ben Kenton. They found the farm burned to the ground and its owners shot dead. Luke suspected they'd been killed for failure to pay taxes, but Ben said it may have been the Coruscant Empire coming after Luke.

Broke around 6 to have the last of the turkey-noodle casserole for dinner. Did a couple of cartoons themed around keeping our Earth safe and clean while I ate. The Lorax is a little orange fellow who speaks for the truffula trees. The greedy Onceler only sees the profit he can make from their leaves, not what cutting them down and destroying their habitat is doing to the animals they support and the land they were on. The Lorax tries to reason with the Onceler...but by the time he finally does, it's too late. When the last tree is gone, both learn a sad lesson in the damage unchecked progress can cause.

Two episodes of Tiny Toon Adventures from the first season covered the damage being done to the Earth, and how to do something about it. "Pollution Solution" is a trio of tales about cleaning up both the Earth and our own back yards. Plucky teaches Elmyra about recycling in "No Deposit, No Return of the Trash Bag Dispenser." Babs and Buster land in a "Jungle Bungle" when they have to stop an obnoxious businessman from destroying the rain forests to build his backyard. GoGo the Dodo finds himself "Waste Deep In Wackyland" after Montana Max empties the backwash from his new factory into his home. GoGo and the other residents of Wackyland find a way to take their revenge.

"Whale's Tale" is another Buster and Babs story. This time, they rescue from the clutches of a smothering Elmyra and release him back into the ocean. He won't leave them. He needs help. His mother is in the clutches of Gotcha Grabmore, who wants to turn her into cosmetics.

Made Apple Muffins from a modified recipe in my 50's Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook. Replaced the melted shortening with canola oil. I haven't tried them yet, but they smelled divine in the oven.

Finished out the night with one of the stranger episodes from the third season of Wonder Woman. There were some pretty bizarre plots on this show from time to time, but "Formicida" takes the wooden cake. Formicida is a scientist who has created a formula that can not only allow her to control ants, but gives her their strengths. She wants to force a businessman to stop the manufacture of a pesticide that could become toxic not only to plants and animals, but humans, too. He's thrown too much money into its creation and insists on releasing it to the public no matter what. Formicida releases ants to destroy his buildings. Wonder Woman is just as determined to prove to both that two wrongs don't make a right...and you can't save the Earth by hurting others.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Just Leave Everything to Me

Slept in a little more than I have lately. When I did get up, I put on some more Rick Steves' Europe as I had breakfast. While Berlin's modern and Cold War architecture doesn't appeal to me in the way the fairy tale landscapes elsewhere in Germany do, this is one of the few episodes where either I or people I know lived through most of the history discussed. I remember watching the Berlin Wall come down on my tiny old black and white TV in 1989. Now, most of what's left of it is an outdoor art gallery. A checkpoint is a museum. There's not much more than foundations left of most of the Nazi buildings (except for one large government building that now houses the financial offices).

Did a Three Stooges short while getting organized. Shemp joins with the guys out west in "Punchy Cowpunchers." The trio are accidentally corralled to help a singing cowboy round up three bandits who are going to rob a saloon. While the bar maid who loves the cowboy is handling the bandits in her own way, Shemp tries hiding from the bandits in a safe. He refuses to let them open the combination, so they try blasting him out!

First on the to-do list was a run to the Acme for this week's groceries. I was going to hold off until after work tomorrow, but I figured I might as well get it done. I didn't need much, anyway. They had turkey legs on sale with manager's coupons, for some reason. Grabbed the relatively cheap ground turkey, too. Bags of lettuce and salad mixes were on sale; grabbed baby spinach. Restocked grapefruit, bananas, white flour, Chobani yogurt, cereal (went with Acme's generic Honey Bunches of Oats and Almonds), canned tomato sauce, cheese (mozzarella), and corn meal.

Switched to The Backyardigans as I put everything away and rounded up the books and DVDs that needed to be returned. Uniqua is the sheriff in the peaceful town of Ping Pong Mesa, where all the residents love nothing more than to play ping pong. At least until Pablo rolls into town, with his amazing "Bandit Slam-It" move. He wins all the kids' paddles, including Uniqua's, and takes over the sheriff job. Uniqua goes out into the desert to learn a few fancy moves that'll beat that rogue penguin at his own game.

Headed out around 1 for lunch. Decided I'd try the Oaklyn Manor Bar, just two blocks down the street from me on West Clinton. Oaklyn is one of only two towns in the area that allows liquor (the other is Westmont), and the bar is very popular with locals. It went without saying that the bar was full, but the main dining area was relatively busy, too. I had to call for a waitress, and she took a while bringing my grilled chicken sandwich, but at least she was pleasant. The chicken was a little overcooked, but not bad, and it was laden with lettuce, tomatoes, avocado slices, and spicy mayo.

Cut through Newton Lake Park on my way to the Haddon Township Library, despite a cloudy and chilly day. Between the weather and it being about quarter after 2, the park was empty except for a flock of Canadian geese and a few moms with strollers. Too bad. They're missing some prime scenery. The park is really beautiful now, all emerald grass and lime-green leaves and yellow buttercups dotting the river banks.

The Haddon Township Library was fairly busy, especially once the kids let out. No audio books to shelve, but I did put away new releases and a bunch of kids' DVDs. Gave the kids' DVDs a good going-over and re-organizing, too. It took me so long, it was quarter of 4 before I headed out. I didn't take anything out this week. Didn't see anything I absolutely needed to watch, and I really want to focus on writing this week before I start getting read for Lauren's visit in mid-May.

Went straight home down Cuthbert Road and the White Horse Pike, ignoring the early rush hour traffic. The clouds had grown even darker while I was in the library. I felt the first little drops of rain as I crossed the Pike by the Ritz Theater and WaWa.

Needless to say, I went nowhere else. Worked on writing for a couple of hours when I got in. Henry, Charles, and Luke treat Leia and Breha to a delightful picnic in a meadow. They enjoy sandwiches, play badminton, and listen to Henry and Charles tell stories of their pirating days. At the end of the day, while gathering flowers, Leia starts to ask them about leaving. Luke's not leaving. Naboo is his home. Henry says he and Charles are, but he sounds less certain.

Broke around quarter of 7 to have leftovers for dinner. Continued The Backyardigans while I ate. Uniqua, Tasha, and Austin are on a "Garbage Trek" to round up all the trash in the galaxy. Klingons Tyrone and Pablo have another reason for wanting garbage - to power their ship. They keep tricking the others to get theirs, but when they end up getting trapped in the pull of a black hole, Tasha has to decide whether or not to trust them.

Tried another recipe from that one-bowl cookie book Lauren gave me for my birthday after dinner. "The Vermonter" is mostly butter, flour, brown sugar, and maple flavoring and syrup. While I had to replace honey for syrup, this did put that maple extract I picked up last fall during the Acme's big remodeling clearances to good use. They came out a little lumpier than I thought they would, but not too bad.

Put on Hello Dolly! while I baked. Dolly Levi (Barbara Streisand) is a professional matchmaker - and pretty much everything else - in early 20th century New York City. She's supposed to be helping the niece (Joyce Ames) of grouchy millionaire Horace Vandergelder (Walter Matthau) find a husband. What she really wants is to marry Horace herself, but he has his cap set for pretty milliner Irene Malloy (Marianne McAndrew). Meanwhile, Horace's overworked clerks Barnaby (Danny Locklin) and Cornelius (Michael Crawford) just want a day of adventure. Dolly pairs them off with Irene and her apprentice Minnie (EJ Peaker), then brings everyone together at the lavish Harmonia Gardens restaurant, just in time to join the band leader (Louis Armstrong, in his last movie role) for the title song. Even after disaster strikes, Dolly has a way of making sure everyone and everything comes out all right in the end...eventually.

One of my favorite musicals overcomes a lot of problems (overlong running time, Streisand being miscast, Crawford's in-and-out accent) with some fabulous numbers and a marvelous sense of detail. All that money really went somewhere - you do feel like you're seeing early 20th century Yonkers and New York. (In fact, my mom used to use this movie as a springboard for discussing the era with us girls when we were younger.) The gorgeous costumes are particularly well-done.

A long-time family favorite, this one used to turn up a lot on TV during my childhood. Even my brother loved this one, one of the few musicals he used to request constantly. If you're a fan of Streisand, songwriter Jerry Herman, or the big musicals of the 60's and early 70's, this is one of the best of the era and his heartily recommended.

Oh, and it did finally start raining harder around the time I was finishing out Dolly. We even had a brief thunderstorm at one point. The rain seems to be gone now, but it's supposed to rain at least a little all weekend. We'll see what happens.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

History On the Baseball Diamond

Began the day with another early work shift. There was a mild spurt around noon. Otherwise, we were quiet as can be all day. I did have to clean up a massive soda spill late in the morning. I didn't see it, but it was really a mess. Splashed everywhere, all over the Doritos and Funyuns, all on the floor, on the shelves. I mopped twice, and the floor was still sticky. On top of that, the man shelving the Frito Lay bags moved my cleaning supplies somewhere in the back and never told me where. I couldn't even find them. They were supposed to go up front. I'm glad I spent the second half doing trash and gathering carts and baskets.

It was cloudy and cool when I went to work. By the time I got off at 2, the clouds were gone, the sun was out, and though it was a bit humid, it was also much warmer. Bought a soft pretzel for a snack, then took the long say home down Nicholson Road. It was too nice not to. Nicholson was a little busy, but once I got into Oaklyn, I was fine.

Put on another Rick Steves' Europe episode while I got organized and changed into regular clothes. Headed back into France to explore their lovely Burgundy region. While this area is best known for its wines, it has other charms, including beautiful monasteries (both ancient and modern) and adorable little villages.

Spent the next couple of hours working on my story. Leia finds information in books on both the Jedi and that indicate that Baron Anakin Skywalker, whose lands and title were appropriated by Vader, vanished rather than died. Leia knows Ben told Luke he died. She'd also love to know why Henry is helping the boy - it does nothing for him or his business.

They head out in rowboats the next day. As they make their way down the river, Leia points out a ruin. Turns out it was once the headquarters of the Jedi Guards. It was burned to the ground by Vader after the Royal family was killed and the Jedi were blamed.

Broke for dinner around 6. Had leftovers while playing more Kirby's Epic Yarn. Went back to some of the earlier rounds to see if I could pick up a couple more items I hadn't been able to before. The only round I had problems with was the desert car race bonus round. I just couldn't bounce high enough to get all of the extras! Otherwise, I got most of what I was looking for. I was even able to complete another room for those little tadpole-like critters.

Finished out the night with 42: The Jackie Robinson Story. This one is pretty much what it says on the tin. Robinson (Chadwick Boseman) is recruited to play for the Brooklyn Dodgers by team head Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford) from the minor league Montreal Royals in the spring of 1947. Robinson had problems in the Royals, and they get even worse in Brooklyn, to the point where many of his teammates won't even play with him at first. Rickey and the team's manager stand up for him. Trouble follows them on the road, especially in Philadelphia, where the nasty manager (Alan Tudyk) taunts him to the point where he breaks his bat in anger. Not only does Rickey continue to believe in him, but he also gains support from teammate Pee Wee Reece (Lucas Black)...and eventually from the audience, as Robinson leads the Dodgers to the playoffs, and American sports to a new era of racial tolerance.

I thought this was really sweet. It might be a little too sweet for baseball lovers looking for a little more grit in their dugout stories. Boseman in particular does well as Robinson, a great athlete who finds himself having to keep his emotions in check if he wants to play the game he loves.

Baseball fans and fans of the cast looking for an uplifting sports tale will enjoy it (if they're not expecting a warts-and-all portrayal).

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Limbo Birthday Rock

Kicked off the morning with breakfast and more Rick Steves' Europe. Moved over the border from France to fairy-tale Germany to explore the Black Forest region. This is probably my favorite of Rick's German episodes. The whole show looks like something from out of Mom's old Grimm's Fairy Tales book, from the towering Gothic cathedral in Cologne to the casino and mineral spa of Baden Baden to the quaint towns and romantic scenery of the Black Forest itself.

Headed out around 10:30-quarter of 11 to get the laundry done. I picked the right time. They were dead when I arrived, and only a few people showed up while I was there. I watched Let's Make a Deal and The Price Is Right (what I could hear of it - the picture kept going in and out) while working on story notes. I had a lot of laundry to do, too, thanks to the extra sheet and socks - it took me over an hour.

When I got home, I put everything away, then had lunch really fast and headed right back out to run errands. First stop was the Oaklyn Library. It was past 1 by this point. Other than the librarian and one woman on the computer, they were quiet as can be. I shelved children's books, organized the DVDs, and dodged gardeners spreading mulch around the flowers and landscaping on the front lawn.

WaWa is a few blocks down the street from the library. I stopped there for a tasty Chocolate Banana Smoothie. This is probably my favorite WaWa frozen drink. They use real bananas instead of flavoring. It tastes so extra sweet and creamy!

Rode down the White Horse Pike to grab a few things at CVS. I needed a bag for Khai's birthday present. (All my wrapping paper bags are for Christmas.) Was almost out of brush picks. Might as well get them while I have the gift card. (For some reason, CVS is the only place I can find brush picks anymore.)

I didn't like the look of the weather. The sun had long vanished, replaced by clouds and chilly wind. I rode home to do some writing for a couple of hours. Leia has her suspicions about Luke and Henry. Luke's fencing style was very familiar. She realizes why when she looks up a couple of books on the Jedi. His fencing style match that of the long-gone Jedi Guards, the protectors of the Naboo Royal Family who were killed after supposedly betraying their rulers. Leia knows Sir Kenton was once a Jedi, and now she thinks Luke...and the Crimson Hawk...may be trying to resurrect the group.

Went right back out to Dad's for Khai's birthday party around ten of 5. The place was already packed with screaming kids and amused parents when I arrived. Khai and a bunch of his buddies were in the living room, batting red, green, and blue balloons around. My nephew has apparently become a fan of the online game Minecraft. The decorations and cake had a nifty Minecraft theme, up to and including the blocky decorations on the cake made from white chocolate lollipops. The cake came from a new bakery on the White Horse Pike I've been meaning to try. The icing had an odd spicy taste, but the three-layer chocolate and vanilla cake was delicious and moist.

The kids had a lot of fun - and I had a lot of fun taking photos! I accidentally pushed the record button on my phone and ended up recording the kids' limbo game (I think Ryan won). I also recorded them playing musical statues (Chloe may have won that one) and blowing out the candles on the cake. Took photos of them playing with sparklers outside (I thought it was adorable when one of the boys said they "looked just like Harry Potter") and playing tag with Dana.

Khai got a lot of really neat stuff for his birthday! Most of what he got were Minecraft Lego sets. (Including one he'd admired while on a trip with Jodie that she'd managed to buy under his nose!) He also got two Nerf guns (one zombie-themed) and suction-cup darts, the Pokemon in a Poke-Ball from me, a pool flotation device, spy goggles from his parents, and lots of money.

I finally took my leave around 7:30. Looked over everything I'd recorded and photographed, then jumped in the bath. Ahh, I needed that after all the noise today and the running around I've done in the past few months. Felt nice to just kick back, relax, and listen to jazz while looking over self-help books on finding your authentic self.

I found a movie on YouTube tonight that I've been wondering about for years. I was at the tail-end of my first Star Wars obsession when the TV movie Earth Angel debuted in 1991. It's 1962, and a peppy prom queen thinks she has it all - hot car, hot jock boyfriend, tons of popularity. She learns about real love when she falls for the nerd who tutors her in history (Mark Hamill). The jock's not thrilled. During an argument in her car while riding to the prom in a storm, the jock spins out, totals the car, and kills her. Her late principal (Roddy McDowell) sends her on a mission to 1991. The sweet nerd is now a strict history teacher who may fail a shy new girl, the daughter of her former best friend (Cindy Williams). Now she has to make sure the kid ends up with the right guy and give her old flame the encouragement to move on, or she'll never get up there with James Dean.

I saw part of this when it came out on cable, but I don't remember having seen the end. Yeah, I mainly caught it for a rare appearance by Hamill, who makes a rather cute nerd, and because I've always been intrigued by both mild ghost stories and mid-20th-century culture. Not the best movie in the world, but if you love ghost stories, the early 60's or early 90's, or any of the cast, it's worth a look at least once.

Earth Angel (1991)

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Fantasy and History

Kicked off a sunny, breezy day with my second early work shift in a row. I did get outside to do carts for about 40 minutes when I got in. Otherwise, I was inside for most of the day. It was once again dead, especially early on. I did need to take the register briefly around 12:30. Otherwise, there wasn't much going on. I polished the stainless steel bathroom stalls, bagged, and did a couple of returns. Grabbed a soft pretzel for a snack on the way out.

As soon as I got home, I changed into regular clothes and had a snack. Did more Rick Steves' Europe as I ate. We're back in French wine country, this time in Alsace. Not being a big wine drinker, my real interest in this episode was a segment on the Battle of Verdun and World War I. I also liked seeing some really beautiful old medieval and Renaissance-era towns.

Spent the next few hours writing. Henry Solo and his ward Luke Skywalker have arrived to visit and to make sure Leia's ok after her kidnapping. Leia's sure they're the Crimson Hawk and Golden Eagle. Mon Mothma just thinks they're up to something. When Henry invites Leia and her Aunt Breha for a picnic and a trip on the river the next day, Leia readily agrees. Mon Mothma believes Henry and Luke are up to something. Leia wants to prove they're the ones who rescued her.

Broke to make dinner around 6. Inspired by the first "Pantry Raids" Good Eats episode that had Alton Brown demonstrating how to cook pasta, I decided to try making my own version of Jodie's goulash. Browned onions, scallions, mushrooms, sliced cherry tomatoes, and ground turkey. Mixed it with tomato sauce. Sprinkled it with Parmesan cheese and a little Gouda (I was just about out). Added cooked noodles. Let it bake for 40 minutes. Oh yum. It came out very well, for a quick tossed-together dish. I'll definitely add more cheese if I have it next time, though.

Played Kirby's Epic Yarn while it baked. Went back to Quilty Square to design a few rooms for the little tadpole-like creatures who live in the "apartments" there. The furniture you find in the rounds is for them. Played a mini-game that had me chasing a couple of the little guys over part of a round in 3 minutes. I found them all just in time! Tried Yin Yarn again. I got a lot more beads on my fourth try, but it still wasn't enough. I'll give it another shot later in the week.

Finished out the night with Fairie Tale Theatre. Shelly Duvall's retelling of "Beauty and the Beast" sticks far closer to the original French version than either Disney film did. Beauty (Susan Sarandon) spends her days taking care of her father and her spoiled sisters (one is Anjelica Huston). When her father runs afoul of a fearsome beast (Klaus Kinski) for picking his rose, Beauty opts to take his place. She eventually discovers that under all the fur and claws beats a loyal, kind heart. When her father is sick, she returns to care for him, but he's afraid to let her return. Beauty's afraid that if she doesn't get back in time, the Beast will die...but there's a surprise waiting for her at the palace when she arrives.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Little April Showers

Began the morning with my first of two early work days in a row. I headed to work in a light shower, which may be why we were fairly quiet throughout the morning. I got two carts of returns done in the morning, then finished the last of them after lunch. I just wish they hadn't insisted on sending me out to do carts 10 minutes before break. Thankfully, another bagger finally arrived and took over for me. Spent an hour outside later in the afternoon. By that point, the rain had stopped altogether, although it was still damp, cloudy, and warm, probably in the lower-mid 70's.

It was still cloudy and damp when I headed home. I didn't trust the weather, so I just went straight there. As soon as I got in, I changed, had lunch, and then took down the Easter decorations. I don't know why I was in so much of a hurry. I didn't exactly have much else planned for this afternoon. Every time I thought I'd gotten everything, I'd see two more things I'd forgotten.

Ran two episodes of Rick Steves' Europe while I worked. Rick explored the many facets of Paris in two intriguing episodes. The first focused on fine art in the Louvre and the daily life of its citizens. The second took more of a historical angle as Rick visited the catacombs, Notre Dame Cathedral, and several former mansions.

Switched to records as I did a few things around the apartment that I'd put off doing over the weekend. I put away the rest of my birthday presents. I don't think the socks I usually buy at JCPenney's are sold online. I'll use the ones I got for my birthday for now, but they're thin and aren't going to last. I'll try to get some thicker pairs when Lauren and I hit the malls next month. I changed the summer sheet for the one I bought on Friday. Even though it was listed as a twin, it was still pretty big, more than big enough to fit on my narrow mattress. Found a bag for the action figure I'm going to give Lauren next month, but not for Khai's birthday present for Wednesday. I'll see if I can find a bag or better paper tomorrow or Wednesday morning. Finally loaded the new ink into the printer and put away my bank statements for the past few months.

Did some writing for the next few hours. Leia's visitors are Henry Solo and Luke Skywalker. Luke hurries to Leia to make sure she's ok the moment she arrives. Henry's more amused than anything. They've come to invite her out on a picnic and a row on the river. Leia agrees. She wants to keep an eye on them. They claim they know nothing about the mess at the fair grounds, but Leia has her suspicions...

Broke for dinner and a ride around 6. It had turned into an absolutely gorgeous spring day. The clouds and humidity had given way to sunshine, soft breezes, and warm temperatures. Took a quick peek at the House of Fun (didn't buy anything) before going a block down to Capitol Pizza for dinner. Took my slice of cheese, slice of mushroom, and can of Diet Pepsi out to the metal tables on the sidewalk, ignoring the news blaring inside.

Went for a short ride after I finished dinner. I was far from the only one. I passed by people in twos and threes on bikes, looking at the scenery like me. The neighborhood is really blooming now, all pale greens, soft pinks, and off whites. The daffodils and hyacinths are on their last legs, but the tulips are out, and I can see more coming. Kids played catch in their yards while adults chatted on the porches or sidewalks.

Passed Charlie watering his yard on my way in. I've seen a huge mouse on the music area side of the living room the last few nights. I have no idea what he was doing there. Maybe he got lost looking for the kitchen. At any rate, he had to go. Charlie didn't see it - his dogs eat any mice he might get - but he agreed to set traps anyway.

There was an envelope waiting for me in the mail when I came back from dinner. Got my last birthday gift from Lauren and her folks. They gave me 20 dollars and a cute cupcake-themed card.

Played Kirby's Epic Yarn for an hour after I got settled. It took me six tries, but I finally got the last two rounds for Space Land. The first one, which had you play the tank in an area without gravity, was really hard. The tank can be hard to navigate when gravity is at a normal level. I loved the last round, a Galaxia-style shoot-the-critters game. In fact, I had so much fun with the round, I did it again to get the one item I missed the first time.

(And Charlie did come upstairs while I was playing to set the non-harmful type of traps. I did see a mouse earlier, but I don't think anything's gotten in there yet. Maybe Charlie's dogs ate them after all.)

Ended the night after a shower with Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Set a few weeks before A New Hope, we follow Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), an independent young woman who has been living on her own ever since her mother was killed by the Empire and her father Galen (Mads Mikkelson) back into their service. The Empire wants him to build a super weapon, a Death Star that'll destroy whole planets. Jyn's brought to the Rebellion by Captain Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), a devoted member of the group. They eventually assemble a team that includes Chirrut, a blind monk warrior (Donnie Yen), his guardsman friend Baze (Jiang Wen), former Imperial pilot-turned-rebel Bodhi (Riz Ahmed), and extremely sarcastic reprogrammed Imperial droid K2 (voice of Allan Tudyck). This unlikely group has to get the plans for the Death Star to the Rebellion, before Darth Vader's big new toy causes major damage...or worse.

If you've been wanting to see a Star Wars movie with more emphasis on action and characterization and less on mystical Jedi and Force talk, have I got the story for you. This one really puts the "war" in Star Wars, with lots of battles and explosions and death. I loved the rough-and-ready characters, especially Chirrut, the spiritual monk who firmly believes in the Force and all it stands for, and K2, the galaxy's saltiest droid. The grimy, down-to-Earth (so to speak) aesthetics of Jedha and Scarif were quite different than anything previously seen in the series, and very welcome after the mild twice-told feeling of Force Awakens.

Big warning that this is very dark for a Star Wars movie. Pretty much the entire main cast doesn't make it out alive, not even K2. It's probably the darkest and most violent movie in the entire series outside of Revenge of the Sith. Not a ton of humor either, other than K2's commentary. The plot tends to be murky, especially in the first half.

Families with younger kids may want to wait on The Last Jedi or check out the Rebels cartoons instead. If you have young teens on up who can handle the violence, this is a very different and tougher Star Wars movie that is well worth your time.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Very Warm for Easter

Began a gorgeous, warm Easter morning with stories and poems from Colliers Harvest of Holidays. Nino's Easter is the tale of a little Greek boy's typical Easter customs, from attending church to the huge family feast afterwards. The Country Bunny and the Little Golden Shoes tells of a mother rabbit who so impresses the head Easter Bunny with how she takes care of her large family, he makes her an official Easter Bunny. She's not sure she can make it, but a pair of shiny shoes may help her get through.

Also did a short from the Disney Storybookland anthology. "Grandpa Bunny" is supposedly based after "Funny Little Bunnies." Great Grandpa Bunny Bunny has been the head of the Easter rabbits for as long as anyone can remember. When he dies, the older bunnies search for his last legacy...but their children know where it can be found.

Ran The Easter Bunny Is Coming to Town as I ate Confetti Pancakes for breakfast. Sunny the Bunny is discovered by the citizens of all-child Kidsville on Easter morning. As he grows up, he insist that the kids start to expand their products outside the village and tries to bring their eggs to dismal Town. Not only does grouchy Gadzooks the Bear keep chasing him away, but rigid Lady Longtooth, who rules Town, pretty much hates anything that isn't beans or her young nephew King Bruce. As Sunny, his hobo friend, and the kids create ways to get around Lady Longtooth's laws, the discover that they're creating traditions that will outlast her strict ways.

Tossed on a quick Looney Tunes short as I got ready for work. "Easter Yeggs" features a far less benign spring hare. The Easter Bunny is feeling overworked and recruits Bugs Bunny to take over his job. No wonder - Bugs is attacked by a criminal kid and Elmer Fudd looking for a rabbit for his stew pot. Fed up, he finally decides to get revenge on the lazy rabbit.

Work was surprisingly not that bad for a Sunday and a holiday. It was busy on and off, with occasional long lines, but they didn't last. I assumed the lines would be long all day. I cleaned the bathrooms and bagged in the morning and did the carts in the afternoon. Glad I did. Part of the reason we weren't that busy may have been it was absolutely gorgeous today, sunny, windy, and ridiculously warm for April, probably in the lower 80's. I treated myself to a free chocolate doughnut (via one of the Monopoly coupons) and an Acme Orange/Mango sparkling soda on the way out.

Took the long way home down Nicholson Road. Given the weather, it was practically required. They weren't too bad, either. A little busy down Nicholson, but once I got to Atlantic, it was smooth sailing. Took an even longer route down Kendall, past Rose and Craig's house and the West Clinton Business District. Needless to say, there were quite a few people out and about today, chatting on porches, riding bikes, or watching their children play in their yards.

Did more Looney Tunes, this one a TV special, when I got in. Daffy Duck's Easter Egg-citment gives us three all-original shorts with a spring theme, and all featuring Daffy. He and Sylvester chase a golden egg in the first short. In the second, he has to keep Speedy Gonzoles out of a chocolate bunny factory. Speedy wants the bunnies for the kids of his village, but Daffy has no intention of paying. Daffy's solo in the third, as he tries to figure out how to get north without flying.

Worked on writing and editing for an hour or so. Leia's disappointed to say good-bye to Uncle Bail, who is returning to Alderaan to deal with the fall-out from the Death Star destroying their shipyards. He promises he'll be back in time for the Diamond Jubilee Gala Ball at the end of the summer.

Headed to Dad and Jodie's around quarter of 5. Rose, Khai, and Craig were already there when I arrived. Jesse, Dana, T.J, and his new girlfriend showed up shortly after. Dad and Jodie did give me socks (they're kind of thin, though - I may get one more pack next month) and Rogue One. (Which I'll watch tomorrow.)  Jodie also gave me 20 dollars. (The bulk of my birthday money is going towards tickets and money for my visit to Pittsfield to see Lauren in mid-July.) Rose and her boys gave me a 25 dollar gift card to CVS. (I gave Rose a 15 dollar gift card to Target.)

I chased Khai and Chloe around for a bit, watching them play with Khai's new blocky Minecraft toy animals in the living room. Watched some pretty odd episodes of Teen Titans Go! as the kids tumbled and jumped around the scarred old coffee table. One episode was a parody of Gilligan's Island, with Beast Boy as Gilligan, Cyborg as the Skipper, and Robin as the Professor. A two-parter had Starfire and Raven rescuing the boys from prison with the help of a few less-trustworthy female characters.

We had dinner around quarter after 5. Instead of ham, we had an amazing succulent prime rib Jodie bought straight from a local butcher. There were also roasted rosemary red potatoes, sauteed asparagus, garden salad, corn (Khai was very happy - he loves corn), and sweet rolls with butter. We said our prayers, then dug in. Everything was so good! The prime rib just melted in my mouth. The company was equally nice. Even Khai was a perfect gentleman. (And he's a lot better at cutting his meat than I was at that age.)

Chloe and her mother returned as we were preparing to have dessert. Rose requested something key lime; I wanted chocolate. The compromise - two small, round key lime cheesecakes surrounding a slightly larger chocolate fudge cake with colorful flower icing decorations. The chocolate cake was delicious, with it's very thick candy-like frosting, but soooo rich!

Joe and Jessa showed up as we were finishing dessert. They'd had car trouble, but I'm glad they did make it. My birthday gift from them was a smartphone to replace my ancient flip-top cell phone. It's Joe's previous phone, a Samsung Galaxy 5, and not that old. They showed me how to set it up and inserted the SIM card. Joe even drove me to CVS when they realized they'd forgotten the charger and bought me a new one (with a 10-foot cord) as part of the gift. I also grabbed my annual bag of post-holiday York Peppermint Patties - they were already gone at the Acme.

Which means...I can now text properly (without having to use one number for three letters) and take photos on my phone! I texted Mom later this evening to thank her for the Easter card and for calling me on my birthday. I'll mess around with the phone more later this week.

Put on a few remaining specials as I got organized and added contacts to my new phone when I got home. The First Easter Rabbit is another Rankin-Bass Easter Bunny origin story, this time in regular 2-D animation. Stuffy was once a toy rabbit, the beloved favorite of little Glinda. When she gets scarlet fever, he's saved from the rubbish pile by a fairy who turns him into a real bunny. She proclaims him the Easter Bunny, the symbol of spring for all children. But there's a nasty old snow wizard nearby who doesn't want spring to go on...

It's the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown follows the Peanuts' Easter preparations. Peppermint Patty wants to teach Marcie to color eggs, but her best friend keeps on doing everything but boiling them. Charlie Brown takes Sally shoe shopping (and gets in some cracks about extra-early Christmas sales), while Snoopy searches for a waterproof home for Woodstock. Don't bother with the fuss, says Linus. The Easter Beagle does all that. Sally is more than a little skeptical after the Great Pumpkin incident on Halloween. Lucy would rather hide and find her own eggs.

Finished out the night with the classic 1948 musical Easter Parade. Fred Astaire plays a vaudeville dancer whose partner (Ann Miller) leaves him for a star turn in the Ziegfield Follies. Hurt, he hires a far more different and down-to-earth dancer and singer (Judy Garland) as her replacement. He tries to groom her as a ballroom dancer...but the act really takes off when he discovers she's a born comedienne. His college student best friend (Peter Lawford) has a crush on her; his former partner is after Lawford, but may still have feelings for him, too. Both couples manage to reconcile in time for the big Easter Parade in New York.

The thin story is really more of a tent pole to hang some wonderful Irving Berlin numbers, including Astaire's "Drum Crazy" and "Steppin' Out With My Baby" and Garland and Astaire's hilarious comic hobo duet "A Couple of Swells." My favorite song is Lawford's adorable ballad "A Fella With an Umbrella." If you love the cast, Irving Berlin, or light musicals, this is a fun watch for late Easter afternoon or evening.

And happy Easter to all those who celebrate it! This ended up being the nicest Easter I had in years. I hope all of you had just as much fun!

Saturday, April 15, 2017

The Magic of Spring

Began a cloudy, somewhat chilly day with Rankin-Bass' first Easter special Here Comes Peter Cottontail. Peter (Casey Kasem) competes with the nasty Irontail (Vincent Price) to become the new chief Easter Bunny. Thanks to his oversleeping on Easter morning, he loses the position. With the help of peddler Seymour S. Sassafras (Danny Kaye) and Caterpillar pilot Anton (Kaye), Peter travels through a year's worth of holidays, giving away eggs and dodging Irontail's plots.

Work was on-and-off busy for pretty much the entire day. I was a bit surprised. I figured it would be far busier than it was. I helped with carts briefly, but I mostly bagged and stacked baskets. Got stuck in the register three times...including in the last three minutes of my shift. Good thing I did have a relief who was on time.

Not a bad schedule this week. All early and short shifts, 9 and 10 AM. The head bagger went on vacation this week (along with at least 6 others). In good news, slightly more hours, and the early days mean I'll be able to get a lot done this week. On the other hand, the first day off isn't until Wednesday (but I do have that day and Friday off).

Needed a fairly big order this week. Had coupons for that Chobani yogurt (went with Almond Coco Loco and Apple Crisp Twist) and Dole pineapple cups. Bought a gift card as a birthday present for Rose (her birthday was last Friday). No oranges on sale this week - went with grapefruit. Restocked apples, bananas, grape tomatoes, canned chicken, canned apricots, canned mandarin oranges, skim milk, eggs, butter, brown sugar, cereal (Quaker was on on sale - went with Cinnamon Oatmeal Squares), regular sugar, cooking oil, honey, plain Acme natural brand Greek yogurt, and peanut butter.

Did two episodes of Max & Ruby while changing and getting organized when I got in. "Max's Chocolate Chicken" is the prize for their back yard Easter egg hunt. Ruby finds the most eggs, but that doesn't mean she gets the prize. Ruby and Louise are the proprietors of "Ruby's Beauty Shop." Max is their reluctant first least, reluctant until he discovers their hair dye in wild colors. "Max Drives Away" when Ruby wants to give him a healthy breakfast. She follows his trail, but he keeps alluding her.

Put on the other disc as I cleaned up and tried to stick the Monopoly game pieces on the board. You're supposed to lick them and stick them, but they never want to stay! "Ruby's Easter Bonnet" will be the highlight of Bunny Scout Easter Bonnet competition. Max just wants to teach his frog to hop on cue. Ruby and Louise want to color eggs, but Ruby's brother wants them to lead "Max's Easter Parade." At the Bunny Scout Egg Hunt, "Max the Easter Bunny" keeps hiding the eggs the girls find. They think they're finding a ton of eggs, but get quite a surprise when they check their baskets.

Broke to work on editing my current story for a few hours. I also got a vague idea for the next Resistance Kids story, inspired by The Last Jedi trailer, "The Last Good Cop." Rey is now the first cadet at Luke Waller's police school. Luke's not sure he wants to keep training cops, especially if they all go bad, like Ben did. Luke has cause to worry. While on a mission for Leia, Poe sees his beloved black sports car be blown sky-high. The First Order is back on the streets, thanks to a mystery person posting bail. They first grab Finn and try to force him into their group. Then Hank Solo disappears, and his shop is ransacked...

While I may do a few shorter Resistance Kids stories and fairy tales in the interim, I'm probably not going to start anything major with this series until we find out more about the next movie. Call this my version of a "teaser trailer."

Broke for leftovers for dinner and a bit of Kirby's Epic Yarn. Tried Yin Yarn again, but I still couldn't get enough beads for the extra rounds, even after restarting five times in a row. Finally gave up and went back to the Whispy Woods to get the one item I hadn't been able to find before.

Ended the night with some favorite vintage Easter specials on YouTube. Brother Bear's upset that winter seems to be lasting forever in The Bernstein Bears' Easter Surprise. Mama told him he'll have a big surprise at Easter, but Easter doesn't seem to be coming. While Papa Bear decides to be the Easter Bunny himself, Brother goes to Boss Bunny to ask him why he's quit.

The Bernstein Bears' Easter Surprise

This one is from 1983, and seems to be based after the Paas Easter egg dye characters, with an unusual Pennsylvania Dutch country setting:

Peter and the Magic Egg

To my knowledge, this cutsey-but-catchy Silly Symphony is Disney's only Easter short to date:

Funny Little Bunnies

Here's a few more I don't know as much about, but are currently available on YouTube if you're interested:

A Family Circus Easter
A Chucklewood Easter (Buttons and Rusty Meet the Easter Bunny)
Easter Is
The Fat Albert Easter Special
Easter Egg Mornin'

Here's hoping all of you have a beautiful Easter (or had a beautiful Passover)! The rest of you, enjoy  your spring.

Friday, April 14, 2017

A Good Birthday on Good Friday

It was still cloudy and a bit chilly when I got up this morning. Began my birthday with two American Girl stories. In Happy Birthday, Felicity, Lissie is excited to celebrate her big day with her grandfather, who is visiting for a few weeks. As much as she loves her dear old granddad, there's some friction in the household. Grandfather remains loyal to the king and governor. Her father and his apprentice are staunch patriots who believe the colonies should rule themselves. Meanwhile, Felicity loses her family's trust when she borrows a priceless heirloom without asking permission and breaks part of it. Her parents won't listen to her when she tells them she overheard the govener's men plotting to steal the colonists' gunpowder stores. She, her father's apprentice, and a drummer boy take it upon themselves to sound the alarm.

Molly McEntyre's birthday is less action-packed but equally frustrating. Happy Birthday, Molly has her trying to organize a genuine English tea with British refugee Emily Bennett. Molly's idea of a typical birthday party, with cake and ice cream and games, clashes with Emily's sedate lemon tart and watercress sandwiches. The girls end up arguing and insulting one another. It takes a surprise from Molly's mom to make the duo realize just how important compromise can be.

Ran a quick Disney short while doing dishes and getting organized. "Mickey's Birthday Party" is one of the last "everyone dances and sings" shorts. Here, the gang celebrates Mickey's big day with a conga and a boogie-woogie number to Mick's new organ. Meanwhile, Goofy tries to make a cake, without success.

I wanted to get an early start today to catch the first showing of Beauty and the Beast at the Cinemark Theater in Somerdale. Ran a quick special during breakfast. The original 1981 World of Strawberry Shortcake was set on the title character's birthday. Strawberry is upset when she thinks everyone's forgotten her special day. The nasty Peculiar Purple Pieman tricks the kids into giving Strawberry a gift that destroys their home. The kids are upset, but they won't go down without a fight.

Headed out around 9 to catch the bus down the White Horse Pike to Somerdale. It's the same bus I use to get to Voorhees Town Center and the Lindenwald Bus and Train Terminal, the one that picks up at the Oaklyn City Hall. No problems traveling. The bus was on time and not really full, and there was no traffic.

Got into Somerdale about 15 or so minutes later. The Cinemark Theater is in a small shopping center set off the road behind a Pizza Hut, a Taco Bell, and a massive Wal Mart. Went straight there first. They've done some remodeling since I saw The Force Awakens there early last year. The biggest addition was very soft and comfortable recliner seats. Lots of legroom, too. The remodeling was so fresh, the floor wasn't sticky yet.

The movie was even more enjoyable. If you've seen the animated Beauty and the Beast, or are familiar with the original French fairy tale, you know what happens here. Belle (Emma Watson) is shunned by the citizens of her tiny village not only for her love of reading, but for teaching little girls to read. Gaston (Luke Evans) may be handsome, but he's also vain, obnoxious, and has the intellect of a block of wood. Despite his boorish behavior, he's beloved by the townspeople, including his buddy LeFou (Josh Gad). One night, Belle's learns that her adored Father Maurice (Kevin Kline) was imprisoned by an hideous Beast (Dan Stevens) for trying to take a rose for Belle. Belle takes her father's place in the Beast's castle. But all is not what it seems. The longer Belle remains at the castle, the more she peels back the Beast's layers to discover he can be charming and intelligent as well as gruff. Now she just has to convince the town that the real Beast isn't the one with the fur, but the one with the selfish heart.

Oooh, Mom was totally right. This was amazing. Special kudos to the wonderful casting. Along with a pitch-perfect Watson and Kline, we have Ewan MacGregor as Lumiere, Ian McKellen as Cogsworth, Emma Thompson as Mrs. Potts, Broadway star Audra Ann MacDonald as the wardrobe, and Stanley Tucci as her husband, a court musician-turned-harpsichord.  Lovely costumes and special effects, too. And the numbers were a blast. While the Busby Berkley-inspired "Be Our Guest" was fun, my favorite was the music hall pub romp to "Gaston." Glad to see some elements from the original fairy tale added back in, notably Maurice being imprisoned for trying to pick a rose.

Despite the additions of deeper back stories for Belle and the Beast and some darker elements, there's still no denying that this story's been told before. Also, I really wish they'd retained some of the songs from the stage version. "Home" and "No Matter What" might have been especially welcome. We only hear the music from the original film and a few new songs.

If you've got kids, especially little girls, you've probably already seen it. Even if you don't, I still recommend it, especially if you love musicals or the original Beauty and the Beast film or fairy tale.

I was glad to see that the Pac Man arcade game was still in the lobby at the theater. I played a few rounds of that before heading out to explore the rest of the shopping center. There wasn't really much to see. I browsed through Game Stop and Dollar General. There was also a YoGo Factory, an LA Fitness, and a pet shop. Considered some Lego games at Game Stop but finally decided I'd wait on those until next month when Lauren visits.

Settled down for lunch at the Applebee's next-door to the Cinemark around quarter of 1. The place wasn't too busy, despite it being the tail-end of the lunch hour and a day many people have off. I had the Fire Roasted Chicken Salad Wrap and their tasty French onion soup. The Fire-Roasted Chicken Salad Wrap lived up to the fire part of its name. It was mildly spicy and rather small, but still delicious. I wasn't really looking for a huge lunch, anyway. I ate a whole bag of popcorn at the movie.

Hiked back up the hill to Wal Mart after lunch. If the Wal Mart had nothing else going for it, its location on the side of the hill made for some spectacular views of the mall, theater, and apartment complexes below it. It was getting nicer by the minute too. The clouds that had been present all morning were starting to scuttle away.

My jaw nearly dropped when I stepped inside. The Wal Mart was enormous, the size of at least two or three warehouses, and probably about six times the size of the dinky little store in Audubon. One side of the store was all grocery items and food. This side was well-organized above the Wal Mart normal and fairly well-stocked. I found that Key Lime cake mix that is only seen around Easter, plus dark chocolate chips, cooking spray, and coconut for cheap.

The other side of the store wasn't nearly as well-organized. Everyone must have gone shopping in the morning. They already seemed rather picked-over, especially in the toy aisles. The prices still aren't as great as everyone claims. The lines were ridiculously long, too. I did find a present for my nephew Khai for his birthday on Wednesday, tan fitted sheets to replace the one that got a hole in it last fall, and the most adorable Beanie Baby-style BB-8 for me. (Also, the customers were unusually well-dressed and polite for people shopping in Wal Mart. The man in front of me who had a full cart let me go ahead of him.)

Since I had a little time before the bus arrived, I strolled down a block to the Magnolia Garden Center. I'd seen them on the bus many times, but never had a chance to check them out. In addition to seeds, bulbs, plants, flowers, giant watering cans, and other gardening items, they also sold Yankee Candles and country-style knick-knacks. Cute place and I enjoyed the quick look, but I'd really spent enough. I picked up the bus in front of the very modern Taco Bell, ignoring the squabbling family waiting with me. Other than the bus was a tad more full, I had no trouble getting back.

(At least the weather had gotten gorgeous by this point, sunny, breezy, and in the mid-60's. Perfectly normal for mid-April in Southern New Jersey.)

I originally rode to Dad and Jodie's first for the egg hunt, but I was too early. I just headed home instead. There was a call waiting for me when I got in. Mom had wished me a happy birthday. I called back. She was at work, but I did get to say "hi" to Dad before he headed out to work tomorrow.

Arrived at Dad and Jodie's house just as the kids were about to be let loose on the yard. Jodie, Dad, Rose, Craig, and some of the neighborhood parents had organized an egg hunt in Dad's front yard for their kids. They were so funny to watch as they scrambled around the grass, bushes, and fences around the pool area, searching for eggs. They all wanted to find Golden Eggs, the only ones with paper money in them. Poor Savannah got so upset when she didn't find a Golden Egg (and her brother Ryan did), she had to be briefly taken home to calm down.

The biggest hit among the non-money, non-candy items were tiny Pokemon figures that the kids all traded and the plastic bubbles. I remember these from when I was a kid. You squeeze some colorful liquid from a tube onto a straw, blow on the straw, and...voila! You produce a glue-smelling, pastel-colored bubble that can be played with usually for a few minutes before deflating. The kids loved them, chasing bubbles all over the front steps and porch.

Spent the rest of the evening at home. I had the second breaded tilapia fillet and roasted green beans and tomatoes in olive oil for dinner. The key lime cake mix and bag of coconut became Key Lime Coconut Cake with the addition of lime juice and a hand-made coconut buttercream icing.

Ran specials and cartoons while eating and working on my crocheting project for Lauren. "Pluto's Party" doesn't go as smoothly as Mickey's did. The young guests Mickey invited are unruly and obnoxious, trying to make Pluto pull them in a wagon and eating all his cake. But Mickey has a special surprise for his favorite pup at the end.

Max & Ruby did a three-party story involving Ruby's birthday. "Surprise Ruby" has the girl bunny following her brother, who has her tiara. She just wants to be home in time for her big surprise party. "Ruby's Birthday Party" has Ruby and her buddies enjoying typical party games like Red Light Green Light and Musical Chairs. Max just wants cake. "Ruby's Presents" are heartfelt and much-appreciated. Max has nothing for his sister, but the wrapping paper she's saved may give him an idea.

It's Yogi Bear's birthday in another three-part story, the series finale of The Yogi Bear Show. Ranger Smith has convinced Yogi that he's going to appear in one of the variety specials that were popular in the 50's and 60's. It's really a big birthday bash featuring all of the Hanna Barbara funny animals who had been created up to that point, including Huckleberry Hound and Quick-Draw McGraw.

Went further back in the series to dig up some spring-themed Yogi episodes. Yogi's "A Wooin' Bruin" when a circus bear courts Cindy. They compete to see who can bring her the most outrageous gifts. "Spring Has Hit a Snag" for the dramatic pink lion when a pretty female lion house guest turns out to be more of a demanding pest. "Duck Seasoning" is a more typical tale, pitting Yakky Doodle against a rather strange alligator based on Alfred Hitchcock.

Finished out the night before a shower with more Yogi. Yogi the Easter Bear is in a major jam. He ate all the candy for the big Easter Jamboree Ranger Smith is planning. The ridiculously tough commissioner and his grandchildren are going to be there and are expecting to have a great time. Yogi and Boo Boo set out to find the Easter Bunny, but his house has been ransacked. They end up rescuing him and the Easter Chicken from a pair of very weird plastic-obsessed goons.

And I must toss in a mention here of the best birthday present of all. Disney finally released the first trailer for this year's Star Wars movie, The Last Jedi. I don't care what anyone else thinks. I can't wait for this. It looks awesome.

The Last Jedi 1st Teaser Trailer

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Sweet and Sour Spring

Began the day at work. One of the cashiers called out. I ended up taking her place. I wish they could have given me notice. I wasn't ready to deal with so many people, especially when I'm not really used to doing it anymore. At least it wasn't much busier than yesterday. My only real problem was handling the WIC checks. Someone didn't read her order right and hadn't gotten half of what I needed. My manager didn't want to let me finish them, but how will I ever learn if he does everything for me? I tried to leave on time, but the manager said to wait for someone to come in for me. Which of course meant I was almost late getting out.

I took the long way home down Nicholson Road to make myself feel better. At least it was a beautiful day. The air was relatively cool, probably in the mid-60's, and it was windy, but it remained sunny and bright. It couldn't have been a nicer spring day, which may be why the traffic wasn't bad. Some folks may already have headed home to start preparing for Easter and Passover celebrations, or to go down to the shore for the weekend.

When I got home, I had the Choboni key lime yogurt and the last of the Apple-Butterscotch Muffins for lunch. Replaced them with Banana Honey Muffins, made from Alton Brown's Old-School Muffins recipe. I let them get a little too brown. Otherwise, they seem to have come out pretty well, and they made the apartment smell amazing when they were in the oven.

Ran Berry Hi-Tech Fashion while I worked. Sweet and Sour Grapes and Apple Dumplin' are introduced in these episodes, which somehow manage to mix high fashion and technology and make it work. It's "Berry Double Trouble" when Lemon Meringue and Raspberry Torte hire the Grapes twins to run the cafe while Strawberry models their new video skirt for an online fashion contest. The duo are complete opposites who can't agree on anything. Their bickering almost ruins a major event at the cafe, until Strawberry finds a way for them to work together.

Apple Dumplin' drops by for a visit in "Berry Bitty Adventurer." She's an adrenaline junkie who loves a good adventure, almost as much as she loves telling tales of her exploits to the Baby Berrikins. She's also a tech wiz, but her attempts to make use of her knowledge end up with Strawberry unable to sleep and the water works spouting frozen juice. She thinks she's not wanted, but it turns out that the residents appreciate her efforts more than she realizes.

Sour provides a bit of "High Tech Drama" when she and Sweet are recruited to test Lemon's new Mood Wigs. The wigs make them look even more alike. Sour doesn't want to resemble her shier twin, preferring her independence. Her pranks just make things worse, not better, until the show gets out of control. The video helps Sour realize just how obnoxious she was acting. Sweet's her twin, whether they look alike or not.

Broke to work on my story for a while. Actually, a lot of what I did was editing. I'm hoping to post the first half of this at Archive of Our Own (and maybe if I can figure out how to do chapters) by the beginning of next week. (I won't post it at my blog until I'm done with it.)

Leia spends the next few days resting at Chalindria Court, Mon Mothma's palatial estate on the Calamari River. She's upset when her uncle leaves for Alderaan to help deal with the devastation wrought by the Death Star Airship's light beam cannon. Leia's disappointed. Not only was she hoping to spend time with her father, but he's concerned for their safety and won't let her or her aunt return with him. Two familiar male visitors may make her feel a lot better...

Broke around 6 for a quick leftovers dinner. Ran Sailor Moon while I ate. Usagi has the worst birthday ever in the two-part third season episode "Birthday Blues." First, she thinks the girls and Mamoru forgot. They didn't. The girls were having a surprise party, and she never told Mamoru when her birthday was. Even when they make up and he gives her a gift, Kaorinite shows up with a monster who steals Usagi's broach and turns her boyfriend into glass! Sailor Uranus and Neptune lend a hand...but will the continue to help out if Usagi has the pure heart crystal they're looking for?

Made a quick ride to WaWa between episodes. I wanted to pick up money from the ATM machine for my trip to the movies tomorrow. I'll likely be seeing Beauty and the Beast at the Cinemark Movie Theater in Somerdale tomorrow, the same one I saw The Force Awakens with Jess at last year. I'm hoping to take a fairly early bus and don't want to have to grab money beforehand. It was still a nice night for a quick bike ride, a little cloudier but not bad.

Finished out the evening with Kirby's Epic Yarn. The last couple of rounds involved a lot of bouncing in the air and shooting out of cannons. "Cloud Palace" in particular, with its bouncy clouds I could never land on right, was really tough. After all that, Yin Yarn could have been worse, especially the final part where you get to turn into a tank and shoot the hell out of him. It just takes a few minutes to figure out how to get out of his curtain. I still didn't get enough beads for the last two patches. I'll try again next time.