Wednesday, December 17, 2014

That sinking feeling I always get when the package is coming via UPS…

Trust me on this one. If you live:

  • On a main thoroughfare
  • In a large city
  • In a small condo building that does not have a concierge or doorman or whatever
  • In a small condo building that has a locked front door such that the only way into the vestibule (where a package could be safely left, as opposed to on the stoop, where you take your chances) is to have someone buzz you in – unless, of course, you are the good old fashioned USPS mailman with the passkey
  • A life that is busy enough that you do not want to sit at home all day waiting for a delivery


For years, I had my UPS packages sent to the home of one of my sisters.

And then I discovered MyUPS, a service you can join – I think it’s about $40 a year or so – that will let you direct packages to a UPS Store for free (once you pay the $40 a year or so).

Since there is a UPS store about a two minute walk from where I live, this has worked out famously. Mostly.

There are a couple of flaws in the system as far as I’m concerned.

  1. You can’t use the UPS Store address for your delivery destination. You have to wait until you get the shipping notice, then go in and make your choice of diversion online.
  2. Once you make your choice of diversion, it can take a couple of days to reroute the package, even if the place where you want it delivered is about a two minute walk from where you live.

I understand why there’s a delay.

After all, I could be diverting the package from delivery to my home to delivery in, say, Ocean Park, Washington. And I know that can’t happen instantaneously.

Still, one might hope that there’s a way that “the system” could be configured such that, if the delivery point of your desire is about a two minute walk from where you live, the reroute only takes a day.

Mostly the day of delivery doesn’t matter.

If I don’t get the navy blue LL Bean turtleneck right away, I’ll live.

But sometimes it does matter

As when my lawyer overnighted the tax filing for my husband’s estate, and it took three days to arrive. We had enough leeway that this worked out, but if it had been time-critical, I would have been sunk. (Or had to schlepp up to his office on the North Shore.)

And the latest – well, debacle is really too strong a word, so let’s just say – annoyance has been receipt of a toy for a homeless kiddo that I really do need to have wrapped (the gift, not the kiddo) and ready pretty darned soon.

Here’s what happened.

As I do each year, I took a few kids from a charity run through my gym. As I do each year, I took older kids. I do so because most people would rather by fun stuff for the little ones than gift certificates to Wet Seal for teenagers, while I – who live in a toy store challenged city - find it much easier to bop into Wet Seal and pick up a bunch of gift certificates, or bop into Radio Shack for an MP3 player, or bop into City Sports for a basketball.

When I picked up my assignment this year, I took three teenaged girls, and their younger sister.

The gift request for the younger kid was something LeapFrog-ish.

So I went online and ordered something LeapFrog-ish, and sprung for two-day delivery (nearly half the cost of the item I purchased), figuring that would translate into four-day delivery, but would still get here in enough time that I wouldn’t be having a nervous breakdown over it.

Four-score and seven days ago…

Okay, it wasn’t that bad. But five days after I ordered it, it still hasn’t arrived on my doorstep the doorstep of the UPS Store that’s two minutes away.

Anyway, here I sit, fingers and toes crossed that the Leapster shows up in the next day or so.

I do want to say that everyone I have ever spoken with at UPS customer service, and everyone I have dealt with at the UPS Store that’s two minutes away, has been a paragon of efficiency, helpfulness, charm, and follow-up.

And the ones on the phone clearly don’t hold it against me that, the minute I hear that Valley Girl voice that’s on their voice response system, I go bonkers and start muttering both under and over my breath. (Why is it that the prompts speak Valley Girl, but when I attempt to answer the prompt in my best Valley Girl version of “track a package”, the voice recognition system doesn’t seem to recognize a superlative imitation of its very own voice? Is it because by the second time around, I’ve attached the f-word to my input?)

So here’s hoping that the package gets here in time.

I’m pretty confident that it will.

Still, it’s no wonder that, every time I see that the delivery method is UPS, I get a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach.

When it positively, absolutely has to get there overnight, just hop in a Zipcar, drive out to the ‘burbs, and get it.


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

An app for everything, and everything for an app

Last week, I decided to get a bit more organized in the hall closet.

Sick and tired of pulling out armloads of mixed up scarves, gloves, and caps and sorting through the mass of everything every time I have to head out, I thought I’d get a few storage containers. So I’m now the proud owner of a tub full of scarves, a tub full of hats, a tub full of gloves, and a tub not so full of umbrellas.

Oh, I suppose there would have been other ways of organizing things – by color, by frigid-weather level – but I chose a pretty basic approach.

It works for me, and now I know – and can remember in my own little brain – where my outdoor accessories are. With outdoor accessories at my fingertips, I hadn’t thought that I also might want to have information about the whereabouts of my outdoor accessories at my fingertips, too.

But if I did want to know exactly what was stored in each of my clear plastic tubs, I could have downloaded the free HomStorage Appz Smart Storage app. (That is, I could have downloaded it if I had a new-fangled iPhone, rather than my retro Blackberry.)

I suppose that there are people who really do need an app to tell them where everything they own is stored. But those would be folks with a lot more stuff on their hands than I have, and a lot more places in which to stow it than the paltry 1240 square feet I call home.

Sure, I sometimes do lose track of my stuff – as in when I discovered a few months ago that I owned eight pie plates. Given that I might bake a pie once a year, this was quite a revelation. I solved to surfeit of pie plates pretty easily by donating four of them – okay, I didn’t exactly donate them; I left them out on trash day in an open bag and someone picked them up – and have the remaining four where I can keep an eye on them. Just to make sure that they don’t go replicating themselves again.

But mostly I know where things are.

When you don’t have all that much room, there’s a place for everything and everything has a place.

Anyway, there is at least one major benefit to having not all that much space: it’s just plain tough to keep acquiring things. (Pie plates aside, I’m pretty good about getting rid of stuff I don’t need. Mostly. I still can’t part company with a batik quilt I got 40 years ago, a quilt I loved even when I was watching Charlie’s Angels one night and saw that one of the angels had the same quilt (only she had the all-blue one, rather than the much more sophisticated,  interesting and attractive brown-blue one) on her bed. I think it was the angel that Jacqueline Smith played. Or maybe Farrah’s sister. And there are a few other things I could definitely part company with. Maybe I’ll give everyone a door prize on Christmas Eve…)

In any case, even if I did have an iPhone, I don’t think I’m quite at the stuff level where I need to keep tabs on everything I own with an app.

I’m not anti-app by any means.

But the apps I could really use don’t seem to exist.

How about an app that could find – and fetch – the juice oranges (vs. navels) I prefer for my orange-chocolate pound cake. None to be found at Shaw’s or DeLuca’s. Off to Whole tomorrow…

How about an app – a press button app – that I could press to my forehead and, based on some sort of app mind-meld. pAnd immediately – in real-time, as they say - df’s with design specs for my do-over kitchen and bathrooms would spring forth.

Which, of course, suggests another app that I could really use: the line up the contractors to get the kitchen and the bathrooms done. I’ve got a great painter and a great electrician – at least I did a decade back when I last used them – but for a really big job that entails pulling up tile and sledgehammering cabinets that were completely cool in 1979, I need help. Is there an app for that? And I don’t mean Angie’s List of Yelp. I just want it done. Pick out the appliances while you’re at it, why don’t you.

How about an app that will polish up my scratched up furniture. Sure, shabby is chic, but…

If there’s an app that’ll take about ten pounds off if I put it under my pillow, I’ll even buy an iPhone.

But I really don’t need an app to tell me that the Liberty shawls, the wool infinity my sister Kath made me, and anything else that goes on the outside of the coat, are in a clear plastic tub in the hall closet, while all the indoor scarves are in drawers two and three in the tall chest in the bedroom.


Monday, December 15, 2014

Rats are never in vogue

As a city dweller – make that a city dweller dwelling in reclaimed ocean – I am no stranger to rat sightings.

Sometimes they’re scurrying in and out of a sewer. Sometimes they cross my path while I’m strolling on posh Newbury Street. Sometimes – and these are, rat-wise, the best of times, even with the blood and gore – I see one flattened out in the middle of the street. One down, I always tell myself, another couple of hundreds of thousands to go.

There are few things I despise more than rats. Perhaps even worse than bedbugs, they’re the stuff that my nightmares are made of.

City’s are full of them, but mostly they’re out of sight. And, blessedly, out of doors.

The only place I’ve experienced indoor rats up close and personal was when I was a waitress at the Union Oyster House.

Screaming when one ran over your waitress shoes was a firing offense. If the rats came out while we were cleaning our stations, we could leave the dirty plates right there. And on one memorable day a dishboy known as The Animal unclogged a sink by pulling a drowned rat out of it. Our hero!

This was, of course, decades ago. I’m sure that there’s been an exterminator or two on site since I hung up my waitress shoes and served my last platter of cherrystones. (“Whaddya mean these are uncooked?”)

Outdoor rats are bad enough – and plentiful enough in these parts.

But, inside rats.

Nasty business, that…

Blessedly, while my workplaces may have had an occasional mouse, they have been four-legged rat free.

Those who labor to make the world safe for fashion, however, are not so lucky – at least those who call Vogue home. The magazine recently moved from mid-town to the new World Trade Center in lower Manhattan. What happened when they began occupying their new digs is downright Condé Nasty. I mean, there you are working with fashionistas, dressing to the nines, and asking yourself the big questions like “does the devil really wear Prada?” – and here you go: a bunch of fashion-forward rats are peering over your shoulder to see what’s in this month’s fashion spread.

According to the New York Daily News (excerpted in Jezebel):

"A bunch ate through the ceiling of a sports editor's office and crawled all over his desk and left poops on his keyboard," said a different source. "They ate through his rug to fit under his door."

We're told that Conde has sent a memo to their staff in the building telling them that "they cannot eat at their desks" and that a complaint to the city's health department is next on the agenda. (Source: Jezebel)

Rats, as it happens, are almost always found found where there’s new urban construction.

Their burrows are dislodged when the digging starts, and they eventually find their way inside of the structure, where they hunker down as squatters until the paying tenants come in and – eventually – evict them.

But you’d think that the owners of the building would try to do a bit of rodent control before the human occupiers move in, wouldn’t you?

It apparently didn’t happen in the new World Trade Center.

One thing to think of trading floors and other fin-serv offices being overrun with rats. Not that anyone wants to work in a smelly, germy, scary, rat-filled environment, but if this happened at a brokerage, say, I’m sure that the rat jokes would be flying, and “the boys” would be running contests to see who could bag the biggest rat. Rat Patrol!

Quite another when it’s the voice of American fashion where no one but no one wants to step toe of their Jimmy Choos into a rat turd, or find the edge of their Tory Burch bag gnawed.

I’m betting that no one needed a memo to be told not to eat lunch at a desk where there’s dripping rat pee. anna wintour

Anna Wintour, the last word in fashion, is reportedly quite a bit unnerved by the rat-festation. Not that I blame her, but it would be kind of fun to be a fly on the wall as she takes on the landlord over this debacle.

How unnerved is the Divine Miss W?

Well, she was spotted – spotted coat and all – leavingann with glasses the building without the signature sunglasses she is always seen in.

I’d have thought she’d keep those glasses on, the better to block out rat-spotting. On the other hand, she might want to keep her eyes peeled, just in case one of those little critters that don’t lend themselves – or their pelts – to a good, pricey fur coat decides to cross her path.

The thought of working in a rat hole is beyond disgusting.

Hope that Vogue’s holiday party is off premises this year…



Source for both pics: Daily Mail


Friday, December 12, 2014

All that and a bag of nuts

As Peter Paul Candy taught us year’s ago, some times you feel like a nut, some times you don’t.

I’m one of those folks who, most of the time, does feel like a nut. And when I do, I tend not to care whether that nut comes out of a bag, sits in a dish, or is served on a silver platter.

Like everyone else, of course, I occasionally have to struggle to open the nut bag on the airlines – or I did, until most airlines I fly on banned nuts. When the incredible shrinking nut bags were handed out, I was always worried whether I’d chip a tooth trying to rip it open with my teeth, or whether the bag would explode and send those few, those proud, those eleven salted and/or sugared peanuts flying.

And while on the subject of nuts, I do have to say that when I’m at Fenway Park sharing a box of Cracker Jacks with my sister Trish, we are generally appalled by the paltry number of peanuts. Bad enough that the surprise inside is a shadow of former Cracker Jack greatness. Wouldn’t you rather have a tiny plastic yo-yo that doesn’t work than a wash-off tattoo?

But my next round of Cracker Jacks is months away, and the nut-related subject at hand is the Korean Air exec – the VP of cabin service and catering - who reportedly went a bit nuts last week when a flight attendant served her macadamia nuts in a bag, rather than on a plate.

Heather Cho – who’s not just any old airline VP, why, she’s the daughter of the chairman – wasn’t content to just chew out the flight attendant on the spot, or write up this completely egregious breach of protocol and destroy the flight attendant’s career after the fact. No, she had to demand that the pilot pull the plane back to the gate so that the unworthy flight attendant could be bodily removed.

Here’s how the initial reports said things went down:

Local media reports said that a junior attendant had offered Ms. Cho macadamia nuts in a bag, instead of serving the nuts on a plate.

Ms. Cho, daughter of company boss Cho Yang-ho, then questioned the chief flight attendant over in-flight service standards and ordered him off the plane.

Korean Air said the plane arrived 11 minutes late, and that the decision to expel the senior flight attendant had been made in consultation with the pilot. (Source: BBC)

Ms. Cho, whose charter includes service standards – which, as the CEO’s daughter, likely translates into jetting around in first class, back and forth between Inchon and wherever; getting fawned over by airline employees; and collecting a big, fat paycheck  - was, as it turns out, just traveling as a regular old passenger when the incident occurred.

As a passenger, she had no right to demand that the plane get turned around, which got South Korean travel authorities trying to decide whether a criminal offense had occurred. I mean a criminal offense above and beyond serving macadamia nuts in a bag.

In the bag, or not?

A few days after the nut news broke, it was announced the Ms. Cho had resigned, at a meeting “presided over” by dear old dad.

“I apologize to the customers and the public for causing social issues and to those who have been hurt by my actions,” Heather Cho said in the statement. “I will take full responsibility and resign from all my positions.” (Source: Bloomberg)

She had been getting it in the neck from South Korean news, which cited her as an example of what happens when above-it-all family members of the families that run the country’s business conglomerates get jobs in the family business. Surprise, surprise.

Meanwhile, there’s a conflicting story about the kernel at the center of Nutgate. It may not have been a case of plated vs. bagged nuts, after all.

Heather Cho ordered the head of the service crew on Flight 86 from New York to Seoul to deplane on Dec. 5 after an attendant earlier had served her macadamia nuts without asking, the carrier said Dec. 8. Cho then summoned the purser to ask a question about the airline’s policy on serving nuts. She ordered the plane back to the gate and instructed the man to leave the plane when he couldn’t answer.

Given the sensitivity – life and death sensitivity, at that – around all things nutty, it does make sense to have a policy about nuts: ask and you shall receive, keep them in the bag, or do away with nuts on the plane, altogether. Much as I like nuts, I think I could live without them for the duration of a flight. (I would be less happy if ballparks banned Cracker Jacks, but I’m fine if they want to have peanut-free sections in the stands.)

What was over the top was Ms. Cho’s reaction.

From the sounds of things, the crew member that she booted off the plane is now on leave, doctor’s letter in hand.

If this were the states, I think we could safely say “law suit” here.

Don’t know what this bodes in South Korea.

Anyway, just because she’s the boss’s daughter doesn’t give Heather Cho the right to act like a boor boss to some hapless employee who, senior flight attendant/purser or not – is well down the totem pole, let alone order a plane back to the gate.

I’d say good riddance, but the betting money has it that, once things die down, she’ll be back in some capacity.

VP title, no doubt, safely on the business card.

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Thursday, December 11, 2014

Trendspotting for Foodies

As 2014 draws to a close – and the sooner the better, from where I stand – my thoughts have turned to what to be on the lookout for in 2015.

Will my L.L. Bean and Talbot’s duds still be on the cutting edge of fashion?

Once I get around to putting in that tempered glass counter top in the kitchen, will it turn out that the trend-meisters were wrong about granite being the new cardboard?

Will Canasta be making a comeback, or will this just be in my narrow circle?

And, most important, there’s the food front.

Will Greek yogurt still rule? Can I take kale off my learn-how-to-live-with list? Will Caprese sandwiches remain a menu staple?

None of those particular questions (except, maybe, the yogurt one) were answered in a recent piece on Huffington Post. But I did learn was what “the hottest food trends of 2015, brought to you in partnership with ConAgra Foods and Supermarket Guru Phil Lempert.”

Now I’m not quite sure I want to trust my trendspotting to the likes of ConAgra. Their brands seem to be pretty anti-trend: Swiss Miss, Chef Boyardee, Slim Jim, Reddi-Whip, and Jiffy Pop. Not to mention Peter Pan Peanut Butter and Blue Bonnet Margarine, both household staples when I was growing up, but products I didn’t know still existed.

And I wasn’t familiar at all with Supermarket Guru Phil Lempert.

I guess I’ll just have to accept that he is, in fact, a bona fide Supermarket Guru.

What do Phil and the mavens at ConAgra predict is in store for us?

Gluten free is – at last – so yesterday.  Which is too bad for folks like my husband, who had celiac disease. The elective gluten-free-ers will, I guess, move on to the next.

If there’ll be fewer new GF foods, what can we expect to see on the shelves next year? Fermented foods, like yogurt and sauerkraut.

Personally, I’d never use the words “yogurt” and “sauerkraut” in the same sentence, but, apparently, because fermented foods are such a digestive aide, and help us absorb nutrients. Looks like I’ll have start trending off of cottage cheese, and back on to Greek yogurt. Sauerkraut, nein danke.

Smoked everything will be making more appearances as well. We won’t be seeing just smoked meats, but “vegetables, cheese and even cocktails.” And if you don’t have a backyard smoker, well, you’d better be asking Santa for one.

Not a big smoked anything fan, so I have no intention of being the first person on Beacon Hill with a backyard smoker. (Let alone put an indoor version in my dream kitchen, if and when I get moving on that project.)

There are a number of generational predictions.

Us old geezers will become old grazers, picking throughout the day rather than sitting down for three squares. Boomers will be munching on snacks that are protein rich, full of fiber, and promote our bone health with Omega 3s. I don’t see myself snacking on fish oil supplements – they’re no Cheet-os, that’s for sure. But you never know.

Generation Z  - those born after 1995 – supposedly “most enjoy cooking simple, healthy meals with fresh ingredients.”

Maybe it’s just me, but the Gen Z-ers I know are either eating what their moms put on the table, what’s on offer through their campus meal plan, or cooking up a simple, not especially healthy, bowl of ramen noodles.

We also learn that Miillennials, those monkeys in the middle between the Boomers and Gen Z, will be looking for craft foods, items that are unique and of “authentic origin.”

I am going back and forth about whether I dislike the term “craft food” more than I dislike the term “artisanal food.” Decisions, decisions. If I throw in “house made”, which I increasingly see on restaurant menus, there’s no contest: worst in its class is definitely “house made.” (Artisanal gets a pass because it’s so often misspelled as “artesian.”)

More and more information will be at the fingertips of shoppers, so we can get all the skinny – and the fat – on the craft foods we’re grazing on. And, if we don’t want to lug it all home in our handy-dandy shopping carts (geezers) or our Patagonia backpacks (GenZ), same day delivery will be everywhere.

My favorite trend is that the supermarket will become spaces for socializing. And not just socializing over how to gauge the freshness of a cantaloupe.  Supermarkets will be opening restaurants, hosting seminars, running cooking classes.

Sure, if you’re Whole Foods, or Wegman’s, or some other upscale super-duper market. Not so likely if you’re a regular old grocery store where people, ah, come to by ground beef, and lettuce, and Rice Krispies, and clementines, and a gallon of milk.

Folks who shop there aren’t looking to graze. They aren’t that concerned with whether the food is craft. They just want to fill their cart, check out, and go home and make dinner for the kids. Same day delivery? They’ve already got that covered. DIY.

So much for the 2015 food trends…

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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

“Solving upper-class problems since 1912.”

While I was thumbing through last week’s New Yorker, a couple of ads caught my attention.

One was a full-page, full-color, full-sized head shot of a man. A black man wearing dreads. The man is pulling his lips down, and on his lower lip the words PINE BROS. are printed.

Pine Brothers? I asked myself. As in those first cousins to the Smith Brothers? As in cough drops?

At the bottom of the page it read “Love your Brothers” – Waka Flocka Flame.

I suspect that, if I have one thing in common with the average New Yorker subscriber, it would be that I have no idea in the world who Waka Flocka Flame might be. (We would only know his name if there’d been an article on him in the mag, one of those articles geared at keeping old fogeys up to date on celebrities, in case we missed this week’s People or the latest Access Hollywood.)

But I was quickly able to find that he is a rapper, and that he has recently replaced Martha Stewart as the spokesperson for Pine Brothers softish throat drops.

Talk about shaking things up.

Admittedly, Martha is not without edge herself, orange being the new black and all that. But the shift to Waka. Wow. (Or, as stoners used to say, Oh wow.)

Waka is certainly an interesting dude, one who “this year started a search for his own personal blunt roller, offering $50,000 a year.”  Who said there aren’t any more solid, entry level middle class jobs out there? Anyway, Waka can afford  to pay to get his blunts rolled, especially if he’s being paid anywhere near the $1 million Martha was supposedly getting.

The Waka video ads, which were “shot the weed-loving Waka in the smoke filled house from The Texas Chain Saw Massacre” were banned by NBC and CBS.

The clip shows Waka alone on a couch, surrounded by puffs of smoke. Amid the fog, he says, “Can’t live without my Pine Brothers, straight up.” Shooting a knowing glance at a plume of smoke, he adds, “Next time you need some throat relief — for whatever reason — get your Pine Brothers.” (Source: PageSix.)

While “our” ads are a bit more subtle, who knew that The New Yorker audience could be hip and happenin’ enough to be graced with the presence of Waka?

The other ad of note was for Manhattan antique dealer S.J. Shrubsole.

One might infer from the somewhat starchy name S.J. Shrubsole that the company would have an advertisement that was somewhat prim and proper.

Oh, no, they didn’t…

In fact, their ad – one-third page, black/white/greyscale – was captioned “HAVEN’T GOT A POT TO PISS IN?”

Well, you would if you had $125K to fork over for the pictured “Rare George II Champerpot made for the Earl of Warrington.”

That would be some conversation piece, but who wants to have to polish up a sterling silver chamberpot, even one that had been doused by the Earl of Warrington?

The ad doesn’t stop with the pot to piss in.

Right underneath the picture of the chamberpot is a second headline: “WIFE KNOWS OTHERWISE?”

And beneath this caption are a couple of art-deco bracelets ($75K, $82.5K) are shown.

In truth, while The New Yorker demographic is plenty upscale, I suspect it’s not exactly laden with folks who routinely spend $125K for a collectible, whatever its pedigree, or $82.5K for a bracelet, however lovely. Probably about the same proportion of readers who kick back and blunt roll while watching Waka Flocka.

Shrubsole makes no bones about its demographic.

The Shrubsole tagline?

Solving upper-class problems since 1912.

I suppose they do solve some upper-class problems – like what to get for the man who has everything, especially if he has had a secret man-crush on the Earl of Warrington for years. But it doesn’t solve other exceedingly difficult challenges that I upper-class New Yorkers have had to overcome since 1912.

Why, the very year 1912.

How would Shrubsole have helped a first class gentleman decide whether to give his space on the Titanic's last lifeboat to the pregnant young woman from steerage?

Does Shrubsole make house calls if you need your tie tied for a white tie do? Can they help you decide where to buy in the Hamptons? Can they help get your kiddo into the right pre-kindergarten? Tell you how much to tip the doorman?

Perhaps a more appropriate tagline would be “solving some upper-class problems since 1912.”

Truth in advertising, bros. To put it bluntly.

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Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Hall of Famers: the 2014 Inductees (Toy Edition)

Well, yesterday, I took on this year’s lousy toys. Today, we’re in kinder, gentler territory, with the classics that were inducted last month into the Toy Hall of Fame.

First, the non-winners, the toys and games that made it onto the finalist list:

American Girl dolls, Fisher-Price Little People, Hess Toy Trucks, My Little Pony, Operation Skill Game, paper airplanes, pots and pans, Slip‘N Slide, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. (Source: Museum of Play)

I’m a big fan of American Girl dolls.

Sure, they’re a major ka-ching factory, but they’re also wholesome, age appropriate, and extremely well-made.

Not that anything this ka-ching would have made it into our house, but I would have given my eye-teeth, not to mention the eye-teeth of each and every one of my siblings, to have one of these dolls as a kid.

Which one would I have craved the most?

Kit because she looked like me, and was an aspiring writer? Molly, the little girl of World War II, much my favorite era? (That is, if an era when tens of millions of people were wiped out could actually be anyone’s favorite era. Sorry about that. It’s just a time when I would have liked to have lived. Maybe in a past life I was killed by a buzz bomb. ) Or would I have gone for Kirsten, the pioneer girl from another era I fantasized about as a kid? The big attraction of Kirsten was that she had a nifty Saint Lucia outfit, crowned with a wreath and candles. (I’m sure I would have lit the candles and burned Kirsten’s wig off.)

But much as I would have loved an American Girl doll (and as much money as I’ve spent on outfits for my nieces’ AG dolls over the years), I’m actually not that disappointed that they’re not in the Hall of Fame. They’re great, but maybe when they’ve been around as long as Barbie…

Of the other finalists, my two favorites are the paper airplane (inexpensive, skill-based, class disrupting), and pots and pans.

My Little Pony?

Just say no, neigh, never!

But I can’t quibble with the winners:

Magical, iridescent bubbles; monotone, miniature little green army men; and the colorful, puzzling Rubik’s Cube became the latest inductees to The Strong’s National Toy Hall of Fame.

Last year, Pink Slip was quite disappointed that bubbles had been dissed.

Bubbles! What a perfect toy! Inexpensive, “fun for all ages,” portable, and requires no ability whatsoever to make work and enjoy.

When I was a kid, fancy-dancy bubble pipes were the rage. This was the one and only image I could find of the type of bubble pipe I’m talking about, and you can tell from the b&w and the outfit on the kiddo that we’re talking ‘bout myBubble pipe of my childhoodgeneration here. In fact, this little guy looks a lot like my brother Rick.

While this was the preferred pipe of my era, I will admit that, as an adult, I have grown fonder of the simple and perfectly functional wand that comes inside the bubble bottle.

So, congratulations to Bubbles! Way to blow!

And blow they do:

Today, retailers sell more than 200 million bottles of this inexpensive and clean toy annually. 

Little green army men are also a pretty good pick. Like bubbles, they’re inexpensive. If they get dirty, they’re easy enough to clean. And you can gnaw on their heads.

We may not have had American Girl dolls Chez Rogers, but we absolutely had little green army men.

The only downside: if you stepped on one while barefoot, it hurt.

Anyway, in case you wanted to know, they were introduced in 1938, just as the US – admit it or not – was ramping up to war. Wildly popular through the early 1960’s:

 Little green army men suffered a decline in popularity during the Vietnam War, but their sales increased in the 1980s and 1990s. In 1995, they hit the big screen in Pixar’s Toy Story—and they appeared in two more Toy Story films. Today, multiple manufacturers produce millions of little green army men annually, and they continue to prompt narratives of heroism and daring in children’s imaginations.

When I see ads for a lot of today’s toys, my reaction is that many of them do too darned much for the kids. Everything’s scripted or mechanized, making any prompting of a kid’s own narrative optional.

But little green army men don’t do a darned thing on their own. Alpha. Bravo. Charlie.

This year’s third inductee is the Rubik’s Cube.

The colorful cubes can be arranged 43 quintillion (a number with six commas) ways and have inspired organized competitions in more than 50 countries. The current speed champ, Mats Valk of The Netherlands, solved the cube in 5.55 seconds. There are also official trials for solving it blindfolded, one-handed, underwater with one breath, and with one’s feet.

Although I was barely able to line up two of the same color squares in a row – other than by accident – I love the colors, the Mondrian look, and the fact that this toy is a nerd kid’s dream. (Maybe a nerd kid can tell me how this works when you’re blindfolded. Surely you must get to take a peek before you start twirling away?)

That’s it as far as Toys ‘R Us week at Pink Slip goes.

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