Thursday, November 30, 2017

Oaklyn on Parade

Started off a sunny morning with breakfast and The Backyardigans. Pablo is "Le Master of Disguise," a crafty little fellow who can quick-change into any role. Inspector Austin chases him onto the Orient Express. Now he has to find him, but with suspects like Cowboy Tyrone, Conductor Uniqua, and Circus Performer Tasha around, it won't be easy to root out the clever penguin!

Spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon writing. Benjamin Solo, Leia Weston-Solo's son, is jealous of the attention and promotions his mother gives Poe. He accuses him of having skimmed off the company's books. BB is so upset that her brother was accused of being a thief, she bursts into the room to defend him. Leia isn't happy with her son, either. She finally tells Snoke they'll resume their discussions after Christmas and dismisses her lawyer Arnold Hux and her accountant David Mitaka before scolding her son for his outburst. She sends all of them downstairs while she gets paperwork done.

Broke for lunch and to get ready for work at 1. Watched another episode of Rick Steves' Europe while I ate leftovers and yogurt. Rick heads to Burgundy in France to make wine barrels, taste some of the best wines in Europe, check out some gorgeous countryside and several religious retreats and abbeys, and learn the proper way to eat snails.

Work was as quiet as it's been all week. In fact, it was really boring. I gathered baskets and what little trash there was, mopped the bathrooms, and shelved a few items, but I was mostly outside. It was once again a nice night for it, a little cooler than yesterday, but sunny and breezy.

As soon as I finished, I bought a soft pretzel and a Salted Caramel Pepsi for a snack, changed out of my work shirt, and rushed off to Oaklyn. The town's Christmas Parade and Tree-Lighting was tonight. In fact, I passed a line of fire trucks wrapped in colorful lights on Kendall as I headed into town.

I had thought of stopping and watching the parade on Kendall, but I really wanted to see the tree-lighting at City Hall, too. It was worth the ride. Much like at Halloween, kids ran around the parking lot, this time having pretend lightsaber duels with tubes that lit up in rainbow colors. The elementary school choir sang Christmas songs on the ramp up to the main City Hall building while their teacher accompanied them on his guitar. Girl Scouts gave out free cookies and hot chocolate. Someone dressed as a bear wearing overalls greeted kids on the sidewalk.

Thankfully, the parade was only about ten minutes late. While still smaller and less elaborate as the parades in Audubon and Collingswood, it was bigger than last year's. Not only were there more fire trucks from municipalities as far away as Bellmawr and Barrington, but they got more creative with their floats, too. One float had people dressed in Alvin and the Chipmunks costumes. Another did The Nightmare Before Christmas. There were two candy-themed trucks, one with with lights arranged to suggest the American flag, and another with a float that honored firefighters who had died in the line of duty.

After the main parade ended, we had another concert from the elementary schoolers, ending with "Jingle Bell Rock." (They seemed to be the most into "Feliz Navidad.") As soon as they finished, Santa Claus arrived with the Oaklyn fire trucks to help the town's Volunteer of the Year light the tree on the side lawn at City Hall.

While the families with kids poured into City Hall to have their pictures taken with Santa, I headed back towards town. Ended up having dinner at The Square Meal, a sandwich shop that specializes in fresh, healthy ingredients. I had a grilled cheddar cheese sandwich on sourdough bread with a yummy kale and cabbage salad. Watched quite a few people come in from the parade to pick up dinner, including the guy in the bear suit. Turns out the bear in overalls is The Square Meal's mascot, and he was their contribution to the parade.

Hit the shower as soon as I got home. When I finished, I went online and chatted with Lauren while watching Hidden Figures. Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae), Dorothy Vaughn (Octavia Spencer), and Katherine Goble (Taraji P. Henson) are African-American women who happen to be some of the most brilliant minds at NASA in the late 50's. Mary is determined to become an engineer, eventually fighting to take extra classes at an all-white high school in then-segregated Virginia. Dorothy pushes to become the supervisor of her group, with help from her generally sympathetic boss Al Harrison (Kevin Costner). Harrison also helps Katherine, whose brilliant mathematical equations become indispensable to the men launching John Glenn's shuttle, despite the arrival of a fancy IBM computer and the skepticism of her colleague Paul Stafford (Jim Parsons). Katherine's so vital to the group that when the computer calculates wrong and Glenn's reentry may be botched, it's to Katherine that Harrison turns.

I truly admire all of these women. I am absolutely terrible at math! Just the fact that Katherine could do all those elaborate equations in her head amazes me. They all went on to become successful engineers and mathematicians, too, working with NASA for many years. (Katherine now has a building at NASA named for her.) The scene where the soldier who had questioned Katherine's mathematical ability earlier in the film (Mahershala Ali) proposes to her in front of her family is one of the sweetest things I've ever seen. Spencer was Oscar-nominated as the oldest member of the group, who fights against everything from bathroom discrimination to even white women in the building treating her condescendingly. (It was nominated for Best Picture and Adapted Screenplay, too.)

A must-see for all aspiring young female scientists, mathematicians, and engineers, or for anyone who needs a shot of real-life girl power.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Wild Men of the Changing West

Started off another glorious morning with breakfast and cartoons. The Stingiest Man In Town is Rankin-Bass' adaptation of A Christmas Carol, taken from a 1950's TV musical. Tom Bosley narrates as EH Humbug, a bug who lives in the home of one Mr. Ebeneezer Scrooge (Walter Matthau) and witnesses his haunted holiday night. Robert Morse is the young Scrooge; Dennis Day has his last TV role as  Nephew Fred. There's some really nice music too, including "An Old-Fashioned Christmas" for Day and the chorus and "Yes, There Is a Santa Claus" for Belinda Cratchit to sing to her brother Tim.

Spent the next hour or so vacuuming the kitchen and living area. Normally, this takes me about 20 minutes, but I wanted to do a more thorough job than usual for the holidays. I pulled out the hose attachment and ran it along all the baseboards, some walls that were really covered in cobwebs, and around as many pieces of furniture as I could get behind. Did under my big chair in the music area and the couch, too. It took me so long, I took time off to get some writing done before I could finish.

BB is still listening in on the adults' meeting. Not only is Leia in debt to Snoke, but her son Benjamin, who is now Snoke's vice-president, accuses Poe of skimming money from the company. He also snidely asks where his father Harry Solo is. Leia coldly tells her son that his father no longer runs drugs or races boats and now has a good job with Skywalker Department Store.

Broke at 1 for lunch and to get ready for work. Ran an episode of Rick Steves' Europe while I ate yogurt and Spicy Cranapple Muffins for lunch. Switzerland is one of my favorite countries Rick visits. It always looks so much like something out of my fairy tale books! Here, he visits its most famous cities, including Bern and Lausanne. My favorite city was Lucerne, with its lovely medieval bridge.

Work was...pretty much as quiet as it was Monday. It's the end of the month, the week after the biggest food holiday of the year, and the middle of the week. We probably won't be that busy again until we start getting beginning -of-the-month people this weekend. Not to mention, the weather was amazing again too, sunny and breezy and warm for this time of the year, into the mid-60's. The only problems I had was being sent to do carts when I only had less than ten minutes left before the end of my shift. Otherwise, I mopped the bathrooms, gathered baskets and carts, and did the few returns.

As soon as I got home, I changed into regular clothes and went right back into vacuuming. Had to get the bathroom and my bedroom done. Neither room is as big as the living area, but they do take a while. I have to maneuver the vacuum around the sink and toilet in the bathroom and around all my shelves and the desk in the bedroom. Not to mention clean under the bed!

Made a delicious dinner of baked salmon, roasted broccoli, and tri-colored spiral pasta with herbs and olive oil for dinner. Watched The Wild Bunch while I ate, and later as I went online. Pike (William Holden) and Duch (Ernest Borganine) are aging gunslingers after one last big score that'll make them rich enough to retire. The rest of their gang, including the obnoxious Gorch Brothers (Warren Oates and Ben Johnson) and Angel, a much younger Mexican lad (Jamie Sanchez) just want money and to get laid, in approximately that order. They're being pursued by a group of bounty hunters hired by the railroad to end the Wild Bunch's lawless spree and lead by Deke (Robert Ryan), Pike's former partner. The group opts to sell arms to Angel's village...but their decision has far-reaching consequences that may lead to their bloody end.

Excellent depiction of an end of an American film and the no-longer-Wild West. Holden was especially good as the gunslinger eternally searching for one last score; Ryan was also excellent as the bounty hunter who just doesn't want to end up in jail again. Great cinematography, too, showing off the glowing beauty of a dusty, gritty Texas and northern Mexico. Sam Peckinpah's use of dynamic editing techniques seldom seen in American movies before then keeps the movie going, even when it starts to outlast it's welcome in the final third.

Warning that the R-rating on this one is justified. The several shootouts are violent and can get bloody, especially in the finale. Prostitutes show up a couple of times, and there's a lot of mature themes as well, especially when Pike reflects on his days as a gunslinger.

Adult fans of westerns or the cast who enjoy darker and grittier takes on the Wild West will absolutely love this one.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Autumn Was Warm

Slept in for the first time in a while. Did some Backyardigans when I rolled out of bed and had breakfast. "The Action Elves Save Christmas Eve" is the series' second holiday special. Tasha, Uniqua, and Pablo are Santa's most special elves. When his sack is stolen, they become the "Action Elves" and use all the skills at their disposal to get it back from the Abominable Brothers (Tyrone and Austin).

Headed off to the laundromat after the episode ended. I did see a few people, including one of my co-workers, but it was once again mostly dead. Good thing. I had a really big load to get done, including towels. Listened to The View and Action News while working on story notes.

When I got home, I put everything away, then went back out again to run a few errands. The Oaklyn Library was surprisingly busy for such a beautiful late fall day. There were several older people gathered around the computers and table in the main room, talking about their Thanksgiving and what was being blathered about on CNN. I organized DVDs and ignored them. The adult titles were really in bad shape. The back shelves had quite a bit out of order.

Made a couple of quick stops in Oaklyn next. Family Dollar didn't have boxes for cookies, but they did have single toilet paper rolls. I just ran out out this morning. Grabbed a few small things at Dollar General, including Soft Scrub and a red velvet cake mix.

Stopped at Phillies Phatties for lunch. Needless to say, they were dead at past 2 PM. They have a couple of new Mountain Dew flavors to try along with the Holiday Brew. I ended up with the Raspberry Lemonade "Spiked" Mountain Dew; spiked with fancy pear juices, that is. (They also had a regular lemonade.) It was tasty, kind of like a sweeter Raspberry Lemonade Sparkling Ice.

Took that and my slice of cheese and slice of broccoli pizza outside to the picnic tables on the sidewalk for lunch. That may have been a mistake. As lovely as the weather was (I only needed a heavy sweater), it was also back to being very wind. Once the slices started to disappear, my paper plates and napkins blew all over! I had to chase after them instead of finishing my meal.

Went home after I finished to start this year's pre-holiday cleaning. I always give the apartment a thorough cleaning before I put up the Christmas decorations. I would have at least cleaned the bathroom anyway. The tub had been running very slow for the past few days. A dose of Liquid Plumber and a good scrub seemed to solve that problem. Also wiped down the toilet and the tiles and scrubbed the sink.

The kitchen wasn't as bad. I mostly wiped down the counter tops and scrubbed the sink. I did clean the bathroom and kitchen earlier this month, so it could have been a lot worse. (I also had to wipe down the trash can when I discovered that the previous trash bag leaked.)

Ran a couple of Christmas specials while I worked. Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol was the very first animated network holiday special back in 1962. The world's most famous old codger plays Dickens' favorite old codger, with fellow UPA alumnus Gerold McBoing Boing as Tiny Tim. Gorgeous music by real-life Broadway tunesmiths Jules Styne and Robert Merrill is the real selling point, including the rousing "We'll Have the Brightest Christmas" for the Cratchit family and the haunting "Winter Was Warm" for Belle.

Bugs Bunny's Christmas Tales is a Chuck Jones anthology of original Tunes holiday shorts. The first is a condensed Christmas Carol, with Yosemite Sam as Scrooge, Bugs as Nephew Fred and the ghosts, and Porky as Bob Cratchit. We head up to the mountains for the second, as Wil E. Coyote and the Road Runner take their usual antics into the snow. The special ends with the Tazmanian Devil ending up in a Santa suit and Bugs trying to get rid of him.

We return to the world of the Bernstein Bears for The Bernstein Bears' Christmas Tree. Actually, this one mainly focuses on Papa Q. Bear, the prototypical bumbling dad. He's bound and determined to chop down a real Christmas tree in the wilderness this year. Every tree he selects always seem to have some animal or the other living in them...until he finally realizes that they have their own holidays to celebrate. The animals whose homes he and the cubs spared have a nice surprise waiting for them when they get back to their tree house.

Finished at 5, then worked on writing for a while. Poe brings BB to his office and lets her play with his Frogger game and her toys. Bored with the game, she hears people yelling in the next room. She realizes that it's Mrs. Leia Weston-Solo, who co-owns and is president of Skywalker's Department Store. Nasty old Alexander Snoke wants her to sell her stores to his First Order Value Department Store chain...and so does Benjamin Solo, her son and Snoke's vice president. Leia is hesitant to sell. Her family has owned Skywalker's since her father purchased it from the previous owner in the 50's. Poe claims to have a lot of great ideas to get them back in the black, but Snoke won't hear them. They just aren't doing that well.

I was tired and not that hungry when I got off around 7. I just had leftover turkey soup for dinner while running a couple of Hello Kitty Furry Tale Theater shorts. Tuxedo Sam is "Robin Penguin," who must rescue fair Maid Kitty from the evil Sheriff Grinder and bring gum back to the people of Knotty-Pine. "Hello Mother Goose" is the only story to involve almost the entire cast and the only one to not feature a traditional villain. Mother Kitty Goose has to figure out who's been stealing famous objects from various nursery rhymes. Chip the Seal is in the spotlight as the title character of "The Ugly Quackling." He's not as cute as his three sisters (Catnip, Hello Kitty, My Melody). They and their mother Fangora learn never to judge an bird by its feathers when he turns out to be a lot more than just a clumsy duck.

Finshed off the night messing around on YouTube after a shower. Watched a lot of reviews and top 10 lists and another version of Babes In Toyland, this one an animated movie from 1997. Jack and Jill are very reluctantly taken in by their evil uncle Barnaby...until he realizes they have the money for him to buy the toy factory from Mary Had a Little Lamb. She and Tom the Piper's Son have to make all of Santa's toys within three days, or the factory will close! Meanwhile, Barnaby does everything he can to get rid of his new charges, including hiring two bumbling criminals to dump them in the Goblin's Forest.

This is pretty obviously MGM's entry in the Disney animated musical imitation race of the late 90's. It's...just ok. Nice animation and a pretty decent voice cast (including Christopher Plummer as Barnaby, Lacey Chalbert as Jill, Charles Nelson Reilly as Humpty Dumpty, and Bronson Pinchot as one of the criminals) can't make up for a stale plot and dull songs. If you have younger kids or musical or fantasy fans, it's worth seeing once.

Babes In Toyland (1997 Animated)

Monday, November 27, 2017

Dog and Pony Shows

Started off another lovely day with breakfast and baking. Thought I'd try the Spicy Cranapple Muffins again from the muffin cookbook my friend Jen Waters sent me about five or so years ago. Yum! Other than replacing the orange juice with a bit of fresh-squeezed orange leftover from breakfast, they were perfect, moist and sweet and so flavorful!

Ran the Twilight and Starlight set all morning. As you can guess from the title, all of the episodes revolve around Starlight Glimmer, a villainous unicorn with extraordinary powers who was reformed at the end of Season 5. "No Second Prances" from early in the sixth season has her looking for a friend to take to a party with Princess Celestia. She finds her in Trixie, a unicorn magician who had previously clashed with the ponies. Twilight doesn't approve of their friendship, leading Starlight to choose between her new friend and a party with her mentor that she's not sure she wants to attend.

The sixth season ended with the two-parter "To Where and Back Again." Starlight has to round up a mismatched group of former villains and misfits, including Trixie, the mischievous mix-and-match critter Discord, and shy changeling Thorax to head off Chrysalis, the Changeling Queen. She has kidnapped all of Equestria's leaders and is hoping for her clan to feed on the love the ponies give them. Starlight is terrified of leading again after her leadership abilities in her home village caused a lot of trouble...but she eventually learns that she can step up to the plate and lead others without harming them.

Season 7 begins right where the previous season left off, with Starlight and her new friends being awarded medals for bravery. Twilight has come to realize that it's time for her pupil to graduate. She's not sure about encouraging Starlight to move on, but some "Celestial Advice" from her former mentor may make her feel better about letting go.

Starlight tries to keep her anger "All Bottled Up" after her attempts to teach Trixie magic causes them to make Twilight's table map disappear. She doesn't want to lose her new friend, so she tries to store all her anger over Trixie's insensitivity in a bottle. As they search for the table, she gets angrier and angrier, storing more and more anger...until she and Trixie break it, and it ends up making three regular Ponyville citizens angry at Trixie.

The muffins were in the oven so long, I was almost late getting to work! As it turned out, there wasn't much need to rush. We were dead all afternoon. I did clean the bathrooms briefly, but even that was mainly mopping the floor and replacing the soap in the men's room. Otherwise, I was mostly gathering carts and baskets or doing returns.

Took the long way home down Nicholson Road. It was too nice of a day to hurry home. The weather remains stunning here, in the mid-50's, sunny and breezy, but not as windy as early last week. The sky is a searing blue, the leaves brilliant golds and russets. Other than dodging some early rush hour traffic on Nicholson, it couldn't have been a lovelier ride.

Went right on the computer when I got home. The first thing I did was post Beauties and the Frogs on and my writing blog. Here's the links:

Beauties and the Frogs -
Beauties and the Frogs - My Writing Blog

Had a little time to start work on my next story. The opening segment of BB In Toyland is set in a fictional Philadelphia department store on Christmas Eve in 1986. "BB" is 8-year-old Barbara Beatrix Dameron, the little sister of Poe Dameron (based after BB-8). Her brother often brings her to visit Skywalker Department Store, a grand downtown store on Market Street where he works. As she admires the fancy sequined gowns in the store windows, she mentions she wants to dress just like Joan Collins on Dynasty when she grows up (even if she doesn't want to act like her). Poe's surprised she even knows what that show is. BB's no dope - she listens to her parents and multitudes of family members in their Northeastern Philadelphia neighborhood.

It wasn't until nearly 7 when I finally got around to eating dinner. Got rid of the last week's leftovers while watching Lego Scooby Doo: Beach Blowout Blast. This time, the gang heads to a very typical 60s' beach party that apparently has been going on for years, since two notorious local pirates had a party, then escaped with their treasure. The owners of the hotel where the kids are staying seem to know a lot more about the history of the pirates and their ship, now a museum, than they're telling, while their son and daughter are very jealous and hostile towards the group. Meanwhile, Velma and Fred are determined to prove that they're cool enough to be the "Captains" of the Beach Blowout Blast party by starting new dance moves and not embarking on any mysteries...but it proves to be bad timing when the pirates show up and start attacking the boardwalk and the hotel. Now the kids have to figure out what these spectral buccaneers are really after, or this groovy bash may end up buried in the sand.

Somewhat goofier than the previous Lego Scooby Doo Hollywood tale, a little closer to the satirical tone taken by other Lego direct-to-DVD offerings and the recent Be Cool, Scooby Doo show. I kind of wish they'd had another great, appropriate guest star like Elvira in the Hollywood story. Otherwise, if you enjoyed the previous Lego Scooby movie, you'll probably get a kick out of this one as well.

(And it's interesting that it's Fred and Velma who are considered boring and uncool here. That's the very reason they were dropped from the show in the late 70's. Hanna Barbara executives and many fans at the time thought they were the least-interesting and most-expendable members of the group. Mystery Inc. wouldn't be seen together again in something resembling their original forms until Scooby Doo on Zombie Island in 1999.)

Ended the night with an episode of Scooby Doo, Where are You? included with the DVD. "A Clue for Scooby Doo" from the first season maroons the gang near a spooky lighthouse. The old woman who works there claims she's a witch, and it's the spirit of her dead husband who is haunting the harbor and sinking ships. Shaggy and Scooby are more interested in local seafood, but Velma thinks there might be another explanation.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Gonna Fly Now

Awoke to a lovely, sunny morning. Listened to one of my Christmas record sets while eating Cranberry Spice Pancakes for breakfast. Wanted to use the dried cranberries from the bread on something. Yum! They came out very nicely, moist and sweet, and for once, cooked perfectly.

I bought Home for Christmas a couple of years ago. It's supposed to be a three-record set, but the box I found at a thrift shop only came with two of them. The gold Columbia Treasury labels indicate that this may have been a 70's re-release, despite most of the music being instrumental orchestral numbers and a few vocal selections from the 50's and 60's.

Did a little bit of writing before heading off to work. Work was very busy when I arrived at noon. We couldn't keep the carts full, even with two people outside. Then the Eagles game started at 1, and...that was that. The Eagles dominated the Bears full-stop, from the first quarter to the final seconds of the fourth, ultimately flattening them 31-3. We were dead for the rest of the day. I gathered baskets and carts and did some returns, but I was mostly trying to look busy.

Texted Jodie during break; she said they had ham for dinner. I rode over to their house as soon as work ended. They already have their Christmas decorations up around their windows! Even I haven't gotten that far yet.

Rose had already left with her brood, due to Finley's ongoing cold, but Jessa and most of the neighbors were still around. I ate a ham sandwich, tasty macaroni and cheese Rose made, and leftovers from Jodie and Dad's Thanksgiving dinner. Watched a few more games with Dad and Jessa while Jodie and the neighbors dealt with the remaining kids. The Rams just managed to push past the Saints 26-20. The Raiders had a rougher time with their western rivals the Broncos, finally beating them 21-14.

We're doing the Secret Santa again on this side of the family. There's just too many people here to shop for! I didn't know the person I got actually had so many things they wanted. I could actually find at least two of them at work.

There was a big canister of cookies sitting on the kitchen table when I arrived. I think someone may have given it to them on Thanksgiving. Neither of them liked coconut or enjoyed the Italian-style cookies, so they gave it to me. I love coconut and coconut macaroons, and I've always liked the Italian cookies that the Acme sells.

Finally finished out Beauties and the Frogs when I got home. Leia and the girls have kissed their frogs, revealing their true forms - that of King Han of Alderaan and the three princes whose countries he had asked for aid. Kylo Ren was jealous of the princes, whom he believed Han had brought to the kingdom to replace him.

Leia still loves her son, but she feels that he'll never grow up or learn anything if they continue to coddle him. She banishes him, Hux, and Mitaka, telling them to find nice girls with no titles and learn a real trade that doesn't involve evil magic. The trio ultimately become rather obnoxious and combative thieves.

Leia, Han, and Luke return to Alderaan with the princes and princesses in tow, finding the barricades gone and the First Order Clan defeated. The young people court each other and wed, with Finn and Rey taking over Alderaan and Bespin after Han and Leia step down. Han and Leia remain together, with Luke by their side, for the rest of their lives.

Whew! That one ended up a lot more complicated than I'd hoped. The next story is also going to be a short fantasy novella, this time a version of Babes In Toyland. I'll be starting that tomorrow evening, after work.

Currently, Beauties and the Frogs can only be found on Archive of Our Own. I'll be posting it elsewhere tomorrow:

Beauties and the Frogs - Archive of Our Own

Finished the night online, watching YouTube. I found the original long version of the infamous 1986 TV Babes In Toyland that's actually a bit of an influence on the one I'm going to work on next, since I plan on opening and closing with a wrap-around sequence set in a fictional Philadelphia department store in 1986. At any rate, here's the original, uncut Babes In Toyland.

Full Babes In Toyland (1986)

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Princesses and Mysteries

Kicked off a lovely, sunny morning with hearty corn meal mush and mandarin oranges. Took down the Thanksgiving and fall decorations as soon as I finished eating. I debated leaving the fall stuff up, but I'm going to be dusting under everything I possibly can next week to get ready for the holidays. I already have a ton of stuff that needs to be cleaned. Might as well clear out the extras before I pull out more.

Ran a couple of episodes of Sofia the First as I ate and cleaned up after breakfast. "Holiday In Enchantria" is the first of three holiday episodes of this series to date. Sofia is looking forward to spending Enchantria's winter festival with her new family. Amber's just looking forward to the big party and pile of presents. When their father King Roland vanishes in a blizzard, Queen Miranda takes her family out to look for them in their flying carriage. The snow downs them as well. Sofia is worried that they'll never find her father...until Princess Aurora of Sleeping Beauty appears to remind her that her animals friends can help. 

The family's loyal butler and King Roland's valet has big plans to spend "Bailywick's Day Off" with his brother. The kids and their friends were also originally going to spend the day together, but they keep asking Bailywick for his help, constantly delaying his plans. They finally realize how much they rely on him and decide to give him a special surprise to make up for the loss of his holiday.

Lucinda is "The Little Witch," a new girl in town who loves casting spells to play pranks on people. That hasn't exactly made her popular with the villagers, including Sofia's friends Jade and Ruby. Sofia talks to Lucinda and realizes that she wants friends rather badly, but has no idea of how to be one. She brings her to Jade's birthday party to apologize. Jade wants to spring a "witch trap," but she finally learns to give people a second chance.

Unfortunately, after "The Little Witch," the DVD started skipping so badly, I took it off. Replaced it with A Walt Disney Christmas as I packed my lunch and changed into my work clothes. This collection of winter and holiday-themed Disney shorts came from one of the company's earliest white clamshell videos. It's so old, "Santa's Workshop," "The Night Before Christmas," and "Donald's Snow Fight" are completely uncensored. In fact, this video was the first time I saw these shorts intact. It also includes the romantic featurette "Once Upon a Wintertime," the cute Disney gang winter tale "On Ice," and one of my favorite Disney shorts, "Pluto's Christmas Tree." The last-named hadn't even ended before it was time for me to head off to work.

Work was quiet the entire afternoon. It never became even remotely busy. It hasn't been this dead at the Acme since Halloween. It was a gorgeous day two days after the biggest food holiday of the year. Most people were probably out visiting relatives or shopping for anything but food. I spent the first hour or so gathering the few carts there were with another bagger and enjoying the upper 50's temperatures and windless sunshine and the last hour doing a small cart of returns. I also rounded up baskets and did the front end trash. 

To my surprise, I have a perfectly normal schedule next week, with Tuesday and my Friday personal day off and the regular amount of hours. I fully expected to have my hours cut badly, like I did the week after Thanksgiving last year. Thank goodness. Not only will I have a somewhat decent paycheck the week of vacation, but three afternoon shifts and two days off will give me the chance to finish Beauties and the Frogs, start cleaning the apartment for the holidays, and still get my regular library volunteering and errands in. 

Most of what I needed this week was bits and bobs. The Acme had bags of small oranges on sale. A bag of small apples wasn't, but I figured it was cheaper than buying four large loose apples. Grabbed a bag of cranberries for more Flummery, or maybe Cranberry Muffins. Took advantage of more sales to pick up a free container of Dannon's new light Greek yogurt with an online coupon and two boxes of the limited edition Nutmeg and Cinnamon Triscuits. Also decided to try three more limited edition flavors, the Mountain Dew Holiday Brew (a combination of regular Dew and Code Red), Cranberry Vanilla Wonderland herbal tea from Celestial Seasonings, and Quaker's Gingerbread Spice granola bars. Restocked cereal (picked up the generic Life on clearance), canned pumpkin, yogurt, hand soap for the kitchen sink, a small loaf of Italian bread for a dollar, honey, minced garlic, and two very pretty vintage-looking gift bags. Picked up this year's advent calendar; all they had left was Elf on the Shelf.

Put everything away when I got home, then changed and worked on writing. The others arrive just in time to see Prince Ben - Kylo Ren - stab Harold in the side. Ben wanted him out of the way...because Harold is really Han, the King of Alderaan. Snoke orders the prince to attack his mother as well, but he's hesitant to do it. He still cares about her and wants her to rule with him. Leia refuses, calling him unworthy to rule anyone. Chewbacca and Poe try to get his sword from him, but they're held back by demons.

When Luke arrives with the girls, all hell breaks loose. Finn finally reveals how to eliminate Snoke and destroy Ben's dark power - by breaking the crystal balls on Snoke's cane and the hilt of Ben's sword. Finn attacks Ben, giving Rey the chance to break his ball, as the others tie up Hux and Mitaka. Han uses his last breath to stab Snoke with his spikes. When he drops the cane, Leia and Luke use their own magic to destroy his ball. Bereft of his evil power, the wicked ruler of the First Order Clan turns into a crow and flies away.

I got so into writing, it was quarter after 7 before I finally started dinner. Dug out the turkey and carrots from Thanksgiving dinner, along with my own celery and mushrooms, the last of the Brussels sprouts, and chicken broth and chicken stock to make turkey and vegetable soup. Had it with cranberry sauce and two slices of Italian bread with butter; used some of the mashed potatoes to thicken it.

Did a quick Three Stooges short while getting the soup together. Shemp joins in as three "Squareheads of the Round Table" try to help Cedric the Blacksmith woo the fair Princess Elaine. Elaine is engaged to the Black Prince, who wants to kill the king. The trio do what they can to bring the lovers together and reveal the Black Prince's treachery.

Finished the night and my dinner with Murder on the Orient Express. This is the original 1974 version of one of the most famous Agatha Christie novels. Hercule Poirot (Albert Finney) is traveling on the very full first-class compartment on the famous train from Istanbul to Paris when a businessman who had earlier asked him to be his bodyguard is found murdered. Turns out he was really an incognito gangster who had once masterminded an infamous kidnapping and got off with the money. Who could have killed him? Was it is his nervous young secretary Hector MacQueen (Anthony Perkins)? The chatty American matron Harriet Hubbard (Lauren Bacall) who swears someone was in her room the night of the murder? The stoic Scottish army man Colonel Arbuthnot (Sean Connery)? The reserved governess Mary Debenham (Vanessa Redgrave)? Or perhaps the shy Swedish missionary Greta Ohlsson (Ingrid Bergman)? Or the elderly Russian princess (Wendy Hiller) who was the dead child's godmother, but can't seem to remember any details about the household. Or perhaps one or more of them were in on it? Poirot has to figure it out in less than 48 hours, before the snow is cleared from the train and they arrive at their destination. 

Classy all-star mystery is a bit closer to the book than the one currently in theaters apparently is. While Bergman won a supporting actress Oscar as the gentle missionary, the entire cast is excellent. Special kudos to the pitch-perfect 30's costumes and sets, the haunting music, and Sidney Lumet's direction. If you're a fan of mysteries, historical tales, Christie, or the cast, this is one of the most beloved of all big-screen Christie adaptations and is worth checking out. 

Friday, November 24, 2017

Home and Back Again

I awoke this morning in Mom's office, hearing the chatter in the kitchen downstairs through the heating vents. By the time I made it there, everyone else was already awake and breakfast had long been on the table. Along with the pies and cookies from last night, there was a bowl of fruit, small boxes of cereal for the kids, and my cranberry and pumpkin breads. For all the trouble I had baking them, both loaves came out very tasty! I'll have to try that cranberry bread recipe again sometime.

Anny and her crew arrived around 9 (except for Skylar, who opted to sleep in). Khai and Collyn immediately ran outside to ride on their scooters, Khai so fast he went in his dinosaur-themed pajamas! Craig and I went outside to watch them. When Lilah came out later, the trio played tag. After Lilah and Khai got too cold and went back in, I watched Collyn and Craig toss a football around. They both had good arms and made some very nice throws!

This time, we actually left a little earlier than planned, around 10:30. Khai had been wired up all morning from the bread and cookies and sugary cereals. He was a bit noisy and worked up going home. We made a quick stop at WaWa so Craig and I could pick up Powerade for Khai, my favorite watermelon Perrier (my throat was dry), hot dogs for Khai and Craig, and soft pretzels for Rose, and another in a diner parking lot so Rose could get Finley changed and calmed down. Finley was fine after that. In fact, she, Khai, and her mother pretty much napped the rest of the way back to Camden County.

Craig dropped me off around quarter after noon. I quickly put everything away, tossed the leftovers Mom gave me this morning into the refrigerator, and headed back out. It was too lovely of a day to be sitting around inside. The sun was out, the wind was gone, and it was much warmer, probably into the lower-mid 50's. Besides, I had DVDs that were due.

My first stop was the Oaklyn Library...but to my surprise, they were closed for the entire weekend. They were open on Black Friday two years ago! Maybe they couldn't find a librarian to work the holiday weekend. I ended up riding over to Westmont instead. Stopped at Rite Aid to find pads first, then Tuesday Morning. The latter didn't have Christmas cookie boxes, which I haven't been able to find anywhere in ages.

Headed over to the Haddon Township Library next to return the DVDs and do some volunteering. They were quiet as could be over there. As one of the patrons said, everyone must be out shopping. I mostly shelved DVDs. Took out three more animation sets, along with a couple of movies. They just got in a second new My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic set, this one revolving around Twilight Sparkle and Starlight Shimmer, and another Lego Scooby Doo movie, Blowout Beach Blast. Grabbed the Christmas special for Sophia the First, Holiday In Enchantria. Returned to the movies of the 60's and 70's, this time the ultra-violent western The Wild Bunch. I've been wanting to see Hidden Figures, about a group of black female scientists who were major influences at NASA during the early 60's, since it came out last year.

I was originally going to stop at WaWa on the White Horse Pike to get money, but they were so busy, I opted to move along. Had a late lunch at Common Grounds Coffee House on West Clinton instead. When I arrived, the store was empty except the barista. I had my decadent hot chocolate and slice of spinach and cheddar quiche in peace.

When I got home, I did the blog entry I wasn't able to write yesterday, then worked on my current story. Leia makes herself vanish via the ring Harold gave her. She finds demons attacking the boys. After turning the demons into flowers, Finn and Snap direct her upstairs...just in time for her to see Ben stab Harold in the side while Poe holds off Hux.

Broke for dinner at 7. Turned some of the leftovers Mom gave me into my version of WaWa's Gobbler hoagie - a gobbler wrap, with mayo, cranberry sauce, turkey, stuffing, and fresh spinach. Surprisingly, it came out quite tasty! Had a slice of flaky apple pie, which I never got to this morning, for dessert.

Ran How the Grinch Stole Christmas while eating. This is the beloved tale of the grouchy green fellow who wants to take the holiday goodies from the Whos of Whoville. But nothing the Grinch does will stop the Who's bountiful holiday spirit. They finally teach him that "Christmas doesn't come from a store. Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more."

Ended the night with Scrooge. This is the 1969 musical version of A Christmas Carol, with Albert Finney as the famous miser and Sir Alec Guinness as Jacob Marley. Although it has a few big dance numbers and some fairly elaborate special effects for the time, especially during the future segment, this actually isn't quite as epic as some of the other musical movies made in this era. The music by Leslie Bricusse is the selling point. The catchy "Thank You Very Much" was the sole hit, but I also like "December the 25th" for the Fezziwigs and "Christmas Children" for Bob Cratchit and his brood as they do their holiday shopping.

Oddly, this one adds a rather freaky sojourn in hell to the Future segment that looks morel like the Disney featurette than something that belongs in a family-friendly musical. The Ghost of Christmas Past looks nothing like it's described in the original book, too.

If you're big on A Christmas Carol, or love the music or the cast, the dance numbers and "Thank You Very Much" alone make this worth a look.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Thanksgiving With the Family

Started off a sunny Thanksgiving with the last few chapters of the non-fiction book on Thanksgiving history Linda Young gave me a few years ago. My Colliers Harvest of Holidays anthology has an essay on the first Thanksgiving and some poetry, including the entire lyrics to "Over the River and Through the Woods." Also did the last chapter in a half of Kit Learns a Lesson (the only American Girl book to date to be set at Thanksgiving) and a short story from the Disney anthology collection Storybookland, "Pilgrim's Party."

Went right into Garfield's Thanksgiving as I finished my packing. Garfield is looking forward to the biggest feast of the year...until Liz the Veterinarian puts him a diet the day before the holiday. Jon invites her over for dinner, but he's not the world's best cook at normal times and has never done a turkey in his life. Good thing Grandma from the Christmas special knows what to do.

Moved onto A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving while eating Apple-Maple Muffins and oranges for breakfast. Peppermint Patty invites herself, Marcie, and Franklin over for dinner at Charlie Brown's house. There is, however, a slight problem. Chuck and Sally are going over to their grandmother's for Thanksgiving. The duo, Snoopy, Woodstock, and Linus make a meal of popcorn, pretzels, toast, and jelly beans to appease them. Peppermint Patty is disappointed with the lack of turkey and trimmings, until Marcie and Linus reminds their friends of the real reason for the holiday.

Did The Mayflower Voyagers while getting my bag organized. In this episode of the miniseries This Is America, Charlie Brown,  the Peanuts gang play pilgrim kids and animals on their way to the New World. It covers a lot of the same ground as The Mouse on the Mayflower, but goes into even more detail (including going further into how horrible that first winter in Plymouth Harbor was).

I was just finishing the Peanuts and pulling on my boots when the phone rang. It was Rose. She was running late. They'd now be picking me up around 11.

It was really too nice to sit inside the whole hour. Since I already had my boots on, I grabbed my coat and went for a stroll in the park next-door. Thanksgiving hadn't been so beautiful in years. It was sunny and a little chilly, into the mid-40's. The winds remained, but they weren't anywhere near the gales that blasted through the area earlier in the week. Veterans Memorial Park was quiet and lovely. The trees are still awash in fall colors here, looking like a rainbow on the stark branches. Waved to Charlie and one of his men raking leaves as I went back in.

Went through my tote bags while listening to an LP of old mountain folk songs I reserve for quieter American history-based holidays. I was hoping I had one big enough to carry my pillows. (Mom and Dad only have so many.) The big bag I got at the Disney Store in Albany was perfect. Since I had so many bags, I put my bread into one of the stronger ones and gave it to Mom with the bread as a hostess gift.

Rose and her family and their miniature pincher Kelsey finally picked me up at quarter after 11. Five-month-old Finley is still getting over a bad cold. She started crying so hard somewhere around Vineland, Craig pulled us off the highway and went looking for a WaWa. After a half-hour of being lost, Rose managed to get her calmed down without feeding her, and we just went right back on Route 55. Otherwise, there were no problems. The traffic was non-existent going down to the Shore, and seven-year-old Khai was too occupied with trying to help his mother amuse his sister to be naughty.

We didn't pull in until past 1. By that point, everyone was there, watching the Westminster Dog Show. My sister Anny had arrived much earlier with her boyfriend Jay and their three kids. Mom had already put out the vegetable tray with home-made ranch dip and her tasty cheese ball with crackers (including a whole-wheat flatbread cracker that was really tasty).

Thirteen-year-old Skylar and eight-year-old Collyn went outside to play Laser Tag with Khai as soon as they got the boxes open. Two-and-a-half year old Lilah wasn't about to let her brothers have fun without her! Jay and I laughed and laughed as the quartet chased each other around Mom and Anny's cars, leaped over Mom's front yard garden, and hid in a truck across the street.

The kids were in and out for most of the rest of the day. They'd go outside and shoot each other and chase each other...and then the boys would complain they were too cold and come back inside to watch Teen Titans Go! and Kung Fu Panda 2 and play with toy cars in the living room and den. The older boys were also kind of upset that Mom wouldn't let them play in the backyard, but it rained hard a few days ago, and her yard was a muddy mess.

I was mostly either outside watching the kids run around, or inside watching football. The Vikings kicked the Lions' rears for most of the first half of the early game. Though they did play better in the second half, the Lions just couldn't get anything going and lost 30-23. The Cowboys played even worse with the Chargers than they did with the Eagles and got their rears handed to them 28-6.

We finally sat down for dinner around 4 PM (sans Collyn, who opted for dinner at his father's house in Wildwood). Mom had complained earlier that the turkey was too fatty, but the dark meat tasted fine to me. (I like dark meat. The white meat is too dry.) She also tried a tasty shredded broccoli-kale salad with dried cranberries and pumpkin seeds that she said she took for lunch at work a lot. I loved it! It was crunchy and earthy and just tangy enough. There was also glazed carrots, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, potato rolls with butter, sweet potato casserole, stuffing, and green bean casserole. It was wonderful, as always. I had a little bit of everything but the mashed potatoes. I'm not a big fan of white potatoes. (And this year, I did volunteer to sit at the end of the table with Khai and Lilah and help make sure they ate their dinners....and so Skylar could finally sit with the adults.)

Skylar and Khai went upstairs to play checkers with their grandfather and play XBox games while Finley napped, Lilah played with toy cars in the living room, and their mothers and grandmother pulled out the desserts. I went back and forth between the groups until dessert was ready. Yum! Along with Mom's pumpkin pie (it's not Thanksgiving without pumpkin pie), there was Rose's apple pie and a key lime pie she picked up from Desserts By Design, Mom's chocolate chip cookie bars, ice cream sundaes for the kids, and tasty peanut butter cup-filled cookies and fudge cup-filled brownies Anny made.

We did more round of Laser Tag with Skylar, Lilah, and Khai after dark. That may have been even more fun than it was at 2:30. The guns and the boxes you "shot" lit up like neon signs in Wildwood, making the kids glow and blink in the dark and looking really neat against Mom and Dad's dead-end street.

Anny and Jay left with their brood shortly after the kids came in. I chatted with Rose and Mom for a while as Rose got Finley to sleep (in her cute ruffled "My First Thanksgiving" pajamas) and we watched the first quarter of the Redskins-Giants game. Around 9, I headed upstairs to settle down and chat with Lauren on Skype on my mobile phone. (Incidentally, the Redskins would finally go on to beat the Giants 20-10.)

I hope all of you had an equally fun Thanksgiving! Sorry this is late. I haven't figured out how to do my blog on the phone yet.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Getting Ready for Thanksgiving

It was raining when I woke up early, but by the time I was eating breakfast, the rain was long gone and the sun was coming out. Went right into making the Pumpkin Bread to bring down to Mom and Dad's house tomorrow after I ate. I got the recipe for this one from a fall baking cookbook I picked up at a register in Wildwood almost 15 years ago. It's been my go-to pumpkin bread recipe ever since.

Ran Winnie the Pooh: Seasons of Giving while I ate. This "full length movie" is actually two episodes of The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh and the Thanksgiving special with some new linking material. In the first segment, Rabbit makes Piglet pose as a groundhog to tell them if spring is coming. The citizens of the 100 Acre Woods come together in the second segment to celebrate a feast of haycorns and honey and chocolate ice cream. Rabbit says that simply isn't how things are and sends the others after turkey and cranberries. When that doesn't work out, it's Pooh who reminds him what Thanksgiving is all about. In the third story, Rabbit takes care of a baby bird named Kessie, but has a hard time letting her go when she's ready to fly south for the winter.

Worked on my story for the rest of the evening. Did a little re-writing. I decided Phasma wasn't necessary and replaced her with Mitaka, who was trying to flee. The girls and Leia grab him before he runs. Kaydel convinces him to tell her where Snoke is fighting with Luke.

They come in just as Snoke has knocked Luke across the audience room. Leia and Rey combine their powers to hold the wicked sorcerer back. To their surprise, Kylo Ren and Armitage Hux aren't with him. The old crone is never seen without them. Snoke claims he's sent them to kill Han and the princes. He vanishes before he gives them more details. Leia and Luke finally get Mitaka to spill that Snoke is on his way to Deckard Manor, and that Kylo Ren and Hux have already left. Leia and the girls have begun to figure out what's going on...but they need to get back there fast!

Broke at quarter of 1 to pack and have lunch. Watched episodes of Max & Ruby while I got organized. "Max's Thanksgiving" has Ruby decorating the table for Grandma's big dinner. Max is more interested in the nut stuffing. "Ruby's Leaf Collection" will be the best in school...if her brother ever stops burying it in his ever-growing leaf pile. She's hoping to win "Ruby's Panda Prize" at the local fair, but Max keeps distracting her for jelly balls. That's not the only time Max was after candy while spending time with his sister. "Ruby's Candy Store" actually belongs to Candy, an older woman who runs the local confectionery shop. Ruby helps her out and tries to keep her brother out of the candy stock.

Work was steady when I arrived. I gathered baskets and helped bag for a older woman when I arrived, but once again, I was mostly outside. This wasn't so bad when it was still light out and I had plenty of help. Unfortunately, by rush hour, two of the baggers had gone home, the clouds moved back in, and the still-raging wind and biting chill increased. The bagger who came in was one of the new teenagers. He's a nice boy, but he doesn't understand where all the carts go. He kept disappearing when the corrals were empty...even when there were no carts up front and they were scattered all around the parking lot. It got so bad, I took my break a half-hour late just to have more time to gather them.

I was so happy when I finally got out of there. Headed right across the street to Arby's for dinner after picking up trash bags. My feet were too sore to go any further. To my surprise, the only other person in the dining area was an Asian gentleman who was doing work on his laptop. I had a tasty Smokehouse Chicken sandwich with bacon, barbecue and ranch sauce, and crispy onions, along with the usual Curly Fries and root beer.

Called Rose after I finished dinner. She was attending to her daughter when I caught her, which is why she hadn't called earlier. She says she'll be picking me up to go to Dad and Mom's house in Erma around 10 tomorrow. That's fine. I'll have just enough time to eat and finish packing.

Hit the shower as soon as I got home. When I got out, I ran Molly's Pilgrim while I got organized. This Oscar-winning short subject from 1985 has become a favorite of mine. Molly is a Jewish girl whose family just arrived in the US from Russia. She can't speak English very well and doesn't know much about American customs. Many of the little girls in her class are nasty to her because of her unusual lunch and accent. Molly's teacher assigns the class to make pilgrims and Indians for a Thanksgiving project. Molly's mother makes hers look like a Russian woman. The kids misunderstand at first, until Molly tells them what her mother said, that she and her family are also pilgrims, who came to the US to find religious freedom. In the end, the kids and their teacher decide that one of Molly's classmates is right. It does take all kinds of pilgrims to make a Thanksgiving.

Did Planes, Trains, and Automobiles as I went online. All marketing executive Neil Page (Steve Martin) wants to do is get home to Chicago for Thanksgiving, but he's bounced from plane to train to bus to car in a series of improbable mishaps and just plain bad luck. Everywhere he goes, he keeps running into Del Griffith (John Candy), a shower curtain salesman who is a very sweet man, but also an overly chatty mass of bad habits. As the two travel along the highways and rails of the frozen Midwestern landscape, Neil eventually discovers why Del is really on the road...and learns a lesson in being thankful for what he has.

Mostly fun holiday comedy takes a left turn into forced sentimentality during the end, but is still a must-see for fans of Candy, Martin, or director John Hughes. It's some of their best work.

Had just enough time for a Three Stooges short after the movie ended. Three Englishmen go "Back to the Woods" when they're sent by the British courts to defend the pilgrims from the Indians. They want to court three comely pilgrim lasses, but they can't do that until they convince the local Indians to let them hunt on their land.

There really aren't that many Thanksgiving specials on DVD. Here's a couple of good vintage Thanksgiving tales I found on YouTube:

The Bernstein Bears Meet Big Paw 
The Mouse on the Mayflower
What-a-Mess: The Thanksgiving Turkey
Gram Bear's Thanksgiving Surprise
Nickelodeon's Thanksgiving Fest 1989
Intergalactic Thanksgiving (Please Don't Eat the Planet)
Saturday Supercade: Q-Bert - Thanksgiving for the Memories

I probably won't be online tomorrow - Dad and Mom don't have very good coverage down in Cape May County. I hope everyone who celebrates it has a wonderful Thanksgiving, filled with great food, great football, and all the people you love.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Winds In the Sunset

Began another sunny, windy morning with breakfast and Mickey's Christmas Carol. Despite the title, Mickey actually has the supporting role of Bob Cratchit in this 1983 Disney take on the beloved Charles Dickens novel. Uncle Scrooge is a pitch-perfect Ebeneezer, Donald is Nephew Fred, Daisy is Belle, Mickey's nephews Morty and Ferdie are the Cratchit children, and Goofy makes a better Jacob Marley than you might think. (His gags with the chain are among the highlights of this short.)

Did a quick short while getting the laundry together. "Santa's Workshop" is one of two Silly Symphonies featuring Santa Disney did in the mid-30's. I love the first half, with the elves making the toys, and the parade of the toys in the end. The tumbling teddy and spotted wind-up piggies are so cute!

I picked the right day to hit the laundromat. It was empty when I arrived, and I never saw more than two people the entire time. I didn't want to do it tomorrow. Figured everyone would be out tomorrow to get their linens and tablecloths done before Thanksgiving. Listened to Rachel Ray and The View and worked on story notes while my very small load was in the washer and drier.

Did a little writing when I got home. Leia and the girls appear in her office. The battle is going on right outside the door, with First Order Clan soldiers fighting their own army and volunteers from the local villages. Leia grabs hold of one of the soldiers. It turns out to be a woman, the intimidating Captain Gwen Phasma. Leia demands that she take them to Snoke and Luke.

Had my lunch at 1. Ran an episode of the wacky swashbuckler spoof Jack of All Trades while eating and getting ready for work. This is the last show you'd think would have a Thanksgiving episode, but somehow they manage to work one in with "One, Two, Three, Give Me Lady Liberty" from the second season. Jack's ready to celebrate a real all-American Thanksgiving, but Emilia has other ideas. Midget French king Napoleon has built a ten-foot statue holding a torch that he intends to give to President Jefferson...but he has ulterior motives. Jack and Emilia first invite him to their Thanksgiving feast to get the plans off him, then distract him with another Thanksgiving tradition - football!

Headed straight to work after the episode ended. Other than a half-hour spent cleaning the bathrooms after break, I once again was outside gathering carts for most of the day. It was too nice to be inside dealing with harried customers and panicking managers anyway. Despite the wind, it was even sunnier and warmer than yesterday, into the upper 50's.

It was worth doing the carts for most of the afternoon just to catch that absolutely amazing sunset. Around 5 PM, the sky lit up with strokes of melting roses, lavenders, and oranges, tinged with streaks of deep purple clouds . It was a gorgeous display, as pretty as any of the lights at street level.

Put on another Thanksgiving sitcom episode when I got in and made scrambled eggs with peppers, spinach, and taco meat for dinner. "Wild Turkey," from the seventh season of Perfect Strangers, has Balki, Larry, and their ladies gearing up for their first big meal in their new home. Larry is excited about the live turkeys he hopes to sell the day before the holiday...until Jennifer tells them that one turkey may have swallowed her wedding ring. Turns out Balki sold a turkey the day before. They head to the house of the family he sold it to to try to find out if it took the ring.

Did The Nutcracker: A Fantasy On Ice while eating milk and Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies for dessert. Lorne Greene narrates this 1983 special, with Dorothy Hamill as Clara and Robin Cousins as her Nutcracker prince. This used to turn up a lot on HBO around the holidays in the early and mid-80's. It was likely the first version of The Nutcracker I ever saw, well before I knew it was a ballet. If you have a little girl who loves figure skating or ballet or have fond memories of seeing it on cable too, I believe it can currently be found on YouTube.

Finished out the night online while watching An American Christmas Carol. I began the day as I ended it, with an unusual version of Charles Dickens' beloved holiday tale. This one has Henry Winkler as Benedict Slade, a miser in a small New England town who runs a real estate company. It's the height of the Great Depression, and he takes great delight in repossessing the townspeople's property and firing his employee when he tries to convince him to reopen the local quarry. It takes visits from three ghosts (who greatly resemble three of the people whose possessions he took) to make him see the error of his ways and understand the importance of charity.

Ok TV version of the story. Winkler is decent as the Scrooge character under a ton of makeup. Mostly for fans of Winkler or those who have to see every Christmas Carol out there.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Doll and Pony Holidays

Got a much earlier start than I have lately. I have too much to do this week to sleep in! Started off a sunny day with breakfast and episodes of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. Started off with one of the show's earliest episodes from the first season, "Applebuck Season." Applejack is determined to buck, or kick, her largest crop of apples from the trees ever and still have time to help her friends. She keeps refusing Twilight Sparkle's aid...but finally relents when she's so tired, she lets Fluttershy's rabbits eat half the flora in Ponyville and is mistaking dead apple trees for live ones.

I had just enough time before work to change my American Girl dolls into their holiday outfits. Samantha wears her original Cranberry Christmas Dress with her red shoes from her newer green spring outfit. The red bow from the Our Generation dress Lauren sent for Christmas last year goes nicely with Molly's Evergreen Christmas Dress and the black strap shoes from Sam's current meet outfit. Josefina has her original Yellow Christmas Dress and black mantilla. Whitney gets the lovely blue-violet Snowflake Gown, AG's modern holiday formal dress from 2010, with black stockings and a black spencer jacket from the Springfield Collection. Felicity is in her blue Christmas Gown with Josefina's Heirloom Accessories choker. Jessa wears the red brocade Chinese New Year's Outfit from the mid-90's modern AG holiday collection.

 Had just enough time to dress myself, get organized, and head off to work after I finished off the dolls. Work was steady, busy during the noon lunch rush hour, otherwise once again not as bad as I assumed it would be. I was outside doing carts all day. I actually quite enjoyed it. Despite the wind, it really was a beautiful late morning and early afternoon, with a bright blue autumn sky and temperatures in the upper 40's-lower 50's, a little chilly for this time of year but not unbearable.

Dodged the wind by once again taking the long way home down Nicholson Road. It was only just starting to pick up slightly when I left. Other than seeing a few school buses, there was no traffic anywhere, not even really around the shopping center entrance. I did have to make my way around more pipe repairs on the other side of Manor down by the Oaklyn Manor Bar, though.

Went right on the computer when I got home. Harold gives Leia a ring, telling her that it's the ring of the Royal Family of Alderaan, and it'll transport her directly home. The girls insist on going too, even though Leia says they don't have to. She has every intention of helping Luke and coming back. She knows the ring and its magic well...and she's worried about what Snoke will do to its owner.

Meanwhile, Finn goes to Harold, shocked that he let Leia leave. They're so close to ending the curse! Harold only says that her people needed her before he slams upstairs to his bedroom in the tower.

Had a quick leftovers dinner after I got off, then worked on Cranberry-Orange Bread. I always make a cranberry loaf and a pumpkin loaf to bring down to my parents' house for Thanksgiving. To be more specific, they're actually for Black Friday morning. We eat them for breakfast the day after Thanksgiving. Used a recipe from my big bread cookbook this year. It took longer than listed to cook...but it did turn a nice toasty-gold color and smelled amazing in the oven.

This tradition started when I was in college. I wanted to bring something home for Thanksgiving, but I didn't have the time, money, or big kitchen to make anything fancy. I'd liked experimenting with Pillsbury's quick bread mixes, and the results had certainly pleased my roommates. I thought I'd see how they'd go over with my family. Mom said we had plenty of things for Thanksgiving dessert...but they'd be perfect for the morning after to feed a living room filled with hungry (and hungover) people who were too drunk to drive home in the late 90's-early 2000's. I've brought them for Black Friday breakfast ever since.

Finished out the Friendship Is Magic set while I ate and baked. I'd already seen "Hearthbreakers" and "Winter Wrap Up" on other sets, but there were a couple of episodes that were new to me. "Castle Sweet Castle" is from the beginning of the fifth season. Twilight Sparkle, now an alicorn princess, has been avoiding spending time in her new castle. Truth is, she just moved in, and it doesn't feel like home the way her old, destroyed tree house library did. Her friends try to surprise her by decorating the castle, but they add too much and just end up with a mess. Now they have to figure out how to make the castle reflect Twilight Sparkle and bring in a piece of themselves, without going overboard.

"A Hearth's Warming Tail" is a creative retelling of A Christmas Carol from the sixth season, made to reflect the Ponies' winter holiday festival Hearth's Warming Day. Starlight Glimmer, who is still getting over all the trouble she caused in the previous season, says she'll just skip the holiday this year. Twilight Sparkle tells Starlight her favorite holiday story to show why she should celebrate. Starlight plays Snowfall Frost, a miser who would rather concentrate on creating magical spells than celebrate with her clerk (Rainbow Dash). Just as she's about to use a spell that would erase Hearth's Warming Day forever, the ghosts of Hearth's Warming Past (Applejack), Present (Pinkie Pie), and Future (Princess Luna) show her what made her change...and what will happen if she goes through with her spell.

The disc concludes with "Not Asking for Trouble" from the seventh (and most recent) season. Pinkie Pie is sent as an ambassador of goodwill to a group of Yaks who live up in the snowy mountains. She's enjoying their big festival, complete with a lot of stomping...until all the noise brings the snow from the mountains down on them. The yaks are determined to make the best of things and not ask for help clearing the snow, even though their people are starving. Much like Applejack in the first episode on the disc, they keep refusing Pinkie's offers of aid. She finally goes to her friends, who come up with a solution that makes everyone happy, even the Yaks.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

The Eagles Blow the Cowboys Away

Had a late but tasty breakfast of New England Cranberry-Corn Pancakes (whole wheat pancake mix with a little corn meal, molasses, spices, and a sprinkling of the cranberry bits I got at the Acme on Friday) while listening to my first Christmas CD of the year. A Broadway Christmas comes from the same Varase Sarabande collection as the Lost In Boston and Unsung Musicals series. Along with well-known holiday tunes like "We Need a Little Christmas" and "Hard Candy Christmas," we have songs cut from Broadway shows (the lovely "Christmas Eve," dropped from She Loves Me), taken from shows that haven't made New York ("Christmas Gifts" from a stage musical version of It's a Wonderful Life), and even one that had just been rediscovered at that point ("The Happy New Year Blues" by Irving Berlin).

Work once again could have been worse. It was on-and-off busy, though when it was on, the lines were really long. While I did gather baskets and briefly shelved loose items, I was mostly outside. Fine by me. Despite the gale-force winds, it was mostly sunny and a lot nicer than I thought it would be, probably into the mid-50's.

Took the long way home down Nicholson Road so the wind would be at my back at least part of the way. The houses and trees took care of the rest of it. I dodged quite a bit of traffic on the right side of Nicholson. (The left is still blocked to repair the bridge.) The flowers and greenery in gardens and on the side of the road have given way to seeds floating in the breeze and dried stalks leaning precariously against the asphalt. The trees have finally gotten gorgeous, lighting up the roads with their gold and orange leaves.

Worked on writing again when I got in. Harold and Leia have finally spent the night together. Leia wakes up in his leathery arms when her brother Luke's manservant, Arthur, rides up to the manor. He has bad news. King Snoke of the First Order Clan has invaded Alderaan and may intend to kill Luke. Leia says she'll leave right away. Harold's heartbroken, but he understands that her country needs her.

Had leftover tacos and broccoli for dinner around 6:30. Listened to Here's Love as I ate and did the dishes. This is a musical version of Miracle On 34th Street from 1961, with Janis Page as Doris Walker and Fred "Herman Munster" Gwynne as Mr. Sheldrake. Meredith Wilson, best known for The Music Man, did the songs. It's ok, not great, but far from horrible. I don't know why they had to make the lawyer into an ex-Marine, other than to give him and his buddies a really dumb number where they make bets on whether Doris will show or not. Otherwise, the songs are mostly fun. I'm especially fond of the charming "My Wish" for Susan and Fred.

Went on to the soundtrack from Scrooge as I went online. Leslie Bricusse did the songs for this 1969 musical version of A Christmas Carol, with Albert Finney as the title miser. "Thank You Very Much" was the hit, but my favorites are the sweet "Christmas Children" for Bob Cratchit and his brood, "December the 25th" at the Fezziwig's party, and "I Like Life" for the Ghost of Christmas Present.

Ended the night with the big Eagles-Cowboys game. No one played well during the first half. The Eagles made a ton of mistakes and were down 9-7 at halftime, not to mention they lost their kicker. Whatever they discussed in the locker room during halftime must have worked. They dominated the game from the early 3rd quarter onward, ultimately going on to win 37-9.

The Giants-Chiefs game I saw part of at work was even worse. While the Giants are terrible (they only had one win this season before today), the Chiefs are one of the best teams in the NFL with the Eagles, Rams, and Patriots. They were tied a paltry 9-9 when I left and going into overtime. The Giants finally pulled off a much-needed win, 12-9.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Last Harvest of the Season

Kicked off a cloudy morning with a war-related Three Stooges short I didn't get to last weekend. They're "Dizzy Pilots" who are hoping their newest airplane will revolutionize warfare in their country and keep them out of the draft. Trouble is, first they keep knocking Moe into the tar and nearly let him float away. Then they can't get the plane out of the hanger...and even when they do, they have no idea what they're doing once they're up in the air.

It was past 11 when I headed out to Collingswood for the final Farm Market of the year. Even late in the day, they were crowded with people looking for fresh produce for their Thanksgiving dinners. Pumpkins, peppers, and eggplants were gone, but chestnuts and fresh spinach were out in full force. Most of the food booths were gone, too, replaced by more craft booths and two alpacas munching on their hay lunch in a pen (to the delight of local kids). I ended up with my favorite little apples, a few broccoli florets (it takes me forever to eat the huge ones), mushrooms, spinach, and cranberries for the bread I'll be making to take to Dad and Mom's house next week.

Made a brief trip across the street to WaWa after I finished at the Farm Market. I wanted milk and orange juice for the cranberry bread. Grabbed my favorite Vanilla Coke for the way home, too. The line was a little long, but given the Farm Market was still going on and we were less than a week before Thanksgiving, it could have been worse.

Put everything away when I got home, then went into a little bit of writing. Chewbacca and the girls and frogs do everything they can to provide a romantic get-together for Master Harold and Leia. They serve them the closest they can get to a full-course meal with what's available on the premises, then play music and dance for them. It has the desired effect. Leia finally agrees to sleep with Harold, just for one night. She'll never forget Han, but she's starting to have feelings for him, too. There's something strangely...familiar...about him...

Broke at 1 for lunch and Gift of the Night Fury. This How to Train Your Dragon holiday special takes us to the Viking village of Berk for their annual winter festival Snoggletog. Everyone is looking forward to sharing the holiday with their dragons...until the dragons suddenly up and vanish. Even Hiccup's beloved Toothless leaves after he makes him a mechanical tail. While the other kids of Berk try to create new traditions to cheer up their parents, Hiccup follows one of the dragons to figure out where they've gone to.

Work wasn't anywhere near as bad as I figured it would be the Saturday before Thanksgiving. It did get busy a bit later, during rush hour. Otherwise, it was no more than steady the whole night. The weather may have been a factor. It had been sprinkling on and off since I was on the way home from Collingswood. By around 5, it had turned into a steady shower. Though I did gather baskets and bagging and picked up trash in the front, I was mostly doing carts and getting wet. And of course, the rain was slowing down when I headed home. It's just been windy ever since.

Had leftovers for dinner (including finally polishing off the last of the macaroni salad I got from Jodie two weeks ago), then made apple crisp for dessert. I had a couple of apples leftover from last week that were getting soft. Oh yum. It came out mostly perfect, if a little too sweet. I think I'll lower the sugar content on that Betty Crocker recipe the next time I try it.

Ran Barbie In the Nutcracker while the apple crisp was in the oven. The very first Barbie movie was, in fact, a Christmas tale. Barbie relates the story of how Clara, a young girl who has been sheltered by her stern uncle, finds herself following her moving Nutcracker into the Land of Sweets after the wicked Mouse King (Tim Curry) shrinks her. They have to find the Sugar Plum Princess and save the kingdom. It'll take all of Clara's intelligence and courage to dodge the rock monsters and outwit the power-hungry rodent. But the Sugar Plum Princess isn't whom anyone expects her to be...

The first Barbie Is/As special came out in the late 90's and definitely shows its age. The CGI is waxy and stiff, which is especially obvious with major effects like the rock monster mid-way through. Honestly, besides Clara, the Nutcracker, and a few references, this doesn't really have much to do with the original ballet, either, and the ending with whom the Sugar Plum Princess is turns out to be a bit of a cop-out.

On the other hand, the story is charming and funny, and Clara is a wonderful heroine, resourceful and brave. I like her aunt in the opening and closing, too. Major Mint and Captain Candy have their moments as the comic relief.

If you have a little girl who loves Barbie or ballet or have fond memories of seeing this as a ballet-crazy little girl, it's still worth at least a look.

Finished the night with the newest Strawberry Shortcake set, Dance Berry Dance. Oddly, despite the title, only two out of the four shorts actually involve dancing. The first has Sour Grapes wanting to celebrate her birthday without sharing it with Sugar. She realizes how much she misses her sister when Sugar gives her the wish she wanted - a birthday to herself. The second story is a take on "The Red Shoes." Apple Dumplin' wants to impress everyone with her dancing, but she knows nothing about ballet. She creates shoes that can dance on her own, but they work too well and won't stop dancing! Huck and his dog Tom-Tom have the opposite problem in the next episode. They both have terrible stage fright. Huck doesn't want to dance at all. Tom-Tom will only do it for his master, despite being drafted into Plum Puddin's all-dog dance show. When he runs off, Huck realizes it was wrong of him to try to push his pup into it. The final story has Cherry Jam trying to write a song for the Queen of Berryvania. She dashes off a fun dance number for the puppies to perform to...but when it hits the Internet and is a smash, she has to deal with more celebrity than she can handle.

Friday, November 17, 2017

The Cinder Girl and the Inventor

Began a golden fall morning with breakfast, then baking. I dove into that one-bowl cookie cookbook Lauren gave me for my birthday again and came up with Mint Chocolate Cookies. I didn't realize I was out of vanilla, so I didn't use any. Otherwise, they came out quite tasty, and very chocolaty! (I was supposed to roll them in powdered sugar, but that sounded too messy. I just left them plain.)

I was about to go up to the counter to start taking down baking powder and other items in the cabinets when I noticed something small and gray huddled against the sink. On closer inspection, I had to clamp my hand over my mouth to keep from screaming. It was a dead mouse, likely the one that plagued me for months. Even the good traps I bought weeks ago hadn't gotten rid of him.

At least, I thought he was dead. When I tried to scoop him up with a long-handled metal spoon, he flailed like a mad-mouse. I was finally able to use the spoon and a trap to corner him next to the sink and get him into a plastic bag. I darted into the back yard as quickly as I could and dumped him into a pile of leaves, still thrashing around. If Charlie and his men don't make short work of him, the feral cats will. The way he was acting, he may have been dying anyway.

Ran The Nutcracker while all this was going on. I have the 1977 performance featuring Mikhail Baryshnikov as the Nutcracker Prince. This is a fairly traditional version of this story, complete with the Mouse King battle in the first act and the dancing candy in the second act. Most of the Sugar Plum Fairy's dances late in the second act are given over to the Prince and Clara, though, likely to give them more to do. This is short and sweet, not a bad starter entry to the world of ballet and one of the great dancers of the later half of the 20th century.

Switched to an episode of The Backyardigans while the cookies were coming out of the oven. "The Secret of Snow," from the second season, is the first of two holiday episodes this show did. Uniqua is determined to find out how to make the snow fall. She travels north to the land of Ice Lady Tasha and her bored assistant Austin. Tasha has no time for the pink bug-girl's queries and sends her to the Wild West, then the jungle. She returns north each time, with Cowboy Pablo and Tyrone of the Jungle by her side. Tasha tries to put the kids to work in her ice factory, but gets upset when they seem to be enjoying their work a bit too much. They all finally learn that there's really no "secret of snow"...but that making friends is a lot more important.

Was off to the Acme for this week's grocery shopping as soon as the cookies were out of the oven. And I had a ton of it! Bought more butter, this time the Acme generic brand, with one online coupon; got free organic low-sodium chicken broth with another. Picked up taco seasoning and tortillas for dinner. Found a bag of cut-up dried cranberries on the clearance shelves that'll be great for the cranberry bread next week. Restocked white and brown sugar, chicken legs, ground turkey, peanut butter, clementines, vanilla, dark cocoa, eggs, skim milk, yogurt, blue corn chips, corn starch, and two bags of chocolate chips (mint and dark chocolate and three-chip).

My schedule this week is much better than the one I had last Thanksgiving week. I asked for Thanksgiving off this time to avoid the problems last year when they tried to get me to work that day and will be taking my first personal day on Black Friday. I'll probably be doing my laundry in the morning again, but on the other hand, I do have some late morning-early afternoon work, including next Saturday.

Headed home and got everything put away, then went right back out again. Had to dodge more road work heading down Manor, this time just inches from our house. Having a bike's been a huge help with this. I was able to ride right past them on the sidewalk.

I just missed the Oaklyn Library, which closes at 2. Ended up dumping my DVDs in the book/DVD return holder and moved on. Capitol Pizza is a few blocks down on the White Horse Pike, so that's where I ended up for a late lunch. Ate a slice of cheese and a slice of broccoli while drinking a can of Coke and watching Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? Super-smart kids are in the hot seat this week. The ones they had today were so funny. The little girl who did the Darth Vader imitation was (as the host said) the cutest Vader ever. The boy who came after her did even better, getting a few math questions I couldn't figure out and at least one geography question that involved Star Wars and Kylo Ren. (He said he loved Force Awakens - he is a smart kid.)

After a brief stop at Rite Aid to check for pads (none on a good sale), I moved on to the Haddon Township Library. Surprisingly for a late Friday afternoon, they were dead. Everyone must be starting to get ready for Thanksgiving. I shelved kids' DVDs and a cart laden with new books, both print and audio. Took out the holiday specials for My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic and How to Train Your Dragon, along with new sets for Strawberry Shortcake and Mickey and the Roadster Racers (the latter focuses on Minnie and Daisy).

Made a brief stop at WaWa on the way home for money, dodging rush hour traffic on the way. As soon as I got in, I went on the computer for some writing. Leia and Harold have been wondering what the kids have been up to all week, but they're in the dark until an evening a week later. Leia comes upstairs after packing to leave to find a beautiful "new" dress on her bed. The girls had made it over from one of the older dresses in the attic. They have antique jewelry and shoes for her, too, as well as clothing for them and the boys. They escort her downstairs, where Harold and the boys, as dolled up as toads and frogs can be, await them in the ballroom.

Made tacos and sauteed spinach and mushrooms for dinner around 6, with Cranberry Flummery for dessert. Watched Minnie and Daisy's Happy Helpers while I ate. For some reason, they only had the "Happy Helpers" shorts from Roadster Racers on this set. While I would have preferred full episodes, some of these are really sweet.

"Happy Hula Helpers" has the duo aiding a little Hawaiian girl who is trying to find the perfect gift for her grandpa, who seems to have everything. Minnie finally suggests a hula that can tell the story of their loving relationship. They get into a bit of "Tea Time Trouble" in London when they have to fix Big Ben and their boys need to learn how to act like gentlemen, or no one will be having tea with the queen. Clarabelle is "Bed, Breakfast, and Bungled" after she offers to help Minnie and Daisy run a local bed-and-breakfast inn. The anxious bovine tries too hard and ruins every job, but she is good at making tasty - and sticky - treats!

Took a shower, then finished the night online with Ever After. This is the late-90's version of the Cinderella tale, transferred to 16th-century France. Here, the cinder girl is Danielle (Drew Barrymore), the daughter of a nobleman who married a baroness (Anjelica Huston) with two daughters. She may have loved her once, but after he died, she became bitter towards her beautiful stepdaughter, making her more-or-less a servant. Danielle, however, is a feisty maid with some definate ideas on commoners and royalty. She almost thrashes a man she thinks is stealing his father's horse, until he turns out to be Prince Henry (Dougray Scott), who is trying to avoid an arranged marriage. She intends to use the gold he gives her to buy back one of her family's servants and dresses as a countess to make the sale. Henry thinks she's a real noblewoman and falls for her. Her stepmother and stepsisters lock her in the house on the day of a ball celebrating Leonardo DiVinci (Patrick Godfrey). He acts as a most unusual fairy godparent, giving her a pair of wings to wear with her good dress...but her stepmother exposes her and sells her. Now this Cinderella has to learn that glass slippers are all well and fine, but sometimes, a fairy-tale princess has to rescue herself.

I loved this when it came out, and while it's no masterpiece, I still think it's a lot of fun. Barrymore and Scott are all right as the lovers, and Huston's really enjoying herself as a slightly wicked stepmother. A lot of girls who grew up with this in the late 90's still love it to this day. If you have older girls who are fans of other fairy tale or fantasy retellings or love opposites-attract romances, try this one on them.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Windy Autumn

It was sunny when I rolled out of bed this morning. Began a lovely fall day with breakfast and one of the stranger Rankin-Bass holiday specials, The Leprechauns' Christmas Gold. This is the only holiday special I know of to mix Irish mythology and Christmas lore. A young sailor is told to get a Christmas tree from a misty island for his ship by his captain, but accidentally uproots a pine that had trapped a banshee. The banshee wants the gold of the leprechauns, or it'll dissolve into tears on Christmas Day. Trouble is, it must be given freely. She first tries to trick the leprechaun, then the sailor. When she puts the sailor to sleep, it takes the leprechaun clans mending bad feelings between them to revive him and save their gold.

Headed out to the laundromat around 10:30. I couldn't put off getting the laundry done anymore. The laundromat was busy, but not unbearable. I didn't have that huge of a load anyway. I worked on story notes while listening to Rachel Ray and The View.

Had a little time to write when I got home. The girls and frogs spend the next week preparing for their party to send the ladies off...and hopefully, bring Leia and the Master closer together. They have an inkling of what's going on, but the kids aren't talking, and Chewbacca isn't saying anything to Harold, either. The girls are hoping that having a new man in Leia's life - even if he's a horned toad - will make her less sad. The boys figure this is the chance their Master has been waiting for - a woman loves him enough to see past the prickles and get into bed with him.

Broke at 1 for lunch and to get ready for work. The Bear Who Slept Through Christmas is one of my favorite lesser-known holiday specials. Ted E. Bear is more curious than most of his ursine brethren. While they're content to spend the winter hibernating, he wants to stay up and learn more about Christmas. After being humiliated by his fellow bears when he asks a few too many questions, he strikes out on his own to the big city. There, he learns that Christmas isn't a place or a person. It's a feeling...and one that's best shared with someone you love.

Work was a slight improvement over yesterday. I did get stuck in the register for 10 minutes early-on when a manager saw some people on the ends of a few lines and panicked. Otherwise, I was mostly either bagging, doing returns, or gathering carts or baskets. Fine by me. It was a gorgeous day to get carts, sunny, very windy, and warmer than it has been, into the upper 50's. It rained this morning, but by the time I was at work, it was partial clouds.

Did two Backyardigans episodes when I got in and had leftovers and steamed broccoli for dinner. Tyrone thinks he has to "Escape From Fairy Tale Village" when it looks like Uniqua the Witch, Austin the Wolf, and Pablo the Giant want to eat him. But is that really why they're chasing him?

Tasha, a photographer for a newspaper in Bigopolis, is ready to report some "Front Page News" when a huge robot is terrorizing downtown. Pablo sends her to get the shot for the front page...but she's too busy being superhero Super Snap and helping Bug Girl (Uniqua) and Bubble Man (Tyrone) to take the picture.

Finished the night with Mission: Impossible III as I went online. Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) thinks he's ready to settle down with his fiancee Julia Meade (Michelle Monaghan), who has no idea what his real job is. He's called back into action one more time to try to rescue an agent (Keri Russell) who was kidnapped while investigating a case about nasty arms dealer Owen Davian (Phillip Seymour Hoffman). While they do manage to rescue her and two laptops with information, they're only able to keep the laptops. Davian kills her with an explosive implanted into her brain. Even after they do succeed in grabbing Davian before he leaves Vatican City, they learn he's after a certain mysterious object called "Rabbit's Foot." He manages to escape and capture Julia, whom Ethan had married several days before. Now Ethan has only 48 hours to rescue his bride and find "Rabbit's Foot," before Davian kills his bride or his team.

A bit darker than the previous entry in this series, but not bad. (And with far fewer weird slo-mo action scenes.) Hoffman was only ok as one of the creepier bad guys in this series, and I thought the "bomb in the brain" thing was a little much. The romance was dull, too. On the other hand, the plot was still pretty interesting, and the cinematography and action scenes were breathtaking at times, especially in Rome.

Not the best of this series, but far from horrible. This pretty much confirms what I said after Rogue Nation. This is the best kind of popcorn action series. If you like one, you'll pretty much like them all, including this one.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Back to the Alien Future

Kicked off a sunny, chilly fall morning with some holiday-themed Scooby Doo. "A Nutcracker Scoob" is from the late 70's-early 80's show featuring Scooby, Scrappy, Shaggy, and Daphne. Fred joins in as well for this tale of the crew helping an orphanage to put on their big Christmas pageant. The show may not go on when a miser claims he's going to shut them down...and then the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come appears, searching for a treasure hidden in the house. The kids have to find that treasure, before the ghost and the old man find a way to get rid of them all for good.

Spent the rest of the morning writing. The winter is fast becoming spring...and the end of the girls' year at the manor. Finn and Rey are working in the garden when Rey asks him why Harold wants Leia to sleep with him. Part of it is the spell...and part of it may be that he genuinely loves her. Finn has his own feelings for Rey, but he has no idea how to get the words out. They finally decide that a party would be just the thing for the boys to spend time with the girls and to bring Leia together with Harold.

A few days later, they discuss it with the other kids. It'll be a surprise for Leia and Harold. They'll make a party of it. Kaydel will trim up the fancy old clothes in the attic. The others will decorate and make the closest thing they can to a feast for Harold and Leia to enjoy while the kids dance and court each other.

Had yogurt and muffins for lunch around 1. Watched more Scooby Doo while I ate. Backtracked to the mid-70's series for "A Scary Night With a Snow Beast Fright." This time, the whole gang heads up north when a professor calls for their aid. By the time they arrive, he's gone, and a huge dinosaur-like snow beast has destroyed the Inuit village where he was doing research. The gang has to find what became of him and the Inuit chief, and what the beast is really protecting. Meanwhile, Scooby's more interested in a flirtatious sled dog.

Moved ahead to "Alaskan King Coward" while I got ready for work. Scrappy rejoins Shaggy and Scooby as they head further into Alaska to mine their fortune. This time, a real defrosted dino-monster ends up chasing the trio across the frozen landscape. But Scrappy's not about to let this claim-jumper get a hold of their land and sets about trapping him.

Wish I'd stayed with Scooby. Work was a pain. Nothing I did this afternoon seemed to please anybody. There was a huge milk spill right after I got in. I went to get a nice, dry mop and bucket from the back, where they're all kept. They got one from the bakery. I ended up bagging and mopping the bathrooms instead of gathering carts, which is what really needed to be done. And I realize that the old ladies don't mean to be offensive when they complain about me helping them with their heavy groceries and not a boy, but...what do they think this is, 1950? Did they all sleep through the 70's? I'm perfectly capable of lifting things, thank you. And I'm tired of my condescending boss' dumb jokes about me starting his car for him. I've told him twice that I can't drive. Thank heavens I spent the rest of the evening gathering carts and shelving groceries.

Cheered myself up with more Babes In Toyland as I ate leftovers for dinner. There were at least three live TV versions in the 1950's. I did the third one from 1955 to honor the late stage and cabaret performer Barbara Cook, who passed away this summer. Here, she and Dennis Day (as Jane Piper and Tommy Tucker) are the Mother Goose lovers, genial TV comedian Wally Cox is Grumio, and the Bill Baird Marionettes are among the major stars. Nasty Barnaby owns the toy factory, which he lures the kids, then the lovers, to, hoping to eliminate Tommy. But Grumio and his marionette friends are off to the rescue!

Finished off the night after a shower with Men In Black 3. It's a decade after the last film. Agent J (Will Smith) and K (Tommy Lee Jones) are still the best partnership the Men In Black organization least, until K disappears mysteriously after a confrontation with an alien named Boris the Animal (Jermaine Clement) who claims that K was "already dead." Turns out Boris had gone back in time to 1969 and killed K before he could shoot off his arm or deploy the net around the Earth that cause the extinction of his race. Now J has to go back in time to the late 60's, an era of peace, love, and major civil rights trouble and team up with a younger K (Josh Brolin) to find the ArcNet and get it into space, or none of them are going to have any kind of future.

This was...really, really strange. Even for this franchise. On one hand, Josh Brolin made an awesome younger Tommy Lee Jones. He had his mannerisms down perfectly and paired well with Will Smith. Clement made for a great vicious villain, too. And I give them credit for a far more original plotline this time around.

On the other hand, the time travel doesn't make much sense, the recreations of the late 60's mores and fashions are more weird than spot-on, and the story is a tad too complicated at times. The aliens themselves also have a bit less screen time, though there's a couple that are pretty interesting (notably the odd fortune teller/hippie who is crucial to the plot).

And while this wasn't bad...yeah, I'm still going to say this series didn't need to go past the first one. There's talk of a reboot or revival at the moment. Honestly, I think this is a good place to leave it. Like The Matrix, this series was made for its time and place. The first one and the third one are a lot of fun and are recommended. The second one is more-or-less a rehash of the first one and is pretty much for fans only.