Monday, November 30, 2015

30 Days Of Retro Toys - Day 7 - Penny & Little Miss Echo Dolls

Day 7:
Penny & Little Miss Echo Dolls

(Sears catalog, 1964)

You know Penny's wise because she has eyeglasses and a diploma. I have eyeglasses and a diploma, too! Penny and I could be sisters!

Little Miss Echo's kind of a sham, though. Of course she repeats all you say. She records you. Creep. Yet, so much potential....

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Sunday, November 29, 2015

30 Days Of Retro Toys - Day 6 - Safe 'N Sound

Day 6:
Safe 'N Sound

(Magazine ad, 1986)

I really want to know what the dialogue was for one at 11 o'clock, there. I'm guessing it's: "Got leftover food? Well, never, ever share your food with strangers. Only share your food with friendly-looking waterfowl and, if none are available, pigeons. That's being safe."

Those were the 80s, my friends. The modern See 'N Say is just like, "Safety? That's nice and all, but HEY YOU GUYS A COW SAYS MOOOO!!"

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Saturday, November 28, 2015

30 Days Of Retro Toys - Day 5 - Skill Drive

Day 5:
Skill Drive

(Sears catalog, 1964)

Just like driving a real car! Just like playing an arcade game that won't be invented for 20 years! Just like playing a toddler toy from the fyuchahhhh!

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Friday, November 27, 2015

30 Days Of Retro Toys - Day 4 - Playskool Pay Telephone

Day 4: 
Playskool Pay Telephone

(Sears catalog, 1964)

What kid wouldn't trade his regular toy phone for a toy PAY TELEPHONE? Because paying for your calls makes them so much more meaningful!

Truth be told, I kind of want this.

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Thursday, November 26, 2015

30 Days Of Retro Toys - Day 3 - Bristle Blocks

Day 3: 
Bristle Blocks

(Magazine ad, 1981)

I always kind of liked Bristle Blocks. They were fun to put together, and they had an unusual texture. Some of the bristles would break off after repeated use, but the pieces would usually still work. Good times.

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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

30 Days Of Retro Toys - Day 2 - Popples

Day 2: 

(Magazine ad, 1986)

In the 80s, Transformers were popular, so somebody must've thought, why not extend the whole "transformation" thing to stuffed animals? Popples were animals (aliens?) that could transform/fold up into balls. For throwing around, I guess? The commercials used to highlight the fact that a child could potentially sneak a Popple into school and pass it off as a basketball or something. I wonder if that ever worked? 

The Popples also had their own TV show.

And they're being revived as well.

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Tuesday, November 24, 2015

30 Days Of Retro Toys - Day 1 - Fisher-Price Amusement Park

Are you ready for some nostalgic feelings? Good! Because starting today, I'm presenting to you...

Each day I'll feature one or more toys from the days of yore. This is not meant to a "best toys" list. It's not even necessarily about toys I remember. I just grabbed a few old magazines and catalogs from my collection, photographed a bunch of the toy ads, and chose 30 that sparked my interest. And over the next 30 days, I'll share them with you! 

So come along with me and reminisce (and/or say "that existed?!") as we make our way toward the Holidays.

Day 1:

(Sears catalog, 1964)

Before the schoolhouse... before the barn with the door that said "moo"... before the little people were even called "Little People"... Fisher-Price made this amusement park. I had a lot of Little People growing up, but I never had this set. But it can be mine (or yours) via ebay for just $85!

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Like vintage stuff? Check out my Etsy shop!

Monday, November 9, 2015

Notes Of Inspiration ♬

Bern, Switzerland: A city buzzing with the noise and confusion of words I don't recognize, accents that mystify... and bells, so many bells.

And then, just outside the train station, my ears perk. I hear something familiar....

It's a song. It's a song in English. And it's a song I know.

Somehow, thousands of miles from my home, street musicians in Switzerland are performing a song I know. It's like a little sign reminding me that I am not alone.

Last December, I wrote about my sudden and intense love for pop music that came about at age 15. Over the years since, I've gone through phases of intensely enjoying a particular genre... Pop, Country, 80's Rock, Classical... and currently, it's Contemporary Christian music. There are so many great songs out there right now. In fact, several of them became very meaningful for me this year as I was preparing to leave my job, and later, as I was preparing to embark on my trip, and even now, as I'm looking for a new job.

Below is a list of songs that have had special meaning for me this year....

The Glorious Unfolding - Steven Curtis Chapman
Voice Of Truth - Casting Crowns
Drops In The Ocean - Hawk Nelson
Oceans (Where Feet May Fail) - Hillsong United
Praise You In This Storm - Casting Crowns
Holy Spirit - Francesca Battistelli
Good To Be Alive - Jason Gray
Through All Of It - Colton Dixon
Soul On Fire - Third Day
Greater - Mercy Me

And here are other songs that I just enjoy...

You Are I Am - Mercy Me
Sky Spills Over - Michael W. Smith
That Was Then, This Is Now - Josh Wilson
More Than You Think I Am - Danny Gokey
Shoulders - For King And Country
Because He Lives (Amen) - Matt Maher
Flawless - Mercy Me
Lord, I Need You - Matt Maher
Remind Me Who I Am - Jason Gray
He Knows My Name - Francesca Battistelli
Start A Fire - Unspoken
Fix My Eyes - For King And Country
All The People Said Amen - Matt Maher
Unchangeable - Matthew West
Love Stands Waiting - Matthew West
Write Your Story - Francesca Battistelli
This Is Amazing Grace - Phil Wickham
With Every Act Of Love - Jason Gray

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Antique Show Creepshow 2: The Creepening

And now... This.

Hey, everybody! Into the car! We're going to an antique show!

Seriously, GET IN.

Can you bring a friend along? Sure, bring a friend!

You'd rather ride your bike? Fine. We'll meet you there.

Oh, your magic bicycle. Sure. As long as it gets you there.

Just watch out for pedestrians!

And try not to get caught up in any tomfoolery.

Say... Christmas is right around the corner, and the Antique Show is a great place to find gifts for everyone on your list!

Great-Grandma will be all over this picture of someone she probably went to school with....

Dad'll just love this Cycling Daddy... or perhaps the alcohol-guzzling ship's captain?

Smoking Grandpas are sure to be a hit with the elderly....

Are there any infants on your shopping list? Do they have appendages? Great!

Maybe pick up a little something for your Disney-lovin' cousin....?

... that IS Mickey, isn't it?

And don't forget your worst enemy....

I hope you found some great deals! Only 55 days till Christmas. Have you been naughty or nice so far this year?

Remember, he's watching.

*Santa photo by Heather M.

Friday, October 30, 2015

In Conclusion...

My world travels came to an end three weeks ago, and my travel blog posts are concluding as well. This makes me a little sad. I loved that trip. Being home is a semi-disappointing reality, like waking up from a terrific dream. I love my family and home, but... the wild blue younger! I need more of it! So I need to get back to working, back to saving money, so that I can do more....

But before I start blogging again about TV shows and antiques and all other manner of goofy things, I want to make a few last-minute remarks and reflections about my trip.

1. I am so grateful to God for providing me with safety and good health. I know I was praying for both, I'm sure my mom was, and I believe others were, too. Even though I was sometimes in weird situations, like where I had to walk back to my hotel in a strange city in the dark, I always made it safely. One ship, one small boat, four planes, five trains, several buses and shuttles, two taxis, lots of subways, and miles of walking, and I had no injuries to report (beyond cutting my finger on a cheap umbrella), no robberies or pickpockets, and no sicknesses beyond some dizziness during the first part of my cruise. That said, on my final flight home, I started to get a sore throat, which, after returning home, turned into a cold which turned into Bronchitis. But that all happened afterward.

2. Many people have asked me what my "favorite thing" was, and honestly, there were so  many great moments and "things" that I can hardly say.

Best food? Switzerland. The bread and cheese were divine.

Most beautiful? The Alps, notably on the train ride from Switzerland to Italy.

Coolest thing I saw? The Last Supper in Milan was a big deal. Lots of little things -- the Olympics complex in Barcelona, the Alps, the panda in D.C., castles in Germany and Italy, the U.S. Capitol and Washington Monument, etc. etc. 

Most fun? The cruise. That's hardly fair to the other places, really, because that was 11 nights, the longest I stayed anywhere on the trip. With all the shows and events and things to do (and eat!) on board, along with the advantage of not having to unpack or walk long distances, I was able to really relax and unwind and enjoy myself.

Places I would definitely want to visit again? Germany for sure. I want to see more. Italy, especially Rome and the cities I didn't get to see. Boston... well, all of New England.

Places I wouldn't visit again? Probably Venice. That was on my bucket list, and now I've seen it. It was beautiful, but I'm not sure I will ever feel the particular need to go back there (especially when Rome, Florence, and so many other places are calling my name.) 

"Maybes"... Barcelona. There's certainly more to see, there, and it was a nice city overall, but it wouldn't be at the top of my list.

3. Smushed Pennies/Coins acquired: nine. One in Germany, eight in Washington D.C., seven of them involving pandas.

4. Things I neglected to pack that I had to buy en route: Razor, sewing kit, flipflops, non-sneaker shoes. (Well, I had packed flipflops but they were old and started to disintegrate circa Italy.)

5. Things I packed that I hardly ever needed or used: Swimsuit, swimsuit cover-up, hand sanitizer.

6. Things that surprised me about Europe:

*Public restrooms sometimes cost money (my cousin warned me about this)

*Bathroom stalls nearly everywhere I went were super private and secluded, not like in the U.S. where anyone can peek under the door or see you through the cracks.

*Airport security is more lax. No shoe removal.

*Language barrier wasn't really an issue in most cities. I did pick up some Italian before I went, and I knew some Spanish, so both of those helped a little. However, a lot of people there were bilingual. It was only in the German-speaking countries that I felt like a dope. Note to self: learn some German before the next trip.

Finally, an index of my trip-related blog posts, in case you've just arrived at this blog:

Trip Blog Index!







Washington, D.C. Area



*National Archives Museum photo by Wes D.

Delicious Kevins

Signs. They try to tell you something important, and sometimes they fail. This is perhaps especially true in places where the people reading the signs may not speak the native language, such as in tourist-centric cities and in the vicinity of famous landmarks. The people who made the signs, being aware of potential language barriers, may have tried to make the signs simple and their message clear.  Sometimes they succeeded. Other times? They just made me laugh.

Here are some examples of signs that caught my attention on my travels....

In Boston:

"Slow children?" Okay, well, that child is clearly running, so I don't think he's slow. And if he is slow, I'm not sure I should be worried about him at all. I could outrun him, even if he is a zombie or something.

Same neighborhood:

Oh, you want me to drive slow(ly)? Because of the slow children who may be in the road, but may actually be running and not be being slow? WHO IS SUPPOSED TO BE SLOW, ME OR THE CHILDREN? I give up.

In Milan:

I like how whoever designed and/or erected this sign clearly went on Google images and just grabbed the first four pictures that appeared. There are watermarks on the hamburger picture, which is visually superior to the other pictures (more like MS paint icons), and the red circle-lines don't even all go in the same direction. 


"Please behave respectfully," say the words in English.

Hmmm. So it looks like that means:

*No throwing things at the birds
*No sliding down the stairs
*No throwing litter at other litter. 

Got it!

In Venice:


*No wearing ugly bathing suits?
*No sitting on steps while wearing ugly bathing suits?
*No throwing ice cubes or possibly sugar cubes on the ground?
*No ball games?

At least, that's what the icons are telling me. What do they really mean?

The fun police are watching. NO FUN! EVER! Exceptions: gondola rides and buying beads.

Zoos are a great place for funny signs, because they often involve DANGER, which, when not actually happening to you or your loved ones, is pretty funny.

Here I am reading about what peril (perill, peligro) may occur should I nonchalantly hop the fence, while that lioness there looks particularly peaceful and content. As if she's daring me to defy the sign. "Go on," she says, "I won't bite you. Hop the fence, do!"

But heck. Just about everyone knows lions are dangerous. It's almost as if the sign doesn't even need to exist. But this one...?

Pelicans bite? Holy crap.

Rumor has it, bears bite too. So don't do this, potentially moronic parents....

How can we make it any clearer? Adult + little person + over fence = NO! 

Although the following sign was probably meant for zoo visitors, I like to think it's actually intended for the zoo's pandas to adhere to also:

No, seriously, pandas. We'll feed you at staggered intervals. Stop trying to help yourself to the goods!

Meet the otters! All named after delicious things you can find at Whole Foods:

Kevins! Yum! I wonder if Kevins taste like asparagus water?!

And how bout them crocodiles?

"Evil" and "cherished": two extremes, neither of which actually pertain to my feelings toward crocodiles. After careful consideration, I'm somewhere in the middle.

A few non-signs that amused me on my travels....

At the Smithsonian Museum Of American History, an old ad for 7-Eleven:

Why not? You can see them from anywhere in the store.
That's a 7-Eleven drive-in grocery for you. Park right at the door... leave the youngsters in the car... pick up everything you need... and they've never once been out of sight. How many times have you given up any thought of going in the grocery for that something you needed... because taking the car pool in with you was out of the question? Try our little "park-at-the-door" store next time you have a car full of youngsters.

Open from 7am till 11pm... 7 days a week. 7 Eleven."

There's no "i" in team, and pretty soon, there'll be one less "u" in "agriculture."

In Barcelona, while on a tour bus, I was hoping to get a Wifi signal. Suddenly, I got one, and it didn't even require a password or watching a lame video or me signing away the rights to my firstborn child.

 I looked up, and realized... My little iPhone 3 had located the mothership! 

In Germany, they don't just have gummy bears. They have gummy everything. Even cows in lederhosen...

They also have cheap Lego there. And... really cheap non-Lego, too:

 I'll leave you with one more picture whose sign offers some essential advice:

If you're being chased by a hammer, pickaxe, or similar instrument, this is NOT the time to be slow! RUN TOWARD AN EXIT.

I mean, duh.