Monday, December 31, 2018

Rainy New Year

Began the last day of 2018 with Rudolph's Shiny New Year during breakfast. Rudolph is called by Santa to help Father Time (Red Skelton) find Happy, the baby New Year. He keeps getting upset when people laugh at his unusually large ears and runs away. Rudolph gets help from a motley assortment of characters and former Father Times, including a whale named Big Ben (Harold Peery) and One Million BC (Morey Amsterdam), the oldest Father Time and the head of an island of dinosaurs. They're not the only ones looking for Happy. Aeon, the nasty old vulture, wants to capture the little baby to stop time and keep from dying.

Switched to a couple of New Year's and nightclub-themed shorts while chopping onions, ham, and a potato and shredding cheddar cheese for my Crock Pot Ham and Potatoes and making Cranberry Flummery. Popeye says "Let's Celebrake" when he, Olive, and Bluto go out dancing for the New Year. Popeye gallantly invites Olive's grandmother along. Spinach helps to really get the old lady's feet tapping! A jealous Bluto tries to sabotage Olive and Popeye's act in "Morning, Noon, and Nightclub." Popeye uses spinach to bring and end to his antics.

Headed out as soon as the cartoons were done and the Crock Pot was boiling away. Work wasn't too bad when I arrived...but by 11, it was a madhouse. I got stuck in the register for almost an hour and panicked badly. I did returns before that, then spent the rest of the afternoon gathering carts. I'm glad I had help from at least two other baggers. Even when it started to slow down somewhat by later in the afternoon, it never died completely.

The weather didn't help. It started showering sometime around 1, and has continued raining in some capacity, sometimes hard, for the rest of the day. My coat was dripping when I came in.

I had a few things I needed to pick up after work, mainly items to make Whipped Syllabub for New Year's Eve. Thought I'd try eggnog instead of cream. All of the bottles and cartons of eggnog were only a dollar, even the big ones. Also grabbed sparkling white grape juice, an orange, more of those tasty pumpkin cheesecake cookies, and the Acme's generic holiday gingerbread mix. (I've seen the latter all through the holiday season and have been meaning to try it, but kept forgetting to buy it.)

It was still raining when I stepped out of the Acme with my bike. Oh well. I had to take a shower later, anyway. I just rode home and got pre-wet.

Did one more cartoon while I changed, put everything away, and took the recycling out. Who knew Mickey and Minnie Mouse were the original party animals? In the black-and-white short "The Whoopee Party," their shindig gets so wild, even the furniture dances along! Meanwhile, Goofy decides it's fun to tease Clarabelle with a noisemaker. She doesn't agree...and she has her own way of getting him back.

Worked on writing for about an hour after I finished. Leia, Chewie, and Han arrive at the castle of the Princess Herfa and her husband. Leia's title and persuasiveness manages to get them past the guards, but they get quite a surprise when they realize whom the Princesses' husband resembles...

Broke for my crock pot dinner at 6. Oh, yum. Very salty, but very tasty. It even had these dark parts on the size - maybe cheese - that were really yummy. Had honey-glazed carrots for vegetables.

Watched Happy New Year, Charlie Brown! while I ate. Chuck's not having the easiest New Year. His teacher assigned him War and Peace, of all things, to read for a book report over the Christmas break week. Peppermint Patty's holding a New Year's party that proves to be a distraction, especially when he tries to invite the Little Red Haired Girl.

Moved to a third-season episode of Laverne & Shirley as I cleaned up from dinner. "New Year's Eve - 1960" begins promisingly for the ladies. Laverne got a date to Shirley's couples-only party with an old beau from school, and Shirley's going with Carmine. Things go downhill quickly when Laverne's date ditches her for his ex-girlfriend, and Shirley gets a cold. At least they get to watch Lenny drop Squiggy at midnight instead of the ball.

Put on an episode of Tiny Toon Adventures as I made the gingerbread and got it in the oven. Plucky is "A Quack In the Quarks" when he's duck-napped by alien "exchange students" who think he's brave and smart enough to take on the menacing Duck Vader. Buster, Babs, and Hampton take off into orbit to rescue him.

Finished my year after a shower with the first two Star Wars films. New Hope begins with sassy Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) trying to evade the evil Darth Vader (voice of James Earl Jones). Facing capture, she leaves a message with a droid, R2D2, and his fussy protocol droid buddy C3P0 (voice of Anthony Daniels). They end up on the desert planet of Tatoonie, where they're bought by bored farmer Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) and his aunt and uncle. After R2 takes off, they're rescued by Obi-Wan Kenobi (Sir Alec Guinness), a mysterious hermit who gives Luke a lightsaber that had once belonged to his father. He offers to teach him the way of the Force...and after stormtroopers kill his aunt and uncle, Luke doesn't have a choice. They convince space pirate Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and his furry buddy Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) to take them to deliver the message, but are waylaid by the Empire's huge Death Star battle station. Now this motley crew has to save the Princess and stop the Death Star, before the Rebellion is the station's next victim.

The Empire Strikes Back takes place three years later. The entire crew is now on the frozen snow planet of Hoth. While Han tries to flirt with Leia, Luke is nearly eaten by a Wampa and sees a vision of Obi-Wan telling him to go to Dagobah to train with Yoda. The Empire shows up and drives them all off the planet. As Vader chases Han and Leia across the galaxy, the two begin to realize that they might have more than a few feelings for each other. Meanwhile, Luke begins his training with Yoda (voice of Frank Oz). He may look like a goofy little Muppet, but he's a tough taskmaster and a wise old sage. Vader, however, is determined to capture Luke, and sets up a trap for him at Cloud City, run by Han's old friend Lando Calarissian (Billy Dee Williams). Luke goes after his friends, but eventually regrets his decision, especially when Vader drops one hell of a revelation on him.

Yeah, I'm still a big Star Wars fan, and I probably always will be. Empire is my favorite movie of all time, but every Star Wars film (even the prequels) have something interesting in them. If you've ever wanted to give the series a try, these two movies are probably the best places to start. Grab your favorite version and have fun.

Empire had just ended when I heard the first pops and crackles over the creek. I peered out my window to see fireworks going off, in defiance of the showers that continue to come down. Here's hoping that you're start of 2019 was equally colorful!

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Anything Can Happen

Started off the morning by trying something slightly different with my pancakes. I chopped up the almonds I bought yesterday, added some coconut and melted butter, and made Coconut-Almond Pancakes for my last Sunday breakfast of 2018. Other than I burned one slightly, the came out very tasty and sweet.

Listened to my soundtrack for Mary Poppins Returns while I ate and did the dishes afterwards. The CD basically confirms that this is a really fun score. The touching "The Place Where Lost Things Go" is the best number, but I also like "Trip a Little Light Fantastic" for Jack and his lamplighter buddies, "Can You Imagine That?' for Mary and the kids, and Mary and Jack's duet at the music hall, "A Cover Is Not a Book."

Headed out to finally get the laundry done after the CD ended. I meant to do it yesterday, but I ran out of time. Maybe it's just as well that I put it off. The laundromat was stone-quiet when I arrived. There were maybe two other people there, both of whom were long gone before I'd even gotten my laundry in the dryer. I worked on story notes and ignored informercials on NBC.

It was just past 1 when I finally made it home. I put on the Eagles-Redskins game to catch the first few minutes before I went to Dad and Jodie's. To my surprise, there was a talk show on. I checked my phone and learned that the vast majority of today's games had been moved to 4:25, including the Eagles.

That actually worked out better for me. I got all my clothes put away while listening to my WFIL 50's oldies set. What was unique about this collection is they included snippets of their real-life disc jockeys introducing songs like "Why Do Fools Fall In Love?" and "Stagger Lee." It gave me an idea of what their shows must have been like in the 60's and 70's.

Spent the rest of the afternoon working on my fanfic. Leia remains happily with Zoma the summer witch for a while, until she sees a rose in the brim of Zoma's hat. That, and her realization of what the witch did to Han, breaks her out of it. Han's ready to shoot her when she restores him to his human form. Leia finally convinces him that leaving the witch lonely and without her new companions is punishment enough. Zoma thinks they're crazy to continue their search for Luke, but she does give them food for their trip.

I did get to Dad and Jodie's around 4:30. Rose, Finley, and Khai were there, but not for long. Rose is still tired from being sick, and the kids are only a little better. We're talking about going down to visit Anny and her crew for her daughter Lilah's fourth birthday next month. I should have that week off. We'll see how things go. I tried to give her the rent papers, but she said she's too tired to deal with them. She did say that I'd more than likely have to look for a new apartment before the spring. Not only can I not afford the rent increase, but it now costs way more than the apartment is worth.

Even after Rose and her kids left, Jessa, Mark, and Joya were still there, and a couple of the neighbors and their kids arrived later. The Eagles were awesome today. They eventually wiped the floor with the Redskins, 24-0 - and the 'Skins were at home, too. Even after quarterback Nick Foles had to be taken out with a sore chest, his replacement still threw a touchdown.

The Eagles were one of the few teams to not play a nail-biting game that came down to the final seconds. Baltimore just barely rushed past Cleveland 26-24, while Pittsburgh managed to squeak past Cincinatti 16-13. The Los Angeles Rams charged past their west coast rivals San Francisco 48-32. Most importantly for the Eagles, the Chicago Bears out-ran the Minnesota Vikings 24-10...which put the Eagles into the playoffs in the last Wild Card spot. (Poor Mark didn't get as lucky with the Packers today. Their midwestern rivals the Detroit Lions absolutely creamed them, 31-0. Dad's Dolphins didn't do much better against Buffalo, losing 42-17.)

It was so late when I got home, I went right online as soon as I got in and got organized. Put on the original cast from the stage version of Mary Poppins as I chatted with Lauren. This is another version of the original story, with Mary and Bert and Jane and Michael. Like the sequel, the stage show tosses a villain into the mix - the terrifying Miss Andrew, who had once been Mr. Banks' nanny. We learn part of why he's so strict when, despite his praise of her, she reveals herself to be a nasty tyrant who threatens the children. Most of the music is entirely different, but some of it is just as good as the original film and the sequel, including the lovely finale "Anything Can Happen" and Mary's introductory number, "Practically Perfect."

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Mall Madness

Got a fast start on a beautiful morning with a quick breakfast and two Danger Mouse shorts from the 5th season. "The Long Lost Crown Affair" takes DM and Penfold into the heart of the jungle to find a crown that once belonged to a jungle king who loved practical jokes. They're saying "By George, It's a Dragon!" when they have to figure out why one of the mythical lizards are wrecking havoc in Wales.

Rushed out the door around 10:30. Ran into my first check of the day when I got to the White Horse Pike. I usually park my bike at the fence behind the Camden Restaurant Supply Store when I catch the bus to the Cherry Hill Mall. I discovered when I pulled up that the building...wasn't there anymore. It looks like it's in the midst of being demolished. Most of it is on the ground. The fences are still there, but it was no place to put a bike. I was still figuring out what to do when the bus came by.

No matter. I rode over the train bridge and down Nicholson Road to Applebee's for an early lunch, leaving my bike at the Acme bike rack. I figured this was as good a time as any to use that gift card Mark gave me. They'd only been open for 20 minutes when I arrived, and there were maybe two other people there. I had a Chipolte chicken wrap and their tasty French onion soup for a nice, quiet lunch. They even have this new system where you can pay with a credit or gift card right at the table (via the monitors used for their trivia games). I was in and out in less than a half-hour.

Finally picked up the bus on Nicholson Road at noon, about a block from the entrance to the Audubon Crossings Shopping Center. The bus wasn't full when I got on, and only one other person went all the way to the Cherry Hill Mall. No traffic whatsoever, either, not even in Westmont or Cherry Hill.

Decided to take the long way around the Mall building and past their parking structure when I arrived. It was too nice of a day to spend the whole time inside. Except for a few puddles, you'd never know it poured yesterday. The sky was blue, the sun was out, and it was a bit warmer than it has been, probably in the lower 50's. Even a stiff wind couldn't dampen my spirits.

Took the elevator up to the bridge and headed over to Target to use the last of those gift cards Mom gave me. While I still couldn't find snow boots or a robe, I did find the perfect hand-held mixer. It's a Hamilton Beach with three attachments and a case to hold them...and it's 20 dollars cheaper than the Kitchen Aid with most of the same abilities. (There was a spot for it at the Westmont Target, but they were out.)

Made a few other good finds as well. Browsing the remains of the Christmas section turned up an adorable plush BB8 ornament, a small box of Christmas-themed Jelly Bellys, and a plaid flannel nightgown sized for 18 inch dolls. I never would have thought to look for doll clothes in the seasonal aisle! I'll have to remember that. Didn't see any Our Generation outfits I liked, but I did dig up a small Porg clip on clearance. Also picked up the soundtrack for Mary Poppins Returns and The Monkees Christmas Party, their first holiday album.

The Cherry Hill Mall was a mob scene when I returned. People were jammed elbow-to-elbow pretty much everywhere you turned. I couldn't squeeze into Build-a-Bear. Saw nothing of interest at Game Stop or the toy store that replaced Jay Street Video Games. Looked for a robe and snow boots at JC Penney, but found nothing I liked. Didn't see any boots I liked or could afford at Famous Footwear or Payless, either. Old Navy was so busy, the line literally went across the store. Dairy Queen had been replaced by a pricier Haagen Daas; ended up getting a cherry frozen lemonade at Aunt Annie's instead.

I did manage to pick up one thing I needed. As at the Deptford Mall last year, there was a booth in the center of the mall selling calendars. I normally buy a folk-art or animal-themed one for the hall near the living area, but I couldn't resist Vader's Little Princess. It's a collection of images from the satirical kids books that depict what might have happened if Vader had raised Leia and Luke as a single Sith dad, and it was too cute not to buy.

By the time I got out of the Mall, I was pooped. Thank goodness the bus was right on time. Once again, there were no problems on the road, despite it being rush hour. They dropped me off in Audubon across from the shopping center entrance around quarter of 4.

Since I was parked at the Acme anyway, I figured I might as well get my grocery shopping done. I mainly needed fruit and vegetables, anyway. Restocked yogurt, bananas, and cranberries. Grabbed a bag of stir-fry vegetables and decided I'd make chicken stir-fry sometime next week. Needed ham, a red potato, and an onion for my New Year's Eve dinner. Raided the clearance shelves to pick up Planters' pumpkin-spice almonds and the Acme's generic pumpkin Cheerios and pumpkin-cheesecake cookies. Pears were on a really good sale, but I still had apples at home, so I settled for three.

There was a box waiting for me when I got in. I used part of one of the Target cards to pick up the second half of the redubbed Sailor Moon S (season three) series and a double-bill of the original Diana Ross The Wiz and The Wiz Live from a few years ago. The latter two will probably turn up next month on my blog for Martin Luther King Jr. Day or the month after for Black History Month, but I couldn't wait for the rest of the Sailor Moon episodes. Minako is jealous that all the other girls have had their pure hearts taken. Her desperate attempts to prove she's worthy of pure heart leads to "The Shocking Moment: Everyone's Identities Revealed," including that of the mysterious Sailors Uranus and Neptune.

Worked on writing for a bit after I got everything put away. The witch makes every rose bush in her garden vanish to keep Leia from remembering about Luke and her mission. When she does awaken Leia from her trance, she can barely remember her own name. The witch tells her that she's her adopted child, and Han is her beloved dog.

Broke for dinner at 7. My Applebee's lunch had filled me up so much, I was only up to a Mocha Banana Smoothie. Did two more Sailor Moon episodes while I prepared my treat. Haruka and Michiru steal Usagi's transformation broach to keep her from following them. Alas, it turns out to be a trap that results in "The Death of Uranus and Neptune: The Talismans Appear." The discoveries of the talisman's eventually lead to "The Holy Grail's Mystical Power: Moon's Double Transformation" and the end of Eudial's run as head of the Witches 5.

Finished out the night with Fantasia and Fantasia 2000 after a shower. I go into further detail on Disney's most unique animated features at my Musical Dreams Movie Reviews blog.

Fantasia and Fantasia 2000

Friday, December 28, 2018

The Happy New Year Blues

The rain was coming down in buckets when I woke up this morning. Cheered myself up with a couple of episodes of The Backyardigans while I had breakfast and got ready for work. Pablo is "Robin Hood the Clean," who was exiled from the town of Filthingham by it's mud-loving Mayor Austin. Tyrone, one of the very dirty residents, convinces him to come back and rescue their bath and cleaning items from the dungeon.

"The Two Musketeers" has Pablo and Tyrone as the rivals of the Empress' guards Uniqua and Austin. A third Musketeer with exquisite manners and excellent balloon-dueling skills wishes to join them, but they keep turning her down...until they end up in the dungeon, and she's the only one who can rescue them.

I called Dad for a ride shortly before breakfast. The rain was just coming down too hard to ride the bike. On my way out, I found an envelope for me in the mailbox. It was typed, and contained no return address. I opened it...and to my horror, discovered that it was another rent increase from Willa. She wants me to pay $765, plus heat! I have no idea what I did for her to want to do that. She's only supposed to be increasing my rent by 5 percent, not a hundred dollars! I can't afford that! I can barely afford what I'm paying now. Why can't she understand that?

I spent most of the rest of the afternoon depressed. It was probably a good thing that the Acme was dead the entire day. Most people are probably out of town on Christmas break, at the malls, waiting for the beginning of the month, or just avoiding the weather. I did get soaked doing carts during the first half of my shift. When a bagger who prefers being outside took over the carts around 2, I did returns, gathered baskets, bagged, and shelved candy.

My not crazy about my schedule next week, either. In good news, three days off, including Sunday, and I work in the morning on New Year's. While working early on New Year's means I won't be able to stay up too late on New Year's Eve, it also means I'll be able to still have my New Year's breakfast out - it'll just be a late brunch. They badly cut my hours, but working New Year's and the day after should make up for it.

Dad picked me up around 10 after 5, by which time the rain was just about done. As soon as I got home, I worked on writing for a while. The owner of the cottage and the garden turns to to be Zuma, the princess of the planet who gave up life in the court for her garden. She manages to get Leia to sit down and convinces her to let her brush her hair. Her brushing hypnotizes Leia and puts her under a trance. Zuma intends to keep her as a companion. When Han protests and argues with the witch over her shutting Chewie out, she turns him into a dog.

I tried to call Rose after I got off my laptop, but I kept getting an indication that she hadn't set up her voice mail yet. I'll try again tomorrow or talk to her at Dad and Jodie's on Sunday.

Finished out the Backyardigans set while making almond-crusted flounder, roasted Brussels sprouts, and baked acorn squash with roasted seeds for dinner. In an episode set to Spanish-flavored music inspired by Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, Uniqua becomes "The Masked Retriever" when Don Austin, the most important person in Viejos, California, refuses to return a book to her library. Tyrone wants to go "To the Center of the Earth" to find his lost penny. Uniqua and Pablo insist that their inventions are the only way to do it, but they end up causing more trouble than they solve.

Ended the night online with the 1957 Russian animated version of The Snow Queen. Other than the live-action Christmas opening with Art Linklatter and a bunch of kids, this version sticks far closer to the original story than Disney's Frozen. Sandra Dee and Tommy Kirk are Gerda and Kay in the American dub; Patty McCormack makes an especially feisty young robber girl.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Come Alive

Began another gorgeous, sunny morning with more Sailor Moon. I just ordered the second half of the Sailor Moon S third season yesterday and opted to run the last two episodes on the previous set. "Art Is an Explosion of Love: Chibi-Usa's First Love" has Usagi's daughter falling for a cute guy in her art class. Trouble is, he has a crush on Michiru, who is also taking an art class, to Chibi-Usa's annoyance. Mother and daughter have far worse problems than an oblivious crush when Eudial shows up to destroy the classroom and steal his pure heart crystal!

Headed out to run errands around 11. First on the agenda was a quick volunteering session at the Oaklyn Library. They were as quiet as can be. The only people there were me, the librarian, and another volunteer. I did organize the adult DVDs, but they'd just moved the kids' titles to new shelves, and they didn't really need to be done. I was in and out in less than a half-hour.

Next stop was the Collingswood PNC Bank to deposit my Christmas money and pick up a check for the rent. They were even less busy. There was one person before me, and maybe one other one at the window. I was in and out in five minutes.

Since I was already in Collingswood, I parked my bike and went for a walk down Haddon Avenue. Now I know where everyone went this week. They went shopping. Every store I went to today was packed with post-Christmas browsers. I peeked at Oubliette, a gift shop, but while they had a lot of neat Christmas stuff, I have more Christmas decorations than I need at the moment.

I made some finds further down the street. Frugli Consignment was far less busy. I had no problem finding a colorful floral Coldwater Creek shirt that was really pretty. Did even better at InnerGroove Records. Managed to dodge hoards of collectors and teens to dig up several sets, a George Winston season-themed album, and a kids' record:

George Winson - Winter Into Spring

Certified Gold II - Another K-Tel collection, this one from 1980

WFIL History of Rock: The Fifties Part 1 - Collection of oldies music from a local radio station (which does still exist, but now mainly focuses on religion)

The Gang's All Here - Sesame Street soundtrack from 1983 with some songs I've never heard of

Those Wonderful Thirties - Collection of songs from Broadway and nightclub stars of the 1930's, some of them quite rare now. (I have another collection in this series that focuses on Hollywood stars.)

I was originally going to have lunch at Sabrina's Cafe, but they still had a long line by 1:30. Ended up at Tortilla Press instead. They were also busy, but not to the degree of Sabrina's. I ended up in the smaller room as you enter this time. Ordered my favorite mango, chicken, and brie quesadilla. Yum! It was messy, but very tasty. The salsa that came with it was so good, I ate it like a salad. The sweet potato fries I ordered were a bit burned, but not too bad.

Rode over to the Haddon Township Library after lunch. They were only slightly busier than the Oaklyn Library had been earlier in the day. I mainly shelved kids' DVDs, or tried to. Got them organized, but there were so many, a bunch of them didn't fit on the shelves. It took me so long, I just rushed out without doing anything else. Didn't take out movies this week, either. Once again, I don't know what my schedule will be like for New Year's, and I have plenty of things to watch at home.

Stopped at Target on the way home. There's two more items I really wanted to get for Christmas. I need a new hand mixer and a new robe. The cord on the hand mixer I've used for over 15 years is fraying, and I accidentally put a huge hole in the robe I got from Mom almost a decade ago. It's time to replace both. They did have a nice hand mixer, but it was 40 dollars. There was a stand mixer that was cheaper, but I don't have room for a stand mixer. Didn't see any robes there that were my size or a nice, thick plush, rather than those skimpy satin things. The only Our Generation outfits they had were sports uniforms.

As soon as I got home, I went right on the computer. Leia and Han are getting cold and tired, and they can't seem to find Luke. Leia's spirits raise when the snow suddenly vanishes and they find a beautiful old cottage and garden at the end of the path. She's sure that they'll find someone who will know where Luke is, but Han and Chewie don't trust this place...

Didn't break for dinner until past 7. I was still full from lunch and just had two slices of leftover pizza, with Cranberry Flummery for dessert. Watched more Sailor Moon while I ate. "Usagi Dances the Waltz" at a party given by an English friend of Mamoru's. She's nervous about having to speak English and gets drunk on too much wine. That's far from the worst thing that happens. Usagi sobers up fast when the party is invaded by a tone-deaf monster who wants the Englishman's pure heart!

Finished the night with The Greatest Showman, last year's big Christmas movie musical release. I go into more detail about this colorful circus tale at my Musical Dreams Movie Reviews blog.

The Greatest Showman

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Back In Business

Kicked off a sunny morning with an episode of the original She-Ra. Bow and Adora find themselves in an "Enchanted Castle" after they save a kindly old woman in the woods. The castle is run by a wicked sorceress who intends to enslave them. They have to figure out how to escape and eliminate her magic, with the help of the mysterious older woman they helped out earlier.

Work was quiet the entire day. First of all, it's the day after one of the biggest holidays of the year. Second, many people are likely waiting for their beginning-of-the-month money next week. Third, it was just too nice to be shopping. Once again, the weather was gorgeous, sunny, breezy, and clear. I gathered inside and outside trash and did the carts during the first half of my shift, but I was mainly shelving four full carts of returns likely leftover from Christmas Eve and the day before. I got most of three done before I headed out for the day.

Stopped quickly at the Audubon Municipal Building on my way home to drop off those cookies with the cops. This time, they were open. In fact, one of the cops who brought my bicycle came strolling around the corner as I walked in. I was able to give him the cookies and tell him my bike was working fine.

Since I was going in that direction, I took the long way home down Nicholson Road. It was a little busy around the entrance to the Audubon Crossings Shopping Center by quarter of 2. Otherwise, I had no trouble. It was a beautiful day for a ride. The leaves are gone from the trees here now; the brush along the side of the road are branches that glowed gold against the late afternoon sun.

Did a second She-Ra episode while I got organized. When "Horde Prime Takes a Holiday," Hordak takes advantage of this to use his warship to try to take over Eternia and Etherea. Skeletor gets word, decides it's a good idea, and try to steal the ship for himself. Meanwhile, She-Ra and He-Man have to divert the ship's ice beam from freezing the Whispering Woods.

Worked on writing after the cartoon ended. Leia's not overly fond of the chilly ride to find Luke. She talks about Alderaan and how it would have been spring there by then. Han insists that he left Corellia and never looked back (although Chewie does remind him of Qi'da). Leia notices an unusual road that branches off the main one. It's clearer than the others, and there's flowers poking through the snow. Han doesn't trust the road, but Leia says they should try it...

Broke for dinner at quarter of 6. Watched Noises Off! while eating an Italian hoagie from Sunday and making Christmas Honey Wafers (without nuts - I have none) from Pooh's Cook Book. The movie follows the evolution of a sex farce touring the mid-west and south on its way to Broadway. The director, Lloyd (Michael Caine), is dating his assistant Poppy (Julie Haggarty), but is seeing ingenue Brooke (Nicolette Sheridan) on the side, all while forcing his stage manager Tim (Mark Linn-Baker) to work on no sleep. Meanwhile, the leading lady and one of the play's backers, Dotty (Carol Burnett) is seeing stuttering leading man #1 Gary (John Ritter), while leading man #2, Fredrick (Christopher Reeve) gets nose bleeds every time anyone so much as mentions violence. Cheerful Belinda (Marilou Henner) is just trying to keep everything together and ignore the chaos. The chaos gets worse and worse with every destination. By the time they hit Cleveland, they're all so fed up with each other, the end up ad-libbing most of the first act. Will this crazy crew ever manage to make the show come together?

I'm first going to admit that, while I've heard of the British play this was based off of, I've never seen it. That and I have done stage shows in high school may be why I get such a kick out of this movie. A terrific cast that knows a lot about handling pratfalls has a blast with the door-slamming antics. I will admit that the critics have a point that the premise isn't terribly cinematic, but the cast and some genuine laughs more than make up for the occasional feeling of stiffness.

If you're a fan of farce, wacky comedy, real-life plays, or the cast, you can do far worse than this bit of stage-bound lunacy.

Finished out the night with Dick Tracy while I chatted with Lauren. We move from stage-based lunacy to comics-based lunacy in this unusual action film inspired by the comic of the same name. Tracy (Warren Beatty) is a no-nonsense cop fighting gangsters and corruption in the big city in 1938. His girlfriend Tess Trueheart (Glenn Headly) wishes he'd settle down and take a desk job, but he's too obsessed with capturing Big Boy Caprice (Al Pacino) to pay attention. He gets some unexpected help from The Kid (Charlie Korsmo), a nameless orphan who follows him on several occasions and even rescues him from an explosion.

Tracy is hoping that Caprice's moll Breathless Mahoney (Madonna) will testify against him, but she's more interested in trading quips with Tracy. Tracy comes close to getting the goods on Caprice...but then a masked figure called The Blank frames Tracy for killing the corrupt DA (Dick Van Dyke) and Caprice for kidnapping Tess. Tracy and the Kid have to figure out who's really behind both crimes, leading to an explosive confrontation on New Year's Eve.

It's the eye candy that's the thing here. Tracy's stylized, colorful, period-accurate world won an Oscar, as did the makeup for all those wildly grotesque mobsters and the Stephan Sondheim song "Sooner or Later." Pacino and Madonna are having the most fun as the scenery-chewing mobster and his ambitious moll who wishes Tracy would look at her as more than a gangster's girl. If you're a fan of other stylized action movies of the late 80's-early 90's like the Tim Burton Batman, you'll want to hop on the back of a mobster's car and take a look at this one.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Trip a Little Light Fantastic

Christmas Day dawned sunny and clear across the Delaware Valley. I began the day with short stories, carols, and poems from the Colliers Harvest of Holidays. My favorite story was Flora McFlimsey's Christmas. An old-fashioned doll who is feeling lonely on Christmas Eve manages to get herself down to the tree to check it out. She gets quite a surprise when Santa realizes he's missing a doll for one of the kids. None other than the angel on the tree helps clean up Flora and make her presentable to be loved by a child again.

Crept out to the tree to open presents around 9. My card from Mom held fifty dollar and twenty-five dollar gift cards to Target. Linda and James Young gave me a beautiful journal with a galaxy-themed cover, a nice bookmark on a gold-plated chain, and a wonderful plaid purse. The plaid purse even had a penny in it. (Linda later texted me and said that the penny was included to encourage more pennies to come to the purse.) Mom's card was a lovely Christmas tree; Linda and James gave me a cute one with woodland animals.

Watched Sailor Moon S: Hearts In Ice while I got ready to head out. Luna, Usagi's guardian cat, has an adventure of her own when she's rescued by a handsome scientist. He found what he thinks is a comet, but is actually a snow crystal sent by a wicked queen who wants to turn the Earth into her own personal ornament! While the girls try to figure out how to stop her, Luna deals with her feelings for the scientist, especially since he's already seriously dating a woman astronaut.

Strolled to Dad's at 10. I figured that what I'd be getting would be too awkward to carry on the bike, so I walked. It was a glorious day for it. The weather was even nicer than yesterday. It was chilly, but also sunny, probably in the lower 40's. There was a breeze, but it otherwise wasn't anywhere near as windy as yesterday, either. Surprisingly, there weren't that many people out. I saw one guy coming out his door. I guess everyone was having their Christmas breakfasts.

I was the first person to arrive at 10 after 10. Jesse and Dana were already there, and TJ slept over. Rose and her family didn't come until nearly 10:30, and it was closer to 11 when Jess and Joe arrived with Joe's kids. While we waited for everyone to come, we enjoyed Jodie's amazing French bread casserole, blueberry and cinnamon raisin English muffins, Dana's sausage pastry bake, egg and bacon muffins, and orange juice.

When everyone finally arrived, we could open the presents. Dad and Jodie gave me a new pair of Ugg boots with the softest sheepskin lining. My Bearclaw suede boots were falling apart again after two winters of constant use. Dad also gave me 200 dollars and a pair of really nice, comfortable socks that will be great for work. My cousin Mark gave me a twenty five dollar gift card to Applebee's. That's perfect. There's an Applebee's next-door to the Acme. I could have dinner there on Friday after work. Jessa and Joe gave me a nifty Solo: A Star Wars Story poster and the DVD for the comedy Noises Off! I haven't seen that goofy farce in years. I remember really enjoying it in the early 90's, when Dad-Bill would rent it from time to time.

Khai sported his new Five Nights at Freddy's t-shirt and a dapper top hat. In addition to being a video game nut like his mother, he's also a fan of dinosaurs. He loved the Jurassic World mini-dinosaurs I gave him. While Finley did like her Fluttershy and Angel figures, her favorite present was the Trolls Princess Poppy sing-along karaoke "boom box" Dana and Jesse gave her. She adores Trolls in general and perky Princess Poppy in particular. She was so cute making noises into the microphone that probably constituted singing along for her.

As much as I loved the boots and other things, my favorite present came from the gift exchange. TJ, Jesse, Dana, Rose, Craig, and I took part in this one. We each placed a gift in the center of the living room, in front of the tree, then chose numbers. Someone picked a present. The next person could take another present, or steal the present the previous person chose. We'd go around until all the presents were picked or swapped.

Thank goodness no one wanted the present I picked! The moment Rose set the huge cast-iron pizza pan on the bar counter, I knew I had to have it. It was heavy and thick, with big holders on either side. It was wrapped with two bags of crust mix, a jar of pizza sauce, and a pizza cutter. I have pizza pans, but they're cheap, thin metal rounds I bought at least 15 years ago, when I was living in Wildwood. That's why I rarely use them. They don't really cook pizza very well.

(Incidentally, I think Craig ended up with the gloves from me. TJ swapped him for an Amazon gift card. Rose got a waffle iron, and Jesse chose one of those Echo Dot room things.)

I walked home with my bag of gifts around 12:30. After I put everything away and tacked up the poster, I worked on writing for a while. Luke insults Leia and tells Han to stop calling him a kid, then takes off into the snow. He encounters the Snow Queen, who thinks he'll make a fine plaything for her. She kisses him, which freezes his heart into ice, and drives off with him. Leia, Han, and Chewie go after her in a repulsor-sleigh.

Jessa picked me up at quarter of 3. (Joe took his kids to their mother's house.) As we did last year, we spent the afternoon and early evening at the movies. I suggested Aquaman or Mary Poppins Returns. This year, the musical won. We saw Mary Poppins Returns...and I loved it. The music was an absolute delight, and Emily Blunt was a perfect Mary.

(The commercials in the beginning indicate that next year's live-action Disney remakes are Dumbo and The Lion King. I could handle Dumbo. Like Pete's Dragon, that's little-known enough that they could have fun with the story and try different things. The Lion King is another matter entirely. Not only is it not really my favorite Disney movie to begin with, but it's so well-known, I don't know how much they could get away with changing.)

I spent the rest of the evening at home alone. Unlike a few years ago when I was alone on Christmas night and went out for Chinese food, this time, I had absolutely no problems with it. I wanted to try my new pizza pan. I ended up using the bacon and broccoli I'd intended for a quiche for toppings and made Broccoli, Turkey Bacon, and Cheddar Pizza. Oh yum. It was a little doughy, but otherwise came out perfectly, chewy and filling.

Called Mom after dinner to wish her a Merry Christmas. She had just gotten home from work and was enjoying a quiet meal of her own. Evidently, she and I are both doing better than my sisters. Not only is Rose still feeling under the weather, but Anny got so sick, and her sinuses got so bad, she actually ended up in the hospital. Apparently, both are doing somewhat better now, but stress over Christmas has worn them down. Mom herself was fine, and other than being cold from bay breezes, hadn't minded working the ticket counter at the Ferry at all today.

I enjoyed Mary Poppins Returns so much, I had to watch the original Mary Poppins during dinner. I go into more detail on the original film and the sequel at my Musical Dreams Movie Reviews blog.

Mary Poppins and Mary Poppins Returns

Here's hoping that you also had a "practically perfect" Christmas, with all the people you love!

Monday, December 24, 2018

Once Upon a Christmas Eve

Awoke to a sunny, blustery Christmas Eve. Finished the last chapter of A Christmas Carol this morning, then did a couple of chapters from two American Girl holiday books. Molly McEntyre is having a fairly difficult holiday in Molly's Surprise. It's World War II, and not only does she have to do without many treats due to rationing and war shortages, but her dad is overseas, and she misses him. Things start to look up when she and her sister Jill find a box from their father on the front step a few days before Christmas. They opt to keep it secret and hide it until Christmas morning. There's more than one surprise in store when they finally get to the big day, as Molly learns that everyone in her family is pretty good at making holiday magic, no matter how hard the war is.

Julie Albright's Christmas isn't going very well either in the first two chapters of Happy New Year, Julie! In the mid-70's, Julie finds herself torn between her two recently-divorced parents. Neither put up many decorations, and her mother has to be coaxed to decorate a live tree. While Julie's glad to see her frequently busy pilot father, she misses her mother and grandparents, and her teen sister Tracy is taking her parents' divorce badly. Julie's happier spending time with her Chinese friend Ivy and her big, noisy family.

In honor of Julie and Molly, I watched a couple of Christmas specials during breakfast featuring popular Hanna Barbara characters. "A Nutcracker Scoob" was the first Scooby Doo Christmas special, done during the early 80's series with Shaggy, Daphne, and the dogs. Fred joins in to help them put on a Christmas show for an orphanage. A grouchy old miser may put them out into the street if they can't find what's hidden in the house...and if the Ghost of Christmas Never Was doesn't get there first!

We head out to the big city for Yogi Bear's All-Star Comedy Christmas Caper. Yogi and Boo-Boo have hitched a ride on a bus to visit their buddies. Trouble is, all the Hanna Barbara funny animal regulars have gone out to Jellystone to see him. Not only that, but when Yogi and Boo-Boo arrive in the city, they're mistaken for Santa and an elf by a little girl whose busy millionaire father has neglected her. They recruit the others to help them find her dad, while Ranger Smith tries to find them and bring Yogi and Boo-Boo back home.

Did a quick Tom & Jerry short while getting ready for work. "The Night Before Christmas" was their first cartoon to be nominated for an Oscar. Tom tries everything he can go get Jerry out of the house and away from the Christmas goodies...until he realizes that "peace on Earth" applies to cats and mice, too.

Work was, as you can well imagine, total bedlam. It was especially bad early in the day and during the noon rush hour. Everyone got off early and rushed to the grocery store to pick up last-minute food or gift cards. It did slow down a little later on, but it never died out completely. I was outside for almost the entire day except for during my break. It wasn't bad later, when I had at least two more baggers helping out, but I had a harder time keeping up with them alone around noon. Not to mention, I had to do the outside trash and plastic bag recycling. The latter in particular were overflowing. People kept bringing huge trash bags filled with plastic bags and shoving them wherever they could. I must have hauled in at least six bags around 11:30.

At least it was a relatively nice day for doing outside work. It was chilly and windy, and it clouded up shortly after I arrived. The clouds were gone by the time I was leaving. Besides, I definitely preferred being outside with the carts and the wind than inside with noisy people and frazzled managers.

Changed into regular clothes as soon as I got home. Put on Mickey's Once Upon a Christmas as I rested a bit and got organized. This is a lovely anthology of three shorts featuring the Disney gang, two based after classic holiday short stories. "Donald Duck: Stuck On Christmas" is supposed to be an adaptation of Christmas Every Day, but it owes more than a little bit to Groundhog Day. Huey, Dewey, and Louie wish it could be Christmas every day...and eventually regret it when they find themselves repeating the same day over and over. Goofy tries to prove to his doubtful son Max that Santa is real in "A Very Goofy Christmas." "Mickey and Minnie's Gift of the Magi" sticks closer to the original story. Mickey and Minnie sell what means the most to them to be able to buy presents for each other.

Headed out to Dad and Jodie's house around 5. The only people there when I arrived were a couple of Jodie's relatives, but that changed quickly. While it wasn't nearly as crazy as the past few years, there were still quite a few people there. A girl in a version of Bjork's swan dress (evidently, she was a huge fan of hers) watched Khai and her brother play with Dad's train around the Christmas tree. Finley was happier watching her three Christmas music-playing stuffed animals - a unicorn, a westie dog in red-and-white-striped antlers, and Snoopy in a Santa outfit - dance. Craig kept an eye on his daughter. (Rose apparently opted to stay home and finish wrapping presents.) TJ chatted with his friends. Jessa and Joe brought Joe's kids around later. I talked to his daughter about musicals (she loves The Greatest Showman). His son Joe-Joe is an excellent pianist and quite a good singer. Evidently, he's part of a band. He played "Lean on Me" and then "What Child Is This."

While the spread wasn't quite as huge as previous years, either, there was still plenty of food. Jodie put out turkey, ham, meatballs, sausage, a regular chef's salad, macaroni salad, potato salad, and bread and butter. There was chocolate cake and my candy for dessert. I had a little bit of everything but the sausage (which was too spicy for me). The turkey was especially juicy, and made a wonderful sandwich.

Headed out around 7. I was dead tired, and I thought a ride to look at lights might wake me up a bit. I first made my way down Newton, past Dunkin' Donuts and WaWa, and then across Kendall to the neighborhood on the other side of the school. There were some really nice displays down that way. My favorite was the unique house with all dark blue lights that looked sort of eerie.

Went right in the shower when I got home. As soon as I finished, I went online to chat with Lauren. Ended the night with more classic Christmas specials, including 'Twas the Night Before Christmas, A Charlie Brown Christmas, It's Christmastime Again, Charlie Brown, A Garfield Christmas Special, Mickey's Christmas Carol, The Small One, Muppet Family Christmas, and The Bear Who Slept Through Christmas.

From all of us to all of you, I hope all of my readers have a very merry Christmas and the happiest of holiday seasons!

Sunday, December 23, 2018

By the Skin of Their Teeth

Began a beautiful sunny morning with Coconut Pancakes. I basically made these to use up the last of the condensed milk and coconut from my candy and baking. Other than I burned one, they actually came out very well, and not as sweet as you might think. The first one that I didn't burn was so light and fluffy!

Watched the Christmas episode of The Monkees as I ate. The appropriately-titled "The Christmas Show" is from mid-way through the second season, right as the series was starting to get a little weirder. The guys think they're being hired by a rich lady to play for her, but they actually end up babysitting her nephew for the holidays. The kid is a spoiled rich brat who thinks Christmas is nothing but a fraud. The guys try to prove otherwise, but they fail at every attempt...until Mike Nesmith figures out what he really wants.

Switched to Very Merry Christmas Songs as I got ready for work. This is the DVD expansion of the original Disney Very Merry Christmas Sing-a-Long video from the late 80's. The additional music is mainly there to advertise some of Disney's TV and direct-to-home-media offerings of the late 90's and early 2000's, but it does make for pleasant background music during the holidays if you're a Disney fan.

Work was busy today, though not quite as bad as I thought it would be. I assumed we'd have lines out the door all day. We were on-and-off steady for most of the afternoon. I stayed outside the entire afternoon with the bagger who usually works on the weekends, gathering carts that kept vanishing. I wouldn't have wanted to be inside, even if I'd been needed in there. It was too nice to be inside.There couldn't have been a nicer day in late December. The weather was sunny, breezy, and cold but not freezing, probably in the mid-40's. The raging gale-force winds from yesterday had gentled down to a mild breeze.

It was so nice, I took the long way home from work. I was originally going to drop a bag of cookies at the Audubon Police Department, but it turns out the building is closed until after Christmas Day. Rats. I'll try again sometime later next week. The rest of my ride went quite well. There was surprisingly little traffic, even around the Audubon Crossings entrance. Everyone must have been home watching the game.

No wonder. I discovered when I walked in Dad and Jodie's door that the Eagles, who were down 16-13 against the Houston Texans when I left work, were now ahead by a touchdown. Jodie gave me Italian hoagies and a really sweet and rich Gooey Butter Cake a friend sent them from St. Louis, and I joined her, Dad, Mark, and a sleepy Jessa for the game. It was really, really good, too, even better than last week's. The Eagles missed a few extra points that would have won the game decisively, and Nick Foles even got slammed into by one of the Texans and almost left the game, but in the end, the Eagles won by one field goal, 32-30.

Worked on writing when I got home. Han, Leia, Luke, and Chewie have fun playing in the snow outside. As Luke wonders if the Snow Queen is as beautiful as her planet, a huge gust of wind brings glistening ice crystals raining down on them. One catches in Luke's eye. He can't get it out...and he's very nasty and belligerent to Leia about it...

Broke at quarter of 7 to have a really quick leftover dinner and try a baking experiment. I've never had fruitcake before, but its odious reputation seems to have softened somewhat in recent years. I've heard quite a few people say they can be very tasty if made properly. I decided to dip a toe into the fruitcake waters with a recipe for fruitcake muffins I found on Pinterest. It was flour, orange juice, butter, spices, nuts, brown sugar, and candied fruit. Yum! I didn't have enough orange juice, so they came out a little dry. Other than that, they tasted amazing, and they smelled incredible in the oven. They were dry and crumbly, but they were also just sweet enough, and the candied fruit made them a little chewy. I may have to do these again, this time making sure I have enough orange juice.

Finished Very Merry Christmas Songs during dinner, then switched to Remember WENN while I baked. "Christmas In the Airwaves" from the second season was their only hour-long episode and their only Christmas episode. The cast of radio station WENN is gearing up for a fun holiday filled with variety programs and a holly-decked station. Their holidays hit a snag when their new owner and her miserly accountant turn up a few days before Christmas. Gloria Redmond was a singer, but she lost her husband the year before, and doesn't feel like singing...or hearing anything about Christmas. Her financier, the nasty Mr. Pruitt, only cares about money. He insists that the station eliminate any mention of Christmas from their broadcast. The cast has to find away for Christmas to go on anyway under the fastidious miser's nose.

Here's a collection of even more lesser-known Christmas programming to tide you over while you wait for Santa...

The Smurfs' Christmas
Ziggy's Gift
Old Bear Stories: Little Bear and the Christmas Star
The Glo Friends Save Christmas
A Very Pink Christmas
The Teddy Bears Christmas
Santa's First Christmas
Ub Iwerks at Columbia: Jack Frost
Little Women (Anime): "Christmas Eve"
The Bears Who Saved Christmas
The He-Man-She-Ra Christmas Special
Fleischer Bros Color Classics: Christmas Comes But Once a Year

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Blustery Christmas

I awoke to chimes in the distance and clouds on the horizon. Cheered up the gloomy morning with classic animated shorts revolving around Christmas and winter. "Snow Foolin'" and "Winter Comin' On" are part of the Paramount Famous Studios Screen Song "follow the bouncing ball" series from the late 40's and early 50's. "Snow Foolin'" has animals playing in the snow before we sing "Jingle Bells." "Winter" is a bit less festive. Birds prepare to fly south, to the tune of "Alabamy Bound."

"The Snow Man" is an oddity from I believe the 30's, from the rubber-hose, pie-eyed designs. An Inuit and his Arctic animal friends build a snow man, but their frosty buddy somehow transforms into a nasty Yeti! They have to figure out how to dodge this angry snow creature.

Popeye the Sailor's only Christmas short was "Season's Greetinks." He takes Olive skating, but Bluto's attempt to show off may leave her on thin ice. "I Ski-Love Ski-You Ski" is similar, only this time, Bluto interferes when Popeye takes Olive mountain climbing.

"Mickey's Orphans" was the first Disney Christmas sound short, and the first Mickey Mouse short to get an Oscar nomination. A basket of kittens is left at Mickey and Minnie's home. They want to give them a nice Christmas, but the kids may be more energetic than they - and their house - can handle.

Headed out shortly after "Mickey's Orphans" ended. I really needed to do my grocery shopping after all the baking and cooking I've done this week! Candied fruit was on sale, and I had an online coupon. I also grabbed pecans and decided I'd try making fruitcake muffins. Found another fish fillet, this one almond-crusted flounder, and a small container of shrimp for dinner later next week. Restocked brown and powdered sugar, tea, butter, skim milk, honey, whole wheat and unbleached flour, eggs, diced tomatoes, cream of mushroom soup, apples (they had that bag of galas on sale for $1.49 again), bananas, and pads. The quiche I made for Easter came out so well, I thought I'd try making one for Christmas. Bought bacon and a small salad bar container of broccoli florets for it. (If I end up eating out for Christmas Day, I'll do it the day after.)

Ran a few more shorts as I put everything away and had a really quick yogurt-and-banana lunch. "Chip n' Dale" was the first cartoon to name the chipmunks who drive Donald and Pluto crazy. Here, they're trying to get their log home and nut supply back from Donald, who's using them for firewood. "Toy Tinkers" gets a bit more violent as Donald defends his Christmas nuts from the two hungry rodents.

Sylvester the cat thinks Tweety is "Gift Wrapped" just for him. Actually, he's Granny's Christmas present. The feisty old lady spends  her holiday keeping Tweety out of Sylvester's mouth and Sylvester away from a big, hungry bulldog.

Went back out again to do this week's laundry. I had a lot to do there, too. Had to wash a pair of jeans along with the towel and cloth I use for making cookies. They were a little busy, but not nearly as much as they have been the past couple of times I've done the laundry on Saturday. I worked on story notes and half-listened to a British soccer game on NBC.

As soon as I got all the clothes folded and put away, I went right into making peppermint patties. There's a simple recipe for uncooked fondant in The Betty Crocker Picture Cook Book that works well for peppermint patties. I just needed to replace the almond extract with peppermint and melt dark chocolate chips and milk to dip them in. I think I'll let them firm up before I coat them with chocolate next time. While they did set better than the fondant I made during the summer, the chocolate made the patties hard to handle, and I couldn't get them to cover all the way. They don't look pretty, but boy, are they minty! I think I might dial down the mint a bit next year.

Watched National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation while I made the candy. Clark Grizwauld (Chevy Chase) is looking forward to a perfect Christmas, with all his family gathered round a table laden with food while a Christmas tree twinkles nearby. As usual, what Clark imagines and what actually happens are two entirely different matters. The two sets of grandparents he invites bicker constantly. His miserly boss (Brian Doyle Murphy) won't give out Christmas bonuses. His tree is bigger than his house, never mind his living room. The spoiled yuppie couple who live next door think he's off his rocker. His house is covered with so many lights, they short out the neighborhood power grid. Cousin Eddie (Randy Quaid) and his family show up about mid-way through the season and cause even more chaos. In the end, as the SWAT team is coming through the windows, Clark finally learns that we can't make Christmas perfect...but we can make it memorable.

Along with A Christmas Story, this is my favorite holiday comedy of the last 30 years. The occasionally violent slapstick makes it more appropriate for young teens who just started their own Christmas vacations and adults who have probably been through a lot of what happens to Clark here.

Went right into making pumpkin bread as soon as I finished the peppermint patties. This is the last thing I need to make for Christmas. I'll be giving it to Jodie for her Christmas Day brunch. It took forever to cook, but when it finally came out, it smelled amazing and tasted even better.

Worked on my fanfic as soon as the bread went in the oven. Luke and Leia convince Han to come out and have fun in the snow with them. Actually, it's Chewie who convinces Han to join them. He'd rather get some shut-eye before dealing with the queen. Meanwhile, on a hill above the manor house, three trolls reveal a magic mirror that can turn any human who is speared by its pieces into something cold and unfeeling. They shatter the mirror and send the shards flying towards the manor on the wind...

Broke for dinner at quarter after 6. Threw the Parmesan-crusted tilapia on a cookie sheet with Brussels sprouts and let them all bake. Did one of the two Christmas episodes of The Backyardigans as I ate. In "The Action Elves Save Christmas Eve" from the fourth and final season, Tasha, Uniqua, and Pablo are super-powered elves assigned to get Santa's magic sack back from the Abominable Brothers (Tyrone and Austin), who think it's a bag for their snowballs. They use their own magic tiny hammers to transform snow and wood into the vehicles they need to catch up with them.

After I ate, I got the rest of my Christmas food gifts organized. Jodie's bread went in one of the bags I picked up at Dollar Tree last week. Found an older tin that would work for the peppermint patties, once I lined it with parchment paper.

(And incidentally...that's it. That's the last stuff I have to do for Christmas. The fruitcake muffins are intended to be an experiment to take to work this week, not something to give away.)

Ran Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas while I worked. I go into more detail about this direct-to-home-media Disney extravaganza at my Musical Dreams Movie Reviews blog.

Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas

Switched to A Disney Channel Christmas next. I've watched this every holiday season since my family first recorded it around December 1988. It's a fusion of two classic Disney holiday TV specials, Jiminy Cricket's Christmas from the 50's and the 60's, and A Disney Christmas Gift from the 70's. Jiminy Cricket hosts a collection of shorts and segments from beloved Disney movies, including a preview of Mickey's Christmas Carol. (It was so new when this debuted, Jiminy says it's "now playing in theaters.") Along with the lovely theme songs "From All of Us to All of You" and "On Christmas Morning," we have classic shorts like "Donald's Snow Fight," "The Art of Sking," "Pluto's Christmas Tree," and "Mickey's Good Deed," along with the two Santa Silly Symphonies and mildly gift or winter-themed segments from movies like Peter Pan, Snow White, and Fantasia.

My favorite part is the finale. I still get a lump in my throat when Jiminy sings "When You Wish Upon a Star" with all the Disney gang gathered around him.

Finished the night with more Looney Tunes. Bugs Bunny's Christmas Tales is an anthology of three all-original holiday Tunes shorts. The first is a spoof of A Christmas Carol, with Yosemite Sam as Scrooge, Porky as Bob Cratchit, and Bugs as Nephew Fred. Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner take their usual antics to the snowy mountains in the second short. The third has Bugs trying to figure out how the Tazmanian Devil ended up in a Santa Claus suit.

And...yeah, the wind has been going like crazy all day. I can hear it blasting across the back yard right now. Miss Willa's chimes are almost drowning out Scrooged downstairs. It's supposed to calm down by the end of the weekend and be perfectly normal by Christmas Day. We'll see what happens.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Winter Was Warm

The torrential rain from last night had stopped by the time I woke up this morning. It started up again while I was making breakfast and watching Frosty the Snowman in honor of this being the first day of winter. Frosty comes to life when a magic hat that a magician threw away ends up on his head. The kids are delighted, but the magician wants the hat back now that he knows it really works. Karen, one of the kids, and Hocus Pocus the rabbit evade the magician and help take Frosty up north so he won't melt.

Went right into Frosty's Winter Wonderland while doing dishes and calling my dad for a ride to work. In this sequel, Frosty's happy to see the kids again, but he gets lonely when they're not around. They make him a snow wife to keep him company, but can't figure out how to make her "all livin'." Meanwhile, a jealous Jack Frost will do anything to make sure that he's the only beloved winter character.

Put on The Snowman while I got ready for work. We head to England for the tale of a little boy who builds a snowman that comes to life on Christmas Eve. He shows his frosty friend his house and his family's motorcycle. His friend in turn takes him on a gorgeous flight to the North Pole to meet Santa and other snow people having a holiday party.

Dad picked me up around 10. It was still raining at that point, but the wind was gone, and the rain was down to a steady shower. I didn't really work until 11, but I wanted to leave early in order to hit the Audubon post office and send out Mom and Anny's packages. As it turned out, the line at the post office was only slightly longer than the one in Oaklyn earlier this week, and it moved fast. I was in and out in less than ten minutes.

I got out so fast, I decided to check out a few stores. I didn't find anything at Goodwill this time, but I did go back and get that Star Wars calendar I looked at last week when I was Christmas shopping. The line at Five Below was slightly longer than the one at the post office, but it moved just as quickly.

The rain was slowing down and the sun was struggling to peek between clouds as I strolled across the parking lot and behind the mall to the Acme. We had our Employee Luncheon today. The other reason I wanted to come early was to bring the cookies I made for the party. I wasn't the only one who donated food, either. I saw baked ziti, roast beef and au jus gravy and rolls for roast beef sandwiches, hoagies from the deli, macaroni and cheese, baked spinach dip, plastic buckets of cooked and spiced shrimp, Buffalo cheese and chicken dip, and meatballs in sauce.

Along with my cookies, dessert included sugar cookies and carrot and chocolate cakes brought by one of the deli ladies, a huge pound cake, a cheesecake that vanished quickly, a loaf of cranberry bread, a box of Dunkin' Donuts, and baskets of candy canes and Hershey's Miniatures. I had a hoagie, the spinach dip, and the ziti for lunch, the pound cake, the carrot cake, and two sugar cookies for lunch, and a doughnut and some shrimp for a snack.

My favorite by far was the spinach dip. Yum! It was perfect, creamy and just earthy and savory enough. Who needs chips? I ate it with a fork.

Finished doing the candy when I came in, then spent most of the rest of the day putting away loose items. I did get stuck in the register twice when we got busy. It wasn't really as bad as I thought it would be. We were on-and-off steady the entire afternoon. I thought it would be a lot worse on the Friday before Christmas.

I'm thrilled with my schedule next week, especially compared to last year on Christmas week. Slightly more hours, Christmas Day, Thursday, and next Saturday off...and perfectly normal mid-morning hours on Sunday and Christmas Eve. Not only will I be able to get a lot done, but I'll actually be able to make it to Dad and Jodie's party on Christmas Eve without rushing this time. (Evidently, the Acme learned their lesson after the mess last year on Christmas weekend and hired a LOT more holiday help.)

By the time Dad picked me up, the rain was long gone. It had even been sunny when I helped a nice lady who broke her ankle out to her car. Clouds had moved in again sometime after that, but they were just hanging around and making everything warm and damp. To my knowledge, it hasn't rained since this morning. Saw a card to me from Mom in the mailbox when Dad dropped me off. It said "Do Not Open Until Christmas" - so that one is going to have to wait for next week.

Spent the next few hours writing. Gerda explains to Leia and Luke about how Norweden calls snow the "white bees" that gather the frosty "nectar" that creates their crystals. She also warns them about the Summer Witch, who lives in her own garden out in the country. Most of the locals fear her, thinking she'll drain their minds or turn them into animals, but Gerda assures them that she's just lonely.

Broke for a very fast leftovers dinner at 7. Went right into It's a Wonderful Life while I ate. George Bailey (James Stewart) thinks that life has passed him by. He's lived in the same small town all his life, working in his father's building and loan, building houses for the townspeople and giving them somewhere to go so they won't have to rely on nasty old Mr. Potter (Lionel Barrymore). One Christmas Eve right after World War II, his Uncle Billy (Thomas Mitchell) loses $8,000 that his business desperately needs. He prays for guidance...which arrives in the form of the sweet-natured angel Clarence (Henry Travers). Clarence shows George what the town where he lives and all it's citizens would have been like if he'd never been born. Mr. Potter literally owns the town, and no one knows him, not even his beloved wife Mary (Donna Reed). He finally starts to realize what a wonderful life he has...and how much his family and friends mean to him.

One of my favorite Christmas movies. I love the cast of beloved character actors having fun playing the citizens of Bedford Falls. Special kudos to Beluah Bondi as George's mother, Lillian Randolph as the Bailey family's hilarious maid Annie, and Travers as the nicest second-class angel who ever came from the heavens. Some of the pro-small-town sentiment might not work with everyone nowadays, but if you love warm, comforting dramas or are a fan of Stewart or the cast, this might be your cup of Christmas tea, too.

The final episode of Tiny Toon Adventures, "It's a Wonderful Tiny Toon Christmas Special," is a very funny spoof of Wonderful Life. There's even a bit of black-and-white "footage" from the film included. Buster is upset when he's pulled from directing the Toons' big holiday show and replaced by Montana Max. He's going to jump out of the film when he's stopped by a rabbit named Harvey with a familiar-sounding voice who shows him what it would have been like if he'd never been on the show.

Finished the night with the first Happy Days Christmas episode from the second season. "Guess Who's Coming to Christmas?" Fonzie, who keeps insisting that he has a big party to go to for Christmas. Richie believes otherwise and invites him over to share the Cunninghams' holiday. Mr. Cunningham is adamant at first that Christmas Eve is to reserved for family only...until Fonzie helps them fix their Santa Claus and their lights and shows them how much fun it can be to share Christmas with someone who is alone for the holiday.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Rainy Holidays

It was only cloudy when I got up this morning, but the skies still looked gloomy. I cheered things up with breakfast and one of my favorite holiday specials, Emmett Otter's Jug Band Christmas. Emmett and his ma are facing a bare Christmas until they hear about a big local talent contest. They both sacrifice the things that allow them to get work in order to be able to join the show. The contest has a surprising does what happens when they head home afterwards.

I worked early enough that I was able to ride to work and arrive dry. Thankfully, I ended up spending the day inside; the head cashier handled the carts today. I did end up stuck in the register twice, but I mainly helped hang gift cards (both on the mall kiosk and a smaller Christmas display) and shelve candy. It was busy, but never really overwhelmingly so. Most people are likely waiting to do their major shopping over the weekend.

The rain had started by the time I headed home. It wasn't the deluge we're getting as I write this, but it was a nice, steady shower. I was fairly damp when I dragged the trash can back up the path and got in my front door.

Changed into regular (and dry) clothes, then worked on the buttercream icing for the cupcakes. This time, the icing came out perfectly, just smooth and creamy enough. I spread them on the cupcakes and sprinkled them with colored sugar. I only had one box left from the Martha Stewart pack of cookie boxes I bought ages ago. Charlie's cupcakes went in that. Dad's cupcakes went in a shoe box I covered with red-striped tissue paper. Taped up Mom and Anny's boxes and got them ready to ship out (hopefully) tomorrow.

Watched A Christmas Carol as I worked. This is the classic 1951 British version starring character actor Alistair Sim as one of the best Scrooges on record. Other than a greater emphasis on the past sequence and showing Scrooge's downfall, this one sticks fairly close to the book. I like the truly spooky sequence with Marley and the wandering ghosts and the finale, where he scares the daylights of Mrs. Dilber the charwoman dancing around like a madman. If you're a fan of A Christmas Carol, this is one that you'll want to track down. It's in the public domain and can likely be found for cheap on DVD or online.

Worked on writing for a little bit after I got everything washed and organized. Lady Gerda takes Leia and Luke to a hot house on her property where they grow the exotic flowers that are exported off-planet. Luke tries to pick a rose, but the thorns stab him. Gerda shows him how to cut one and gives one to him and one to Leia.

Broke for dinner at 6. Made tuna-noodle casserole on the stove top while watching a couple of holiday sitcom episodes. In the first season of Silver Spoons, Ricky is hoping to have "The Best Christmas Ever" with his dad Edward. He lets a little boy who comes to his house asking for a job help him hang ornaments, but the kid ends up taking food from the basket his grandfather sent. He follows the child...and discovers that his father is out of work and that he and his parents are living in a cave. Ricky and Edward do everything they can to make the family's holiday a little happier.

Balki and Larry are also looking forward to the holidays in "A Christmas Story" from the second season of Perfect Strangers. Larry's only been talking about Christmas with his family in Wisconsin since June. He's bitterly disappointed when a snowstorm cancels their travel plans. Balki tries to cheer up his cousin with gifts and a spindly tree.

Maybe the traveling snafu is why Larry opted for a party on Christmas Eve in the fourth season episode "The Gift of the Mypiot." Balki invites his boss Mr. Gorpley, who keeps insulting everyone within firing range. The others are ready to toss Gorpley into the cold, but it turns out that he never had a nice Christmas until Balki gave him one.

Finished the night online with another Christmas Carol, the 1970 musical Scrooge. I go into further details on this one at my Musical Dreams Movie Reviews blog.

Scrooge (1970)

Incidentally, that rain that started at work has continued in one way or another for the rest of the day. It's coming down pretty hard now as I write this; they were talking about possible flooding on the news. It also makes things feel rather cozy in here, with the rain pattering on the windows and the tree glowing across from me.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Merry Bear-y Christmas

Started off the morning with breakfast, then went right into making Red Velvet Cupcakes. This one comes from a mix. I split the cupcakes between Dad and Charlie and his men. They couldn't have come out better, smooth and just moist enough. (I only had half a cup of buttermilk; the rest was water. Still smells good.)

Watched Cricket On the Hearth while I baked. This slightly dark melodrama from Rankin-Bass takes us to London to meet Cricket Crockett (Roddy McDowell), who just moved in with toy maker Caleb Plummer (Danny Thomas) and his daughter Bertha (Marlo Thomas, Danny's real-life daughter). Bertha goes blind from shock when an especially insensitive undertaker tells her that her beloved fiancee Edward (Ed Ames) was lost at sea. Caleb goes into debt, and they end up working for a miserly toy maker named Tackleton (Hans Conried). Tackleton asks to marry Bertha. She's considering it, but Crockett won't let that happen! There's a little old man who just visited the Plummers who seems mighty familiar...

Headed to work as soon as the cartoon was over and the cupcakes were out of the oven. Work was a bit busier than it has been, though not as bad as it likely will be over the weekend when people start heading out of the malls. While I did get to sweeping the patio and doing the outside trash and recycling, I was mostly outside with the carts. I had absolutely no problems with this. It was a gorgeous day, sunny, breezy, and chilly but not outrageously cold for this time of year, probably in the mid-40's.

There was a package from Amazon waiting for me when I got home. Mom texted me earlier in the week and said she was sending me a present for Christmas. My gift was...a teddy bear! A big fellow with a cute pot belly and corduroy nose. He's adorable! His name is Pinchy. He has a sweet smile and long legs with plump paws. I just love him. He reminds me a lot of his fellow Gund bear Mint, who is much smaller and older and is, as his name indicates, mint green rather than Pinchy's cocoa brown. He has the same long legs and sweet smile, though.

I called Mom immediately to thank her. She said she thought he was adorable too and hope he'd bring "a smile to (your) face." Well, he certainly did that! I love him. He's a wonderful addition to my little bear family. She also sent me a pretty and simple red, white, and green "Tidings of Comfort and Joy" Christmas card separately.

Worked on writing for a few hours after I changed and cleaned up Pinchy's box. Gerda brings them into her massive crystal and velvet manor. Luke especially admires a holo-artwork of a pale woman in a crown made of ice. Gerda explains that she's the current ruler of the planet, Queen Frostra. Luke thinks she's beautiful, but Han insists that her heart is as icy as her demeanor.

Broke for dinner at 6:30. I ate Parmesan-crusted tilapia and roasted Brussels sprouts, then decided I'd make icing for the cupcakes tonight. I put way too much milk in, and the icing ended up being soupy. No problem! I saw recipes for "cake batter fudge" on Pinterest. Most of them used yellow cake mix, but mine went into the peanut butter cookies. I decided to make Cake Batter Chocolate Fudge using  chocolate fudge mix. Yum! It came out sweet and very chocolate-y. Now I just hope it sets.

Ran Ernest Saves Christmas while I wrestled with the fudge/icing. In the late 80's, Ernest is a taxi driver living in sunny Orlando, Florida. On Christmas Eve, he gives a ride to a kindly old man who says he's Santa Claus (Douglas Seale) a ride. They also pick up Harmony Starr (Noelle Parker), a runaway who lies at every opportunity. Santa is trying to recruit former local TV kid's host Joe Carruthers (Oliver Clark) as his replacement. If he can't get Joe to take over for him by Christmas Eve night, the magic of the holidays will die out forever! Ernest finds himself having to rescue Santa when Joe's sleazy agent (Robert Lesser) has him arrested, then taking two elves to try to get the reindeer to the new Santa on time.

This was the biggest hit of all the Ernest movies and remains a holiday guilty pleasure of mine. Seale in particular makes about as perfect a befuddled Santa as one could wish. If you're a fan of Ernest, or even just want to check out his movies, this is one of the best in the series and isn't a bad place to start.

Finished out the night online while watching the original 1947 Miracle on 34th Street. We move from warm Orlando to chilly New York City for another story about believing in Santa. The new Santa at Macy's Herald Square (Edmund Gwenn) is the most authentic the store has ever had. He even suggested an idea about sending people to other stores for toys that has the heads of Macy's and Gimbles making a truce. Santa, however, insists that he's the real thing. Store manager Doris Walker (Maureen O'Hara) is bothered by this. She's raising her daughter Susan (Natalie Wood) to only believe in reality after she was disillusioned by a bitter divorce, and Santa's claim that he's real confuses the girl. He's put on trial after the store psychiatrist (Porter Hall) insists he's crazy. Fred, the kind lawyer Kris rooms with (John Payne) takes his case. Fred has to convince not only Susan, Doris, and New York's judicial system, but all of New York that Santa - and Christmas magic - is as real as anyone.

This was the most popular of the three major Christmas movies that came out in 1946-1947 when it was released, and it remains a classic today. Gwenn won a Supporting Actor Oscar, and the screenplay and story also got nods. It's been remade twice on TV in the 50's and 70's, and again on the big screen in 1994, but the original, with it's unique cynical-sweet tone, is probably all you need.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

It's Christmas Cookies Time

Began a beautiful, sunny December morning with breakfast and Christmas Eve on Sesame Street. Everyone on Sesame Street is looking forward to a joyful holiday. Big Bird, however, is worried. Oscar the Grouch told him that if Santa can't get down those skinny New York chimneys, no one will get any presents! Snuffy, Kermit, and one of the kids try to help him figure out how he does it. Meanwhile, Ernie and Bert sell the things that mean the most to them to buy Christmas presents for each other, but Mr. Hooper has a surprise that'll make their Christmas merrier. Cookie Monster wants Santa to bring him lots of cookies, but he keeps eating the writing utensils.

Went into the Merry Christmas Molasses Cookies as soon as I finished eating. Like the sugar cookies I made for Halloween, these are a cut-out cookie. The original recipe in The Betty Crocker Cooky Book calls for honey and lemon flavoring, but I prefer the spicier variation that uses molasses, ginger, and cinnamon. It's like a crispier gingerbread cookie. Unlike the sugar cookies, these came out perfectly. I thought they were too dry, but the batter rolled just fine, and nothing fell apart when I cut them out.

Put on The Bishop's Wife while I worked. The bishop in this case is Henry (David Niven), who is desperate to get a huge new cathedral built. He spends all his time trying to convince stuffy old rich ladies like Mrs. Hamilton (Gladys Cooper) to donate funds and completely ignores his wife Julia (Loretta Young) and daughter Debbie (Karolyn Grimes). He's at the end of his rope when salvation arrives in the form an impossibly suave angel, Dudley (Cary Grant). Dudley says he's there to offer Henry guidance. Henry thinks he's there to help him get his cathedral built, but what Dudley really wants is for him to realize how important his family is. Dudley, however, ends up falling for Julia, making Henry finally see just how much he loves her.

As much as I enjoyed The Preacher's Wife, this one is equally good, if not a bit better. Grant in particular makes a great angel - check out his quick method of decorating Christmas trees!

The movie ended just in time for me to pull the cookies out of the oven and finish the dishes. Headed out as soon as I was done. I had enough money of my own left to have lunch at Phillies Phatties. Despite it being 1:30, they were already busy with kids from the school down the street (and a lone mother) having lunch. (I later discovered they let out early for parent-teacher conferences this week) I had a tasty thin-crust slice of pepperoni and white broccoli, along with a fountain Mountain Dew.

Next stop was the Haddon Township Library. They were the quietest I'd ever seen them. Most people are focusing on baking or shopping this week. Not to mention, the weather, while not as warm as yesterday, was otherwise much nicer than it was over the weekend or it's supposed to be on Thursday and Friday. I think there might have been two other people there besides the librarians and me. I shelved the few adult DVD titles and made sure they were all organized properly. Headed out after a little over a half-hour.

(I didn't take any DVDs out this week myself. First of all, I have plenty of holiday programming to watch at home. Second, I have no idea what my schedule is going to be like next week. I don't know if I'll have time to return them.)

Stopped at Target on my home for flour and a few other things. To my embarrassment, I once again had no money. I left with nothing.

Cheered myself up at home with the last of the Christmas cookies. The Cherry-Coconut Bars are also from The Betty Crocker Cooky Book. They're basically lemon bars with a super-sweet cherry-coconut filling instead of a custard-y lemon filling. Even with spraying the bottom of the pan, they still crumbled when I tried to take them out, but not enough that I couldn't give at least some of them away.

Did Jack Frost while I worked. This oddity from Rankin-Bass has the title character falling in love with a human girl who claims she can only love Jack Frost. He gives up his supernatural powers to live among humans as a tailor. Not only does he end up having to defend the girl against the nasty Kubla Krouse, but she ends up falling for a handsome, more traditionally heroic knight. Jack gets Father Winter to restore his frost abilities in order to keep Krouse snowed in, but his efforts might melt away, if he can't make one certain groundhog see his shadow...

Worked on writing while the cookies were in the oven, and then as they cooled. Lady Gerda invites Leia and the guys into her home for some rest and lunch before the Queen arrives. Han and Chewie turn her down, but Leia and Luke are eager to see her beautiful stone manor and her conservatory filled with hothouse flowers.

Broke for dinner at quarter of 7. Had leftovers, then got the cookies into bags and tins as best I could, given the mess they made. I did manage to get them all put away and all of the bags tied and tagged. (The cheap wire flaps that were supposed to tie the dollar-store cookie bags down would never have held them until Christmas Day. I tied them with red curling ribbon and tie tags instead.)

Ran the first two episodes of the third season of Laverne & Shirley in honor of Penny Marshall, who passed away today. "Airport '59" has the duo taking over for the pilot when he's knocked out, even though neither of them have any idea of what they're doing and Laverne is terrified of flying. "Tag Team Wrestling" proves to be even more hazardous to their health when it turns out that the women they're going up against in an exhibition match for a charity drive are the very ones Laverne insulted earlier that day.

Finished the night with the classic holiday musical White Christmas. I go more into this beloved favorite at my Musical Dreams Movie Reviews blog.

White Christmas

Monday, December 17, 2018

The Lights of Oaklyn

Began a busy day with breakfast and Arthur's Perfect Christmas. This Arthur is young aardvark Arthur Reed, who is looking forward to a fabulous holiday filled with snow, glittering trees, a huge traditional meal, and his mother opening one special gift. Things go wrong from the get-go. Rich girl Muffy gets into a fight with her tomboy best friend Francine because Francine went to her family's Hanukkah party instead of her big Christmas bash. Buster's mother keeps getting him up early because she thinks it's Christmas Day. Her son wishes she'd just relax and enjoy their own kind of holiday. DW wants that one wildly popular toy no one can find, and clumsy Uncle Fred shows up unexpectedly on Christmas Eve. In the end, Arthur finally realizes that, as Uncle Fred says, "sometimes, the things we hope for aren't the things we get. We get something better."

Headed out to run a few errands as soon as the cartoon ended. First stop was the Oaklyn Post Office. I needed to send out Lauren's Christmas package. To my surprise, though it was past 11:30, they were empty. There was one other person who was leaving just as I was coming in. I got everything out with no problems.

It was a gorgeous day, sunny and relatively warm, probably in the lower 50's. I decided to ignore the blustery wind and run a few more quick errands. Dollar General is less than a block from the post office, so that was my next stop. I didn't find what I was looking for, which was vanilla. I did get two Hot Wheels for my nephew Collyn's birthday (which was last week - it'll go out in the box for his family), a birthday card for his sister Lilah (hers is next month, but I'm going to send her card and gift in the box too, so they'll actually be on time this year), and a box of red velvet cake mix for the cupcakes I'll be making for Dad and Charlie and his men this weekend.

The CVS is just a block from them. They did have vanilla, but I wasn't paying six bucks for a tiny bottle. I did get a bottle of Dawn dish washing detergent on sale. My bottle at home is half-empty. They weren't busy either, and I was in and out.

Since I was out and about, I did the Oaklyn Library today. Other than one older man who came in to talk to the librarian (and just had to mention I work at the Acme), they were quiet today. I looked over the DVDs and board books, but there wasn't really that much to do. I was done in a half-hour.

Got home by 1:30. I had a quick lunch, then started my second batch of cookies. I got the recipe for Newfangled Peanut Butter Cookies (now known as Cake Mix Peanut Butter Cookies) off Betty Crocker's website in 2012, when I was very broke and looking to cut corners. The resulting cookie was so delicious, it became my go-to peanut butter cookie recipe. Here's the recipe on the Betty Crocker website.

Put on The Flinstones Christmas Carol while I worked. Fred Flinstone is playing Scrooge in a local play. His constant rehearsing is getting on everyone's nerves, especially Wilma's. He's forgotten to buy Christmas presents and to pick Pebbles up from daycare. Wilma has enough on her plate as it is. "The Bedrock Bug" is going around, making half the cast sick and forcing her to take their roles. Fred does eventually learn his lesson, thanks to a surprisingly accurate retelling of the story and a spooky trip to a department store after-hours.

Went right into the biscotti after I cleaned up from the peanut butter cookies. I decided to try a new recipe this year from those issues of Prevention Magazine Linda Young sent me a while back that uses a little less butter. (It also originally used I Can't Believe It's Not Butter, but I didn't have any, so I went all-butter.) It's...not bad. Not really much different from the old recipe. I didn't add the dried cherries and pistachios called for in the recipe. Instead of baking them twice into hard rusks, I roll them or flatten them into shapes, then sprinkle them with colored sugar.

Watched Christmas In Connecticut while I worked. Elizabeth Lane (Barbara Stanwyck) is a food columnist for a major women's magazine whose articles about her husband, baby, and cozy Connecticut farm are wildly popular. Her publisher Alexander Yardley (Sydney Greenstreet) invites Jefferson Jones (Dennis Morgan), a soldier who has never had a home-cooked meal, and himself to her farm.

There's one small problem. Elizabeth is a city girl who lives in an apartment in New York and can't boil water. Her scrumptious dishes come from her friend Felix (S.K Sakall) who runs a restaurant. To save her skin and that of her editor (Robert Shayne), she convinces snobbish architect John Sloane (Reginald Gardiner) to let her invite them to his farm and promises that she'll marry him. That all falls apart when she realizes how handsome and charming Jefferson is. After a Christmas of in-and-out judges, missing babies, and cows running off, Elizabeth finally learns that honesty really is the best policy, especially where love is concerned.

Cute holiday fluff with some nice performances, especially from Sakall and Greenstreet as the two very different bosses.

Worked on writing after I finished the biscotti. Leia and her boys disembark from the Falcon at a frozen crystal air field. They're met by kindly old Lady Gerda, one of the Snow Queen's emissaries. She takes them through the town to her mansion. Leia is more interested in discussing politics, but Luke is amazed by the snow-covered city.

Did A Star In the East, the Oscar-winning vintage short that comes with the Christmas In Connecticut DVD, while I ate a quick leftovers dinner. Master of accents J. Carrol Naish plays Tony, a hotel owner in the Arizona desert whose customers drive him crazy with their incessant demands. He's convinced there's no goodwill left in the world. Nonsense, says a mysterious drifter. There's goodwill in the heart of everyone, especially at Christmas. A young Hispanic couple arrives shortly after, begging for a room. His wife gives them the shed. Turns out the girl is expecting...and her blessed event brings together the hotel's residents in ways Tony could have never dreamed.

 I bundled up and went out for my annual walk to look at lights. Every year around the middle of December, I go for a stroll around Oaklyn to admire the various light displays in the nearby neighborhoods. It's a great way to let off the extra sugar from cookie-baking, and the lights displays in town are always so festive! Some people decorate their houses and whole yards with tons of lights. Others just outline their porches, their houses, or a window or two. There's houses with lit wreaths in the windows, or plastic candles. Still other folks opt for the floodlights that project red and green sparkles on the front of their homes. I saw more inflatables this year than I have in a while. Favorites included Minnie Mouse, a penguin, and a unicorn gathered around a Christmas tree, the Christmas Vacation "Family Truckster" with a giant tree on the roof, and two Grinches, one holding a candy cane and one a blue stocking.

Took out the recycling, then finished out the night at home with A New Kind of Love. Samantha (Joanne Woodward) is a fashion buyer in New York who has been invited to Paris with her boss Leena (Thelma Ritter) and the owner of their company, Joseph Bergner (George Tobias). They head to Paris to check out the spring fashions. While on the plane, Samantha first encounters Steve Sherman (Paul Newman), a writer whose swinging bachelor lifestyle has lead to him being fired and sent to Paris. They do not get along well at all. She thinks he's a jerk, and he thinks she's a boy.

She reconsiders her severe style of dress and cynical attitude after joining an all-women parade for "semi-maidens over 25." She gets a makeover to try to dress as sophisticated as possible. It works too well. He thinks she's a prostitute. Hoping to get back at him for the earlier snub, she plays the role to the hilt, giving him all kinds of wild made-up "stories" that he posts in his column. Trying to find more stories gets her into trouble with her boss and his fiancee Felicianne (Eva Gabor). Now she has to figure out how to come clean, all while admitting to herself that she actually likes this guy.

Fairly typical romantic comedy of the early 60's is livened by a nice cast (Maurice Chevalier performs several of his old hits during the party before the women's parade), the chemistry between real-life married couple Newman and Woodward, and the Oscar-nominated couture costumes. I especially like that Woodward's character is a little tougher than usual for this kind of thing, certainly more than most of Doris Day's "semi-maidens." Even after she falls for Steve, she doesn't quite give up that tough side, and it's kind of refreshing.

If you're a fan of either of the leads or of romantic comedies from the 60's, you can do far worse than this romp through Paris.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

The Eagles Wipe Out the Rams

Started off a rainy, gloomy morning with something different. Since I had that huge bag of coconut from Wal Mart and half the bottle of orange juice left from the cranberry bread, I thought I'd try making Banana Coconut Pancakes. I should have mashed the bananas better. They were too chunky, and the pancakes just fell apart or burned. Tasted all right once they actually cooked.

Listened to Christmas records while I struggled with the pancakes. A Christmas Album was Barbara Streisand's first holiday LP. Her comic rendition of "Jingle Bells" and an especially lovely version of "I Wonder as I Wander" are the highlights. The Beach Boys' Christmas Album is a favorite of mine. "Little Saint Nick" and "Santa's Beard" are the standards here, but I love their "Merry Christmas, Baby" and their version of "I'll Be Home for Christmas."

Worked on writing for a hour before work. Han explains to Leia that, along with crystals for lasers, the planet Norweden also exports hot-house flowers. He used to smuggle them to other parts of the galaxy. Outside of the cities and towns, the majority of the planet is populated by bandits, thieves, assorted natives, snow animals, and trolls, mischievous creatures that like to play pranks on unsuspecting humans.

Broke to get ready for work at 11:30. Listened to Merry Christmas by the Supremes while I got organized. This 1965 album is from the height of their original 60's popularity. The most familiar song is "The Children's Christmas Song," with it's "ding dong" refrain.

The rain had slowed down as I was riding to work. It picked up shortly after I arrived and showered steadily for most of the rest of the day. Maybe that's why we were so busy. People were coming out of the crowded malls and were starting to think about their Christmas baking and parties. Not to mention, with the weather, there wasn't a whole lot else for many of them to do. I spent the first half of my shift outside doing carts. They just kept disappearing. Got stuck in the registers for the first hour of the second, but I also did some returns and gathered baskets before going right back to doing carts. I was very wet when I headed home.

As soon as I got in, I changed into dry pants, then made my favorite Tex-Mex Black Bean Dip for dinner. Listened to The Six Shooter while I ate. This radio show from the early 50's starred James Stewart as Texas drifter Britt Ponsett who went from place to place, helping folks who needed it. Their Christmas episode had Britt telling a runaway boy a western version of A Christmas Carol. Here, Scrooge is a miserly landowner who orders his foreman to take down the shack he built for his family on Scrooge's property. His nephew owns a liverly stable, his former fiancee is a schoolmarm, and Jacob Marley is Jake, who is attached to saddlebags of gold. The tale eventually convinces the boy to return to his grouchy aunt...and teaches both a lesson in the Christmas spirit.

After dinner, I went into my Christmas baking. Every year, I make five kinds of cookies to give away as gifts and bring to the Acme's Employee Luncheon. Started tonight with the same chocolate chip oatmeal cookies I made for Lauren and her folks a few days ago. If anything, they came out even more beautifully than the batch I made for her.

Cookie baking week is one of my favorite parts of the Christmas season. Mom always made us cookies and candy during the Christmas season when we were kids. We all loved helping her decorate sugar cookies and putting the chips in the chocolate chip batter. When I moved out on my own in 2002, I decided to continue doing it. Not only do I love to bake, but it was something I could bring to parties and give to groups and adults who had outgrown toys.

Listened to a couple of CDs while I worked on the cookies. Christmas Carousel by Peggy Lee has been a part of my holidays for a long time. I first picked it up while out running errands with my mom on Christmas Eve, I think around 1995-1996. Found it with a display of holiday CDs at the Acme. My favorite numbers here are the lilting title tune and the lovely "The Christmas Spell," as well as her version of "Happy Holidays" from Holiday Inn.

I've had It's Christmas Time, in CD or cassette form, for even longer. I bought the cassette from a Laserlight Christmas display at Staples in Rio Grande while on an outing with Mom and my sisters, I think in December 1994. It wouldn't be the holidays without Bing's radio rendition of "Silent Night," with his opening dialog that goes "This is a happy Christmas all right, it's a great Christmas..." The CD also features his version of "Jingle Bells" with the Andrews Sisters that was used in Target's Christmas programming for years. I wish Nat King Cole had more than "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" and "The Christmas Song." Crosby gets the lion's share of the music, though Sinatra does have a nice "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear."

 Bing ended and the cookies came out of the oven just in time for me to hit the shower before the big game between the Eagles and the Los Angeles Rams. And what a game it was! No one thought the Eagles would do well tonight. The Rams are one of the top teams in the NFL. And yet, they dominated the game from the get-go. The Rams couldn't get past them. The Eagles finally managed to outrun them 30-23.