Actually, I started off a rainy morning in a bit of a rush. I forgot Willa left a letter saying that there would be an inspector coming around between 8 and 11. I made the bed and ate breakfast as quick as I could. I was just finishing breakfast when Charlie and the inspector - electrical inspector - knocked on my door. I don't know much about outlets and electricity, so I have no idea what Charlie was saying. Something about the heat, I think. I could have sworn we had gas heat, but whatever. It's been working fine up here. Maybe he's had problems downstairs.
Ran I Want a Dog for Christmas, Charlie Brown while I ate and got organized. Re-run, Linus and Lucy's little brother, desperately wants a dog, or at least someone who'll play with him. Snoopy is too busy being a street-corner Santa to really have time to play. They finally persuade Snoopy's lanky brother Spike to come down from the desert and give the little boy a taste of what it's like to have a pet...and find out how hard it can be to take care of them.
The cartoon ended around 10, in time for me to head out and finally finish my Christmas shopping. I went out in a steady shower that would continue all day. I didn't really have a choice. I still had to buy things for most of the kids and finish Lauren's box.
As I was riding across Haddon Township, I saw a series of neon signs indicating an estate sale. I wasn't in any hurry, and I figured it would be nice to get out of the rain, at any rate. Two lovely older ladies were running a sale in a small house for an older woman who apparently was moving in with her daughter. She had lots of wonderful vintage items from the 30's, 40's, and 50's, including Christmas things...but most of those were too expensive or fragile for me to buy, especially on a bike. I eventually ended up with a charming 40's-era white enamel colander with a cute strawberry design that was only three dollars.
Made it to the Westmont Plaza around quarter of 11. My first stop of the day was Tuesday Morning. Along with some great Christmas stuff, they also carry many toy lines that have been discontinued or don't turn up elsewhere. Rose mentioned that she's been having a hard time finding the baby-oriented My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic toys that Finley loves. I found a pack featuring an adorable Fluttershy and her bunny Angel made by Playskool. They were rounded and reminded me a bit of Little People. They were perfect. I enthusiastically brought them up to the counter. The cashier must have caught on my good vibes - he seemed pretty happy, too.
After a brief stop at AC Moore to look at gloves and see if they had any Christmas boxes for cakes and cookies, I moved on to Target. I was easily able to pick up Jurassic World mini-dinosaurs for Khai and a much-needed pack of underwear for me, along with cranberries and maraschino cherries for baking and a box of tea. It took me much longer to figure out what to buy Skylar. Teenagers, especially boys, are very hard to shop for! (Keefe was at his age, too.) I eventually bought him an XBox One game. I was hoping to find gloves here, but they only had big, heavy ones for men. The clerks complained that they'd never gotten any women's gloves in at all.
In between buying the underwear and dinosaurs and picking up the XBox game, I had a quick lunch at Starbucks in a corner of Target. Sipped a hot chocolate and enjoyed their yummy (if slightly messy) turkey and pesto sandwich while texting Mom. She said she was sending out a gift to me and asked if I wanted an Amazon or a Target gift card. I said either would be fine.
My remaining stops were much faster. I bought bags for the bread and tins for the cookies at Dollar Tree, along with one last item for Lauren. Picked up a pair of soft knit gloves for the family gift exchange and a new sprig of mistletoe at AC Moore. My mistletoe is almost a decade old - I bought it the first or second year I moved here - and it was falling apart. Realized I'd forgotten to get orange juice for the cranberry bread, so I pulled into Rite Aid on the way home and got it there.
The rain wasn't stopping, or even slowing down. It wasn't very heavy, but it wasn't going anywhere, either. It was time to go home and wrap the presents. I listened to Christmas albums from Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, and Nat King Cole while I worked. Finally finished out that huge roll of teddy bear paper I've had for at least a decade on the little girls' gifts and one of Lauren's. Fortunately, I bought another, less cutesy roll last year, with a pine cone and bright red berries and old-fashioned "Noel" in gold against an odd olive-green background. I used this one to wrap the boys' gifts and the remaining ones for Lauren and her parents.
Got Lauren's things into a box and taped it in preparation to be sent out on Monday. The gifts for Anny's kids also went in a box, but they won't be sent out until next week. They're waiting on cookies. The remaining presents went in my Last Jedi bag.
Worked on some writing after that. First posted three original short Christmas stories I wrote around 2012-2013, as well as a holiday-themed essay on my fondness for Christmas lights. After that, I started my next long Star Wars project, The Snow Queen. The group is going to the planet of Norweden to try to persuade their mysterious queen to join the Alliance. Like Hoth, this is mostly a planet of snow and ice, but it doesn't get quite so cold that it can't support human habitation. Leia has high hopes that Queen Frostra will change her mind. Han's not so sure. Luke's just excited to see snow for the first time.
At any rate, here's those short Christmas items I posted at my writing blog today. May they fill you with as much joy as they did me when I wrote them!
Christmas Lights (essay)
A Letter to My Grandma (short story)
Christmas Shopping (short story)
A Rainy Christmas (short story)
Broke for dinner at 6:30. Ran The Muppet Christmas Carol while making baked coconut-crusted tilapia and roasted Brussels sprouts for dinner. I go into more detail on this much-loved holiday family favorite at my Musical Dreams Movie Reviews blog.
The Muppet Christmas Carol
Finished off the night making cranberry bread for my landlords Willa and Richard next-door while watching the 1955 TV version of Babes In Toyland. The 1986 retelling reminded me a bit of a Christmas oriented version of The Princess Bride. A department store Santa (Dave Garroway) tells a little lost girl the story of Tommy Tucker (Dennis Day) and Jane Piper, who are persecuted by the wicked Barnaby. Barnaby lures Jane's siblings into the woods, and they go after them, only to land in Barnaby's clutches. It's up to his beleaguered assistant Grumio (Wally Cox) and his marionettes (the Bill Baird Puppets) to rescue them. Still fairly charming if you're a fan of Day or Cook or you love the musicals of this era.
Oh, and the cranberry bread came out perfectly, much better than the recipe I used for Dad and Jodie at Thanksgiving. I'll see if I can give it to my landlords tomorrow...if I can avoid the rain. It's really coming down now, and has been for hours.