Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Have a Matching New Year

Began the morning with early work. It wasn't bad when I came in. I rounded up carts, did the outside trash and recycling, and shelved candy. By the time I got to the candy, though, the crowds had increased. I did manage to do a quick training video, but after that and my break, I was outside for the rest of the day, getting the carts with another bagger. Fine by me. While windy, it was also a nice, normal mid-upper 40's, and the sun came out late in the afternoon.

I knew I should have gotten what I needed for New Year's yesterday. The lines were half-way across the store when I finished. Picked up whipping cream and the Acme's new generic sparkling white grape juice for Whipped Syllabub, plus pie crust to go with my dinner and bags of peppermint chocolate chips from the clearance shelves. It took me ten minutes longer than I should have when I got out of there.

There was a box waiting for me when I arrived. It was the first of my Target order, my new slippers. My old ones are so worn, the bottoms split. These are nice, simple brown moccasins. They're too big, but with slippers, that's not necessarily a bad thing. They're also very warm and comfortable.

Went into writing after I put everything away. Nipsey's the first up the ladder to check on the sleeping Della and Patti. He's so entranced by Della, he recites a poem on the spot and kisses her awake...or so he thinks. Actually, she's already awake. She and Patti never slept at all. There was something annoyingly lumpy under the mattresses, and it's keeping them awake.

Broke for dinner at quarter of 6. I have a little sauce, cheese, and turkey pepperoni leftover from my pizza the other night. I made them into mini-pizza pockets. When I ran out of sauce and cheese, they became cherry mini-pies with cherry preserves. Leftover dough was twisted, brushed with melted butter, and sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon. Had them with green beans and almonds.

Watched a few half-hour programs while I ate. Laverne & Shirley are excited for Shirley's big New Year's party in the third season episode "New Year's Eve - 1960." Laverne nabbed a date with a handsome local, and Shirley's going with Carmine. Alas, Laverne's date walks out on her when his old girlfriend shows up at the party, and Shirley comes down with a cold. They're still able to watch Lenny drop Squiggy instead of the ball at midnight, though.

Charlie Brown's holiday isn't going much better in Happy New Year, Charlie Brown! He's supposed to write a book report on War & Peace over Christmas week, but there's too many distractions. Peppermint Patty is holding a New Year's Eve party. She's invited the whole gang, and she expects Chuck to be her date. Chuck would rather dance with the Little Red Haired Girl. Sally's hoping to catch Linus under the mistletoe. Lucy just wishes she could drag Schroder away from his piano.

Switched to Rudolph's Shiny New Year as I ate the last of the petits fours for dessert. I go further into the second Rankin-Bass/Rudolph special at my Musical Dreams Movie Reviews blog.

Rudolph's Shiny New Year

Did a couple of cartoons as I cleaned up from dinner and got organized. Angry when Olive turns him down, Bluto sabotages hers and Popeye's nightclub act in "Morning, Noon, and Nightclub," until they figure out how to turn the tables. Popeye gallantly takes Olive's grandmother out with them for New Year's in "Let's Celebrake." Spinach gives her enough pep to not only keep going until midnight, but win a dancing contest. Mickey and Minnie Mouse's "Whoopee Party" gets so wild, even the furniture dances along!

Finished the night online with Match Game. The guy who's been posting all of the episodes of the series little by little strung together all of the New Year's/Last Show of the Year episodes into one long marathon. The 70's Match Game celebrated New Year's with balloons, streamers, hats, noisemakers, and the changing of the sign at the very end (or beginning, in 1977) of the episode. Head boss Mark Goodson came out to praise the job they were doing in 1974; a giant paper mache eagle dropped a huge egg in '76.  New Year's came in the midst of Leave It To Beaver Week on Match Game-Hollywood Squares Hour. No streamers or party hats, but comedian Gallagher did play around with some balloons. The 1990 Match Game got more elegant with tons of black, blue, and silver balloons and everyone in fancy dress. Charles was on hiatus that week, so Brad Garrett got to do a dead-on impression of him.

Here's the Marathon, for your own New Year's enjoyment!

Match Game New Year's Eve Marathon

As I switched to regular Match Game episodes and sipped my Whipped Syllabub, I heard booms over the creek. I gazed out my new windows and saw fireworks going on over the creek, gorgeous big fireworks of green and gold and bright pink. It was a fitting end to the 2010's...and a bright, wonderful beginning to a new decade. Here's hoping that your New Year's was equally bright and beautiful!

Monday, December 30, 2019

Live Alone and Like It

Began a cloudy, wet morning with breakfast and What's My Line? I had enough time before I left to catch the first guest of the day, who stumped the panelists...and me, as I'd missed her signing in. She turned out to be a teacher of breathing postures. Soupy Sales was her fairly amused model for her breathing exercises in a very funny sketch.

It was showering very lightly when I arrived at work, and would continue to shower lightly on and off all morning. I alternated between gathering carts and shelving candy; swept the store around noon. By the time crowds started coming, I was on my way out.

Had lunch as soon as I got home. Ate and read my new Match Game 101 book while watching Dick Tracy. Dick (Warren Beatty) is a tough-guy cop in a colorful city under siege by some of the most grotesque gangsters this side of the funny pages. He's really after Big Boy Caprice (Al Pacino), the new head of all the rackets in town. His girl Tess Trueheart (Glenn Headly) wishes he'd take a desk job and have more time for her. He chases down an orphan who calls himself the Kid (Charlie Korsmo) and may have witnessed several gangland killings. Big Boy's moll Breathless Mahoney (Madonna) will give them information, if Tracy shows more interest in her than just as a witness. Things come to a head on New Year's Eve, when a faceless entity kills corrupt District Attorney John Fletcher (Dick Van Dyke) and frames Tracy, then kidnaps Tess and leaves her in Big Boy's basement. It's up to Tracy and the Kid to solve the mystery, rescue Tess, and stop this Blank menace, before they both end up in a pair of cement shoes.

The eye candy alone makes this one worth checking out. An all-star cast is decked out in primary colors and running around massive sets straight out of a 1930's comic book. Pacino and Madonna walk away with the movie as the head gangster determined to stick it to Tracy and build his empire and the singer who wishes Tracy would see her as more than a gangster's girl. Great score by Danny Elfman and songs by Stephan Sondheim too, including the Oscar-winning "Sooner or Later" for Madonna. Absolutely worth checking out if you love Tracy, the cast, or the stylized action movies of the early 90's.

Worked on writing for a while after the movie ended...and as the rain ended and the sun came out. Nipsey, Bill, and Charles eventually pass out. When Charles awakens in the morning, he peeks in and assumes the ladies are sleeping. Nipsey goes up to check on them...and gets quite a surprise when he learns that they're awake, and have been all night.

Broke for dinner at 6. Watched episodes of Match Game on Buzzr as I ate leftover ham and macaroni salad with kale-spinach salad. Gary Burgoff of MASH replaces his former acting teacher Charles Nelson Reilly, who was on Broadway directing a play, in these two 1975 episodes. Bubbly blonde Elaine Joyce got her first crack at the Head-to-Head bonus round in the first episode, while Gene fends off more cracks about his fashion sense in the second.

Hit the bath after I ate. Oooh, I so needed that. I looked over cake decorating books for ideas for New Year's cakes while listening to a smooth jazz CD and enjoying the warm water. It was so relaxing after a busy couple of weeks.

Finished the night with The Absent-Minded Professor on Disney Plus. This 1961 comedy was an old favorite that I watched a lot on The Disney Channel as a child. Professor Braniard (Fred MacMurray) of Medfield College accidentally invents "flubber," a high-bouncing rubber that'll allow anyone who wears it or holds it to leap so high, they appear to be flying. He melts it onto the shoes of the college's basketball team and uses it to allow his Model T Ford to fly. He wants to sell it to the US government, but the college's wealthy owner Alonzo Hawk (Keenan Wynn) wants it for his own gain. Braniard's fiancee Betsy (Nancy Olsen) wishes he'd actually remember their weddings - he's forgotten three times. She encourages the attentions of a snooty philosophy professor (Elliott Reid) to make Braniard jealous. Not to mention, Alonzo is upset because Braniard flunked his son Bill (Tommy Kirk) and won't give the college more time to pay back loans. Braniard has to get his discovery to the government, bring prestige to Medfield, and show what flubber can really do...before Hawk gets it out from under him.

If you love the goofy Disney comedies of the 50's, 60's, and 70's, this is one of the better ones. There's some surprisingly decent special effects for the time, especially the boys bouncing off the walls at the basketball game. MacMurrary's having a lot of fun as the forgetful scientist who is so busy thinking of ways to improve mankind, he neglects the woman in his life, and Wynn's equally enjoying himself as the obnoxious businessman who thinks he's found his way to easy riches in Braniard's invention. Definitely worth checking out if you love the Disney family comedies of the era or the cast.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

The Eagles Rain on the Giants' Parade

I stayed up late with Lauren last night and slept in this morning. It was still cloudy when I finally rolled out of bed. Thought I'd try Coconut Lemon Pancakes for my last pancake breakfast of 2019. I shouldn't have turned the burner up so high. I burned both of them, and the first one fell apart. They still tasted pretty decent when I got around the blackened bottoms, though.

Listened to the 1964 original cast of Hello Dolly! while eating and cleaning up afterwards. Jerry Herman, the writer of the music for Dolly, Mame, and Mrs. Santa Claus, among others, passed away the day after Christmas. Dolly wasn't his first show - that was the revue Parade - but it was his first major hit. Carol Channing, who also passed away this year, won a Tony and made the title role her own for decades. The cast also featured two favorites of mine, Charles Nelson Reilly as put-upon clerk Cornelius Hackle and Eileen Brennan as romantic hat-maker Irene Malloy, who introduce "It Only Takes a Moment" and "Ribbons Down My Back" respectively.

Spent the next few hours working on my story. Nipsey, Charles, and Bill the wolf agree to guard Della and Patti while they sleep and make sure nothing happens to them. Charles swears he sees Queen Isobel stick a pea under the last mattress, but he's not sure.

Meanwhile, later that night as they're guarding the ladies, Bill tries to encourage Nipsey to pursue Della by relating his own romantic troubles. He corresponded with a noblewoman named Beauty, falling in love with her sight unseen. They'd set up a date in the Summerlands, but it was never to be. Malade invaded and turned him into a wolf before he could keep his date, burning the letter he'd written to propose to her. He's sure the lady thought he stood her up and hates him now.

Broke at 4:30 to grab my coat, use the bathroom, and head out to Dad and Jodie's for the Eagles-Giants game. The rain arrived sometime in the early afternoon, and while it had slowed to a mild shower by almost 5, I wasn't taking chances. I walked there in order to use my umbrella...and ironically, the rain stopped all together shortly before I arrived on Hillcrest Avenue.

Only Dad, Jodie, Jessa, and Midnight were there when I arrived. Everyone else was out of town, still recovering from Christmas, or at work. Jodie ordered pepperoni and mushroom pizza for all of us and hot wings for her and Jessa. (Midnight gnawed on the celery sticks.) Midnight cuddled against my leg as I rubbed his head and half-dozed. Jessa chatted with Jodie, who kept repeating about how badly this team or that team was doing.

Actually, the Eagles didn't end the season too badly at all. They took hold early on and were up 10-0 at the Meadowlands by the end of the first quarter. The Giants came back, and by the 3rd quarter, they were 17-17...but the Eagles started turning things around by the end of that quarter. Two touchdowns and a field goal later, and they'd walloped New York and gotten themselves in the playoffs.

By the time the game ended, the rain had started up again, and much harder. Jessa drove me home. Jodie gave me a ton of food once again, including leftover egg muffins and French toast casserole from Christmas Day brunch and ham and macaroni salad from Christmas Eve. The latter two will likely go into my New Year's Day dinner, Crock Pot Ham and Cheese, collard greens, and macaroni salad.

Finished the night with more Jerry Herman. Herman's shows were considered old-fashioned in the gritty 70's and didn't do nearly as well as the musicals he wrote in the decades before and after. Too bad, because there's some gems to be found in The Grand Tour. This 1979 vehicle for Joel Gray, based after the play Jablonsky and the Colonel, has him as a little Jewish man fleeing the Nazis who recruits a German colonel (Ron Holgate) and his assistant to drive him to France. On the way, they meet many colorful characters, and Jablonsky falls in love with the Colonel's sweetheart Marianne (Florence Lacey) and finds that there are people worth standing up - and running to conflict, rather than from - for.

This was Herman's biggest flop, and it's too bad. Some of the songs are quite good - I'm especially fond of Jablonsky's anthem that opens and closes the show, "I'll Be Here Tomorrow," "I Belong Here" for Marianne as she explains why she won't leave France, and "You I Like," a duet for Jablonsky and the Colonel after they've become friends. If you're a fan of Herman' or Gray, there's enough worthy music in this one to be worth going on tour for.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Berry Sweet Afternoon

Began a sunny, bright morning with breakfast and cartoons. I found the most recent version of Strawberry Shortcake while digging around Tubi. Strawberry and the girls are thrilled when their pop star friend Cherry Jam opts to stay in Berry Bitty City for a while longer after her van breaks down. When the Berrykins try to get her to teach them music, she and Strawberry decide to show off everyone's talents in a big show instead. The other girls are excited - none more than Lemon Meringue, who locks herself in her room to work on her animal hair sculptures. She realizes that there's a lot more to putting on a show than doing your own thing when an upset Raspberry Torte comes to her for help in creating a new act after her keyboard goes missing.

Switched to Rolie Polie Olie at the Roku Channel while making gingerbread drop cookies with the Betty Crocker gingerbread mix. I loved this cute CGI cartoon about a robot boy and his family in their mechanical round world when I was in college. It kept me amused and awake early in the morning before work or classes, when I'd catch it on what was then called Playhouse Disney. Rolie and his little sister Zowie make their parents soup out of everything they love for breakfast, but their "Cinnimin' Toast" is the biggest hit. "I Found Rock" says Zowie, who insists a piece of stone she found in the backyard is her new pet. Her parents aren't as amused and insists that rocks belong outside. Olie has to chase his Pappy's dentures all around the house in "Tooth on the Loose!"

It was past 1:30 when I finally headed out to run a few errands. Started at the Oaklyn Library. They were 20 minutes to closing when I arrived. I spent those 20 minutes fixing the very disorganized action and comedy DVD sections and taking a quick look at the kids' area.

Headed to the Acme next to do my grocery shopping and get my schedule. In good news, I'm off tomorrow and next weekend again. I do work New Year's Eve and New Year's Day, but I expected that. The head bagger is normally off Wednesdays anyway. At least I only work in the morning both days. I'll have plenty of time for a late brunch/lunch on New Year's Day. Fewer hours, but working New Year's should make up for it.

Didn't really have a ton of grocery shopping to do - I went out to eat or ate out of the fridge for a lot of this week - but there were a few things I needed. I was almost out of whole wheat flour. King Arthur was still on sale, and I had a paper coupon. Picked up a ham steak and potatoes to make Crock Pot Ham and Potatoes for my New Year's Day dinner. I'll have collard greens along with them. Bags of greens were on sale; I went with a kale-spinach mix. The Acme's generic premium pint ice cream is still on clearance. Thought I'd try their "Cold Columbian Brew" (aka caramel coffee chip). The pears kept getting mushy too fast, so I grabbed bananas for work this week instead. Restocked oranges, eggs, skim milk, tomato sauce, and cereal.

Switched on Buzzr while I put everything away. Caught a couple of episodes of Let's Make a Deal. I saw the second one earlier in the week, but the earlier was new to me. A lady cat and a cowgirl in an adorable costume (complete with drawn-on "freckles") went for the big deal of the day. Neither got it, but they did get some nice stuff, including a washer and dryer and appliances. Continued with Classic Concentration as I did the dishes. A young man came so close to winning a car in the first few minutes of the game. The girl who beat him in the next round got much luckier, winning a car with seconds to spare.

Finally managed to get some writing in after I finished. Isobel wants Della and Patti to prove they're princesses by sleeping all night on 20 mattresses that reach the ceiling, under which there's a tiny pea. If they can feel the pea, they're the real deal. Nipsey and Charles agree to guard the women and make sure they actually sleep; Bill joins them as a watch-wolf.

Broke for dinner at 6:30. Made a cheese and greens omelet while watching more Classic Concentration. Jumped in the shower after I ate, then watched Newsies on Disney Plus online. I go further into this 1992 musical retelling of the real-life story of a newsboy strike on my Musical Dreams Movie Reviews blog.


Finished the night with two episodes of Super Password from 1985 on Buzzr. Burt Convy took over from the late Allen Ludden as the host of this mid-late 80's revival. It's pretty much the same deal as Password Plus with blockier blue-and-neon sets and a new, super-hard "Cashword" mini-game added in the middle of the main rounds. I have no idea who was in the first one, but soap star Gloria Loring joined a hilarious Richard Moll (Bull from Night Court) for the second.

Friday, December 27, 2019

Lights of Camden County

Began a semi-cloudy day with breakfast and Buzzr. Started off with Blockbusters. A mother-son pair kicked rear today, including the challenger's. Left it on for Match Game while I did the dishes and got organized. In the first episode, Mark Goodson, one of the show's producers, gave Gene a bag for his needlepoint in honor of his work on the show and how big of a hit had become. In the second, we have Nipsey Russell next to Brett, making poems on the spot, while she teases a less-than-amused Richard.

Didn't get out to the laundromat until past noon. I should have gone earlier. A woman had so much laundry, she just had to take every single small washer. I begged for her to let me have one regular washer, but she complained she had too much laundry. Good thing I brought an extra dollar I originally intended to use to buy soda. I ended up using one of the larger, more expensive washers. Even with a load that was relatively large for me, all of my things finished before hers, and I had no trouble getting a dryer.

When I got home, I put my laundry away while trying something a little different. Exploring around Tubi revealed a 1997 animated version of Paddington Bear. These episodes seem to be at least somewhat inspired by the original stories. Paddington wrecks havoc on "A Visit to the Hospital" when he goes to see a neighbor whom broke his leg. "Paddington Takes the Road" when he repairs a tricycle and joins the Tour De France...but he can't figure out how to stop! "The Last Dance" has him practicing for a charity ball with Mr. Brown. His first waltz with a partner goes quite differently than he expects.

Called for Uber around quarter of 3. I just didn't feel like hiking all the way up to Barrington to take the bus to Deptford. I texted Jessa earlier and asked her to meet me for dinner at Red Robin. The gentleman, his car smelling of peanuts, pulled up about five minutes later. Other than a little traffic around the Deptford Mall, there were no problems.

Needless to say, the mall was busy as heck today. I explored the Disney Store, Bath and Body Works, Modell's Sporting Goods, and GameStop, but only bought a Mary Englebret calendar from the pop-up booth in the middle of the mall. Did better at Boscov's. Finally found a desperately-needed pair of New Balance sneakers there for $40. My work sneakers are literally falling apart. I like New Balances for work, but I couldn't find a pair I liked for a good price.

Met Jessa in front of Red Robin at quarter after 5. They were a little busy, but we were able to get a small booth. I haven't eaten there since Jessa and Joe took me there once. Jessa had a Guacamole Bacon Burger. I had a Bonzi Burger (teriyaki sauce, grilled pineapple, and the usual tomato and lettuce). We shared their tower of steaming, crunchy onion rings.

After dinner, Jessa drove to Pitman, a small town about 20 minutes from Deptford, to check out their elaborate lights display. Apparently, there's a small circle of Edwardian-era homes that use their shared courtyard area for a display of every possible Christmas thing that exists. I saw Looney Tunes in stockings, Santa sleeping, Santa in his workshop, Spongebob Squarepants, Mickey, Minnie, and Donald in a window, at least three large nativities, Raggedy Ann and Andy surrounded by other dolls, many variations on Rudolph and Frosty, children of many lands in their native costume, and even a vintage Santa house with photos of Pitman's past, all of it festooned with yards and yards of glittering, twinkling lights in every color imaginable.

My favorite display were the bears and their friends. A group of bears in all sizes, some in winter clothes or nightshirts, gathered around a "fire." One brown bear even toasted a marshmallow. There were some other animals too, including what I believe was an otter. It was just too cute.

After Jessa dropped me off at home, I returned to exploring Roku. It took me more than 40 minutes just to decide on what to watch! By that point, it was too late for a movie. I settled on two episodes of an old childhood favorite, Bewitched. The Roku Channel only had the later color seasons, but that was good enough to bring back some fond memories. I used to watch the show a lot in reruns when I was little.

Went with two fifth season episodes. In the first, a witch who is angry with Samantha's cousin Serena for stealing her husband mistakes Sam for her and sends Sam back in time to 1868 New Orleans. She doesn't remember who she is and almost ends up marrying a handsome businessman, until Serena sends Darrin back to win his wife's hand. The second episode has Sam's mother Esmerelda turning their daughter Tabitha into a piano virtuoso at four. Samantha, who has been trying to learn to play piano the mortal way, insists she doesn't want her daughter away from her parents for that long and searches for a genuine child piano protege to take her teacher's mind off Tabitha.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Winter Picnic

Began the morning as I got ready for work with What's My Line? on Buzzr. They run the color early-mid 70's version of the classic show that has four panelists trying to guess a contestant's unusual occupation. The first contestant made indoor swings, and Arlene Francis finally guessed it. The second, to my surprise, was the Mayor of Cape May! He must have come in just as they got their National Historic Landmark status. He talked about how Cape May is the only whole town to be a National Historic Landmark and that he ran on a platform of preservation and keeping the Victorian houses intact. (He stumped the panelists, too. They never even guessed "politics.")

Work was dead the entire morning. Never got even a little busy. It's the day after the biggest holiday of the year, it's the middle of the week, and the weather was gorgeous, sunny and cool but not too cold. I enjoyed doing carts this morning, and other than gathering recycling inside and out and sweeping briefly, I was mostly outside.

It was so nice, I opted for lunch at Sonic. I wasn't the only one, either. A family with young kids sat at a table on the other side as I ordered my slightly gristly grilled chicken sandwich with tater tots and a cherry limeade. Enjoyed my meal while listening to the kids babble and chatter.

Goodwill was next. I was hoping to find some good musical DVDs. No musicals this time around, but I did unearth the double-set for The Rescuers and The Rescuers Down Under I've been thinking of picking up along with Lego Batman 2 for the Wii. Grabbed a Marvel Comics calendar and a Zero white chocolate bar from Five Below.

Went home, changed, put everything away, had a snack, then went right back out. Took the long way across the Haddon Lake Park. I dodged a lot of people on the path today, including at least two walking dogs and a huge flock of ducks who enjoyed the cold waters.

The Haddon Township Library wasn't any busier than the Acme. I was able to shelve all of the kids' titles, though some adult ones just would not fit. Once again, didn't take anything out. I don't know what my schedule will be like next week, and I'd like to further explore Roku and see what else I have on there.

It was getting late by the time I got out. I rode straight home. Did some writing when I got in. Queen Isobel wants Della and Patti to prove that they're princesses by sleeping on 20 lumpy mattresses. Nipsey's not too sure about this, but Della just wants to earn Isobel's support.

Finished the night with mushroom and turkey pepperoni pizza while watching the Fred Astaire-Bing Crosby vehicle Blue Skies on the Roku TV Time Musicals app. I go further into the movie itself on my Musical Dreams Movie Reviews blog.

Blue Skies

Mixed feelings on the app itself. It had a decent selection of musicals, but the same three commercials kept interrupting at the most annoying and inappropriate times. They had enough I hadn't seen before for me to keep the app around.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

Merry Christmas! I began a beautiful holiday morning with the Colliers Harvest of Holidays. They have at least five Christmas stories, more than for any other holidays. My favorites are "Flora McFlimsey's Christmas," about a little doll who manages to walk down to the tree on Christmas Eve, where the angel on top cleans her up for a little girl, and "A Star For Hansi," as a grandmother teaches her granddaughter about saving with a story on how she bought her little brother a star with her last saved coin.

Sun was streaming through the window overlooking the park as I crept to the tree. I always open the presents Linda Young gives me on Christmas morning. This year, my big gift was a beautiful warm woven wrap in red and blue plaid. The other larger gift was a cozy mystery novel set in an ice cream shop. The "stocking stuffer" was a new pair of gloves. I especially appreciated those! My cheap black gloves are stretched out and badly pulled.

Watched Match Game on Buzzr as I opened gifts. Betty White appeared with her husband Allen Ludden of the Password franchise on a week of episodes in 1976. In the first one, Allen got a look at this crew's usual shenanigans when his wife again rolled up Gene's pant legs while he talked to the upper desks. "Is this what goes on when I'm not here?" asked her amused husband. In the second, a question about their social life sent them both blushing and giving strange answers.

Strolled to Dad and Jodie's around quarter after 10 on foot. Everyone was already there when I arrived, including Jodie's son TJ and his fiance Eric and her other son Jesse and his wife Dana, along with Vanessa, Jessa, Joe, and Midnight, and Rose and her tribe. Along with leftover candy, ham, and macaroni salad from last night, Jodie and Dana set out Jodie's amazing French bread casserole, Dana's sausage bake, egg muffins, blueberry and plain English muffins, a plate of pineapple chunks and berries, real syrup, and orange juice. Dad had the Christmas Story marathon going in the background all morning, and someone found the Gatlingburg Festival of Lights Christmas Parade on WPHL 17. (Why a Philly station played a parade from Tennessee is way beyond me, but it was fun.)

We unwrapped the gifts around 11. I gave everyone their cookie boxes. Khai got a book on codes and Super Mario Maker 2. Finley got the most adorable play barn and her own stuffed "puppy" on a leash, so she could have a dog to lead around like Midnight and Nala. I got warm alpaca wool socks from Dad and a brand-new laptop and 50 dollars from Dad and Jodie. I'm typing on my new laptop now. It's a HP and is a lot smaller - and ten times faster - than my old Toshiba.

Everyone but Dad, Jodie, and the kids took part in the gift exchange. This time, everything but my cocoa mug was wrapped. We grabbed them based on size and shape alone. I was first; I took the only bag under the tree. Jessa wanted a box that included a pair of light-up chopsticks, but Dana snitched it. (She eventually kept what was in the box but gave Jessa the chopsticks.) The others kept switching around a package wrapped with brown paper and a thick rope. Jessa ended up with it; she got a cool slide music maker. I think Joe got the cocoa mug.

Everyone says I got the best present. Someone wants me to move into the 21st century. My present was a Google Nest thing that acts as an alarm and controls everything in the room. I'll figure it out tomorrow or later in the week.

Rose and her crew drove me home. Mom called while I worked on setting up my laptop. She absolutely loved the cookies I sent her. She's still trying to figure out her new, smaller stove. Her best gift, though, was getting to see Lilah when she had to deliver a package to Collyn and his dad Mike in Wildwood. Mom and Anny are still having problems, and Mom hasn't seen her grandchildren in ages...so a hug from her granddaughter was the best possible present she could have gotten.

Jessa didn't pick me up until nearly 1:15. We were about 20 minutes late to the mid-afternoon showing of Rise of Skywalker. We missed the commercials and probably about the first ten minutes or so, but we did see most of it. Or at least, I saw most of it. Poor Jessa is still wiped out from working early all week and slept through the majority of the film.

I'm not going to do the plot here because of spoilers, but...I loved it. Maybe not quite as much as The Last Jedi, but I did still enjoy it a lot. On one hand, I wish we'd seen more of Rose, that it had wrapped up some plots better (and I frankly liked the idea of Rey being a nobody more than her having a fancy linage)...but I also approved of many of the changes, and I like that in the end, Rey,  Finn, Poe, and Rose all opt to just stay friends instead of going for the obvious romance. Also, I mostly approve of how they ended Leia's story. It seems right.

In the end, I think all five of the Star Wars films released by Disney have gotten a bum rap. Fans and critics tend to just expect waaaaaayyyy too much from these movies. If' you're a Star Wars fan who enjoys the sequels or the franchise in general, I'd totally disregard the reviews and go check out the end of Rey's story.

Jessa and I drove over to her and Joe's condo in Deptford after the movie ended. Joe and his 14-year-old daughter Dannica and 11-year-old son Connor were playing the newest Just Dance when I arrived. I laughed and watched them and Jessa shake their booties to "Prince Ali" from the live-action Aladdin remake and a few other songs.

After the kids finished their game, they opened their presents from their father. Dannica seemed happiest with a new sketchbook from Jessa and a sequined pillow with Danny DiVito's face on it from her father. (I didn't ask about the latter.) Connor loved his box of practical jokes and goofy little toys and Mad Libs book.

While the kids opened their gifts, Joe showed me the tons and tons of offerings on Disney's new streaming service, Disney Plus. We watched two funny shorts featuring Sporky, the new "hand made" toy character from Toy Story 4, and the classic Mickey Mouse short "Lonesome Ghosts." Joe started Return of the Jedi while the kids were looking over their presents, but they lost interest around the time Yoda died, and everyone was hungry.

Truth be told, no one had any idea what we were going to do for dinner. The only place we could find open was WaWa...but the kids loved it. I got a double mocha chilled cappuccino and a cheeseburger quesadilla (ground steak with pickles, cheese, and onions on a crispy tortilla). Everyone else had soda, chips, popcorn, and hoagies.

We took them home and had Christmas dinner while watching Dannica's favorite movie The Greatest Showman and playing Mad Libs with Connor. It was a lovely and cozy couple of hours. The kids were happy, we all laughed, Midnight sniffed around our legs, and I was glad to be around people who were having fun and wanted nothing more than for me to write a goofy answer to a silly story and sing along to "This Is Me" and "Rewrite the Stars."

We headed out around 7:30-quarter of 8. The kids had to be home between 7:30 and 8. They live in a gated community; the opening gates glowed like blue and red lightsabers, and you had to type a code on a pad to get in. Joe took the kids up to their mother while Midnight, Jess and I waited. Jessa and Joe dropped me off ten minutes later.

This was one of the best Christmases I ever had...and the present I loved most of all was just spending time with everyone in the family, people who enjoyed my company and enjoyed being around me and each other. I had more fun today and yesterday than I've had in a long time. Here's hoping your holiday, no matter what you celebrate, was equally wonderful!

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Sunny Holidays

Began an early morning with the last chapter of A Christmas Carol and two American Girl holiday tales. In Josefina's Surprise, Josefina and her sisters and aunt have to repair their late mother's alter cloth that was damaged in a flood. Their aunt lends them a thimble that belonged to their mother, allowing them to share happy memories of her...and giving Josefina the strength to take the part of Maria in the town's Las Posadas procession.

Samantha Parkington is having a less painful holiday in Samantha's Surprise. She's upset when her Uncle Gard brings his girlfriend Aunt Cornelia for Christmas at first - she couldn't decorate the house with her own things or go to a party she'd been looking forward to - but changes her mind when she realizes how much fun and strong-willed Cornelia is and why her uncle loves her.

Put on The Monkees while I had breakfast and quickly got ready for work. "The Christmas Show" is from the mid-second season, just as the series was starting to get a little wackier. The guys think they're playing for a big party, but they end up babysitting a socialite's spoiled and cynical nephew. They try everything they can think of to instill some Christmas spirit in the boy...until Mike Nesmith realizes what he really wants.

Headed straight to work after the episode ended. It was the least-painful Christmas Eve work session I'd ever had. I was outside almost the entire day, rounding up carts and gathering the outside trash and recycling. It was too nice to be inside, anyway. The weather was drop-dead gorgeous for mid-December - sunny, blue skies, no wind, lower 50's. Even when I did end up inside during the last hour, I was just bagging. No problems whatsoever. I even found a huge pile of pennies in one of the corrals; filled my change cup with it.

There was a package for me in the mailbox when I got in. I wasn't expecting anything. It was a gift from Mom. She sent me a box of petits fours from Swiss Colony, mini-cakes covered in chocolate and vanilla candy coating. Boy, did those bring me back. Mom regularly ordered petits fours and meat and cheese boxes from Swiss Colony for Christmas in the 90s, when I was a teenager. She stopped buying from them by the early 2000's after they got too expensive, but I still loved looking at their tempting catalogs. Yum! They're just as sweet and rich and moist as I remember.

Rested for a little while after I got home and changed. Watched Mickey's Once Upon a Christmas while reading books on the holidays. This is an anthology of three shorts featuring the regular Disney characters, two of which are based after beloved holiday short stories. "Donald Duck: Stuck On Christmas" is supposed to be based after "Christmas Every Day," but it really owes more to Groundhog Day. Huey, Dewey, and Louie have so much fun on Christmas Day, they wish for the holiday to be every day....and regret their decision when their day keeps repeating itself. Goofy does everything he can to prove to Max that Santa exists in "A Very Goofy Christmas." "Mickey and Minnie's Gift of the Magi" have the two mice giving up what means the most to them in order for them to buy gifts for their sweethearts.

Went back to sitcoms while getting ready to head over to Dad and Jodie's house. "A Christmas Story" from the second season of Perfect Strangers has Larry Appleton getting ready to take his cousin Balki Bartokomous home to Madison with him for the holidays...until a blizzard strands them in Chicago. Balki tries to make the best of things, but Larry's not interested...until his friend gives him a gift that reminds him of what the holidays are really all about.

Did a couple of quick shorts as I got organized. "Season's Greetinks" is Popeye's Christmas offering. Olive's present of skates puts her on thin ice when Bluto tries to join her. "Snow Foolin'" is one of the later Famous Studios Screen Songs sing-a-long videos. It's basically animals having fun in the snow, to the tune of "Jingle Bells."

Went over to Dad's around quarter after 4. Several of Jodie's relatives were already there when I arrived, including an adorable little girl named Summer. She spent most of the early part of the night watching a Frozen Lego video on her mother's phone and acting it out. I was really kind of bored until Mark and Joya, and then Jessa and her puppy Midnight, finally showed up around 6-6:30. Dad watched White Christmas on The Sundance Channel while Summer chased Midnight and I chatted with the adults.

Dinner wasn't anywhere near as big as it has been on previous Christmas Eves, but it was still really good. There was a huge ham along with spicy meatballs and sausage, along with macaroni salad, potato salad, and Caesar salad. Though Rose didn't stay, she did bring a cookie tray for dessert, and I brought the candy.

Went for a bike ride after I left. It was too nice not to! The weather remained fairly warm, even after night fell. Oaklyn is now awash in festive "exterior illumination," from a rainbow of lights wrapped around columns to green icicles "dripping" off a house that looked like Spanish moss. My favorite inflatable had a penguin, a husky dog, and a polar bear enjoying their slide down a vinyl "iceberg."

Took a shower after I got in, then ran 'Twas the Night Before Christmas, The Year Without a Santa Claus, Nestor the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey, and A Garfield Christmas Special. I go into further details on the first two at my Musical Dreams Movie Reviews blog.

'Twas the Night Before Christmas & The Year Without a Santa Claus

I think Jiminy Cricket said it best the other night. From all of us to all of you, Merry Christmas, and the very happiest of holiday seasons!

Monday, December 23, 2019

Christmas Comes but Once a Year

Kicked off the day with breakfast and the first Christmas episode of Happy Days. "Guess Who's Coming to Christmas?" Fonzie, who claims he's going to a party for the holidays. Richie suspects otherwise and invites him to his Christmas Eve celebration, over the protests of Mr. Cunningham who wants it to be strictly for the family.

Headed to work shortly after it ended. My shift didn't start out badly. I spent most of the first half of the day gathering carts. The weather was perfect for it, too. Sunny, blue sky, breezy, temperatures in the lower 50's. Couldn't have been a nicer day for South Jersey in late December. The trouble happened later, after my break and a second bagger came in. While we weren't as busy as I figured we would be, given we're two days before Christmas, we were still off-and-on steady. I ended up in the register quite a bit. We simply didn't have enough help to handle everything. Otherwise, I did returns and bagged.

Had to make one last quick shopping trip. I needed pads rather badly. Several shelves of non-food dollar "Value" items are replacing some things on the Christmas shelves. I grabbed scouring pads, which I haven't had in ages.

Hurried straight home and online for a little writing. Isobel doesn't believe the soaking wet, sturdy, and practical Della is a princess. Princesses are sweet and dainty. She suggests a "Princess Test" to prove she's a real princess. Brett and Gene aren't too sure about this, but Della will agree to anything that'll convince Isobel that she's the real deal.

Broke around 5:30 to make pumpkin bread for Jodie's Christmas brunch. This is the same recipe I used at Thanksgiving. It's a simple one-bowl loaf that takes minutes to make and smells amazing while baking. This is the last thing I need to do for Christmas. Nothing else needs to be wrapped, baked, or sent out. I just have to bag the bread and give everything out on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Watched Christmas In Connecticut as I worked. Elizabeth Lane (Barbara Stanwyck) is one of the most popular magazine columnists in post-World War II America. Her articles about her cozy farm and family and scrumptious recipes are wildly popular. There's only one problem. It's all fiction. In reality, she's a city girl who can't boil water. The fiction is exposed when her boss Yardley (Sydney Greenstreet), a stickler for the truth, decides to visit her farm for the holidays. He's joined by Jefferson Jones (Dennis Morgan), a handsome war hero who has never had a real Christmas. Snobbish architect John Sloan (Reginald Gardner) offers to let her use his farm for the guests if she'll marry him. They keep trying, but never get the chance, thanks to wandering cows and Elizabeth's Hungarian friend Felix (S.K Sakall). Meanwhile, Elizabeth finds herself falling hard for Jefferson, even as she has to keep up the charade of being a perfect wife. In the end, as babies are switched and carriages run away, Elizabeth finally learns that honesty is the best policy, especially where love is concerned.

Cute screwball comedy leans on the considerable charisma of Morgan and Stanwyck and an appropriately homey feel. Greenstreet and Sakall also come off well as the two very different bosses.

Made a quick dinner while watching the Oscar-winning short A Star In the East, which is included as an extra on the Christmas In Connecticut DVD. Master of accents J Carrol Naish stars as Tony, the cranky Italian owner of a hotel in the desert. He's not impressed when a stranger shows up in the hotel's coffee shop and starts talking to him about peace on Earth and goodwill towards men. None of his demanding and nasty customers ever show him any goodwill. It takes a young couple with a blessed event who end up sleeping in the stable to bring everyone together, and prove that Christmas can bring out kindness in even the hardest of hearts.

Switched to It's a Wonderful Life while doing the dishes and reading Christmas books. George Bailey (James Stewart) thinks life has passed him by. He's spent all of his years in tiny Bedford Falls, helping the community build houses and weather the Depression with his family's Savings and Loan. Even that looks like it may go under after his forgetful Uncle Billy (Thomas Marshall) loses the money needed to keep it going, and nasty Mr. Potter (Lionel Barrymore) claims he's worth more dead than alive. George is ready to end it all, until he jumps off a bridge to save a strange little man named Clarence (Henry Travers). Clarence is an angel second-class (he doesn't have wings), and he's George's guardian angel. A chance remark in anger by George gives Clarence an idea. He shows George what Bedford Falls would be like if he were never born...and in the process, reveals what a wonderful life he really has.

Iconic holiday favorite isn't everyone's cup of Christmas tea nowadays, but if you love Stewart or agree with director Frank Capra's pro-small town message, you may find a great deal to enjoy here.

The Tiny Toons spoofed Wonderful Life in their final episode, "It's a Wonderful Tiny Toons Christmas Special." Buster is so frustrated with how badly the Toons' holiday extravaganza is going, especially after Montana Max takes it over, he almost throws himself out of the show! It takes a rabbit spirit named Harvey (who sounds awfully familiar) to show him what Tiny Toons would be like without him.

Moved on to one of my very favorite TV show Christmas episodes as I went online. It's "Christmas In the Airwaves" on the rare late-90's dramady Remember WENN. WENN in Pittsburgh is gearing up for a wonderful Christmas 1940 when the owner of their studio Gloria Redmond (Betty Buckley) and her miserly financier Rollie Pruitt (Johnathan Freeman) arrive. Gloria lost her husband the Christmas before and insists that WENN stops all its Christmas programming and takes down all their decorations. The staff bands together to thwart Pruitt trying to keep their holiday shows from going on and prove to Gloria that life goes on, and just because you're grieving doesn't mean you can't celebrate.

Finished the night with Match Game. The 70's version always did at least one Christmas show per year, usually with Charles Nelson Reilly dressed as Santa Claus. In 1978, Brett joined him as a little girl who sat on his knee, complete with Shirley Temple curls and a big pink bow...and it's hilarious, probably one of their best skits together.

Match Game '78: Santa Charles and Bretzy La Brat

Here's even more holiday specials to tide you over while you wait for Santa.

The Smurfs' Christmas
A Christmas Carol (1971)
The Night Before Christmas
Famous Studios: Hector's Hectic Life
Ziggy's Gift
The Bears Who Saved Christmas
The He-Man-She-Ra Christmas Special
The Teddy Bears' Christmas
Snow White Christmas
Raggedy Ann and Andy and the Great Santa Claus Caper
A Very Pink Christmas
Fleischer Brothers Classics: Christmas Comes but Once a Year

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Yes, There Is a Santa Claus

Began the morning with reading for Hanukkah, which begins today. It's the only Jewish holiday with material in Colliers Harvest of Holidays. Along with an essay on the story of the Maccabees and how the oil in the temple lasted for eight days, there were poems and a chapter from More All-Of-a-Kind Family on how the family celebrates Hanukkah, including attending a family get-together, playing the dreidel game, enjoying potato latkes.

Work was on-and-off steady for most of the morning. It was a beautiful day, sunny, bright, and chilly but not to the degree it was last week, and the Eagles game wasn't until 4:30. At one point, there were three baggers outside gathering carts. I alternated between gathering carts and doing returns all morning, with no really major problems.

Forgot oatmeal and evaporated milk yesterday, so I grabbed some on the way out. The Acme's having a buy-one, get-one sale on their generic oatmeal brand, and I needed the evaporated milk for fudge later in the day. There was no line in the express line; I was in and out.

When I got home, I had a quick lunch before starting today's projects. I tried making peppermint patties from uncooked fondant last year, but it proved to be too messy. This year, I rolled the fondant into balls, then into cocoa, and called them Peppermint Truffles. They came out quite nicely - and very minty!

Moved on to Chocolate Fudge next. That's what I bought the evaporated milk for. I found a simple fudge recipe called Remarkable Fudge in my vintage Better Homes and Gardens Holiday Cook Book, appropriately in the section on Christmas candies. Considering my fudge hasn't always come out the best, this one seems to have set very well, nice and chocolatey.

Watched White Christmas while I worked. I go further into one of the most beloved of all holiday musicals at this Musical Dreams Movie Reviews blog entry from last year.

White Christmas

Switched to making muffins after the fudge went in the fridge. I basically just threw leftover evaporated milk and mini chocolate chips into Alton Brown's Old School Muffin recipe and made Mini Chocolate Chip Muffins. A little dry, but also sweet and kind of rich.

Watched Ernest Saves Christmas while I made the muffins and they were in the oven. Ernest P. Worrell (Jim Varney) is working as a cab driver in sunny Orlando when he picks up a jolly old fellow from the airport. Turns out, the gentleman is the real Santa Claus, who is in central Florida looking for a replacement. That replacement is one Joe Carruthers (Oliver Clark), a former kid's TV show host who is now considering a role in a Christmas-themed slasher film. Ernest also almost literally runs into a street kid named Harmony Starr (Noelle Parker), a runaway who lies about everything possible, from her age to why she left home. Santa has to get Ernest and two elves to bring the reindeer downtown and prove to Harmony and Joe that Christmas magic is the real deal, or the joy of the holidays will fade away forever!

My personal favorite of the Ernest films is a long-time guilty pleasure of mine. We watched this quite often on cable during the holidays in the late 80's and early 90's. If you're a fan of Ernest, or just want to give one of his films a try, this is one of his better ones and isn't a bad place to start.

Worked on writing after the muffins were out of the oven. Nipsey is more than happy to offer Della his arm and tapestry and help her inside. She claims she's one of the Legendary Princesses, the Princess of Strength. Brett knows her name, though she's never seen her, and she knows hers. Brett's able to convince Queen Isobel that she's on the level, but she's not quite sure about Della

Broke for dinner at quarter of 7. Just had soup while finishing the night with Miracle on 34th Street. We move from sunny Orlando to chilly New York for another story about about believing in Santa. Kris Kringle (Edmund Gwenn) is such a sensation as Santa Claus in the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade, their manager Doris Walker (Maureen O'Hara) hires him to be their store Santa. Doris, however, has her misgivings. Kris claims he's the real Santa. She's raised her daughter Susie (Natalie Wood) not to believe in fantasy of any kind, and what Kris is shakes those beliefs. When the store psychiatrist (Porter Hall) declares Kris insane, lawyer Fred Gailey (John Payne) takes his case, setting out to prove to Doris, Susan, and everyone in New York that there's a little bit of faith and imagination in all of us at this time of year, and that sometimes, the most real things are the ones we can't see.

Gwenn won an Oscar as one of cinema's most delightful Santas; the witty and original screenplay also won. Gwenn and Wood have wonderful chemistry in their scenes together, especially when he's teaching her how to be a monkey and asking her what she really wants for Christmas. I also like Gene Lockhart as the nervous judge, Jerome Cowan as the district attorney who takes the opposite side of the case, and William Frawley as the judge's cynical political adviser. They all add a nice note of cynicism to a story that could have easily gotten too sugary.

There were remakes on TV in the 50's and 70's and one on the big screen in 1994 (none of which I've seen), but for my money, the original is probably all you need. Highly recommended.

Oh, and this leaves only the pumpkin bread for Christmas brunch left to be baked. I'll do that sometime after work tomorrow. In equally important news, the Philadelphia Eagles kicked the Cowboys' rear ends 17-9 this evening.

And to all who celebrate it, I hope you enjoy the eight days of Hanukkah!

Saturday, December 21, 2019

From All of Us to All Of You

Kicked off the first day of winter with a classic frosty Christmas tale, The Snowman. David Bowie introduces the Oscar-nominated tale of a little boy who makes a snowman on Christmas Eve, then befriends him, showing him all around his house. In turn, the snowman takes his human friend to his home in the North Pole, where all his snowpeople pals and Father Christmas are there to greet them.

Needless to say on the Saturday before Christmas, the Acme was packed for most of the afternoon. I had a hard time keeping up with the carts by myself in the morning. The head bagger spent most of her time inside or at a register. A college boy came in to help with the carts and outside trash and recycling later in the morning. It was too nice to be inside anyway. While it was sill chilly, in the upper 30's, it was also windless and mostly sunny, with a good clean snap in the air.

The Acme had its big employee luncheon today. That's why I wanted to get the cookies done by Saturday - so I could bring some to the luncheon. They were already setting up when I came in at 9. By the time of my break at noon, the back lounge area was packed. There was succulent roast beef, meatballs in sauce, macaroni and cheese, baked ziti, green bean casserole, plates of sandwiches on croissants and small rolls, a tray of soft pretzel bites, buffalo chicken dip, and macaroni, potato, and egg salads. Cherry cheesecake (which vanished quickly), a giant pound cake, brownie bites, and tiny yellow and red velvet cupcakes joined my cookies on the dessert table. I had a roast beef sandwich and a croissant sandwich, baked ziti, green bean casserole, and macaroni salad for lunch, with several brownie bites, two mini-cupcakes, and my own cherry coconut bars for dessert.

Mixed feelings on my schedule next week. I did make sure to ask for Christmas Day off after all the fuss over Thanksgiving, and I'm also off on Friday (my last personal day) and Saturday. I work very early almost the entire week, including through Christmas Eve. (The head bagger who usually works early went on vacation this week.) On one hand, this means I'll be able to finish the last things I need to do, the bread and candy, and I should have plenty of time to get ready for Dad and Jodie's Christmas Eve party...but it also means I'll be tired while doing it.

Had a lot of shopping to do this week. Needed orange juice and cranberries for cranberry bread, marshmallow fluff for the fudge, and condensed milk for the truffles. I'm finally down to the last of the farm market vegetables from last month; bought carrots and frozen peas and green beans with almonds, along with pears for lunch this week. Found a slightly dented can of beef vegetable soup on the clearance rack.Grabbed shredded cheese, sauce, crust, and pepperoni to make pizza for Christmas dinner, since that worked out really well last year. Restocked white, brown, and powdered sugar, skim milk, peanut butter (good sale, and I had an online coupon), shampoo, cake mix, and an onion.

Put on Buzzr while I put everything away and watched an episode and a half of Classic Concentration, then changed and did a little bit of writing. As the group dashes to the entrance to the castle, Nipsey  points out someone swimming the moat. He and Richard goes to rescue them. As it turns out, that "someone" is a sturdy, sensible woman who can swim just fine and doesn't need the rescuing, thank you.

Broke for dinner at quarter of 7. Had a really quick meal of yogurt, a peanut butter and jam wrap, and oranges before starting in on the cranberry bread. I always make the McHughs next door a loaf of cranberry bread for Christmas, to thank them for their help during the year and to be neighborly.

Did Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol while working on the bread. I go into more detail on this classic version of the famous Dickens story at my Musical Dreams Movie Reviews.

Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol

Finished the night with A Disney Channel Christmas. My family dubbed this rare holiday showcase in December 1988, and I've watched it almost every Christmas since. In this blending of the older specials Jiminy Cricket's Christmas and A Disney Christmas Gift, Jiminy introduces shorts and segments from movies that are either related to Christmas, or at least involve winter or gift-giving. Favorite shorts include the Goofy classic "The Art of Skiing," the hilarious "Donald's Snow Fight," the festive "Pluto's Christmas Tree," and one of my favorite black-and-white Disney cartoons, "Mickey's Good Deed." Among the segments from films are the "You Can Fly" number from Peter Pan, the mice making Cinderella a ball gown, Bambi and Thumper's attempt to skate, and Snow White and the dwarfs having fun to the tune of "The Silly Song."

Incidentally the McHughs' cranberry bread is now wrapped and bagged and ready for giving. That leaves the candy for Dad and Jodie's Christmas Eve party and the pumpkin bread for Christmas Day brunch.

Friday, December 20, 2019

The Password Is 'Christmas'

Began a busy day with breakfast and Yogi's All-Star Comedy Christmas Caper. The whole Hanna Barbara funny animal gang goes to visit Yogi and Boo Boo at Jellystone National Park, but they're not home. They already went to the big city to visit their friends! Yogi dresses as Santa to evade the cops in a department store. Judy, the daughter of a rich man who largely ignores her, thinks he's the real Santa and befriends him. When the gang does arrive, they end up helping the two bears get Judy home to her daddy for the holidays.

Jessa called shortly before I got going. Did I want to go out to lunch today? Sure! I just had to get my laundry done before we left.

Moved on to Buzzr while getting organized and tidying up a bit. Press Your Luck was just finishing when I got on. It came down to a young man who really wanted a trip to Australia and a woman who was after a Hawaiian vacation. In the end, the lady got her wish, the win, and her tropical trip (and only one Whammy).

I only had vague memories of Blockbusters before this morning, and I believe they were mainly of the later 1987 Bill Rafferty version. Bill Cullen hosts the original 1980 show, as one champion goes up against two challengers. The board is made up of letter-filled hexagons. If you answer a question correctly that begins with that letter, you win a hexagon. Make a chain, and you move on to the "Gold Rush" bonus round. The champion lady absolutely killed today; the challenger duo couldn't get close to her. (Blockbusters apparently did far better in England, where it ran throughout the 80's and into the early 90's and has been revived several times.)

Rushed to the laundromat as soon as Blockbusters ended. I didn't have a large load, but I wanted to get it done. I don't know when I'll have another chance to do it before Christmas. Thankfully, it was the quietest I'd seen it in weeks. There were maybe three other people there when I arrived. I was in and out as fast as I could go.

It wasn't fast enough. Jessa was just getting out of her car when I arrived. We trooped upstairs so I could hastily drop the laundry bag, grab my purse, and show off my new Roku, then were on our way.

We were going to eat at the Pop Shop...but once again, there were no parking spaces. Collingswood is just too busy during the lunch hour. We ended up at the Crystal Lake Diner. Considering they're having financial problems, they probably needed our business more anyway. Jessa had a huge tuna melt and a bowl of New England clam chowder. I had a half of a mile-high roast beef sandwich on rye, tasty crunchy fries, and a wonderful lentil soup.

Hung out at my apartment for an hour after lunch. I packed up the Christmas boxes for Mom and Anny while Classic Concentration was on. Alex Trebek hosts this cross between a rebus puzzle and Memory. People choose numbers, hoping to match two prizes. If they do, they'll reveal a little bit of a rebus puzzle. The first person to reveal the puzzle wins the game. The bonus round has them doing another timed Memory round to win a series of increasingly fancy cars.

Poor Jess! By the time Password was on, she was fast asleep on my loveseat. She works at the Post Office in Deptford and started her shift at 6 AM. I let her snooze while sorting my laundry and enjoying the show. I'm guessing this version of Password is from the mid-60's, from the ladies' hair, a considerably younger-looking Allen Ludden, and the pastel and gray sets. Here, celebrities and contestants only guessed one Password at a time, and the speed round was just random words, rather than a string of alphabetical ones. Lovely Barbara Rush and an incredibly young-looking John Forsythe were the Password givers in this episode.

I hated to wake up Jessa, but I really had things I needed to do, and I imagined she did, too. As soon as she left, I went over to the Oaklyn Post Office and sent off my two remaining packages. To my shock, the place was dead. Considering how close we are to Christmas, I figured the line would be out the door! Maybe everyone came at lunch. There was only one woman behind me, and two came in after me. At any rate, Anny and Mom's boxes are now off to Cape May County, and I'm finished with everything that needs to go out of town.

Dashed across Newton Lake Park. It was getting late, and I still had a few errands left. They were surprisingly busy for late in the afternoon, with lots of people walking their dogs, kids coming home from school, and a flock of Canadian geese looking for a snack. Winter has fully taken over the park now. The trees are barren, the grass is yellow and crackly, and the bottle-green lake is half-frozen.

The Haddon Township Library wasn't any busier than the Crystal Lake Diner had been earlier. Everyone must have come in earlier; the return cart was fairly full. I shelved adult DVDs and made my way out after a half-hour. Didn't take anything out this week. Between Roku and my own collection, I have plenty to watch for Christmas. Not to mention, I don't know what my schedule will be like next week, or if I'll have the time to return anything.

Had one stop to make on the way home. I needed a few things at Dollar Tree, including a container to keep my cake and pudding mix boxes together in the pantry, a new shower curtain, bags for Charlie's cupcakes, and sponges. The line was half-way around the store, but a second one opened up shortly after I got in, and the wait wasn't long.

Put up the shower curtain after I got in, then went into writing. Re-wrote their first encounter with Della. Brett and the guys arrive at Columbia Eye Castle in a torrential downpour. While rushing towards the main building, they see someone swimming the moat. Nipsey runs over to help her, but to tell the truth, she doesn't really need it...

Broke for dinner at 6:30. Jessa let me keep her leftover tuna melt from earlier. I had it with defrosted frozen green beans and almonds. Watched an episode of Match Game while I ate. Joey Bishop revels in being able to insult people who aren't members of the Rat Pack in an episode from 1976. Meanwhile, Betty White rolls up Gene Rayburn's pant legs again...twice.

Finished the night making Red Velvet Cupcakes for Dad and Charlie and the downstairs residents. The cupcakes come from a mix, but the buttercream icing is homemade. I used buttermilk because I forgot I was out of regular milk...and I ended up rather liking the tangy taste.

Watched National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation as I worked. Clark Grizwald (Chevy Chase) is looking forward to the perfect old-fashioned family holiday, with all his relatives gathered around the table for a turkey dinner, a huge tree, lots of presents, and a big surprise on Christmas Day. As usual for this series, what Clark imagines and what actually happens are two entirely different matters. The two sets of grandparents don't get along. His yuppie neighbors next door think he's off his rocker. His boss (Brian Doyle Murphy) is a grouchy jerk. Their tree is bigger than their house, let alone the living room. His gigantic lights display shorts out the neighborhood power grid...and even when he does get it working, Cousin Eddie (Randy Quaid) shows up with his family and causes even more chaos. By the time the SWAT team is coming through the windows on Christmas Eve, Clark has finally figured out that no Christmas is perfect...but that doesn't mean we can't make it memorable.

My favorite holiday comedy from my childhood along with A Christmas Story. If nothing else, Clark's crazy Christmas Eve always made me appreciate how comparatively quiet my family's Christmases were. Thanksgiving was the big "gather all the relatives" holiday in my family. Though my sisters would have friends over Christmas night and the occasional relative might pass through between Christmas and New Year's, Christmas Eve and most of Christmas Day were generally reserved for the family. Considering there were six of us, including four kids, this may have been a good thing.

Scatological humor makes this one more appropriate for older kids and young teens going on their own holiday vacations, and adults who have probably gone through just about everything that Clark does here at one time or another.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Games for Christmas

Began the morning with early work. Unlike yesterday, it wasn't busy. I ended up in the register once very briefly to cover for another cashier early in the day, and that was it. Did the trash and recycling and hung up gift cards in the morning. After lunch, I did returns and alternated sweeping the store with the head bagger. I did have to go out and do the carts every once in a while, which kind of got chilly. Despite a bright day and warm sunshine, it was bitter cold, in the lower 30's, and very windy.

Needless to say on such a frigid day, I went straight home after work. Started in on the next batch of cookies after changing and having a snack. The biscotti I make are different than the hard rusks many of you dunk into hot drinks. I roll them into candy cane and wreath shapes, cover them in sprinkles, and bake them once. This is another recipe that came out of Prevention Magazine. It originally called for dried cherries and pistachios, but for Christmas, we keep them plain.

Ran Mrs. Santa Claus as I worked. I go further into this TV extravaganza at my Musical Dreams Movie Reviews blog.

Mrs. Santa Claus

Finished the cookies at 4:30, in time to start writing...but I didn't end up writing. I thought I'd give the Roku another shot. After I set up my Roku account on my laptop and two more attempts at getting the password in, I ended up calling Comcast. The customer service guy sent me to the Internet Service people, who helped me set up a second router with a new name and password. That did the trick. It went through. Both men were very nice and helpful, and I easily finished the set-up and added more apps.

One of those apps is for Pluto TV, a free streaming service that just happens to carry Buzzr. I came in just in time to have a quick leftovers dinner and catch the last Match Game episode of the evening. Buzzr's been pushing their "Betty White Christmas" theme for a while, which pretty much means Betty is in all episodes of Match Game and Password Plus this week. She livened up an episode from 1976, including rolling up Gene's pants legs when he talked to the panelists on the upper desks.

Sale of the Century was pushed back to 7 in early November. The format here was a little different than what I watched a few months ago. In what I'm guessing was a late 80's episode, instead of playing for all the prizes in the end, the contestant plays an extra bonus round to win a specific prize and cash. The more they return, the bigger the prize. The new champ won a wide-screen TV in literally the last second during the bonus round.

I haven't seen the Monty Hall Let's Make a Deal since the mid-80's. It's pretty much the same game as the current version with Wayne Brady. People in wacky costumes are chosen from the audience and given money or a small prize, then get the chance to trade up to something else. Sometimes, they may actually get a bigger prize or more money...but lurking under boxes and behind doors are the "Zonk" prizes, goofy "prizes" like pigs or a camel that mean you win nothing. Among the contestants today were a grizzled old cowpoke, a woman astronaut, another woman who was a baseball player, a mouse, a man dressed as a pig, and his wife, who was a sailor in a flotation device. The cowpoke ended up the winner of the Big Deal of the Day, netting a washer and dryer along with other appliances.

Betty White returned for Password Plus, hosted by her then-husband Allen Ludden. White joined Joanna Gleason, the Baker's Wife in the original Broadway cast of Into the Woods, for a real duel of words. I'd seen the ladies on the show before, and they both did really well...and did even better tonight. Each managed to help her contestant get to the Alphabetics bonus round at least once, and I think they both won, too.

After two more newer Supermarket Sweep episodes, we moved on to the mid-80's version of Card Sharks. They were doing their "Young People's Week," i.e, having kids between the ages of 11 and 13 as the contestants. The little boy and girl they had on the show were just too adorable! I loved their answers, particularly the little boy. The girl won, and while she didn't really have much luck on the bonus round Money Cards, she did still manage to nab a nice chunk of cash in a savings bond.

Worked on my last batch of cookies all through the night. The recipe for Cherry Coconut Bars is another one from The Betty Crocker Cooky Book. It's basically lemon bars with a super-sweet cherry coconut custard filling instead of citrus. Even with the cooking spray I put on the bottom of the pan, the bars still crumbled when I cut them and packed them into the boxes and container to be given away.

(Those, incidentally, were the last of the cookies. Tomorrow, I'll start in on the other baked goods - cupcakes and two loaves of bread - and candy.)

Finished the night with The Match Game-Hollywood Squares Hour. Gene Rayburn joins singer Jon Bauman in this combined version of the two most famous "goofy panelists" game shows. I've been enjoying it. As much as I like the 70's Match Game, it is cool to see celebrities I recognize from my own childhood. I did hear that Gene wasn't crazy about doing this - there were apparently changes to the format of Hollywood Squares, and he would have rather worked with original Squares MC Peter Marshall - but I've had fun. (Of course, keep in mind that I've seen two episodes of the original Hollywood Squares on YouTube. I'm more familiar with the version from the late 90's with Whoopi Goldberg.)

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Blue Christmas

Began the day with Vol 33 of the True Value Happy Holidays series. There's a lot of favorites in this one, including Dolly Pardon's version of "Hard Candy Christmas." I also like John Denver's version of "Jingle Bells," Freddie Jackson's rousing R&B tune "This Christmas," and Willie Nelson's "Away In a Manger."

I did manage to get the carts done in the morning, but when I tried to work on shelving candy a little later, they just kept throwing me in the register. I was almost an hour late for break because I ended up in a register. The floral manager's mother is sick, and someone else had to take her place. I did manage to get a lot of candy shelved later and took a produce test to brush up on my ringing skills. At least a bagger was able to take over the carts and sweeping later. I also shoved a heavy metal rolling cart filled with boxes of plastic and paper bags into our new storage area (what used to be the medical office, which closed earlier this year).

It was a lovely day when I arrived. Dark clouds built up around noon, and by 1 PM, the other bagger had announced it was snowing hard. If it did snow hard, it never stuck. When I headed home, the sun was back out, and the clouds were gone.

Took out the trash, had a snack, and looked over Match Game 101 for a while, then went into writing. Nipsey's cousin Queen Isobel can't be convinced to go against Malade. She's even less convinced that Della is really the Princess of the Peacock Kingdom, either. She doesn't look like a princess or act like a princess. But there is a way to find out...

Broke for what I thought was going to be dinner at quarter of 7. I figured I'd get the Roku TV box set up really quickly. I got as far as hooking it up to the internet...but got no further. I typed my internet password in a hundred times for over two hours and checked every connection, but nothing worked. Put the box closer to the modem and further away, but it did nothing. When I looked it up online, it said to change something on the router. I tried, but that didn't do anything, either. I may just have to call Comcast tomorrow or Friday.

Gave up at quarter of 9 and switched to Moonlighting while finally eating baked breaded fish and the last of the farm market Brussels sprouts for dinner. "Twas the Episode Before Christmas" during the second season, and all through the Blue Moon Agency, Maddie can be heard yelling at Dave about his newest brainstorm, the Santa Hotline. Meanwhile, their secretary Agnes DiPesto found a baby in her laundry basket. Maddie and David search for the child's mother, while solving the death of a man on the witness protection program in Agnes' building and arguing over the idea of one of them ever having children.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

No Day Like Today for Cookie Baking

I really slept in this morning, and then I wanted to finish reading The Great Santa Search. I didn't get going until almost 11. As soon as I finished breakfast, I got started on the first of today's cookies. I clipped the recipe for Chocolate Chunk Oatmeal Cookies out of a copy of Prevention Magazine almost a decade ago. It uses egg whites, oil, and whole wheat flour, and it's so tasty, it's been my go-to chocolate chip cookie recipe ever since.

Ran Cricket on the Hearth while I worked. This bizarre melodrama was the first of two 2D-animated Rankin-Bass Dickens adaptations. Roddy McDowell played Cricket Crocket, the lucky "cricket on the hearth" who adopts kindly toymaker Caleb Plummer (Danny Thomas) and his daughter Bertha (Marlo Thomas) as his family. Bertha goes into shock after her fiancee Edward (Ed Ames) is lost at sea, rendering her blind and forcing her father into debt. They end up working for ugly and miserly Tackleton (Hans Conried), who asks Bertha to marry him. Not if Cricket Crockett has anything to say about it! He does everything he can to make sure Bertha ends up with the right man.

Headed out for a walk around quarter of 1. It was gloomy, gray, and cold, but the rain had taken a temporary leave of absence. First stop of the day was the Oaklyn Library. The weather probably scared everyone off. It was just me, two librarians, a man reading on one of the couches, and CNN with the sound turned off. I looked over the DVDs and the kids' books and moved on after twenty minutes.

The showers started up again as I headed down Newton Avenue. I still strolled a few blocks down to WaWa. Figured that, with the bad weather and all I wanted to get done today, I'd be better off eating lunch at home. I bought a roast beef hoagie and a bottle of Cherry Pomegranate Canada Dry Sparkling Water. (The Cinnamon Coke seemed to be long gone.) Also grabbed a soft pretzel for a snack.

Went straight home after that. Had lunch, then went into baking the Chocolate Chip Cookies and making my next batch. The Merry Christmas Molasses Roll-Outs are likely the most complicated cookies I make for Christmas, which is why I wanted to get them done on my day off. They're basically a variant on gingerbread made with shortening, and are among my most-requested cookies. They have a wonderful, subtle nutty-sweet taste...but they do take long to make! I made a mess rolling them out - I added water to the dough because it wouldn't come together - but I do enjoy cutting the shapes and sprinkling on the sugar, and they did taste good when they came out.

Ran Rent while I ate and worked. It's "no day like today" for this film version of the Broadway rock opera, which I discuss further at my Musical Dreams Movie Reviews.


Did writing at 5...but since it was so late, instead of working on my story, I wrote the review for Rent. It still took me longer than I planned. I wasn't finished until nearly 7:30!

When I did finally get around to dinner, I just opted for a quick can of chicken-wild rice soup while watching A Pink Christmas. In this adaptation of the O. Henry short story The Cop and the Anthem, the Pink Panther is desperate to get himself a meal in early 20th century New York. He tries to shovel snow for a lady, but eats the carrot off a snowman. He becomes a department store Santa, but eats a kid's donut. He goes into a restaurant with no money, only to be thrown out. He tries to get in jail and ends up stopping a thief. In the end, after he befriends an equally hungry dog, he finally gets a nice surprise from someone he least expected to.

Switched to The Stingiest Man In Town while making cranberry sauce. This is the other Rankin-Bass Dickens adaptation, though it's actually based after a live-action Stingiest Man In Town from the 1950's. Walter Matthau is Scrooge, while Dennis Day is Nephew Fred and Robert Morse plays the younger Scrooge. There's some nice music here, including the opener "An Old-Fashioned Christmas" for Day and the chorus and "Yes, There Is a Santa Claus" for Martha Cratchit.

Took a quick shower, then opened my presents. I'd dragged a box from Lauren (and the copy of Mrs. Santa Claus I ordered from Amazon for review on Thursday) earlier in the evening while the cut-out cookies were in the oven. Lauren and her parents were so generous to me this year! Her folks gave me 50 dollars and a pretty silver and white snowflake card that looks a lot like the wrapping paper I bought from Dollar General last week. Lauren gave me five Nature's Valley breakfast sandwich biscuits (recalling the one's I bought on vacation), a crossword book, an adorable "mod" 60's-themed Out Generation outfit that'll go to Whitney, a book on radio comedy, a humor book on spoof "memos" from pop culture characters, and blue yarn,

The big ones were a Roku TV box and Match Game 101: A Backstage History of Match Game. I'll mess around with the Roku tomorrow. I've wanted Match Game 101 since I noticed it coming out earlier in the summer. I even joined the author's Facebook page. While there's not as many pictures as I'd hoped, there is a lot of information about how the show worked and what really went on backstage. The reminiscence from cast and crew was especially interesting, as many of them have passed on since the author started researching the book.

Finished the night with Emmett Otter's Jug Band Christmas as I opened the gifts. In this late 70's Muppet special, Emmett and his ma are facing a bare Christmas in a destitute country town, until a talent contest is announced on Christmas Eve. They both join the show, Ma as a singer, Emmett with a couple of his buddies as the title jug band, and they have to sell the things that provide them with regular income to do it. Who ends up winning turns out to be a surprise...and what happens to Ma, Emmett, and his friends afterwards is even more so.

Monday, December 16, 2019

You Will Believe an Elephant Can Fly

Awoke to another gloomy, wet day. Raised my spirits considerably with breakfast and Silver Spoons. That family sitcom from the early 80's did two Christmas episodes; I went with the one from the first season. It's "The Best Christmas Ever" for rich kid Ricky Stratton, who is delighted to be spending it with his dad Edward in his mansion. While decorating the tree, a little boy (Matthew Laurence) turns up asking for work. Ricky lets him help out with the tree...and then follows him after he steals their fruit basket. The kid's family now lives in a cave because the father is out of work, but Ricky and Edward find a way to make their holidays merrier.

Threw on the Happy Holidays Vol. 31 CD while I got ready to go. I've had this one for a long time. It was the first CD I ever bought in high school. It was also the first time I ever heard "Santa Baby" by Eartha Kitt or "Snoopy's Christmas" by the Royal Guardsmen. Other favorites here include "Carol of the Bells" by Kenny Rogers and a lovely "I'll Be Home for Christmas" by Frank Sinatra.

Work wasn't bad when I arrived. I spent most of the morning gathering trash and putting carts away. Things picked up later in the afternoon, to the points where we had relatively long lines by rush hour. We didn't have enough help to deal with them, either, thanks to a call-out. I got stuck in the register for the last half-hour when I was trying to get the sweeping done and never did get to sweeping. I'm just glad I was able to finish the carts beforehand.

At least the weather could have been worse. It sprinkled on and off all day, but the heavy rain held off until I was long at home. I even felt a tiny bit of sleet at one point that once again amounted to nothing. I think we're supposed to get most of the rain tomorrow.

Went straight home as quickly as I could after all the mess at work. Worked on writing when I got in. Nipsey's cousin Queen Isobel refuses to help Gene amass an army against Malade. She doesn't want her to turn on Columbia Eye as well. Bill the enchanted wolf admits he's also a victim of Malade...but his throat closes before he's able to say anything further.

Broke for dinner at 6:30. Ate a quick dinner, then started this year's first batch of Christmas cookies. I always make five different kinds of cookies to give to groups and adults who have outgrown toys. Tonight, I made the same Cake Mix Peanut Butter Cookies I sent to Lauren and her parents. The recipe is a simple one-bowl affair that takes no time at all to throw together and bake.

Watched Dumbo while I worked. Dumbo is a calf born to an Asian elephant owned by the failing Medici Brothers Circus. Holt Ferrier (Colin Ferrell) is his rather bitter handler. Once a headlining horseback rider, he returned from World War I missing an arm to discover his wife is dead from Spanish influenza. His children, especially curious and science-loving Millie (Nico Parker), barely know him. They befriend the baby elephant after his unusually massive ears makes him the laughingstock of the circus and forces them to sell his mother Mrs. Jumbo. It's Millie who discovers that Dumbo flies a few feet when he sneezes a feather out of his trunk. It becomes a huge routine with the clowns that makes the little elephant a sensation.

The resulting publicity brings impresario V.A Vandervere (Michael Keaton) to the circus. He ends up buying Medici out and bringing the circus to his Dreamland amusement park at Coney Island. Dumbo ends up flying with Vandervere's most popular aerialist Colette Marchant (Eva Green), who becomes quite fond of the little fellow. Turns out Mrs. Jumbo is also at Dreamland, and her son flies right to her when he realizes it. Vandervere wants her killed, but the members of the circus are determined to reunite mother and child, and make sure that they're never exploited again.

I will say that this is infinitely better than the dull Lion King remake. DiVito and Keaton were fun as the two men with very different ideas of how a circus should work; Eva Green was also quite charming as the lovely Frenchwoman who becomes one of Dumbo's biggest supporters. Lots of allusions to the originals, too, including Millie owning a mouse who looks a great deal like Timothy and the acrobats at Dreamland performing with pink bubbles that closely resembles the "Pink Elephants On Parade" number.

First of all, though, the entire original movie just takes up the first half of this film. The second half feels like filler and the message about animal abuse is forced and preachy. And why did they focus so much on the human characters? Frankly, none of the Ferriers are terribly exciting or interesting, no matter what happened to them during World War I, and they don't really do much with Millie's science bent. Dumbo is barely in his own movie at times.

All in all, better than the Lion King remake, but still not top-drawer Disney. Fine if you're a fan of Tim Burton or have older kids who may enjoy the action.

Finished the night with The Muppets Christmas Carol. I went further into this one at my Musical Dreams Movie Reviews blog last year.

The Muppets Christmas Carol

(Oh, and Lauren got the package from me in the mail tonight. She said she loved the books I sent and had never read any of them, and she and her parents thought their Cake Mix Peanut Butter Cookies were delicious, especially her father.)

Sunday, December 15, 2019

The Eagles Outrun the Redskins

Slept in this morning after chatting late with Lauren last night. Had Pear Spice Pancakes while listening Christmas records from various series. Goodyear sold The Great Songs of Christmas,which began in 1961 and ran through the late 70's. I started with Album Four, which is probably my favorite LP from the entire run. Among the gems here are Maurice Chevalier singing "Jolly Old St. Nicholas" and "Silent Night," the latter partly in his native French, "The Star Carol" by Anna Maria Alberghetti, two gorgeous numbers from the late Diahann Carroll, "Lo How a Rose Er Blooming" and "Some Children See Him," and the rollicking "Jingle Bells/It's Christmas Time All Over the World" from Sammy Davis Jr.

Continued with the series while making Corn Muffins from the Susan Branch cookbook I picked up a few months ago. Henry Mancini Selects The Great Songs of Christmas debuted almost a decade later in 1975. The Carpenters join Mancini and more typical vocalists like Julie Andrews with their rendition of "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town." Other stand-outs includes Mancini and His Orchestra doing "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" and "What are You Doing New Year's Eve" and Ella Fitzgerald with "Sleigh Ride."

Switched to Firestone as I pulled the muffins out of the oven. Firestone put out the Your Christmas Favorites albums through most of the 60's. Unlike the Goodyear records, the vast majority of their albums were mostly classical singers, but the occasional pop vocalist like Vicki Carr and Julie Andrews, did occasionally sneak in. I opted for the first one, which is full-on classical with Rise Stevens and Brian Sullivan, with songs like "The Friendly Beasts" and "O Holy Night."

It was too windy to take the bike to Dad and Jodie's, so I walked. Other than the wind, it was actually a pretty nice day. The sun was out, and the temperatures were a pretty normal mid-upper 40's. Charlie and Richard are starting to put the lights on the McHugh's house and in the front of Charlie's, and many other houses are decorated now, too. It felt rather festive, strolling down Manor and up around Manheim.

Arrived at Dad and Jodie's around quarter after 1. I showed up at the same time as Jessa, her boyfriend Joe, and their beloved shizu-terrier mix puppy Midnight. My cousins Mark and Joyce were already there when walked in. Mark brought taco dip and chips, and Jodie made tacos. We watched Midnight chase his favorite ball and chew on his squeaky sheep toy. Jessa and I may get together on Friday; we're also talking about having Christmas Day dinner at her and Joe's condo or my place and possibly bringing Joe's kids.

The Eagles didn't start out well against the Redskins. The 'Skins were up 6-0 when we came in. As they so often do, the Eagles played much better in the second half. They really roared to life in the fourth quarter, when they made a few amazing catches, including one in the last seconds that resulted in a touchdown. That big push put them over the top and won them the game, 37-27.

(The Eagles aren't the only ones who did well, either. Mark's Packers streaked past their upper Midwestern rivals the Bears 21-13. Dad's Dolphins had a tougher time handling the Giants and lost 36-20.)

Jessa and Joe drove me home. After I got in, I worked on writing for a little while. Cousin Isobel lives in a cozy-yet-impressive castle with a small army. Brett and Gene hope she'll corral that army to take on Malade's forces, but she's reluctant to tussle with Malade after what happened to Nerdocrumbesia.

Broke for a quick leftovers dinner at 7. Finished the night before a shower with the first A Very Special Christmas album. This series began in 1987 to raise money for the Special Olympics, and unlike the ones I listened to earlier, it continues on and offline to this day. Run DMC introduced many mainstream audiences to rap with their spirited "Christmas In Hollis." Other winners here include "Merry Christmas Baby" by Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band, "Winter Wonderland" by the Eurythmics, "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" by John Cougar Melloncamp, "Santa Baby" by Madonna, and "Silent Night" by Stevie Nicks.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

The Mists of Morning

Kicked off another cloudy morning with work. It wasn't raining when I headed out, but by the time I arrived, it started misting, and would continue to shower lightly off and on all morning. I did shelve some loose items early in the day, and I supervised a younger bagger who cleaned up a messy cheese dip spill, but I was mainly outside doing carts. It was a little busier today, though still not overwhelming, and the carts kept vanishing.

Headed out for lunch at noon, right after I finished. The relatively warm weather, probably in the mid-50's, prompted me to consider lunch at Sonic. It may have been warm enough to eat there, but it wasn't dry enough. The rain was gone by then, but their patio was still too wet for a picnic. I ended up at a busy Chick Fil' A, enjoying a grilled chicken sandwich, frosted lemonade drink, and hot and tasty waffle fries. I loved their decorations! Every picture and counter in the place was festooned with red and silver tinsel garland; a tree dripped with red and white cow ribbon. It was festive and fun.

I had a lot of grocery shopping to do when I returned to the Acme. There's so many things I need for cookie baking next week - sugar, butter, eggs, parchment paper, cake mix and peanut butter for the peanut butter cookies, coconut and cherries for the Coconut Cherry Bars, shortening for the Molasses Roll-Outs, chocolate chips for the Oatmeal Chocolate Chip. Used the last of the packing tape on Lauren's box; bought another roll of that, and since the sale was buy 2, get one, I also grabbed two smaller rolls of tape. Restocked diced tomatoes, cranberries, pears, soap, buttermilk, yogurt, cereal, and skim milk.

Ran two episodes of Match Game when I got home and put everything away. Elaine Joyce is more than a little tired of perpetually nervous Bill Daily's outbursts in an episode from 1979 and convinces Gene to sit in her place...which just gives her free reign to show off her beauty to the audience. In a show from a year later, British comedienne Dolly Martin points out that feisty sitcom favorite Debralee Scott had spent most of the episode flirting with a handsome young contestant. Things come to a head when she wins him an Audience Match...and the two get so into their victory kiss, the others have to pry them apart!

Went right back out after I finished. With the weather improving and the rain long gone, I wanted to get my laundry done. Maybe I should have waited. The laundromat was mobbed when I arrived. An angry woman loading her clothes into another washer claimed the ones in the back didn't work. I tried one, and it worked just fine. No idea what happened there. Maybe she and her husband couldn't figure out how to work them, or they just had larger loads than I did. Mine was so small, I was in and out in less than an hour.

Did a little writing when I got in, mostly some re-writing. Della's a little frustrated. She wants to convince Queen Isobel to amass an army to stop Malade and the Sheriff Skutch, but can't prove she's one of the Legendary Princesses despite her great strength. There has to be some crazy way to show she's the real deal...

Broke for dinner at quarter after 7. Had scrambled eggs with broccoli and mushrooms while watching two holiday and party-themed My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episodes. Twilight and her friends take all the major roles of a "Hearth's Warming Eve" pageant, showing how their major winter holiday began. Pinkie is "Party Pooped" when she tries to figure out how she can please the persnickety yaks from Yakganastan, who want everything done the Yak way. Her trip across Equestria to bring back something of their home shows her how wonderful Equestria is...and gives her a way to convince the Yaks of that, too.

Finished the night with Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas In July. I go further into this bizarre feature-length holiday crossover from Rankin-Bass at my Musical Dreams Movie Reviews blog.

Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas In July

Friday, December 13, 2019

Wet Christmas

Cheered up a gloomy, gray morning with breakfast and Mickey's Christmas Carol. Despite the title, the real star of this Disney Dickens adaptation is Uncle Scrooge, playing his miserly namesake. Here, Jiminy Cricket is the Ghost of Christmas Past, Goofy's a better Marley than you might think, and Big Pete is a surprisingly effective and scary Ghost of Christmas Future.

Work was just as quiet as it has been since after Thanksgiving. Most people are likely still shopping right now and won't be thinking about their Christmas parties and dinners until next week. I spent the first half of the day gathering carts and shelving items, then swept the store and got the outside recycling after another bagger arrived. Helped the managers move gift cards from one Christmas display to another for for the last half-hour.

Got my schedule while I was there. I have a great one, probably the best I've had in months. All morning work, 9 or 10 AM, with Sunday, Tuesday, and next Friday off. I asked for next Friday and the Friday after that to burn off my remaining paid days off I keep forgetting I have. I'll have plenty of time to start the holiday baking.

Had a quick lunch as soon as I got home, then packed up Lauren's gifts and cookies to send out. Continued on to The Small One while I got organized. A little boy in ancient Jerusalem is upset that he has to sell his beloved old donkey in town. He tries to find someone to take him, but the merchants either make fun of them, or want to harm the animal. They finally find a kind gentleman who is interested in Small One...one who says he needs a donkey to carry his wife to Bethlehem...

Started to shower just as I left. It wasn't really bad yet when I pulled in at the Oaklyn Post Office. They had a short line, but the wait wasn't long. A very cheerful clerk (for a lady who claimed she'd barely had enough time to sit down, let alone go to the bathroom) rang up my package and sent it quickly on its way.

The rain remained light as I rode down to Newton Lake Park. Surprisingly, there were a lot of people out walking dogs, despite the precipitation. I guess a lot of people wanted to let their dogs run out their energy before the weather got worse. It's very much winter in the park now. The leaves are almost all gone from the trees, the grass is yellow, and the plants along the water are bare and brown.

The Haddon Township Library wasn't really busy when I arrived. I shelved DVDs, mainly adult titles and a few kids' ones. Didn't take out quite as much this week. They have the first My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic holiday episode on another disc. Having enjoyed the female-lead heist capers Ocean's 8 and Widows last year, I thought I'd give The Hustle a try. The Tim Burton Dumbo didn't get the best reviews earlier this year, but it looked cute enough to check out.

Had to make a few stops on the way home. I really wanted to finish my Christmas shopping. AC Moore is shutting down; I was able to pick up tins for Mom and Anny's cookies, a new copper snowman cookie cutter, purple sprinkes, and cupcake papers there. They weren't too bad, but Target was really busy. I still manged to find Legos for Collyn and something for Skylar there, along with my favorite Betty Crocker gingerbread cookie mix that only appears at this time of year and a hot cocoa mug and mix bag for the gift exchange.

Dodged the traffic on the White Horse Pike and Cuthbert Road and headed home. By this point, the rain was coming down much harder. It would really pick up after I got in and has been falling steadily and heavily ever since.

Managed to get a little writing in. I re-wrote the last sequence to quickly introduce our next Legendary Princess, Della (Reece). She's a stout, plain-spoken, extremely strong black woman who recognizes Brett on sight and nearly crushes her fingers shaking her hand. Nipsey's smitten, but Della has a small problem....

Broke for dinner at 6:30. Had leftovers, then wrapped the last two gifts. (I need a bag for the mug. I'll get that tomorrow.) The only non-food item I have left to buy is my niece Lilah's birthday gift. It's next month, but I intend to send it along in her family's box with their Christmas presents.

Finished the night with Scrooge. I discussed this 1970 musical Christmas Carol with Albert Finney as the famous miser at my Musical Dreams Movie Reviews blog last year.