Sunday, September 30, 2018

Football Follies

It was sunny and beautiful when I opened my eyes this morning. I flung open the windows to catch some fresh breezes before making Peanut Butter-Brown Sugar Pancakes for breakfast. Listened to one of my Disney Classics CDs while I ate. I started it yesterday before work, but never got to finishing it. One of the nifty things about this series of five collections of Disney songs from the mid-90's is it has music from the rare in the US Song of the South. I guess Disney figured "Ev'rybody Has a Laughing Place" wasn't offensive out of context (and is really short anyway). Other songs I like on the second CD include the medley of instrumental songs from the original Main Street Electrical Parade, the theme song from The Tiki Room (always one of my favorite shows at Disney), "Feed the Birds" and "Let's Go Fly a Kite" from Mary Poppins, "On the Front Porch" from Summer Magic, and "The Mickey Mouse Club March" from the 1950's Mickey Mouse Club.

(By the way, the pancakes came out perfectly, moist and sweet - and unburned. Some of the best I've done in weeks.)

Work was, much to my surprise, mildly steady when I arrived. It did pick up a little as the 1 PM Eagles game got closer, but it was never overwhelmingly crazy, and nothing like it usually is on a Sunday. I did manage to get outside for an hour to help one of the baggers gather carts and enjoy the gorgeous, upper 70's weather. Otherwise, I was mostly doing returns. We had plenty of help and no problems whatsoever.

The Eagles were up 13-6 over the Tennessee Titans when I rode over to Dad and Jodie's around 3:30. That was changing, even as Jodie served up corned beef, cabbage, ham, and potatoes. (I had everything but the ham. The corned beef was enough.) There was a tray of cheese and crackers, with grapes and an herbed cheese spread that was so soft, I couldn't tell if it was cheese or butter, and a loaf of peach pound cake for dessert.

The game didn't go as well. The Titans finally caught up in the second half, to the point where they were tied 20-20 by the end of the game and went into overtime. Dad kept fussing that the Eagles were going to lose and that their season is over. While I don't know about the latter (this is only the fourth game), he was right about the former. It was close, but the Titans finally got a touchdown that won them the game 27-23.

Got so fed up listening to Dad, I opted not to linger after the game. No one else did, either. Mark, his girlfriend, and Jessa were the only ones there. Rose and her family had stayed home, citing colds and other health issues, and the other neighbors were out with their kids.

Spent the rest of the evening working on writing. To Leia's amusement, her howler monkey friend's family has invaded their camp by the time they get back. Only Clarence, her late godfather's secretary, can speak their language. He won't tell them to lay off. It isn't in his job description. Yoda and Luke use a bit of Force magic to levitate him enough to get the monkeys' attention. Harry has his own ideas. They could really use the monkeys' help distracting Vader enough for them to get to the Jedi Temple...and around his men and their weapons.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Look for the Silver Lining

Spent most of the morning and early afternoon at work. Surprisingly for a weekend, work wasn't really that busy. There was a small spurt around 11:30. Otherwise, it wasn't bad. I ended up in the register briefly twice, the second time to go in for one of the cashiers, but I mostly shelved candy and put away loose items. There was plenty of help inside and out and no major problems.

Oh, and I saw Jodie while I was doing the candy at work. She said she and Dad will be having corned beef and cabbage for the game tomorrow. Once again, I'll be in around 3:30.

Went straight home after work. I tried writing for about a half-hour, but I was tired from getting up early and ended up taking a nap. Returned to the computer somewhat refreshed after about an hour in bed. Leia comes to by a log in the jungle and finds herself staring face-to-face with a howler monkey. He's a curious little fellow whom she's eventually able to win over with crackers. He helps her out when two of Vader's men catch her, and they return to the camp together.

I broke for dinner at quarter of 6. Had the shrimp I bought yesterday with roasted broccoli and home-made baked potato chips. Not bad. Think I'll leave the "chips" in a little bit longer next time. Dessert was Cranberry-Oat Bars, made from a white cake mix with fresh cranberry topping. I overdid the topping and it overflowed, but otherwise, it was sweet and tasty.

Finished the night with two very different retellings of Cinderella, the original Disney animated film from 1950 and the 1929 early talkie musical Sally, about a waitress who becomes a star on Broadway. I discuss both more thoroughly at my Musical Dreams Reviews Blog:

Cinderella Stories Double Feature - Cinderella and Sally

Friday, September 28, 2018

Cats and Kids and Festivals

It was showering heavily when I went to bed last night, but by the time I was reading and writing in my journal this morning, only clouds remained. I cheered up the gloomy day with breakfast and more Cat In the Hat Knows a Lot About That. It's a "Wrapper's Delight" when the Cat takes the kids to see how Gina the Giraffe Weevil wraps up her eggs, so they can learn how to wrap a statue for their moms. They learn how Penny the Pelican can "Dive! Swim! Scoop!" so they can do the same and rescue a frog stuck in their wading pool. The Cat takes the kids on a "Paper Chase" to Dr. Twiggles to see how paper is made from tree pulp and how it can be recycled.

"A Polar Adventure" was my favorite from this round. I love bears, including polar bears! Sally, Nick, and the Cat learn more about one of my favorite animals when they venture to Freeze-Your-Knees Snowland to figure out how Polly the Polar Bear stays warm.

Worked on writing for a while. Five of Vader's men appear on motorcycles while they're setting up camp. Harry tries attacking them, but they hear him and catch wind. Leia and Luke go after them. They manage to head them off, but they get separated. Leia jumps off her bike and passes out before she sees the patter of little feet...

Broke at 12:30 for a quick yogurt-and-grapes lunch. Did some more Cat while I ate. The kids want to play circus, but they're having a hard time on their balancing beam board. Zappa the Snow Leopard teaches them how he handles his own "Balancing Act" on frozen mountainsides. Glass-making is a big deal down here in Southern New Jersey, thanks to our sandy soil. Nick and Sally find out from their pirate friend how sand and older glass can be melted down to make new glass pieces in "Marvelous Marbles." The Cat introduces them to Os and Olivia, a pair of ostriches who prove that, while their fast running abilities and being the "Biggest Bird" on the planet are cool, being good parents is what they do best.

Started my errand run around 1:30. I parked my bike at the Acme and walked down to the Wal Mart. I'm not a big fan of the small one in the Audubon Crossings Shopping Center. They're disorganized and messy and never have what I want, and today was no exception. They had the Solo: A Star Wars Story DVD online for $16.75...but while they had the 4K and Blu-Ray discs, they were out of the DVD. Of course. (They did have a nice selection of wrestling figures in their toy section, though, including many of the current stars I saw on that show with Lauren and her parents. I might have to ask her if there's any she doesn't have.)

While Five Below isn't supposed to open until next Friday, the Goodwill opened today. It was a LOT bigger than it looked from the outside! While not quite as large as the stand-alone stores in Cherry Hill and Bellmawr, they were still big enough to have a fair-sized furniture selection, two long shelves of DVDs and CDs, and three very long shelves of books. I'll probably explore it more thoroughly when I have more money, but for now, I'm just excited that it's there.

The Acme was pretty busy when I arrived, with long lines. (Mostly because it looked like they were short on help again.) I had a ton of my own groceries to buy. Took advantage of a 40% off chicken sale to pick up two packs of breasts and legs, along with a small container of shrimp for dinner tomorrow. Since I won't make it to the farm market this week, I bought apples, mushrooms, bananas, a bag of broccoli and cauliflower, and the first fresh cranberries of the season. Found a large container of oatmeal on the clearance shelves that was half-price due to the dent in its side. Restocked yogurt, canned diced tomatoes and tomato sauce, skim milk, cheese, molasses, brown sugar, and condensed milk.

My schedule for next week is pretty par for the course for this time of year. My hours are a little later (except for on Sunday, which works out - the Eagles have another 1 PM game this week) and a little shorter, which will allow me to start cleaning and winterizing the apartment. I work late enough next Saturday that I'll be able to take a quick look at the Farm Market and Collingswood's Book Festival. I wish I had more hours, but that probably won't happen until we get closer to the holidays.

By the time I made it home, the sun was struggling to come out, and it was pushing into the lower 70's. It was too nice to stay inside all day, as I'd originally planned. I decided to ride around and see if I could find Solo: A Star Wars Story at Target.

I couldn't find it ANYWHERE! It wasn't at Rite Aid. (Which, incidentally, is where I found The Force Awakens.) Target was out of every version of it. CVS doesn't carry home media besides magazines and books anymore. (Although I did pick up dish washing liquid at the CVS in Oaklyn.) It never made it to either Acme. I am so disappointed. I'll try Target again on Tuesday, but if it's not there by then, I'll just bite the bullet and hope it's gotten cheaper on Amazon. I didn't think anyone but me would be in a hurry to buy it after it flopped in May.

I was beyond tired and nearly in tears by the time I made it back to Oaklyn. The last Final Friday Festival of the season was in full-swing when I arrived. Their "Final Friday Festivals" mainly consist of music, food trucks, craft booths, and a booth for Studio LuLoo with crafts for kids. (Today, there were kid musical instruments for them to play with and rocks to paint.) The trucks are way too expensive. After spending 20 minutes trying to choose, I ended up buying a can of Coke and a slice of bacon and corn quiche away from the crowds at Common Grounds Coffee House.

Watched the remaining Cat In the Hat episodes after I got home. The group goes on another "fantastic voyage," this time into Thing 1's ears to learn how sound moves, in "Drum Di Drum." Nick and Sally are pretending to be super heroes, but the Cat knows a part of us with some great superpowers - our skin. Dr. Giggles shows the kids how "The Skin I'm In" can be pretty darn super. They head under the sea to learn how to clean up from Rufus the Cleaning Fish and his "Fishy Washy" Station.

Finished the night in the bath. I desperately needed one after my disappointments earlier. I played with the brown and blue rubber duck I won from a crane game at the Holyoke Mall last week and read over a couple of self-help books.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Never Too Late to Learn

It was sunny and very chilly when I got up this morning. I had breakfast, then laughed over episodes of The Cat and the Hat Knows a Lot About That to warm me up inside and out. Nick has a "Rumbly Tumbly" when they're working on a cake-themed puzzle. Dr. Giggles' machine allows them to take a "fantastic voyage" through Thing 1 to see how their stomachs digest food. Nick and Sally can't seem to make the floor of their bedroom comfortable. They learn how to create something soft to sleep in from a family of gorillas in "Gorilla In the Nest." The kids want to compete in a three-legged race, but they can't figure out how to walk together. A trio of forest insects and bugs show them how to keep the beat in "Take a Walk." They also learn how animals walk in "Step This Way." Emily the Teal (duck), Mikey the lemur, and Greg the Gecko show how different feet help them do different jobs. Nick needs a patch for his shirt, so the cat takes him and Sally to Dr. Twiggles to show how cloth is made from a "Cotton Patch."

My favorite was "Anything You Can Do." Nick and Sally are trying to imitate the Cat, but they can't quite figure out how to do Martin Short yet. Mimi the Mimic Octopus gives the kids a lesson in how she imitates different poisonous animals in order to scare off predators. Not only had I never heard of the mimic octopus before, but watching the kids and the Cat trying to follow Mimi and imitate the various animals of the deep sea was hilarious.

Went to work right after the disc ended. This was the most painless shift I've had in weeks, if not months. Not only were we stone-dead for the entire afternoon, but unlike yesterday, we had plenty of help. I did the carts for the first half-hour and the last half-hour, but I mainly scrubbed the bottoms of the freezers in aisle 9 and 10 on the request of one of our new managers. She was right. Condensation had been gathering on many of the doors throughout the summer, leaving a wet, gunky mess. I scrubbed it all off as much as I could. Aisle 9, where the ice cream, pizza, and frozen vegetables are, was so bad, it took me two hours. Aisle 10 (frozen dinners, waffles, meat, juice, fruit, and vegetarian items) took a little over an hour.

Did some writing as soon as I got home. Vader lets them through, and they head into the jungle to set up camp. While Artie admires the view and Clarence wishes he wouldn't do it so close to the edge of a cliff, Harry kicks at the truck they borrowed, and Luke and Leia realize they feel presences in the jungle. Not bad, but ferocious...and savage...

Broke at 6:30 to have leftovers for dinner. Watched the MGM musical Till the Clouds Roll By as I ate, and later while I was online. I discuss this one further at my Musical Dreams Reviews blog.

Till the Clouds Roll By

Dark clouds had begun gathering as early as my ride home from work, but it didn't really start raining until about an hour or so ago. (And no pyrotechnics tonight. It's just a heavy shower, as far as I can tell.) It's supposed to stop by tomorrow morning.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Hail, Rebels Family, and Farewell

Began a cloudy morning with more Rebels as I ate breakfast and got organized for work. Ezra and Sabine discover "Wolves and a Door" when they invade the Imperial camp around the Jedi temple at Lothal disguised as stormtroopers. Ezra discovers a mural representing the Mortis Gods of the Force that leads him to open a portal into another world. He and Sabine are found out, but he manages to escape into the door before he can be captured.

He discovers "A World Between Worlds" when he finds himself in a void between times. Checking out one door reveals Ahsoka Tano's ill-fated dual with her former master Darth Vader in a previous episode. He does manage to save her from Vader, but she dissuades him from doing the same for Kanan. Kanan sacrificed himself to save them. If he hadn't, the others would have died. The door to Lothal is still open, giving the Emperor an opening to attack. Meanwhile, the others sneak in to rescue Sabine, who is being forced by Imperial Minister Hylan to tell him more about the Gods.

Headed off to work as soon as the episode ended. I was in and out for most of the day, mainly alternating between doing carts and shelving loose items. I also gathered the inside trash as well as I could (they still haven't ordered trash bags), bagged, and got thrown in the register a few times when we were short on help during rush hours. Despite claims that it was supposed to rain today, it never did when I was work. In fact, it was hot, sticky-humid, and sunny for most of the afternoon. I grabbed a pretzel and much-needed tissues on my way out.

Dark clouds were beginning to slowly gather as I headed home. It was still just gloomy and humid when I took out the trash and recycling, and then while I did some writing. Harry drives the group to the dig site costumed as Coruscant officers. They're all nervous, especially Luke, who knows Vader is there and fears he'll come after him and Leia. Piett's about to let them through when Vader comes over...

Broke for leftover lasagna and Chinese beans sauteed in lemon juice and chicken stock for dinner around quarter of 7. Finished Rebels as I ate. Most of the major cast of the show reunite for "A Fool's Hope." Hera, Rex, and Kallus manage to convince Hondo, his crew, and Rex's ex-teammates to join the quest to liberate Lothal. Ryder, the ex-governor, seems to be making treaties with Lothal's current ruler Pryce, but he has something else in mind. Meanwhile, Ezra brings in a few helpful friends of his own - the Loth-Wolves.

The liberation of Lothal is underway in "Family Reunion and Farewell." The Rebels use Pryce to seize the Imperial Command Center, but Thrawn has arrived with reinforcements. He threatens to destroy the city if he doesn't get Ezra. Ezra gives himself up, while the others activate the shield to save the city from bombardment and Zeb deals with the treacherous assassin Rukah. The Emperor tries to tempt Ezra like he did Anakin...but unlike Palpatine's apprentice, Ezra knows better. With the help of his friend Mart, he has one last set of animal companions who'll help him take down Thrawn and drive the Empire away from Lothal for good.

Wow. Those last episodes really hurt. The thing I've always loved about Rebels from the very beginning is the family dynamic. It's been wonderful to watch these characters (especially Ezra and Sabine) grow and change in a way that doesn't often happen in Star Wars media. While I am looking forward to everything that's coming - the new Resistance cartoon series set to debut later this fall, next year's Clone Wars revival, Episode 9 - I have to admit, I'll miss this wonderful, wacky, hearbreaking Rebels family.

(And once again, you really can't come into this one without any prior knowledge of the Star Wars Universe in general, especially Revenge of the Sith, Clone Wars, Rogue One, and the Original Trilogy, and this show in particular. As much as I enjoy this show, I'd recommend starting with the movies or the later seasons of the Clone Wars show before coming here - and seeing the third season before this one is a must.)

Oh, and it did finally rain...about an hour ago, around 9. It was a pretty good thunderstorm for a while, but it seems all right now.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Soon It's Gonna Rain

Started off a humid and gloomy morning with breakfast and more Star Wars: Rebels. Sabine, Zeb, and Ezra become "Crawler Commanders" when they discover a crawler strip-mining metals from Lothal's surface. Sabine thinks it'll be perfect to use to get a hold of Hera at the rebel base, but it's captain sounds the alarm. As the kids try to get a hold of Hera and deal with the Imperials, Zeb discovers a shipment of slaves in the hold and frees them, and Hera works on convincing the rebel command that they need to destroy the TIE Defender factory.

The fight for the TIE factory is picked up in "Rebel Assault." Hera leads the fight in the sky, while Ezra is in charge of the ground crew. Ezra, Kanan, and the others do manage to sabotage the anti-aircraft batteries, but thanks to Thrawn's expert tactics, Hera's crew is mostly destroyed. Only she, Chopper, and one of the younger pilots survive. She manages to get them to safety, but is captured by the Imperials in the process. Kanan is horrified by his lover's arrest and runs off to find her...but he's stopped by the mysterious Loth-Wolves, who point him in a very different direction.

"Jedi Night" has Ezra once again leading the others, this time to rescue Hera from the Imperial Command Center. They fly in using gliders that make them resemble the bats constantly flying around. Ezra and Sabine distract the guards, while Kanan (who has shaved and cut his hair for the first time in the entire series) rescues his beloved Hera and the family heirloom Thrawn stole from her, just as she's being tortured by Governor Pryce. He and Hera head to Lothal's fuel reserves...but just as the kids are about to pick them up, the whole place is blown sky-high by Pryce. Kanan manages to use the Force to get them all out, but at a very high cost...

Made dinner while watching the episodes. I thought I'd try a less spicy chili after that eye-watering concoction at the Bryant House last week. I used most of a slow cooker recipe from the cookbook Lauren sent me a few years ago. Replaced celery with green peppers (I didn't have celery), eliminated the beans (they didn't fit), and added cocoa in with the spices.

Headed out to the laundromat after the chili was bubbling away in the slow cooker. I had a fair-sized load this week, thanks to everything I bought on vacation. Good thing this was the quietest it's been at the laundromat in months. I went around 1:30. All the kids were in school; their parents were at work. By the time more people started arriving, I was almost done. I worked on story notes and ignored the talk shows and gossip shows on Fox.

Put everything away as soon as I got home, then went into writing. I went back and added a few paragraphs after Yoda says they need to confront their father that discussed how Vader had hurt Leia's hand, and she re-opened the stitches fighting with Yasmin. She's afraid she'll do worse things to people if she has to deal with Vader again, but Luke reassures her that she's nothing like their father. As the train rolls into the station, Harry gallantly offers her his arm and leads her outside.

The rain that had threatened all day finally started coming down while I was writing, but the real deluge didn't hit until I was nearly done. It poured hard for about an hour and a half. I had to close all the windows at one point because the rain was coming in and soaking the carpets. The windows on the front of the house leaked, probably thanks to the rolled-up tent Charlie has tied over them.

It was only quarter of 6 when I broke for the night. Thought I'd give Super Smash Bros Brawl another shot, since dinner was still cooking. Played in a group, with three computer characters. Ugh. I did terrible. I came in second once. Most of the time, I was fourth or in a tie for third.

Finished out the Star Wars: Rebels disc as I got organized with "DUME." Each member of the Ghost mourn Kanan in his or her own way in the wake of his death in the previous episode. Zeb and Sabine attack an Imperial parade, but realize it's only a cover-up by Pryce after there wasn't enough fuel to re-open the TIE Defender factory. They managed to defeat an Imperial assassin and use him as a notice that the Rebels are far from done on Lothal. Chopper tries to reassure a heartbroken Hera. Ezra goes off to talk to the Loth-Wolves and find out more about the Force on his home planet.

Moved to Man of La Mancha and The Fantasticks after Rebels. I go into more detail about these infamous flops at my Musical Dreams Reviews blog.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Rebel Autumn

It was cloudy, windy, and cool when I rolled out of bed this morning, probably no more than in the mid-60's. I brightened the day with Laurel and Hardy in honor of the movie biography coming out on them this fall. The owner of a bank sends them to England to be educated after they foil a robbery, but they end up feeling like A Chump at Oxford when the students do nothing but pick on them. (A very young Peter Cushing can be found among the jokers.) Stan turns out to be Lord Paddington, one of Oxford's best students, who lost his memory during a prank. He does regain it...and proceeds to treat Ollie like his butler.

"The Music Box" is a classic Oscar-winning short from 1932. The duo have to push a piano up a very long flight of stairs. A nanny with a baby stroller laughs at them, a cop almost arrests them, and they annoy a man (Billy Gilbert) who won't walk around them. Even after they manage to get the piano up to the house, they can't get it in the house and try to haul it upstairs. They proceed to make a shambles of the the horror of it's owner, the man who wouldn't walk around it before.

I tried one of the recipes from the honey cookbook I bought from the Vermont Country Store this morning. Honey Apple-Cinnamon Muffins required boiling the apple bits in honey. Oh, yum! Other than I browned them a bit too much, they came out delicious, extremely moist and not too sweet.

Perfect Strangers did a homage to Laurel and Hardy early in their seventh season. I dug out the episode while getting ready to head out. Balki and Larry are supposed to be working on "The Gazebo." Their antics so remind Larry's wife Jennifer and Balki's girlfriend Mary Anne of Laurel and Hardy that most of the rest of the episode turns into a black-and-white recreation of their typical routines. (Bronson Pinchot made such a convincing Stan, he'd play him again in a TV movie in the late 90's.)

Dodged fierce, chilly winds as I made my way to the Oaklyn Library. Their DVDs needed a lot of work, both in the adult and the kids' section. I was there for a half-hour, mostly organizing DVDs while listening to the librarian chat with the people doing research on the computers.

Next stop was the Haddon Township Library. Unlike Oaklyn, they weren't that busy. The DVD returns cart wasn't nearly as full as it has been the last couple of times I was there. I was able to put away all but one kid's title with no trouble within an hour.

They continue to get more full-season and series sets of children's programming. I saw Season 6 of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic and a 30-episode set of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. Ended up with another Season 2 set of The Cat In the Hat Knows a Lot About That, the fourth and final season of Star Wars: Rebels, a collection of episodes of Big Hero 6: Back In Action, and a 2-disc set of two of the most notorious musical flops in film history, the movie versions of Man of La Mancha and The Fantasticks.

Left around quarter of 4 and made my way back to Oaklyn. Stopped at Dollar General on my way home. I needed trash bags rather badly. Also picked up a mouse trap (that mouse has been getting into my trash and nibbling my fruit for weeks) and sponges.

Did some writing when I got home. Yoda reveals to Luke and Leia that a series of traps have been set up around the Jedi Temple to make sure that only Jedi, Guardians, and those worthy of the Force and the Swords may enter. Leia wants to know more about how to pass them, but her uncle's notes are blurred.

Broke for dinner at almost 7. I had leftover lasagna and salad with home-made honey dressing while watching Star Wars: Rebels. The first two episodes, "Heroes of Mandalore," returns us to the embattled home world of Sabine Wren. She and her family are trying to rescue her father and destroy a terrible weapon she created while working for the Empire. The rest of the Ghost crew do their best to help out.

Did the rest after a shower. Ezra, Chopper, and Sabine discover how far they're willing to take war "In the Name of the Rebellion" when they're picked up by extremist Rebel Saw Gerrera after a mission goes wrong. Saw wants to find evidence that the Empire is building a massive weapon. The kids help him find the engineers who are being held prisoner and discover the khyber crystal that's being used to power the new weapon. Saw blows it up...endangering them in the process, and making the kids and droid question just how effective his "extreme" methods are.

"The Occupation" and "Flight of the Defender" returns Ezra to his home planet of Lothal. He and the Ghost crew want to check out a new version of the TIE Defender that's being built there. Ezra is dismayed at how much has changed on his planet. The Empire has killed many of his old friends for harboring rebels and polluted the land with their factories. He and Sabine manage to steal the Defender, only to crash in the desert. They're able to hide its hyperdrive in a cave before they encounter the mysterious Loth-Wolf, who seems to have a connection with Ezra...

The hyperdrive and the Loth-Wolf reappear in "Kindred." Zeb, Ezra, and Ezra's friend Jai go out in search of the hidden engine. The Empire is also looking for the missing piece of equipment. The boys evade them, but inadvertantly lead them to their hideout. Fleeing the Imperials, Ezra once again comes across a Loth-Wolf, who leads them to a secret Jedi city...and discover that the Loth-Wolves are a lot more important than they seem.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

The Eagles Stampede Over the Colts

Began a gloomy, rainy morning with early work. It wasn't bad when I arrived. I spent the first hour and a half or so doing two full carts of returns. The crowds started showing up around 11...and we were insanely busy until almost 2. I got thrown in the register for most of that time. All I did was panic. The lines were so long, and I had so much to remember! All my customers say I do fine, but I don't feel like I do. I just get so nervous!

And the managers told me I had to move my bike inside from the bike rack, where it's been perfectly fine for over a decade. They just had to dump a load of firewood in front of the bike rack, making it impossible to actually use it without blocking people's way. I don't know why our customers can't walk around the darn firewood. A tiny bit of rain never killed anyone. I was so fed up by that point, I burst into tears outside. Thankfully, it slowed down enough by 2 that I spent my last hour helping the other bagger gather carts, which desperately needed to be done.

I was so happy to get out of there and ride over to Dad and Jodie's for the game, rain or no rain. I saw a little of the Eagles game in the back room at work. They were ahead of the Colts when I caught them after I brought the bike inside, but by the time I parked the bike next to their garage, the Colts were ahead 13-10. The Eagles got a touchdown not long after I settled down at the kitchen island with lasagna, fresh French bread, and Caesar salad. The Colts just couldn't catch up, especially after they got a last-minute field goal that won them the game 20-16.

(And the Eagles weren't the only team on the East Coast who did well today. Dad's other team, the Dolphins, managed to swim past the Raiders 28-20, while the Giants squashed the Texans 27-20. Mark's beloved Packers just couldn't get past an on-fire Redskins and lost big, 31-17.)

The house was jumping when I got in. Along with Dad, Jodie, Jessa, Dana, and Rose and her family, we had a friend of Khai's named Cole and my cousin Mark and his new girlfriend. Rose brought a tray of strawberries and Peppridge Farm chocolate chip, snickerdoodle, and brownie chocolate chip cookies. Jessa brought onion dip and a tasty spinach dip.

Khai and Cole were surrounded by piles of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles action figures and were making them fight all over the Little Tykes mountain playset Jodie keeps for Khai's toys. Khai's little sister Finley wanted to play too, but she's only one and is much too young for action figures. She settled on grabbing hold of part of the Technodrome. Their friends Emily and and Chloe came later, after playing with Barbies at Emily's house.

After the game, Jodie corralled some of her guests to help her and Dad officially cover the pool for the season. The kids watched them, then pretended they were various characters swimming through water. Cole didn't join us. He and Khai went out earlier, but he slipped and fell and bumped his head. He rested while the kids chased each other around.

I finally headed home around quarter of 5. Did a little bit of writing. Luke keeps insisting to Leia that Vader is their father, and he's their real family. No, says Leia. Uncle Owen and Aunt Bertha and Papa Bail and Mama Breha are our family. Vader is nothing and never cared about us. She'd be glad if he disappeared off the face of the Earth.

Finally broke at 7. Thought I'd wake myself up a bit and finish the night with some Super Smash Bros Brawl. I haven't played that since Christmas Day two years ago. Did Classic mode on Normal with Princess Peach. It took me at least six or seven continues, but I did beat it. This was the first time I managed to get through the final round with the giant hand in one go, without having to use any of my continues.

I got in at just the right time. It was starting to rain hard again as I was riding home. It picked up while I was writing, and has been showering hard for the rest of the night. I hope it doesn't continue. I want to get the laundry done tomorrow.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Welcome to Fall

I awoke to a blustery, slightly cloudy first day of fall. No wonder the air conditioner was off, and hadn't run all night. It was cool, probably in the 60's by 10. I celebrated with breakfast and a couple of black-and-white Silly Symphonies. "Autumn" is the simplest, just animals putting away food for the coming winter. "The Cat's Out" takes us into the nightmare of a naughty feline in which every bird he ever picked on attacks him. "Hell's Bells" is even spookier, giving us a look at devils dancing in the underworld.

Since I work early tomorrow, I had my pancakes today. Inspired by that tasty gingerbread we had at the Bryant House last week, I made Gingerbread Pancakes. Other than I burned the side of the second one, they came out very well, moist and flavorful.

Did a couple of mildly spooky episodes of Hello Kitty Furry Tale Theater as I cleaned up from breakfast and got organized. "The Phantom of the Theater" has stolen My Melody's teddy and Catnip's candy stash and chewed a rope on the curtain. The rest of the cast head under the stage to investigate. Catnip's not happy when she's playing the creator of "Frankencat," a robot created from spare parts who befriends Melody. She prefers the more glamorous "Catula," a milk-sucking vampire who terrorizes Kitty and the others at her castle in Transylvania.

Finally headed out around 11. After making quick stops at a yard sale in Oaklyn and at WaWa to get money, I headed for Collingswood. Due to checking more yard sales on the way, I didn't get to the Farm Market until 11:30. They were still mobbed with people buying produce for fall parties and barbecues, despite it being close to closing. The fall produce is slowly rolling out. I saw the first winter squash, decorative gourds, and pumpkins of the season. I just opted for small apples, juicy purple grapes, and a head of organic red-leaf lettuce.

I was hoping to find a new record needle offline, but I had no luck. I went to a busy GrooveGround in Collingswood and bought a Limonade (Lemon-Lime) cooler in order to wait for Collingswood Music to open. I got three records there, a K-Tel 80's set, a Motown collection, and a set of old-time radio shows, but no needle. Walked around in a new local grocery store that just opened today, but their wares were way too pricey. Didn't do any better at InnerGroove Records down the street. He says he doesn't sell needles.

(That makes no sense whatsoever. If you sell records, you should sell a way to play them. Needles break. It happens. And these store owners wonder why more and more people prefer to shop online?)

Rode over to Haddon Township next. Their big fall Block Party is just off Crystal Lake Road near Westmont. No car show this year, but they did have many bounce houses, a mini-Ferris wheel, food trucks and booths, a ring toss game to win a goldfish, and lots of tables showcasing local businesses or crafts. The food was too expensive, and there really wasn't much else for me to see there, so I moved on.

Made another quick stop at Target to see if they had any record needles. Nope, nothing like them. Not even a CD player. Headed a few blocks down for a fast pizza and Coke lunch at Genova's.

Since I was already out and about, I figured I'd head to Audubon and get my Acme shopping done. As I was cutting through the mall parking lot, I noticed two more stores that will be opening soon. One is the discounter Five Below. The other is a small Goodwill branch. I'm so thrilled with the Goodwill in particular. The closest branches are in Cherry Hill and Bellmawr; the former is on a major highway, while the latter is a long slog by bike.

I didn't really need much at work. I was mostly there to buy skim milk and use online coupons for butter and organic fruit spread. I also restocked canned pineapple, granola bars (there as a good sale on the Kashi bars), cereal (went with the store's generic Honey Bunches of Oats and Almonds again), tomato sauce, two jars of peanut butter (a good sale on Skippy coupled with a coupon on the jar lids), yogurt, and cooking oil.

My schedule is pretty typical of the time of year and what I have been getting. I mostly work in the mornings and early afternoon, with Monday, Tuesday, and Friday off. In good news, that means I'll have time for writing, doing the laundry, and to figure out what to do next. However, I won't be able to get to the farm market next week, and I really could have used more hours.

Ran the remaining Hello Kitty episodes on the set as I got home and got organized. Tuxedo Sam is "The Pawed Piper," leader of a rock band whose music leads fleas away. Mayor Catnip hires him to eliminate these pests, but won't give him his reward...but you know what they say about paying the Piper. Grinder is "Rumpledogskin," who offers to spin straw into gold for Kitty if she gives up her first-born child (My Melody). She comes to regret her rash decision and desperately tries to find a way to keep her baby.

Put on an episode of Good Eats while I cleaned up from breakfast. Two cowboys show how to make a real bowl of "big red" in "The Big Chili." Ehh, I prefer Kit's Cincinatti Chili. I like the added cocoa, and there's no need to mess around with a pressure cooker or Dutch oven.

Worked on writing for a little bit. Yoda wants Luke and Leia to confront Vader. Neither relishes the idea. Luke wants to reform him, not kill him. Leia wants nothing to do with him and wishes he'd vanish off the face of the planet.

Had leftovers for a fast dinner while watching shorts from The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. Piglet is "A Knight to Remember" when he dreams that his friends are a king, wizard, and bishop who want him to fight a fierce dragon. Piglet's also having strange dreams in "Rock-a-Bye Pooh." He has a nightmare that his friends all vanish, and now he won't go to sleep. The others show him that dreams aren't real. Piglet wants "The Monster Frankenpooh" to be a not-so-scary story, but Tigger can't resist upping the scare quotient. He's also scared in "Piglet That Goes Bump In the Night" when he thinks the noise he hears is a ghost...and the others think he's the spookable. He and Pooh think they've gone to the "Pooh Moon" during a camp out, while the others are convinced they were snatched by the Grab-Me Gotcha.

Took advantage of the real maple syrup I brought home to make "The Vermont" maple-flavored sugar cookies from the recipe book Lauren gave me for my birthday last year. Watched Pooh's Grand Adventure: The Search for Christopher Robin and the original half-hour version of Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day while I baked, and later while I was online. I discuss the former in more detail at my Musical Dreams Reviews blog.

Animation Celebration Saturday - Pooh's Grand Adventure

Friday, September 21, 2018

Wand'rin' Star

It was cloudy and a little damp when I rolled out of bed this morning. Lauren and I had enough time after I finished packing and ate breakfast to play a few last rounds of Rayman Legends. We got through the final bad guy of "Toad Story" and were heading to the next round when Lauren noticed it was getting late.

Lauren's parents joined us on our trip across upstate New York to Albany. It rained lightly and was a bit foggy when we left. By the time we were passing through small farming villages and past a highway littered with many Rite Aids and pizza parlors, the rain was long gone. Only clouds and a slightly humid and warm day remained as Lauren pulled in at the Albany-Renesselaer Station.

The Albany station is the smallest and most recent of the train stations Lauren and I pass through when we visit each other, having been built in 2002. It really is lovely, with lots of blond wood and dramatic vaulted ceilings. I just wish they'd finish the work on the road and parking lot. We had a harder time getting to the station and parking than we did once we got in. We sat and watched The Price Is Right in the small waiting area until it was time to depart.

On my way down the escalator, the bag of snacks I'd had tied to my other bags decided to split wide open! Someone was nice enough to recover my muffins, but I lost a peach and a granola bar. It was embarrassing, but I did still have other food. Thankfully, that was the worst thing that happened during the entire Albany-New York trip. The train wasn't anything resembling full, and I easily got a seat to myself. I whiled away the time coloring a picture of Han and Chewbacca from my Star Wars comics-based adult coloring book and admiring the gorgeous view of the old mansions, majestic mountains, and colorful towns along the Hudson River. I even saw a tugboat toting a barge along the lake.

Penn Station was very busy when I arrived, but it always is. I ducked into a small room filled with PNC Bank ATMs to get money, then bought a coconut-covered donut from Dunkin' Donut to get change for the subways later. I ate my treat in the main room, then used the bathroom (which for once didn't have a line), and walked around for a little while until the Keystone train was announced.

I should have gotten into the line sooner. The train to Philadelphia (which was actually going to Harrisburg) was full to capacity and beyond! It took me 15 minutes just to find a seat. Teary and frustrated, I eventually landed next to three younger women, all of whom spent the trip checking their cell phones or doing homework. One was even nice enough to chat a little bit with me. I told her I was going to Philly; she mentioned she was on her way to Lancaster.

I was in less of a hurry when I finally arrived at the 30th Street Station. After another bathroom break, I went down the hall to the Taco Bell/Pizza Hut booth. I wanted the Burrito Supreme combo, but the girl completely misheard me and gave me a burrito and a taco! Oh well. I was hungry enough by that point to eat both, anyway.

It took me another 10 minutes after dinner to figure out where the subway entrance was. I got it mixed up with the SEPTA Regional Rail. Turns out the entrance to the subway at the 30th Street Station is across the street. Even after I found it, the card I bought to get on just would not swipe, no matter how many directions I pulled it. The lady at the ticket booth finally just let me through.

At least the ride was a little easier. The SEPTA trains are just as plain as the buses, with hard blue seats that scream 70's. Unlike the overcrowded and annoying ride to and from the King of Prussia Mall, the train wasn't crowded and was on time. I was at 8th Street in less than five minutes.

I don't know how I messed up the PATCO. I was sweating bullets and nervous as heck when I bought my ticket. I shoved it in the wrong way until a security man helped me get through. The rest of the trip was far less troubled. Other than the train was a few minutes late - the only train today that was - there were no problems whatsoever. Dad and Jodie picked me up at the Collingswood station about five minutes after I got in.

I called the Acme while I was putting everything away. Sounds like I'll be going back to work at 9 AM on Sunday. I didn't really think I'd be working one day this week, especially since I normally get Saturdays off. After all the trouble I had today, I'm glad. It'll give me time to recover and restock my refrigerator.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Fun, Fun, Fun

It was cloudy and cool when we headed out around 10 again...but this time, we weren't going far. There's an outlet mall in Lee, near the Mass Pike entrance, that Lauren and her parents love. We've been there before together, but not since we spent at least four days there when I visited in October 2015.

Our first stop of the day was Van Heussen. They mostly carry dressier clothes and sweaters, as well as IZOD golfing separates. I didn't see anything I needed, but Lauren went back later and bought two sweater vests for her dad. Neither of us found anything of interest at the Gap. Lauren considered a plaid button-down shirt at Tommy Hilfiger, but it didn't fit quite right. While the Dress Barn is one of the only stores to have it's own plus size section, we didn't find anything here, either.

Did much better at G.H Bass & Co. On my way out, I discovered a wall filled with rows and rows of socks that were three pairs for $12.99. Digging around uncovered pairs in a thick mostly-cotton knit that would be perfect for work; I did indeed buy three.

We also did well at Ann Taylor. She bought a blouse with a really cute navy and yellow lemon pattern. I saw a similar shirt in my size, but it was a tank top. I have plenty of tank tops. I bought an orange cardigan that perfectly matches the black, red, orange, and turquoise blouse I bought on Sunday.

I made my best find of the day at Eddie Bauer. I finally discovered a hoodie sweater to replace my badly faded and raveling blue knit. While it was a pullover, it was also a heavy black and multi-colored cotton that would keep me warm on capricious fall and spring days. A half-off sale brought it down to 25 dollars.

We had lunch at the mall's food court. Unfortunately, the food court doesn't seem to do as well as the mall in general, probably because there's plenty of restaurants down the road in Lee. More than half the booths we ate at in 2015 were gone and hadn't been replaced, including the sandwich shop with that yummy turkey and stuffing sandwich. We both ended up at Subway. She had a Chipolte Steak wrap. I'm not up to spicy food after the chili yesterday and opted for a Rotisserie Caesar wrap.

I was low on cash after lunch and Eddie Bauer, but Lauren did make a few more finds. She wanted to find a new pair of clogs for her job as the head teller at a local bank. We checked Clarks, Crocs, Sketchers, and Famous Footwear, but came up with nothing she liked. She did best at Jockey, which was having a buy-one, get-one half-off sale. That sale netted her two plaid sleep shorts, a similar pair of sleep pants, underwear for her mother, and three bras. She found a sweater for her mom at Talbots and a blouse for her at Aeropostale, along with plaid shorts for herself at Nautica. We emerged empty-handed from J.Crew, Levi's, Chico's, Calvin Klein, and The LOFT.

We finally headed out around 4:30. After we showed the Millers our purchases (and I had my leftover vegetable pizza for dinner - Lauren had her pepperoni later), we went downstairs to her room to play Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. After all the trouble we had getting online last night, we stuck to playing each other and the computer in the Grand Prix. Lauren mostly won, but I did better, managing to come in first on Sweet Sweet Canyon and actually coming in third on Rainbow Road.

(That's the best I've ever done on any version of that round. Usually, I'm lucky if I can make it to the end without falling off. Rainbow Road is the hardest round in any version of Mario Kart. There's nothing to keep you from skidding off the edge. When my sisters and I got to that round, our goal was more to see who could fall off the least than to see who could win it fastest.)

I'm heading home on the 12:10 train from Albany tomorrow. I'll have to text Dad and Jodie tomorrow to remind them - I forgot to tonight.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Country Roads

We were out by 10 again, this time going north through Massachusetts and New York into Vermont. It was worth the two-hour trip just for the ride. Lauren drove through charming old farm towns, over babbling brooks and raging rivers, and past endless fields of waving corn and jolly orange pumpkins. Vermont lives up to it's nickname "The Green Mountain State." It was foggy when we left; the mists rose majestically over the carpets of pine and cedar on the hills. The fog eventually lifted, reduced to fluffy white clouds bundled around the mountaintops like fluffy scarves and revealing a gorgeous, breezy blue-and-gold late summer day.

It was a bit after noon when Lauren parked in the very back of The Vermont Country Store in Weston. We come here every year. The rustic shop is filled with unusual and hard-to-find bric-a-brac, from hand-made soaps, candies, and baked goods, to locally-made flannels and knits, to cookbooks by Vermont authors, to old-fashioned toys and games, to brands from the early and mid-20th century that other stores no longer carry. Thankfully, they weren't that busy when we arrived. I had no problems walking around, sampling their caramel corn puffs, Cookie Buttons, and Vermont Common Crackers and jam.

I didn't get much. Even many of the sale items in the rooms upstairs were beyond my budget, and others, like the knitted items, were things I could make myself or buy cheaper in my area. I couldn't resist those Cookie Buttons, though. I went with the seasonal Pumpkin Pie this year. I also bought my annual bag of Boston Fruit Slices. These half-moon-shaped, sugar-coated gel candies with the hard outer rind are some of my favorite candies. I usually get them in Atlantic City, but I haven't been able to get there in a while. I also picked up a thin cookbook filled with honey-based recipes from the Vermont Beekeepers Association that was far less costly than most of the books in the store.

The Bryant House is the Vermont Country Store's eat-in restaurant. Lauren had a reservation for 1:30. It wasn't really necessary. They were a little busy with the tail-end of the lunch crowd, but nothing horrible. We even got a prime table next to a wide hexagonal window that gave us an excellent view of Weston's main street. We both had egg creams, seltzer with milk and chocolate syrup. Lauren had flatbread with pulled beef and vegetables. I had an enormous bowl of chili topped with fresh Vermont cheddar and ground beef. Yow! That chili was delicious and savory, but it was also spicy-hot! Between the heat and the huge bowl, I couldn't finish it.

We couldn't resist their gingerbread with whipped cream for dessert. Ooh, that was good. Perfectly moist and just sweet enough. The waitress was really sweet. Our orders were a little late; evidently, she'd gotten Lauren's mixed up and had to fix it. She paid for our desserts to make up for it. We thanked her by giving her the biggest tip we could.

Strolled across the street after lunch. There's two other interesting stores that are worth visiting in Weston. The Christmas shop reminds me a lot of the Winterwood Christmas stores in Cape May County. They have every possible Christmassy thing and ornament, from favorite characters to figures and houses to sports teams to animals and traditional Christmas symbols like Santa and angels. There's even small sections for Halloween and Thanksgiving merchandise. I didn't get anything here, but Lauren found a paint-by-numbers nativity-themed advent calendar.

The Weston Village Store is next-door. While they sell a lot of the same things as the Vermont Country Store - maple syrup and candies, cheese, fudge, old-time toys, clothes - they're slightly more touristy and a bit more irreverent. Their walls are laden with signs with either retro logos or goofy sayings, and there's a lot of practical jokes and magic tricks among the toys and ribald joke books in the kids' area. All the clothes have "Vermont" on them, despite being only slightly cheaper than the non-labeled clothing across the street. Lauren got nothing here, but I bought a tiny glass bottle of maple syrup, which was slightly cheaper there than the similar sized bottle across the street.

Walked around for about a half-hour more at the Vermont Country Store. Lauren got a few more things, but I didn't see anything else I needed. We finally pulled out around quarter of 5, heading back across the endless highways and through the small farming villages and past horses grazing and the weathered farm houses and silos.

We arrived at almost 7. The Millers had gone to another appointment in North Adams, picking up dinner from one of their favorite holes-in-the-wall there, Jack's Hot Dogs. Lauren had two hot dogs; I had two tasty cheeseburgers with relish and ketchup. We shared popcorn chicken and cheese fries while watching the Yankees play the Red Sox and Phillies play the Mets. We got to show off our finds, too. Lauren gave her parents long-sleeved print shirts and her father a comfy sweater. She made the best find of the day for herself - a beautiful purple quilted vest with thick black fur lining that she found on the racks in the upstairs sales room.

Didn't have as much luck playing Mario Kart 8 tonight. Lauren wanted to play the online games, but for some reason, her Nintendo Switch just would not hook up online. When we did get on, we didn't do well. Lauren did the best, coming in 7th on the Wild Woods level. My best was 8th on the first go-around on Sweet Sweet Canyon.

(Incidentally, the Yankees killed the Red Sox tonight 10-1. The Phils did far better, flattening the wayward Mets 4-0.)

We're going to stay in the area on my last full day here, exploring the Lee Outlets. We haven't been there together since we spent three days there when I visited in October 2015. I'm looking forward to it; plus, it's a shorter and less complicated trip for our final day together.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Rainy Day, Dream Away

I awoke at 5:30 to pouring rain...and went right back to sleep. I didn't get up again until quarter after 7, and the rain was still coming down. It was actually rather soothing as I read The Last Camel Died at Noon and worked on my journal while the Millers went to an appointment. Lauren was up at the same time, but said she wasn't driving in the rain and that we wouldn't be leaving early after all, and went back to bed until about 9:30.

I'd long had breakfast by the time Lauren rolled out of bed. It was still raining when I finished eating, but not quite as heavily as earlier. We played the Nintendo Switch port of Rayman Legends, a cartoon-y platform game that had a colorful toad and girl warrior rescuing long-nosed purple critters from pirates and other odd bad guys.

The rain slowed down enough that we were able to leave by 10:30. By the time we were pulling into the Colonie Center in Albany, NY, the clouds were starting to break up and the sun was emerging. It had gotten so warm, we left our jackets in the car near Macy's parking lot.

Colonie Center is the older of the two malls on Wolf Road in Albany, built in 1966 (according to Wikipedia). Lauren picked Colonie because it's has the only Boscov's in the area. I like Colonie because a recent remodel left it gorgeous inside and out. You'd never know it's from the mid-60's. The exterior has Art Deco influences, especially around the entrance to the Regal Cinema that lives up to its name. The interior sports wrought-iron railings, soft chairs and loungers, and huge brick fireplaces.

Macy's was our first stop. I'm not really a big fan of Macy's. I just used the bathroom. Lauren bought another nice shirt for her job as a teller in a Pittsfield bank.

The food court wasn't far from Macy's. It was 12:30 by this point, and we dodged quite a few people as we looked for lunch. I ended up with a "New England Thanksgiving Feast" sandwich from The Soup Man - turkey, mozzarella, cranberry sauce, and stuffing on a roll. Lauren had a pepperoni roll from the pizza booth.

After that, we headed into the mall. Christopher & Banks had great sales. I didn't see anything I absolutely needed, but Lauren bought a shirt for herself and a cute gingham blouse for her mom. Box Lunch, a pop culture knick-knacks store, had moved next-door. I found an awesome Han-Leia "I Love You-I Know" comic book-style t-shirt here for 15 dollars. (This was also only the second Box Lunch I'd seen after the one in Deptford.) Lauren picked up a cute Playstation 4 game at the tiny GameStop. (She apparently bought the Playstation 4 a few months ago to get a wrestling title she really wanted.) I couldn't find anything I could afford at LL Bean, but Lauren picked up a pair of plaid shorts off the clearance racks. (I saw those shorts, too, but they didn't have them in my size.)

Boscov's is the other major department store here. Normally, I love their sales, but I just couldn't find anything I needed. Hoodies like my ribbed hoodie sweater just don't seem to be in style anymore, and I'm not a fan of the blouses with the thick scarf-like necks. I did see hoodies like what I wanted at LL Bean, but they were way too expensive. I'll check online. Lauren bought a shirt and shell combo for work and a new sage-green purse. She's had her current turquoise purse for years, and it's starting to get a little worn out.

We split up here. Lauren went across the way to New York & Company. I wanted to check out Barnes and Noble. This is a huge store, and the first time I've ever seen it as a mall anchor, rather than a stand-alone store or as part of a strip mall. Like the big Barnes and Noble in Moorestown, they still have DVDs, toys, and music here along with books and magazines. I eventually ended up with another title in the Bookaphile cozy mystery series via the remainder table and Jedi the Last, the Shakespearean adaptation of The Last Jedi. The latter wasn't on sale, but I love those Star Wars-Shakespeare books and just couldn't resist.

We had dinner around the corner from Barnes and Noble at Moe's Southwestern Grill. They're a fast-food franchise that's somewhat similar to Hot Harry's - you choose the toppings and watch them made. I had a chicken soft taco and an oatmeal cookie; Lauren went with a quesadilla. Moe's has one of those Coca Cola Freestyle machines that lets you choose various combinations of syrups and sodas. We both tried the Cherry Vanilla Coke. I also had a tasty Peach Mello Yello.

Our last stop of the day was a quick peek at Jay Street Video Games. They hadn't been open when we went past earlier. Lauren has an original Atari 2600 and checked out titles for it, but didn't end up getting anything.

The sun had emerged as early as our lunch at the food court. We could see it shining through the skylights. By the time we headed out around 6, it had become an beautiful day in late summer, with nary a puddle to be seen anywhere. You'd never know it deluged this morning. We had a lovely ride home, with no traffic despite it being rush hour.

We showed the Millers our finds as soon as we got home, then sliced up a watermelon for dessert. Lauren says that some of her customers are farmers who occasionally share their extra wares with her and her co-workers. Yum. My straw hat off to the farmer who grew that melon. It was super-sweet and exceptionally juicy, especially for this late in the season!

Lauren and I played video games on the Switch for the next few hours. I haven't played Street Fighter II since my family used to rent the original fairly often in the mid-90's. Evidently, they ported a later version to the Switch. Lauren took Chinese martial artist Chun Li; I went with British soldier Cammy. We proceeded to (literally - both women have high kicks as their signature moves) kick some rear on Easy, including big baddie M. Bison. I just wish it took longer. We did it in less than 20 minutes on our second try.

Moved on to Mario Kart 8 Deluxe next. This is pretty much the same as the previous Mario Karts, only this time using the regular controls. We played through at least four cups. I had a rough time getting the hang of it and came in third on the first cup. After that, we were first and second for the rest of the Grand Prix.

We're finishing the night chatting and listening to Lauren's playlist on her computer, currently Joan Jett's "Do  You Wanna Touch Me?" Tomorrow, we'll be heading into the wilds of the Green Mountain State to check out the Vermont Country Store.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Our State Fair

Lauren and I were off a little earlier today, around 9:30. We headed back to the Springfield area, but this time got off the Mass Pike slightly earlier for the Big E, aka the New England State Fair. Unlike the last time we went to the Big E in 2008, we came on a gorgeous day. It was sunny and breezy when we headed out, with only a few clouds in the brilliant blue late summer sky. We parked in a large field with many other vehicles; it took us less than a minute to hike to the gates.

Getting into the gates was slightly more complicated than last time. Lauren bought tickets ahead of time, so we didn't have to get into the line to buy them. We did have to go through a metal detector, but I left my jewelry at home and we both brought small purses, so that could have been worse.

The Big E is mostly your typical state fair. The huge area has tons of bright-colored booths advertising every food that can possibly be fried (including Kool-Aid), animal exhibits (I saw one with camels and another with an elephant, as well as a horse show), a petting zoo, a pony ride, the world's largest pig, a midway with kiddie rides and two Ferris wheels, and buildings featuring displays of the wares of farms and various local companies. There's two arenas for musical performances, the smaller Court of Honor Stage near the main gate and the larger Xfinity Arena. We caught a bit of a Tony Orlando concert going on at the Court of Honor as we went by there later in the afternoon. (He was really getting into "Knock Three Times.")

(Incidentally, Micky Dolenz would be happy to know that the formerly outdoor Court of Honor Stage has now been covered with a large tent.)

Our first stop of the day was at one of the smaller trailers for lunch, near a display for Harley-Davidson bikes. The Granville Country Store sells variations on grilled cheese, including a grilled mac-and-cheese sandwich. Evidently, Mr. Miller heard about them on the news and told his daughter about them. Lauren got the mac and cheese sandwich, but it sounded a little decadent for my taste. Besides, I wanted some vegetables with my lunch. I ordered the feta cheese sandwich with bacon and tomato. Yum! I love feta cheese, but it's so expensive, I rarely buy it. It paired nicely with the real bacon bits and thick slices of tomato. We enjoyed our outdoor meal on benches in a quiet corner across from the trailer.

We strolled around in the Better Life Building next, since we were right there. This is where local businesses display everything from hot tubs to leather goods to sports T-shirts to rare DVDs. (The TVs at the DVD area were showing They Live, the cult horror film starring Lauren's favorite wrestler "Rowdy" Roddy Piper, to her delight. It was even the scene with the famous "bubble gum" line.) We went to the bathroom, but otherwise just browsed here.

The streets outside the main buildings are lined with shops selling appliances, crafts, leather goods, toys, face-painting, and airbrushing for t-shirts. Lauren stopped by one such shop with a wide assortment of mostly political t-shirts. I joined her to browse. She found a really nice backpack with a vinyl drawstring and a pretty lavender, teal, and black floral pattern. I don't want another drawstring bag after the string came out of my last one within weeks of buying it, and the only zippered bag they had looked kind of cheap.

Next up was the Avenue of the States. Each New England state touts its well-known wares in a recreation of its capitol building. Lauren bought fudge for her parents at New Hampshire. She and I picked up plaid flannel scrunchies at Vermont, and I saw booths selling Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream and big blocks of Cabot cheese. People stood in a long line to buy loaded baked potatoes, blueberry pie, and bottles of Poland Spring water in Maine. Children clamored for Pez dispensers in Connecticut. A booth in Massachusetts sold golden and red raspberries - we both had little containers of them. I saw a Del's Lemonade stand in Rhode Island. This is apparently a popular Ocean State institution often mentioned by my older friend Linda Young in her essays on growing up there.

The New England Grange Building mostly showed off crafts and jams and jellies made by folks across New England. She admired knitted outfits, small quilts, sweaters, and a fall display in the back. I'm afraid that while I appreciate the effort and artistry that went into their work, I can make many of the items sold myself for far cheaper.

By the time we did a second go-around at the Avenue of the States, I was worn out. Lauren had originally suggested having an early dinner at the Big E, but it was only about 2:30 when she bought the fudge. She'd checked several food locations, including the Food Court, but everything was too expensive or junky. After a last peek at the stuffed animals, knitted and wool goods, and jellies and condiments sold at the Eastern States Farmers Market, we finally just decided to head out early.

Lauren took a different way going back, one that gave me a quick glimpse of a bustling downtown Springfield before we headed back to the Mass Pike. Unlike the trouble getting to Holyoke on Saturday, this time there was no problems. The only traffic was near the Big E, and even that could have been worse.

We finally ended up having dinner at Athena's Restaurant and Pizzeria, just off the Mass Pike entrance in Lee. They were a lovely little building on the edge of downtown Lee, with wooden booths and tables and an outside area. Lauren had a buttery scrod, mixed carrots and green beans, and a salad that she said was delicious. I had an incredible chicken gyro with lots of seasoning and tzaziki sauce.

The clouds were starting to gather as early as our ride by Springfield, though the sun tried to peek out briefly when we were at Athena's. When we got in, we gave Mr. and Mrs. Miller the fudge, and I took a shower. We finished the night playing Captain Toad's Treasure Tracker and watching WWE Raw on the USA Network.

Tomorrow, we'll dodge the heavy rain that's supposed to hit New England and return to Albany to check out two large area malls, the Crossroads and the Colonie Center.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Beautiful Sunday

It was absolutely gorgeous when Lauren and I headed out this morning around 10. Perfect weather to check out a local flea market, just over the border in New York. We went here last year, too. I did pick up peaches here from a small farm stand for the rest of the week. Otherwise, unlike our trip last year, we made no finds.

We first drove to the Berkshire Mall in Lanesborough next and spent an hour walking through their huge Target. I considered some more Our Generation Retro outfits, but decided to save my money for later in the week. Otherwise, there wasn't much to see here. The Berkshire Mall is dying hard, a victim of too-high rents and poor management. Even The Garden restaurant that we had dinner at in 2016 is gone.

Next stop was Dalton for lunch. Lauren introduced me to her favorite outpost of a local chain, Hot Harry's Burritos. They were a small hole-in-the-wall fast food Mexican joint that had apparently just been remodeled last year, according to Lauren. She had two soft-shell tacos wrapped around hard-shell tacos. I went simpler with a chicken and black bean burrito. Yum. My burrito was really tasty, with lots of savory chicken pieces and guacamole. We both had house-made tortilla chips with our lunch and sodas.

Hit up two shopping centers across from each other after we ate. Lauren picked up the new Nintendo Switch version of Captain Toad's Treasure Tracker at a Game Stop at Allendale. I saw a sweater I liked at TJ Maxx across the street, but it was white. Considering all the running around I do, white is probably not a good idea for something I wear constantly. Lauren did better, picking up plaid shirt and another good blouse for work.

Thankfully, the mini golf course a few minutes down the street from the mall is still around. We've been playing each other here for years. It's your standard family course, with fiberglass bears to block shots and small wooden houses and mills for balls to get stuck under. Lauren's purple ball wound up in a small pool of water at one point. My red ball got stuck under the metal loop-the-loop in another. I accidentally hit Lauren's ball in the hole once! Lauren ended up winning, but only by a few points, 52 to 56.

Headed back towards downtown Pittsfield around 3. We wanted to eat at Lauren's favorite restaurant the Highland, but they don't open until 4 on Sunday. After a quick stop at a bank to use their ATM machine (we tried using Lauren's branch of the Co-Op earlier, but their ATM doesn't always work well, according to her), we went for a long stroll down North and Suth Streets. It was actually rather pleasant. The streets were relatively quiet, giving us a chance to enjoy being together and play tourist. I even got to take pictures of the stegosaurus statue standing outside of the Berkshire Museum for my nephew and his friends.

Most stores downtown were closed on Sunday, but we did find two to explore. The consignment shop we went to last year was not only open, but had recently expanded into the next building. Lauren picked up an orange and black striped Ralph Lauren polo shirt for her dad and a yellow blouse for her mom. I found a really pretty blouse in brilliant shades of orange, turquoise, red, and black.

Museum Facsimile sells prints of old movie posters, cartoon posters, comics covers, maps, and advertisements for the Berkshires, locally-made crafts, colorful socks, Berkshires merchandise, and soaps and perfumes, among other items. The gentleman who owned the store was trying to hang lights around the windows when we came in; I couldn't help giggling at his efforts. Most things were too expensive for me, but Lauren bought a mug for her dad and socks for her and her mom.

We strolled to the Highland minutes after it opened. The Highland is another hole-in-the-wall, this one a bar serving basic American fare like turkey and mashed potatoes. Lauren had a meatball sandwich; I had a veal cutlet sandwich. Both came on thick white "Viennese" bread. A basket of this bread was also brought to our table. I'd already had a slice of bread, so I took half my sandwich off the bun. Dessert was slices of their tasty coconut custard pie.

Went straight home after dinner. Lauren and I showed her parents our purchases, then went downstairs to play Captain Toad for a half-hour before wrestling started. The Millers are all big WWE fans. Tonight's even was called Hell In a Cell. It began and ended with no-holds-barred matches in a red steel cage, though the other matches were regular ones. I can't really tell you much about the matches, since I don't know the athletes or their personas well. I know Lauren likes "Rowdy" Ronda Rousey, a tough female wrestler who successfully defended her Women's title against the rather bimbo-ish Alex Bliss, a blond in some of the worst eye makeup this side of an 80's model.

(And the guy in the KISS makeup in the beginning tried swinging off the top of the cage and made a 20-foot drop onto a table...but the wrestler he was supposed to be landing on had the sense to move. He ended up doing some major damage to himself instead and had to be carried out in a stretcher.)

Tomorrow, it's back to Springfield, this time to check out New England's version of a state fair, the Big E.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Walk Like a Woman

It was absolutely gorgeous when we started out this morning around 10. The sun was shining, the breeze was blowing, and it was probably in the upper 70's. There couldn't have been a nicer day in September for a ride.

Our first stop was a house about 10 minutes across Pittsfield that was holding an estate sale. It was a nice little house, too, clean and well-maintained. Lauren didn't find anything. She said she was looking for clothes, and all she found were coats and dresses from the 80's. I dug up four vintage metal fluted cookie cutters - a star, a half-circle, a mushroom, and a rectangle - for a dollar.

We were supposed to be heading for the Mass Pike next, but we ran into heavy traffic in downtown Lee. Lee is one of the many tiny historic towns scattered throughout the Berkshires. I'd never seen them so busy! The sidewalks were teeming with people of all ages, and the main road was choked with cars. We even saw several parade floats, representing a local True Value, egg farm, and recycling program, as we went by. Driving through Lee to Mass Pike ramp should have taken a little over 5 minutes. It took over 20.

There were no problems once we got onto Mass Pike, no traffic of any kind. We arrived at the Holyoke Mall around 11:30. Hit their Macy's first. I just used the bathroom here (their bathroom is conveniently in the women's plus-size section), but Lauren bought a couple of blouses for work.

We went back to the car, and Lauren pulled it around the other side of the massive building. She wanted to stop at Best Buy to recycle some wires, ink cartridges, and older electronics she couldn't use. I looked at some cartoon DVDs, but we otherwise picked up nothing here.

The Best Buy opens up into the main mall. Since it was 12:30 by this point, we hit Ruby Tuesday's for lunch. I had a coupon for 5 dollars off 15 dollars or more. We settled into the dark, leathery booths and watched college football while waiting for our sandwiches. We both had grilled chicken sandwiches. Mine was the regular sandwich; Lauren's had avocado and bacon. Mine could have used more vegetables, but otherwise was pretty good. Lauren said she loved hers. We both ate most of our thin, crispy fries.

Spent the next few hours walking around. The Holyoke Mall is the second-largest mall in New England. (Only the mall in Natick with the American Girl store is bigger.) The graceful, curving floor plan, pale wood flooring, and shiny chrome makes it feel vintage without being dated. It's fun to just walk around in there. Neither of us picked up anything at Game Stop, Hobby Lobby, or Build-a-Bear. I didn't see anything I liked at FYE, but Lauren bought a "Rowdy" Ronda Rousey t-shirt and an exclusive Weird Al Yankovitz Funko Pop toy. I would have indulged in the buy-one, get-one free t-shirt sale at Lane Bryant if their t-shirts weren't so darn expensive. Lauren bought a big box of fruit bars for her dad and a package of soft raspberry-filled cookies for her at the Christmas Tree Shoppe. I found a box of the Jello Pumpkin Spice Pudding that never seems to show up at the Acme anymore.

I made my biggest find at JC Penney. I finally got a new pair of sneakers to run errands in. The Filas were only 40 dollars, fairly cheap for good sneakers. They have incredibly comfortable "memory foam" soles that feel so nice on my sore toes! My old Easy Spirits were in such bad shape, I couldn't really save them. I tossed them in the nearest trash can on my way out.

We ended up at Target next. Lauren got bras. I finally found an Our Generation Retro outfit for Whitney. I love Our Generation's "Retro" - aka, styles from the 50's, 60's, and 70's - line, but for some reason, it never seems to show up in the South Jersey Targets. As cute as the polka-dot Dance Party dress was, it came with a lot of little accessories like records I'd probably never use. I bought the "Sweet Memories" outfit, a cute lavender checked dress with a maroon jacket and cute turquoise scarf.

It was almost 5 by the time we got out of the Christmas Tree Shoppe. Since Uno's right next door, we went there for dinner. We split an extra large thin crust pizza with half-pepperoni, half-roasted vegetables. Even sliced into small pieces, it was too much for us to eat. We brought half of it home.

Once again too the Mass Pike going back. This time, there was no trouble anywhere, not even Lee. There were still crowds in town, but they were mostly focused on the white tents where the farm market was taking place and not the streets. We listened to classic rock, 80's hard rock, bagpipe music, and Weird Al as we headed back to Pittsfield.

We're now downstairs in Lauren's room, chatting and listening to the 80's station again. Tomorrow, we're staying closer to home to check out a flea market just over the border in New York and a couple of stores in Lauren's area.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Come and Go With Me

It was still cloudy and muggy when I got up, but I was too excited to be gloomy! I finished my packing before I even had breakfast. Loaded up the laptop and wires, cell phone re-charger, deodorant, and journal.

Even with all that, I had time to do some reading. Josefina Saves the Day when the young American trader who took her family's mules and woven blankets in exchange for goods doesn't come back with the things he promised. Josefina and her sister Francesca make a scary night's excursion to a local church to find the items and prove that the American lad isn't a fraud.

Molly gets her own chance to be a heroine in Molly Saves the Day. Her camp is taking part in a "Color War," where one side has to capture the other's flag. Molly and her friend Susan aren't happy when they're on the opposite sides from their other buddy Linda. Susan's poor canoeing skills get them lost...but it also reveals that their group has been captured. Can they save their fellow campers, without losing Linda's friendship?

Dug up three short stories from two anthologies. The Grand Canyon from the 60's story collection Disney's America takes Donald and Mickey down into the famous cliffs. Mickey ends up braving the rapids to rescue Donald after he falls off his burro. Donald Duck In Disneyland has Don chasing after his nephews from the Tomorrowland Autopia (Speedway) to Peter Pan's Flight. Paddington Bear also takes to the road when he repairs a tricycle in the hopes of joining the Tour De France passing through the French village he and the Browns are visiting....but his breaks come off just as he's going downhill...

Watched an episode of The Backyardigans when I did finally get around to my cereal and Italian plums. Pablo is "Le Master of Disguise," a clever little fellow who can pass himself off as anyone. Lieutenant Austin of the Paris Police chases him onto the Orient Express. Now he has to sort through the passengers on the train to find him, but with suspects like Conductor Uniqua, Circus Performer Tasha, and Cowboy Tyrone on board, it won't be easy!

Took a walk to WaWa after breakfast to pick up at least some money for the week. The weather may not be nice to look at, but it's sure done the local yards a service. Everything is much greener than it was just a week ago. Lawns are overgrown; the first fall flowers glow orange and yellow.

It was only around quarter after 9 when I arrived. WaWa was still busy with the last of the morning rush hour. I used the ATM machine, then bought a small turkey hoagie for lunch. I figured it would be quicker than trying to make a sandwich (I was almost late getting downstairs last year because it took me forever to make lunch) and cheaper than buying anything from the restaurants at the train stations.

Ran a couple of cartoons when I got back and started to pack up my lunch and snacks. Garfield In Hollywood takes the fat cat and his owner and dog buddy to Tinseltown after they win a talent contest. Garfield wants to take home the big prize and become a star, but Jon's worried that winning may mean leaving him behind.

We head to a fruity Manhattan in Strawberry Shortcake In Big Apple City. Strawberry's also the finalist in a contest, this one a bake-off. The Peculiar Purple Pie Man is the other finalist, and he'll do anything to make sure Strawberry's entry doesn't make it on the air. Good thing Strawberry meets a lot of new friends who help her out, including eventual series regulars Orange Blossom and Lemon Meringue.

Did one last Donald Duck short as I walked around the apartment and made sure I had everything. "Grand Canyonscope," as you can guess from the title, was Disney's second venture into widescreen processes. Don's on his own this time, riding another recalcitrant burro on a tour with J. Audubon Woodlore (of the Humphrey the Bear shorts). It's Don who ends up dodging an angry mountain lion when Woodlore bothers him in his cave.

Dad picked me up at 11. As it turns out, his worries about traffic were unfounded. We ran into no traffic whatsoever anywhere on the road. They'd just reopened the ramp that leads to 30th Street this morning. He dropped me off there within fifteen minutes.

I took advantage of the extra time to eat my hoagie at the smooth green metal tables in the back of the food court. Philadelphia's 30th Street Station is a gorgeous Art Deco barn that more closely resembles the lobby of a luxury hotel than a train station. I feel more elegant just walking around in there. Hurricane Florence's wrath was easily seen in the flipping schedule in the center of the main room. Anything going north of Virginia was on time...but the trains heading further south to Miami and New Orleans were flat-out cancelled.

For possibly the first time since I started these trips, I had absolutely no problems at any of the stations. The trains to New York and Albany were right on schedule. Penn Station was busy, but nothing out of the ordinary, especially for a Friday afternoon. There was plenty of room on the Northeast Regional train to New York. The Lake Shore Limited train to Albany was full. I shared the seat with a husky young man who spent the entire three and a half hour trip playing some game on Nintendo Switch.

Lauren and her folks picked me up at the Albany-Rensslauer Station. We had dinner at Mario's Restaurant, the same fancy Italian place we ate at on my first night last year. It was quiet enough for us to eat inside this time, with a nice view of the back parking lot and the woods beyond it. Mr. and Mrs. Miller had Veal Oliver (veal in seafood sauce) with vegetables. Lauren had glazed salmon with vegetables and potatoes. I had a yummy brook trout with tomatoes, Swiss chard, and salty browned butter gnocchi (round pasta dumplings). Lauren's folks had creme brulee for dinner - Mr. Miller without the raspberries his wife requested more of. Lauren had a "smores" - graham cracker ice cream with a bar of chocolate-covered mousse and toasted marshmallow puffs - that looked amazing. My coconut ice cream was made in the restaurant and even came with a biscotti with candied ginger pieces.

Lauren and I are now at her house, chatting downstairs in her room. Tomorrow, we're going to check out an estate sale, then head east to the Holyoke Mall in Springfield.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Isn't It a Lovely Day

It was still damp and cloudy when I got up this morning. Watched Garfield In Paradise while I ate breakfast to brighten the day. This time, Jon and his pets are off to Paradise World, a tropical island where the hotel owners make Jack Benny jokes and the natives worship 50's cars and doo-wop culture. They enjoy the sand, surf, and the natives' least until the island's volcano threatens to erupt!

Spent the rest of the morning doing the last work on my story I'll be able to pull off until next Saturday. Harry and Laurence meet back at Maz's Air Field, where the Silver Falcon's parked. Harry insist that his buddy take the Falcon to carry supplies and keep Vader's boys off their backs. Laurence agrees, promising that it won't get a scratch. Harry is less inclined to talk about his former girlfriend Clara (Qi'ra). He'll only say that she eventually dumped him in favor of her wealthy gangster boss.

Luke and Yoda join Leia on the San Diegoan (a real-life train route that still exists in Southern California) as she goes through her godfather's remaining papers. Luke's more interested in asking Yoda what happened to turn the good Dr. Andrew Skylark into the greedy industrialist Derrek Vader.

Broke at 11 for lunch and to get ready for work. Did a vacation-themed episode of Tiny Toon Adventures while I ate. Plucky wins a trip around "Europe In 30 Minutes" and invites Hamton, Babs, and Buster along. Their tour on the continent is an overly-rushed bust, at least until they reach England and Buckingham Palace. Babs and Buster foil a plot to kidnap the then-royals-in-residence Princess Diana and Prince Charles, while Plucky and Hamton dodge a chef who wants them on the banquet table.

Had time for a quick Looney Tunes short as I packed up to go. It's "All Abirrrd" when Sylvester chases Tweety around the baggage car of a train, hoping for a quick on-board meal. Spike the dog and the conductor wishes he'd leave Tweety and the baggage alone.

Work was actually pretty dead when I arrived, and would be quiet for most of the day...except during rush hour. I ended up in the registers for at least an hour and a half, and then for 20 minutes at the end of the night when a cashier had to go on break. Otherwise, I gathered baskets, did returns, bagged, and rounded up carts. I suspect part of the reason I was tossed in the register so much was we had plenty of baggers around to help out, for once. Otherwise, there were no major problems, and I was in and out.

(Oh, and Dad texted me during my second break. He'll be picking me up at 11. I don't leave Philly until 1:09, but there's a lot of road work around the 30th Street Station, plus it's the lunch rush hour. He and I both want to give us plenty of time to get there.)

Ran an episode of Danger Mouse from the seventh season that was also set around trains and vacations as I ate a quick dinner. "Danger Mouse On the Orient Express" begins in Venice, where DM and Penfold discover someone paving over the Grand Canals of Venice. Turns out it's Barn Von Greenbach, who has a permit that allows him to build anywhere. He wants to turn every town in the US into a tourist trap and send everyone to his museum. While Penfold searches for the permit that he lost in a river, DM deals with the spies traveling to a convention on the title train.

Ended the night after a shower with Top Hat, the most famous and popular vehicle for dancers Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. I cover it in more detail at my Musical Dreams Reviews Blog.

Top Hat

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

The Road to Vacation

Began another gloomy and humid morning with Garfield In the Rough while eating breakfast. Garfield is thrilled to be going on vacation, until Jon announces they're going camping. He'd rather be anywhere else but sleeping outside, especially after they learn that there's a bloodthirsty panther loose in the area!

Switched to the first season of Get Smart while getting my laundry together. Max finds himself "Aboard the Orient Express" with 99 after he accidentally handcuffs his wrist to a briefcase filled with money. All of the previous agents who tried to get the money to their people in Eastern Europe were gassed to death. Max has to figure out who's the double agent who has been killing off their men, before he's the next victim.

It wasn't raining when I headed to the laundromat, just cloudy. You'd never know that from the way Channel 10's newscast was carrying on. It sounds like Hurricane Florence will mostly impact the Carolinas and the south and not do a whole lot here besides a little rain and wind. The weather must have scared folks off. The laundromat wasn't busy except for a few older men messing around with their cell phones. Good thing. I had a fair-sized load to do, including the summer sheets. I worked on story notes and ignored most everything else.

Put everything away when I got home, then began packing. Loaded up anything I won't need for the next two days, including shirts, shorts, underthings, travel toiletries, a sweater for cool nights, hair clips and rubber bands, my walking sandals, socks, and pajamas. I finished most of the packing, but not all of it. Some things, like my brush and comb, laptop, cell phone, and journal, won't be packed until tomorrow night or Friday morning.

Put on a first season episode of Moonlighting set on a train while I had leftovers for lunch. In "Next Stop Murder," Agnes DiPesto is ecstatic when she wins a big essay contest for her favorite mystery writer and gets to spend 24 hours on a private train solving a mystery. Her bosses Maddie Hayes and David Addison board to see her off, but get accidentally stuck on board with Agnes and the writer's sarcastic entourage. When the writer ends up being the one who's murdered, Maddie and David have to figure out who did it, before the train stops...and Agnes is blamed.

It was still pretty early at that point, only around 2. I'm tired of sitting around all day. Since it still wasn't raining (and in fact, the sun tried to peek out at one point), I decided to head out for a short walk around Oaklyn. My first stop was the House of Fun. I browsed there briefly, but they were a disaster area, especially in the main room. There were so many boxes of action figures and toys scattered on the floor, I couldn't get anywhere near the wrestling figures. I eventually moved on to WaWa to use the bathroom and try their Pumpkin Maple Smoothie. Not bad. I can taste the pumpkin in this one, though the maple syrup is a tad too sweet.

It started to rain hard as I rushed home. I'd just gotten in the doorway when it started to pick up a bit. It rained for at least an hour or so, but as far as I can tell, it hasn't rained since.

Worked on writing when I got in. Harry agrees to drive the truck that will take them all to the digging site, to Leia's delight. He admits that he now needs a real job...but besides that, he is genuinely curious about all this Latin American history everyone's been talking about. Besides, he can't bring himself to leave Leia now. Charel and a reluctant Clarence also agree to join them, as do Luke, Yoda, and Artie when they arrive from the Los Angeles Star offices. Luke wants the rights to the full story on the finding of the Sword of Strength. Yoda will help translate the ancient Alderaanian maps and texts.

Broke for dinner around quarter of 6. I had leftovers while watching the 1997 animated musical Anastasia. I go into more detail on this old favorite of mine at my Musical Dreams Reviews blog.


Moved on to something a tad more comic after that ended. Bing Crosby and Bob Hope are off on The Road to Zanzibar, this time as entertainers Chuck Reardon (Crosby) and Hubert "Fearless" Fraiser (Hope). Chuck is perpetually coming up with wacky get-rich-quick schemes that has Fearless performing a crazy stunt that occasionally burns down a circus or lands him in the hospital. Fearless is ready to go home when Chuck buys a diamond mine from an eccentric millionaire (Eric Blore). The mine turns out to be worthless, and they hop a boat for Africa after Fearless sells it to a local. Even after they do arrive on the Dark Continent, they're easily duped by con-women Julia (Una Merkel) and Donna (Dorothy Lamour) into taking them to see Donna's "trader father"...actually, her rich boyfriend, whom Julia is determined she'll marry. Donna is having second thoughts after getting serenaded by Chuck. When they find out what's really going on, both guys take off in a huff, only to land with a group of natives who want Fearless to wrestle a gorilla!

I love most of the Road movies, and this one is no exception. Hilarious spoof of jungle capers, with Hope especially in fine form as Crosby keeps tossing him into increasingly more dangerous acts. My only complaint is it ends a tad abruptly after the guys leave the natives, and the girls suddenly turning up feels more like it had to happen for a happy ending than anything. Othewise, if you love the rest of the Road series, you'll want to give this one a look as well.

Ended the night with a third season episode of the original 70's Wonder Woman. Diana Prince visits a friend who lives in a small Southern California town, hoping for a nice, quiet vacation. She's called into action when it turns out that several property owners in town are being threatened by a gangster who wants to turn it into the next Las Vegas. A "Skateboard Whiz" teen girl with a photographic memory accidentally sees one of their hidden casinos. They move it, but the kid is still in danger. Diana will have to grab a board and a helmet and pull of a few gnarly moves herself to save her and keep the gangsters from causing more damage.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Getting Ready for Vacation

It was gloomy and humid when I woke up, but also a bit warmer than it has been, and not raining. Put on two Dr. Seuss specials while I ate breakfast and enjoyed the weather. The Cat In the Hat is the original tale of the six-foot-tall-feline who steps in to the home of two bored kids and proceeds to wreck havoc. Their fish wishes he'd just leave, but the cat does eventually teach the kids that it doesn't take a lot of to have fun, whether you're outside or in.

Pontoffel Pock and His Magic Piano is a more bizarre Seuss special from the early 80's. Pock was just fired from his job at a dill pickle-bottling factory and wishes he could get away from his unemployment and his family's decaying home. Enter a group of fairies who give him a piano that'll take him anywhere whenever he plays a few notes and presses a button. He first goes to an Alpine town, but his showing off upsets the locals. After the fairies give him a second chance, he ends up in the Middle East, where he falls for "eyeball dancer" Eefa Neefa. Now he just has to get back to her, before the fairies find him and his piano!

Switched to one of my 20's CDs for the rest of the morning as I did things around the apartment. First thing on the agenda was making the bed and stripping the sheets. I think the current weather is a good indication that Mother Nature is ready for fall. I put on the spring/fall sheets and my pale blue and tan comforter.

It was time for me to finally start getting ready for vacation. I pulled my carry on bag and rolling luggage out to see what I needed for the trip and what I could pack now. The answer to both questions was not much. The toothbrush and small toothpaste I got from the dentist's office in the spring would fit nicely in the travel bag, but I really couldn't pack anything else until I got the laundry done, and I had other things I wanted to do today. I did slide my Star Wars coloring book and a crossword puzzle book Lauren gave me for Christmas into the carry-on bag to amuse myself on the train.

Spent the rest of the morning taking down the summer decorations and organizing the back room. I loaded my oldest journals from as far back as my childhood into a plastic container, freeing up room for more journals on the book crates. Went through the pamphlets and menus I've collected from various trips (including previous trips to Pittsfield) and loaded most of them into one of the old accordion folders.

Made a quick plum-apple-escarole smoothie with a Jif peanut butter bar for lunch while watching Sailor Moon episodes. Usagi attends an upscale finishing school in the hope of developing manners and poise in "Let's Become a Princess: Usagi's Bizarre Training." The headmistress finds her vitality and clumsiness charming...until her friends join her for a final dance and they all figure out what the teacher is really doing.

"The Legendary Lake Yokai: The Bond of Usagi's Family" has her on vacation with her brother Shingo and their parents at a hot springs resort. Still under the control of the evil Queen Beryl, Endimyon unleashes a monster from the lake who has her own ideas of what she wants to use her magic for. She was sealed in the lake by an angel and her lover, and she thinks Usagi looks like the angel! The other Sailors need Usagi's help, but she can't transform in front of her family.

Headed out to the libraries after the second episode ended. Stopped at the Oaklyn Library first. It was just the morning librarian when I arrived, watching the news reports on Hurricane Florence on The Weather Channel. I mainly organized DVDs. I left as the second librarian and her son arrived.

(Incidentally, the librarian's complaints confirmed something I'd noticed last week. The McDonald's on Cuthbert Road, next to the Wendy's and under the Haddon Township Library, is being torn down and rebuilt. I thought the design of the building looked older. In fact, other than the color of the roof and the additional playground, it very much resembled the McDonald's in North Cape May in the 80's and 90's. It also means the ramp to the Library and apartment buildings that begins at Mickey D's parking lot is closed as well. I'll be taking the short way down Cuthbert to and from Westmont for a couple of months.)

 I was mainly at the Haddon Township Library to return the DVDs from last week. The DVD cart was so overflowing, I ended up returning all of the kids' titles and about a quarter of the adult ones, despite the sign saying they were saving it for another volunteer later. I also organized the DVDs and shelved TV show sets and audio books and CDs. Didn't take anything out this week. I won't be here next week to enjoy them or return them.

Made two quick stops on the way home. The only travel item I was low on was wipes, which I use when I can't wash my hands quickly while at the stations or on the train. Picked up a small travel pack of those, plus brown sugar and those yummy whole-grain fig bars, from Target. Needed sponges at Dollar Tree.

I tried to write when I got home, but I was so tired, I ended up napping for an hour instead. I did get a little bit of writing done later. Admiral Ackbar and Los Angeles Police Chief Madine describe how they'll draw Vader's men away while the others head to the digging site. Laurence will be with those who deal with Vader's people. Harry, to Leia's surprise, volunteers to lead the expedition to the dig site.

Made a decent dinner after I got off. There was a simple recipe for "Saucy Franks" in that vintage Jiffy Cooking book I wanted to try. I updated the recipe with canned tomato sauce instead of tomato soup (I have none of the latter), lemon juice instead of a whole lemon (I also had none), and with red and orange peppers added with the green and the onions. Also made baked hash browns and sauteed escarole. It came out really well, especially the tasty sauce.

Ran the 1945 film version of State Fair as I ate. I cover this one in more detail at my Musical Reviews Blog.

State Fair

Finished out the night with The Great Outdoors. Chester "Chet" Ripley (John Candy) is looking forward to a quiet vacation by a lake in Wisconsin bonding with his sons and his wife Connie (Stephanie Faracy). They're not even there for a day when their trip is crashed by Connie's rich cousin Kate Craig (Annette Benning), her obnoxious investment broker husband Roman (Dan Ackroyd), and their creepy twin daughters. Roman keeps showing Chet up at every turn, whether it's getting him to water-ski on the lake or after Chet eats a massive steak at the local bar. Meanwhile, Chet's older son Buck (Chris Young) is pursuing a local girl, but she dumps him after he has to break their date to watch the steak incident. Matters come to a head on a stormy night, when Roman reveals why he's really there. The dads have to rescue the girls when they try to explore a mine, then save the others from a roving bear...and learn that family helps family, no matter how much they drive them crazy.

I was pleasantly surprised by this John Hughes-penned tale when I picked it up from a yard sale a few years ago. Critics savaged it for it's lack of originality when it came out. Yeah, the plot is cliched, but Ackroyd and Candy ably pick up the slack as the two very different dads with different approaches to having fun while on a trip. It has a bit in common with another Hughes vehicle for Candy, Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, including an ending that's occasionally too sentimental for it's britches.

If you're a fan of either leading man or other Hughes adult and family-oriented comedies like Planes and the Vacation series, you'll want to make the trip out to Wisconsin, too.

Oh, and on a more sober note, yes, I do remember the terrorist attacks on 9/11. I discuss this a bit more at an entry I wrote on Patriot Day in 2015.

Memories On a Busy Day