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Wednesday, April 4, 2012

223

The Toy Fair

• The Toy Fair isn't for kids. The show's held yearly at the Javits Center, Manhattan's main convention facility (a.k.a. massive gray box), and it's full of serious adults in business suits with corporate accounts. It's not supposed to be fun. We'll see about that!

• Toy Fair badges are only available for pros, so my boyfriend's mom generously registered me and my friend Tim as employees of her chia seed company. My badge says "CHIA POWER/Assistant Buyer." We'll avoid walking by chia products for fear of having to hold our own in a chia conversation.

• I want to pretend we're here for legitimate reasons, so Tim and I work out a cover story, "we distribute chia products, but we're looking to branch out into toys and athletics." That totally sounds like a thing, right?

• Tim is my quintessential New York Friend: erudite, droll, always up for hijinks.

• As soon as we get past security, Tim points to the bedazzling station and says, "I'm going to let one of those pretty girls give me a glitter tattoo." Sure, no harm in outing ourselves as ultra-eager Toy Fair participants!

• Freshly glittered, we take a look around the main exhibition hall. "These vendors have wildly differing ideas on what makes for appropriate convention wear," Tim says.

• A lot of businessmen are whizzing around the aisles on little scooters and things. The ones selling miniature vehicles seem to be having more fun than everyone else.

• The most uptight vendors are the German artisanal stuffed animal salesmen.

• I do a double-take at the Teddy Tanks booth, where live fish are swimming inside teddy bears. A young, bored guy gives us a spiel, "We put the animate in the inanimate. That's our concept. We bring it to life."

He demonstrates how to pour fish food into the stuffed bear's mouth, then repeats, "We put the animate in the inanimate." WHAT. Never mind that it's a terrible slogan, doesn't anyone realize that to a child, a teddy bear is animate? And won't it be horrifying when encasing a live fish tank in Teddy's plush flesh causes him to rot from the inside?

• A lot of these toys could benefit from being workshopped with actual children.

• We circumvent educational toys until I spot a faux archaeological "Digasaurs" sandbox with fake dinosaur bones and brushes. How cool! Bone brushing has to be the best part of being a paleontologist, I bet paleontologists are constantly fighting over who gets to brush bones.

• I hope the owner of Royal Bobbles got his booth space at a discounted rate.

• Ooh look, it's a giant inflatable shark! Tim and I both covet Sharky, but who could fit him in their apartment and afford his constant diet of fresh Helium?

• Here's an uncomfortable observation: I notice my attraction to certain toys feels kind of … sexual. A lot of these toys have voluptuous and flirtatious designs, for example the My Little Ponies have big soft rumps and perfumed hair. It makes me uneasy.

• I'm sneering at the nerdy "collectible figurines" section, when I see a limited edition Red Stay Puft and feel thunderstruck. He looks angry, yet supple and inviting. I don't want to say he looks like a dildo, but … well.

I also like this 4D Shark Puzzle; I think he'd make a fine friend for Red Stay Puft.

I want this fashionable black and neon globe, too, but it's not quite a toy. Maybe I could get creative and incorporate it into some playtime with the other guys?

• Here's a toy I can't imagine anyone wanting: a creepy blonde doll crying semen-like tears and clutching a smaller doll of her own.

I approach Dolly for a closer inspection and nod at the owner, a midwestern Mom type. "She's lovely," I say as I snap a picture. Those tears really look like jizz. "Isn't she stunning?" "Just beautiful."

There's a lot of candy at this convention. I'm doing a lot of pretending to be interested in toys so that I can eat pieces of candy.

It's important to remember we can make a swift exit if things get awkward. The vendors are somewhat glued to their booths and won't pursue us very far into the aisle.

• I leave Tim's side to go investigate a salesman wearing suggestive red shorts and playing hacky sack with a badminton birdie. During his demo, he leans in to confide, "I'm REALLY hungry." I offer him a banana, he says, "I'm really not allowed to eat your banana," and it's a million times more awkward than it should be. Why can't he just take the fruit and switch it out with the birdie for a minute? Is he a prisoner?! I walk away before Birdie Bananas can involve me in an escape plan.

• I find Tim in the Star Trek cologne booth, and bleccch! It smells cheap and repugnant. "Shirtless Kirk" is especially disappointing, not even worth it as a gag gift.

• But here's something even less desirable: "Abundant Harvest," a board game for teaching children and adults how to make wise life choices. Sample scenarios include "Your spouse is not putting effort into maintaining a strong marriage" and "Your friend is passing around a marijuana cigarette." FUN! The booth is deserted, like even the salespeople couldn't take it anymore.

• I squint at an "Americoob" banner just to make sure … no, it doesn't say "AmeriBOOB." The booth guy explains the toy is based on the viking game, Kubbspel, and he invites me to wear a plastic viking helmet while trying out a game of Americoob in the aisle.

I knock a block (coob?) over with a differently shaped block (or is this one the coob?), I yell "COOB!" and it feels good. It has a bare bones throw-a-thing-at-a-thing charm. Still, I wonder if the whole "ancient Norse warriors" vibe couldn't be incorporated more into gameplay.

It's hard to associate these game pieces...

…with my mental picture of a viking:

Then again…?

• We head upstairs, where all the heavy hitters and big brands went nuts designing elaborate booths. The already confusing trade show social dynamic changes up here; instead of being courted by desperate small business owners, we're met with icy suits at podiums requesting vendor account numbers and appointments. I realize I'm the villain and these people are just trying to sell wholesale goods, but I still feel entitled — what's the harm in letting me check out the newest pirate ship play set or whatever? Sure, I just sell chia products, but I'm looking to branch out.

• Reactions to my chia affiliation have been mostly neutral or "oh, cool, like the Chia Pets,"  but the women guarding the Playmobil® compound are total dicks about it.

One of them says "Chia?!," and turns to her coworker with a look of contempt. Then both of them laugh in our faces. I'm still fuming ten minutes later, who does Playmobil think they are? They're no Lego, that's for sure.

• Lego won't even let us into their booth. You need an appointment, and the receptionist won't let us peek even though there's nobody else around. At Comic-con, they pile Legos on the floor and let you swim in them! Just sayin'.

• Thank you, Uncle Milton Industries, for letting us enjoy your "Tarantula Planet" critters. I'm a sucker for ugly animals dressed up in costumes, and hey, weird, the soccer-themed tarantula is wearing the same outfit as that Birdie Bananas guy from earlier!

Too late, Birdie, I already ate my banana!

• I spy plastic horses from across the room and get all screechy. Breyers. I corner a saleslady, "Oh my god, I'm such a Breyer fan! I sold most of my collection when I moved to New York, but still keep a bunch in the closet at my parents' house!!"  I nerd out over their displays for awhile.

• Next we check out model airplanes so Tim can take a turn geeking. I admire the planes for their beauty, particularly a woodgrain space shuttle with moving compartments, but they're no match for acetate equines.

• I'm going to get a little nostalgic for a moment, so bear with me, but do you remember your favorite toys as a child? And maybe you wondered why adults didn't seem as enchanted with your toys as you were? I used to swear I'd never lose interest in my figurines and dolls, I feared it would mean losing my entire sense of self. But of course I grew older and started leaving those beloved things behind.

I can pick up a Breyer horse, admire the smooth plastic and artful details, but … that's it. I'm not going to sit on the floor with it for hours, making it talk to other toys, acting out my latest conflicts and fantasies, forming pretend relationships. I wish I could enjoy toys on that level again.

• We wander around for a few more minutes before admitting we're worn out, we can't play with toys all day like we used to. Outside the Javits Center, we see a man controlling a large toy car and I ask, "Hey, can you give me a ride?" He pretends not to hear me. He's very serious.

The end.

Previously: War Horse, an Illustrated Review.

Lisa Hanawalt lives in Brooklyn and does illustrations + funnies for publications like the New York Times, McSweeney’s, Vice, and Chronicle Books. She’s best known for her comic book series I Want You.



223 Comments / Post A Comment

frigwiggin

LISA HANAWALT! I was waiting for you to come back with something amazing. Desperation Casual is what I strive for in my everyday life.

QuiteAmiable

So what would be the point of the red Stay Puft dude?

area@twitter

@QuiteAimable Sweet marshmallow love.
...Wait, the reason they made him? Good question.

fondue with cheddar

@QuiteAimable Didn't he turn red when he started attacking them in the movie?

Edit: A quick GIS tells me I'm probably remembering wrong. Unless I'm thinking of this poster:

QuiteAmiable

@jen325 No! He just made a mad face and then burst into flames when they zapped him with the proton packs. (I watched Ghostbusters this past weekend)

fondue with cheddar

@area@twitter I've got three words for you: CHERRY FLAVORED MARSHMALLOW.

Porn Peddler

This is a beautiful awesome thing and I am excited about it. This actually sounds a lot more pleasant than the AVN expo.

beanie

@Third Wave Housewife I dunno, I had a great time at the ILS show (International Lingerie Show). I was coooooooompletely fascinated by the pasties booth.

atipofthehat

@beanie

We could make puns about that. (Thought I'd lobule an easy one.)

pixieg

@beanie In Britain, pasties are a pastry filled with potato and other things like carrot and meat. I assuming these wouldn't have any more sexual connotations over there than they do here, so I'm wondering what pasties are in this context? I have images of a Cornish Bakehouse in between corsets stalls and people dressed like Dita Von Teese.

oboe-d-amore

@pixieg This is a couple days old, but maybe you'll still see it? Pasties are little circular stick on things that cover your nipples but not your whole breasts. Think striptease or burlesque.

Bus Driver Stu Benedict

Andrew Breitbart faked his death to devote himself completely to bringing joy and laughter to children worldwide with his innovative new toy design.

Woman Laughing Alone With Boas

This is so great! The illustrations are so fantastic and extra-entertaining! And that scooter guy IS the coolest.

But for real, regarding the weird sexual nature of some toys... I feel that is genuinely kind of evil? In that it is super gross that even girls' toys that aren't HUMAN-LOOKING are reinforcing terribly restrictive ideas of what girls should be / like / like to be? Ugggggggh yuck.

anachronistique

@Woman Laughing Alone With Boas Those goddamned Bratz ponies. GAAAAAAH.

Woman Laughing Alone With Boas

@anachronistique SO TERRIFYING. Almost as much as "children's" Halloween costumes that are basically the "training bras" of Sexy __________s.

BoozinSusan

@Woman Laughing Alone With Boas Yeah, I definitely remember my My Little Ponies having perfumey, fruity-scented hair growing up... This brought me back.

Equestrienne

My favorite childhood toy was called "Hello Turtle". Of course, I'm not sure if it was ACTUALLY called Hello Turtle or if that was just how I referred to it (?). Hello Turtle was a plush bathtub toy, and its fur changed colors depending on the temperature of the water. Hello Turtle met his tragic end when my sister pooped in the bathtub. This is (obviously) still an issue for me.

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

@Equestrienne Goodbye Turtle.

Decca

@Equestrienne My sister had a plush toy whale that she named Trousers. None of us knew why, but god forbid we question that name! (I wonder if you're reading, sis. Hi!)

Neve Garrett

That picture of giddy-Lisa bouncing on the hippity-hop is the best thing. Also, everything in this is the best thing.

jonacon

When I was really young I was too involved with this sassy purple squirrel toy (it's a weird memory I don't wanna talk about it). Otherwise I enacted homer epics with various batmen in different colored suits. My favorite were always the bruce wayne/batman combo because it was like two toys in one.

Thank you Lisa for your phrasing. I'm pretty sure "angry, yet supple and inviting" is my gender identity.

feartie

@jonacon I used to have Sylvanian Families. Mine were pandas, I think? I still find it hard to walk past a toyshop window if they are in there (they were off the shelves for a while) although the obvious sexist gender dynamic of the family units and the aesthetic insistence on the wonderfulness the domestic sphere circa 30s-50s now gives me pause for thought.

I did just buy one that looks a bit like a smuggler though. His name on the label was 'Captain Horatio Seadog' and he is a dog with white muttonchop sideburns.

wealhtheow

@feartie OMG Sylvanian families! I'd totally forgotten their real name until just now! I was never much troubled by the 1950s look because the second they entered my house their clothes got replaced with home-made "medieval" gear and they got enlisted into Robin Hood's band of Merry Animals. They were a roving band of thieves!

feartie

@wealhtheow You win best imagination, because honestly, that's so much cooler than my squabbling family politics.

Craftastrophies

@feartie Dude. I was reminiscing about these with a friend last year, and she bought me a family set for christmas. And then I got my old dollhouse back off my mum, with all my old sylvania families, and furniture. It's set up in my living room and I've made them some rugs and stuff. I feel kind of weird about it, but I LOVE them. Also, my boyfriend keeps putting them into different dioramas on the sly, to make me laugh.

oh, disaster

BLEAK AS FUCK.

(This was delightful.)

MilesofMountains

Breyer horses!! I still have all of mine in a box somewhere. I lived and breathed those things, there's no way I could get rid of them.

spoondisaster

@MilesofMountains I still have one sitting on top of my stereo! Yes, I am in my 20s, no, I am not ashamed.

hotdog

I just googled teddy tanks. You DO have to feed it through the MOUTH. I want one. They're hideous.

frigwiggin

@hotdog "I want one. They're hideous." This is so much of my life. Have I turned into Enid Coleslaw?

FishFan

@hotdog My kids has the Teddy Tank. He uses it as a fish tank and nightlight. I have had it for 3 months and my kid loves it! He is learning how to be responsible. It's a neat and novel fish tank and nightlight!

FishFan

@frigwiggin BTW coming from a person who owns a lot of fish tanks if you properly care for the a fish tank it will not look like that week 14! Just clean the bowl. I know its a novel concept to clean a bowl!

frigwiggin

We had a large inflatable shark for the swimming pool when I was a kid. My dad named it Muammar, after Muammar Gaddafi.

Anji

@frigwiggin Your dad sounds awesome.

frigwiggin

@Anji Oh, he's a hoot! I was lied to constantly as a child.

celacia

@frigwiggin My little cousin (age 8) and my dad (age 60) both got the sharks she is talking about in the article for christmas. They fly, and re totally awesome. I am helping my dad put his together sometime in the next few weeks so it can be released into his new office with its large open floor plan. My dad is either the best boss or the worst boss ever, depending on one's perspective.

Megasus

@celacia BEST!

Myrtle

@frigwiggin Moar information, pls.

frigwiggin

@Myrtle About the lying? Oh, he just liked (and still likes) to just make shit up and deadpan it, with anybody, but ESPECIALLY with me and my brother. He was an elementary-school teacher too, so that meant everything he told me was the perfect golden truth and I would start spreading the word among my friends about how Santa watched us through the air vents or how ice cream was made of whale fat.

He lives in Mexico now, and a few years ago I went to visit him and took a rather gullible college roommate. I don't think my dad's had that much fun tricking someone in years.

frigwiggin

@frigwiggin Consequently, I know all his tells now, and I don't believe a damn word he says.

Myrtle

@frigwiggin He sounds magical. Lucky Frig!
I would totally buy a humor book that starts with "I was lied to constantly as a child."

Xanthophyllippa

@frigwiggin I would like to go with you next time.

frigwiggin

@Myrtle One of these days I'll have to write a book about him if he doesn't write any memoirs.

@Xanthophyllippa You should be forewarned that we never do anything particularly exciting--just hang around the house, go for walks down to the beach, and jabber at each other. And occasionally go get steak tacos from Loncheria Dony.

Craftastrophies

@frigwiggin My dad was like this. Science questions were the best. Exactly like Calvin's dad, from Calvin and Hobbes.

I bought the skyshark for you boyfriend. He has yet to fill it with helium, but I'm so excited about it.

wee_ramekin

@frigwiggin Uh...has your user name been fRigwiggin this whole time?!?!? I totally thought it was FIGwiggin! Like...like, crazy figs all whiggin' out and shit.

frigwiggin

@Craftastrophies Lucky boyfriend! Ahhh, that's going to be fun.

@wee_ramekin Don't worry, it hasn't been! I changed it last week to try and make Google searches for my personal email (which has the same username) less incriminating.

mlle.gateau

As the child of a poor(er) family who couldn't swing Breyers, I had Grand Champions, and yes, I feel you on this. My toys were like... extensions of me, and I kind of don't remember when I stopped playing with them. They were out all the time, and then I suppose I started ignoring them, and eventually they were put away and now they're rotting in a closet because unlike Breyers, they lack intrinsic value. Sigh.

I guess the point of this that Lisa, if you want to play horses, I am totally game.

SarahP

@mlle.gateau I liked my Grand Champions better than Breyers anyway. (I was under the impression that Breyers were only for looking at, not for playing with, and my horses had school dances to attend and gossip to spread, darnit!)

Lisa Hanawalt@twitter

@mlle.gateau Oh hell yes, I am down with Grand Champions. They came with dope accessories!

mlle.gateau

@Lisa Hanawalt@twitter TRUE. The best present I ever got was a collection of GC accessories from the 1980s that another girl gave me, which included a GC show jumper rider. Other best presents included the GC ranch that Santa brought me, even though I was/am an English rider. That barn was BADASS.

hopelessshade

@mlle.gateau I am under the impression that I only got Grand Champions because my mother assumed that if two plastic horses existed, the cheaper ones were the better buy, automatically. Also why I always had crummy computers.

But she did buy us all of the (sale bin) Star Trek: TNG action figures, and those got more playtime anyway. Guys, they made a K'Ehleyr figurine! She was mine.

PrimarySource

I had neither Breyers nor Grand Champions. Instead, I had a Fashion Star Filly - behold Chloe, "the royal Lippizaner princess from Austria": www.fashionstarfillies.com/originals/chloe.htm

tortietabbie

@PrimarySource Looking over that list...apparently I had all of them. And the "Sassy SixTeen" Ariel. And the boy! Cliff! Oh my god I wonder if they're boxed up at my parents' house...

mlle.gateau

@mlle.gateau YES!!! I had a couple of these, but I never knew what they were called. Surely they're floating around my parents' house somewhere...

fabel

This was hilarious & so, so good.

fabel

This was hilarious & so, so good.

OhMarie

This is amazing.

elizabeast

When I was a kid, I had ALL THE BARBIES and it was pretty magical. I only hade one Barbie house though (the one that folded up), so I basically just acted out a Barbie sitcom all the time.

I know we're all adults who don't play with dolls anymore, but sometimes I think my life would benefit from a few hours of hanging out with my dolls every week.

cc
cc

@elizabeast BARBIE PARTY! let's totes play barbies. jelly of your house!! my jerk neighbor had the 3 story townhouse and i was sick with envy. i had... the pickup truck with a trailer. the fold out trailer with a little chicken you put in the stove. i loved it, and the porsche (i didn't realize she was so ghetto fabulous), but i was aware of our barbies' statuses relative to each other.

Mariajoseh

@cc @elizabeast I also had ALL THE BARBIES and I sometimes wonder how come I'm not anorexic or crazy or not-a-feminist. I had an insane amount of clothes and like 30 Barbies, but just 2 or 3 Kens. One house, one pink limo, Barbie horses... everything Barbie.

sarah girl

@elizabeast Oh, the drama my Barbies lived out. For some reason, I would frequently put a Barbie in a loose dress, stuff other clothes under the dress so she looked pregnant, then have her confront Ken about her "situation." What... the fuck? I was like, four years old.

coreykins

@Sarah H. Hahaha! That is awesome.

@Mariajoseh Same here. Sooooo much Barbie...it was a full-on obsession! Until one day it just...stopped.

cc
cc

@olddirtyvintage mine never did. i have to restrain myself from that PINK PINK PINK aisle in target. do you know the insane barbies they're putting out these days?? amazing!! i want one for every aspect of my life, but then i'm "that creepy lady with all the barbies and no kids".
siiiiigh :(

@Mariajoseh i was just relaying that to my husband the other night- insane amounts of barbies, 1 vintage ken, 1 new ken (with a sweatsuit, i made a glove for him so he could wax barbie's car, which didn't strike me as odd until just now). but yeh, it sounds like he had some pretty bangin' male dolls, we coulda gotten them together. captain kirk and barbie? hell yeh!

ALSO THERE ARE AUTHENTIC STAR TREK BARBIES NOW. i die.

Megasus

@Sarah H. Hahaha I don't think mine ever got impregnated, but I only had one Ken doll. So he got lots of action. And also action with Skipper, which in retrospect is REALLY CREEPY.

Myrtle

@Mariajoseh I had two of the original Barbies that my aunt had "outgrown" also she gave me her Beatles sweatshirt and her "Meet the Beatles" album. Every time she sees me she asks me where those are, and I remind her my stepdad threw my books (Cherry Ames! Nancy Drew!) and toys away. Also, my Breyer Horse collection. I didn't see the point of being Barbie if you couldn't bend to ride the lovely Breyer horsies. But her shoes were delicious.

Saaoirse

@Megan Patterson@facebook I had a couple of Barbies, but I lost all their clothes, so they just wandered around in their underwear that was a part of their skin, going to haunted houses, having underwater adventures.

Dancercise

My brother and I had the best Barbie adventures. I had a Barbie limo, so we'd stuff the 1 Ken and all 85 Barbies and Skippers into it and "drive" it around the house. I did the voices of the Barbies and my brother did the voices of Ken and the limo (we were really into Knight Rider).

Megasus

@Dancercise I had the camper! But I always wanted the house. But we had friends with the big house so it kind of worked out. Also I used to put my guinea pigs in the camper car and drive them around.

sophi

@elizabeast I collect Monster High dolls, and sometimes I'll just take a random one off of the shelf and just brush it's hair or something, and it's honestly really soothing. Dolls are awesome.

camanda

@cc I just want you to know that the image of gloved Ken waxing Barbie's car just gave me the best laugh I have had in a long time. Thank you.

elizabeast

@sophi My old roommate used to carry a My Little Pony around and brush its hair when she got too anxious. I know that sounds weird, but it wasn't? I don't know, this girl is a total weirdo, but the sweetest person ever so it evens out.

elizabeast

@Mariajoseh Every time I see something about Barbies making girls anorexic/depressed/awful I want to call bullshit because I had all the Barbies and I also came out just fine.

iceberg

Lisa Hanawalt, this is so perfect, particularly the picture of your friend Tim making the disdainful face, and the surreptitious banana-eating sequence. Also, the Lego company slogan nearly made me spit cinnamon-raisin bagel all over my keyboard, so well done you.

SarahP

Why couldn't he eat your banana? Why were his shorts so suggestive? So many questiosn unanswered.

Lady Humungus

KUBB!! The viking game!! It's the best. My friend's brother learned it while stationed overseas, and came home and made his own set out of nice hardwood... it's the best yard game to play at parties, mostly because you only need one hand so the other's free for your beer. I've been meaning to make my own set. You can find plans online!

Jennifer@twitter

@Lady Humungus I love Kubb! I have my own set too. It's the greatest. But it can be hard to find people to play it with me? Like they all think I'm super crazy.

Lady Humungus

@Jennifer@twitter Yeah, it's a tough sell with my crowd too... "you throw blocks? ...at other blocks? And that's fun?" It totally is!

Jennifer@twitter

@Lady Humungus I'm always like "throw sticks at blocks? seriously it's the best, come join me."

atipofthehat

@Lady Humungus
@Jennifer@twitter

LOVE kubb. I've played in McCarren Park. Let's have a hairpin kubb-up!

Lady Humungus

@atipofthehat I'm in! ...the next time I'm in NYC? Someday...

Jennifer@twitter

@Lady Humungus @atipofthehat Yes! Just need to make it back up to NYC.

sophia_h

The sheer number of hours I spent acting out stories with my Barbies, Lady Lovely Locks, Quints, Magic Nursery Babies, and American Girl dolls is stunning. (Single mom, two daughters, we had a lot of dolls in the house and no Legos. Those were for boys.) Of course, now that I am an adult my favorite hobbies are reading, watching really good TV, and writing, so I guess it was training for loving fiction?

QuiteAmiable

@sophia_h Lady Lovely Locks! At my job, we sell these clip-on hair extensions for girls, and all I can think is "Those look like something Lady Lovely Locks would have worn".

sophia_h

@QuiteAimable Lovely Locks were my faaaavorite, and I was really sad when they stopped making them sometime in the late '80s. When I was 8 my aunt made me an LLL Halloween costume, which I wore with my Pixietails clipped in, and it was the greatest.

cherrispryte

@sophia_h QUINTS! I was obsessed.

TheLetterL

@sophia_h Lady Lovely Locks! OMG! Childhood memory of my mother driving me out to the mall (you know, the GOOD mall twice as far away) because Lady Lovely Locks was having a meet and greet. I about lost my little mind, and LLL herself personally gave me one of those clip on hair thingies.

Also, Quints! So many accessories!

Were Magic Nursery Babies the ones where you had to open the box or dunk them in water or perform some sort of magic to find out if they were a boy or a girl?

TheLetterL

@TheLetterL "clip on hair thingies" = Pixietails. Right!

sophia_h

@TheLetterL Yes, it was very exciting when you put that little paper jacket in water (though, as a very stereotypical little girl, god forbid I got a boy doll). I also always hoped for "Twins!", which the commercial said meant you sent away for and got a free second doll, but I think that might have been a lie since no one I knew ever got twins. EDIT: Toy ads were a lot more low key back then

anachronistique

@sophia_h Holy shit, I remember those! THE EYES!

TheLetterL

@sophia_h I never had one (sad), but I really wanted one for the MYSTERY of it all. Although, I would have reacted the same if it were a boy doll.

Myrtle

@sophia_h OMG, the American Girl cult. I snuck into their store in LA once. They have a cafe, and a beauty parlor, and a photographer... I was going to say I was shopping for a friend's daughter to a salesperson, but no one greeted me. Then I felt like some lurky perv.

sophia_h

@Myrtle I was done with the AG phase by about 1993 (I got Kristen and Molly back when there were only three dolls), so I am always sad to have missed the tie-in stuff they have now.

I smell burnt toast

This entire post was delightful! I am righteously angry about the Playmobil ladies being mean about Chia. That kind of behaviour is exactly what I'd expect from Lego's less-socialized cousin.
I am totally with you on the playing with toys thing, except when I go to my parents' house, I am still really happy to see my stuffed Simba hanging out in my old room. (Yes, Toy Story 3 was a really emotional experience for me.)

lenka_V

@I smell burnt toast When I was young I had a stuffed Kiara toy that was my favorite. I lost her in the grocery store once and actually managed to get her back. When I was about 10 I realized that I hadn't seen her for a while (I assumed she was hanging out under my bed with my other stuffed animals). When I cleaned up my room, though, she was nowhere to be found. To this day I wonder what happened...

You'll be sorry Jo March

Oh man. "Coob." I have tears running down my face.

You'll be sorry Jo March

P.S. A heart paw glitter tattoo? How sacred is that?!

julia

I had the Playmobil farm and the schoolroom set. It makes me sad that they were such dicks. And Abundant Harvest sounds like a new Ungame.

Lisa Hanawalt@twitter

@julia Me too, my best friend had the Playmobil Victorian House and I coveted it for YEARS.

iceberg

@Lisa Hanawalt@twitter My best friend in kindergarten had the complete set of Star Wars figurines and we played with them alllll the time. I often wonder if he sold them later for all the money in the world, which is surely what they were worth.

Lisa Hanawalt@twitter

@iceberg Let's all go on Ebay and buy all the toys we wanted but never owned! First up for me: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

MilesofMountains

@julia Between my sister and I we had the smaller Victorian house, a ranch, and I think some sort of cabin thing? I remember thinking the piano that played actual music and the couch that was a slightly softer hard plastic than the regular hard plastic were the most wonderful things ever.

Woman Laughing Alone With Boas

@julia I never had Playmobile, but my boyfriend and I spent pretty much all of Christmas day this year assembling a huge Playmobil hospital set that his niece got for Christmas. We enjoyed ourselves quite a lot. I am also sad that they were not nice.

anachronistique

@Lisa Hanawalt@twitter I had the Victorian house! And every single damned chair was broken, because I was not a tidy child and adults would always step on the chairs and the legs would break off. I think my favorite part was the bathroom set. Claw-footed tub AND A TOILET! I was into realism.

Also, my brother and I would stage epic battles with his Ninja Turtles, as ruled over by Carnage and Skipper, his demonic bride.

Interrobanged

@anachronistique The hoooouurs I spent looking at the Victorian house in the catalogue. And the palace.

I had the zoo, though, and Playmobil baby elephants are goddamn adorable.

boysplz

@julia I was going to mention the Ungame! They had a copy of it at the coffee shop at my college and it was intriguing, but wayyy to boring looking to actually try to play. I'm pretty sure that guess who was the big winner of the board games they had on hand there.

feartie

@Lisa Hanawalt@twitter Mine was Mr Frosty because, I mean, that advert. No resisting. My parents didn't buy me it and I just found out that they used to ask my grandmother to buy a certain toy for me for Christmas (like, every year a different object of obsession) and she would say she would AND THEN NOT. Just because. I feel like I've had a breakthrough here.

Verity

@julia I had the Playmobil farm too, and I loved it so much.

@feartie Oh wow, watching that video takes me right back to my childhood.

candybeans

I LOLed so hard at the progressive pictures of the rotting teddy bear that my dog came down to investigate. That last one, OH MAN. All the lols.

CrescentMelissa

@hotdog LEGO Playmobil is for Dumb Babies seriously made me choke on my salad. I love your posts so much!!

LydiaBennett

I HAVE THAT HIPPITY HOP!!!! okay heading back up to read the rest....EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!! HIPPITY HOP

Lady Humungus

Oh, I also really love your drawing of Tim looking all snarky about the toy he thought was stupid. Great face!

Anji

Oh my god. I was having the worst day just now, and this made me laugh so hard I practically aspirated ginger ale. Thank you for the post!

P.S. My favorite childhood toys were definitely the pair of plushie sea lions, one white and one grey, both of them approximately four inches in length, that my aunt got for me on a trip to the aquarium when I was three. I still have them on my bookshelf, where they live in all of their chewed-whisker glory.

anachronistique

This is making me so nostalgic. And also like I want to go home and play with the toys in my apartment. (A UFO catcher doll a friend handmade for me that is tiny Ravenclaw!me, a Sleepytime Bear, and the most amazing doll of Ursula from the Little Mermaid. NO SHAME.)

pixieg

@anachronistique I need that Ursula doll.

Passion Fruit

"Your friend is passing around a marijuana cigarette."

Abundant harvest, indeed.

feartie

@Passion Fruit It really sounds like guide to growing organic weed. With wholesome recipes included. Weednola. Weed-lentil bake.

cherrispryte

I can't get over how beautiful the illustrations are!

Mrs. Coach McGuirk

The instant I saw one of those helium filled remote controlled sharks, I knew I needed to have one. And I got one. And we're in love.

Katie Heaney

This is so funny and so sweet at the same time. ALSO related to your point about these things being workshopped: when I was 15 I worked (under the table? is that what you say when it's sort of shady?) at a toy focus group center and held pictures of potential toy ideas up for little kids' reactions and LET ME TELL YOU: there was even crazier shit than this there.

feartie

@Katie Heaney Ooh, please spill if you can remember them - anything that went on fire/contained mercury?

Katie Heaney

@feartie I wish I could remember more! I just know there were a lot of transformer-type things where like, a plastic hammer would ALSO turn into a shitty-looking horse, or something. There were a lot of things nobody would actually want to play with, and you'd ask the kids, "Would you ask your parents to buy you this?" and they'd be like "UMMMMMM I don't think so." It was also a very interesting study in gender! Because we always split the boys and girls.

Lisa Hanawalt@twitter

@Katie Heaney Oh my god, I wish I could watch video footage of this!!

jonacon

@Lisa Hanawalt@twitter I mean, would it be unethical to use your CHIAPOWER connections to use volunteer kids to do your own focus group on pictures of toys you imagine? Wait this is totally unethical right? I bet there is a mad scientisty forum somewhere where they'd be cool with this.

Amy Porter@facebook

I just want to say Thank You, this was amazing!

meetapossum

"I can pick up a Breyer horse, admire the smooth plastic and artful details, but … that's it. I'm not going to sit on the floor with it for hours, making it talk to other toys, acting out my latest conflicts and fantasies, forming pretend relationships. I wish I could enjoy toys on that level again."

I sometimes think that this is what excellent fiction authors maintain that others lose. Writers still create these imaginary interactions except with just their brains ink instead of plastic horses and Barbie dolls. A more "grown-up" form of playing with toys!

meetapossum

@meetapossum *brains AND ink. D'oh!

KeLynn

@meetapossum When I read that, I started thinking...I remember when I was little and I would think "I know I will eventually stop playing with toys and playing pretend because no grown ups do that, but seriously, what in the world do grown ups do with their non-work time instead of playing pretend? It's just about the only thing I do with my non-school time."

And now that I am a grown-up, it's like: I spend time taking care of my shit and myself (cooking, cleaning, working out, shopping, errands). I spend time reading about how we as a nation are taking care our our collective shit. If I'm ambitious I will spend my time experiencing art or learning, such as at concerts or museums. I spend time doing "extracurricular work" like baking or other hobbies where you pretty much just sit around accomplishing or making something. I spend time getting together with other adults to drink and eat while we discuss all the ways we are taking care of our shit, learning, and doing extracurricular work.

And...that's it? It seems like all the time I spend in "pretend worlds" are those on TV or in books. And yes, these "pretend worlds" do still take up a pretty good chunk of my time, but they're worlds that I'm passively entering. I'm not creating these new worlds or narratives for myself like I did when I was little. I'm relying on the book/movie writers/video game creators to do all the heavy lifting for me while I come along for the ride. And I guess that's the difference between artists and everybody else - people like me kind of grew out of the creativity. But it's fucking depressing and I wish I was part of the former group.

meetapossum

@KeLynn Exactly! I feel like during my childhood I was an endless font of imagination, and I used to write all kinds of things in addition to just playing games. I often wonder when I lost it.

Inkling

@meetapossum
Gotta comment because I'm liking Brains Ink a bunch.
You are SO right. Most of the characters I had when I was playing in the yard are the same people featuring in my stories today.
However, creativity did dry up. As a child, I was terrified of losing my bond with my characters--who seem(ed) like sentient, independent people--so I tried to prepare, but fucked up a bit and now some made-up things (languages, landscapes) don't come naturally.
It's exactly like waking up from a really good dream, you know? You can remember everything and you loved it, but then you can't relate to it, and then it begins to dissipate until it no longer makes sense and you don't care and then it's gone.

Xanthophyllippa

@KeLynn If we ever live in the same place, I will totes come over for a game of Pretend.

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@Xanthophyllippa @Inkcrafter @meetapossum Do we all need to have a "Troy and Abed's Imaginarium" style pinup?

Inkling

@KeLynn
Can we bring all of our people?
I picture a group of ladies gossiping at a table while translucent characters drift away from their creators' sides to mingle.

slutberry

I was a stuffed animal fiend. My three favourites were a big stuffed dog called Big Doggy, a little bunny rabbit called Betsy the Birthday Bunny, and a light brown teddy bear named Murvin (who I may or may not still share my bed with. And talk to on occasion. Ahem.)

I also have a rag doll named Mammie Polly. My sister made her for me when I was very small, and I loved her til her hair fell off, and then I made her a little hat out of the toe of a sock to cover her baldness. I also traditionally give her to my brother for his birthday every year.

frigwiggin

@teffodee Aw, Murvin! I'm still a stuffed animal fiend, and three buddies share my boyfriend's and my bed (it's not weird, I swear): Giraffe, a large pillow-pet style giraffe with absolutely no neck who I bought at Disneyland because of the hilarity of a giraffe with no neck; Pingüino, a small behatted penguin with a perpetually shocked expression; and Wee Rex.

frigwiggin

@frigwiggin And they all have distinct personalities and we most definitely talk to them and have them fight and stuff. No shame!

slutberry

@frigwiggin I also share my bed with a little sad-eyed stuffed goat my Gentleman gave me for Christmas. He does not yet have a name.

WEE REX!

frigwiggin

@frigwiggin My brother had this extremely alarming favorite stuffed...thing when we were kids. It was called Kiwi Head. It looked like a large kiwi fruit with bulging eyes and a wide, screaming, kiwi-seed-filled mouth. Quite like this, actually. (I'm sorry you're the target of my Stuffed Animal Stories today, teffodee.)

slutberry

@frigwiggin Nooo, I love stuffed animal stories! Tell me alllll of them!

I am trying to figure out how to embed a link so I can send you a picture of my small goat.

frigwiggin

@teffodee Oh, it's easy! < a href = " linkygoeshere.jpg " > text text text < / a>

All that without the spaces.

frigwiggin

@frigwiggin And the actual linky and text, obviously.

atipofthehat

@teffodee

Goat! My baby lives on goat's milk.

slutberry

@frigwiggin Why is it not working!!
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slutberry

@teffodee WHATEVER. FINE. Here is the link:

http://img.myshopping.com.au/rsz400/cache/2433/AC/4848AD95FB7003CBE1E07C1E51F047E3136276.jpg

frigwiggin

@teffodee GOAT

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With regard to "Abundant Harvest"—remember this classic?

Audrey Ference@twitter

I love Lisa Hanawalt! So hilarious!

Jane Doh@facebook

Oh my gosh, this story and the comments are the best! I so loved my stuffed animals that I kept them all through about 25 moves and 40-some years. Only passed along a large part of the group last year when I found an organization (Project Smile) that cleans them and gives them to children who have to leave their homes because of domestic violence. Much better than sitting on a shelf in an unused bedroom.

Myrtle

@Jane Doh@facebook I did that with my herd, too. Cleaned them and tied bows around their necks. Felt great! Also, more room on bed for me and kitteh.

BoozinSusan

Anyone else have the Littlest Pet Shop toys? I went gaga over those things. I remember one that had tiny green turtles.

Also, speaking of Very Small Things: POLLY POCKET.

cc
cc

@BoozinSusan i had a couple of the littelest pet shop toys and lusted after polly pocket stuff, but i did have a huge collection of little toy cats and dogs called "little pretties" (?) they had this little multi-level house with shelves and it boxed them up into a suitcase and omggggamazing.

Megasus

@BoozinSusan Looking back, I can't even imagine how Polly Pocket got past the Safety and Standards people.

cc
cc

@cc after all these years i googled it! http://www.48ovvi.org/littlepretty/catalogmat91.html so! freakin! cute!!

fabel

@BoozinSusan YES YES TO BOTH OF THESE THINGS. Also, you gave me a flashback to some stuffed dog I had that was permanently pregnant with puppies unless you unzipped her stomach and took them all out? Basically she has to re-enact giving birth every time you played with her.

But yeah, Polly Pocket. I had an entire village.

Megasus

@fabel I had (I think I still have in storage) a kitty like that! What were they called, I remember making a big stink about getting one when I was like 7 or 8.

Myrtle

@BoozinSusan Can't do it. My heart is owned by "Little Kiddles."

frigwiggin

@BoozinSusan I had TOOOOOONS of Littlest Pet Shop stuff. AND AND AND Puppy In My Pocket and Kitty In My Pocket. I loved that shit.

KeLynn

@fabel Ughhhh I totally remember that dog, but just thinking about it gives me the CREEPS. I can't help but picture someone unzipping my stomach and pulling my guts out.

PrimarySource

@fabel Puppy Surprise!

"How many puppies are there inside? There could be three, or four, or five. Five! I can't believe my eyes!"

I wasn't bothered by this as a kid, but now I'm kind of bothered that I wasn't bothered.

BoozinSusan

@PrimarySource BLESS YOU for unearthing that gem. I had Puppy Surprise, too! The baby puppies were such a let-down! I think I got 3. That commercial is SO 90's-tastic.

Megasus

@BoozinSusan I got a Kitty Surprise, and I got a disappointing amount of kitties too, I think only 2, maybe 3 tops!

puppyemissary

@fabel I had a village of Polly Pockets, too! I had a few Barbies, but I was crazy for Polly Pockets, and Pound Puppies, TMNT, and Legos. Our Pound Puppies played a lot of baseball, but my brother's team always won, for some reason...

fabel

@PrimarySource OHMYGOD yes, that was it!I can't listen to the audio at work, but trust me, I can hear it in my head. Ahh!

Verity

@BoozinSusan Polly Pocket! So great. (Did you know that now Polly Pockets are much bigger? Possibly because of safety concerns, but still, they have RUINED IT FOREVER.)

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

At first I thought the guys in the first picture were all uptight, but then I spotted the dude-on-the-left's black finger nail polish. Party on, guys.

pixieg

@I'm Right on Top of that, Rose I rewatched Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead the other day and now I finally know where I recognise your name from. Ha! Brilliant!

Myrtle

Lisa, there is nothing in your post that does not reek of greatness. GREATNESS!! I'm sending you a self-addressed box with air holes punched in the sides. Please put Tim and the Breyer horse "Appaloosa foal" inside. I'll send Tim back, maybe.

Hello Dolly

I am so so so jealous you got to go to the Toy Fair, though I take umbrage at the sneering at the 'collectible figure' section. My Muppet and Buffy action figure collections are awesome. I have Legos, and dolls, and playsets. Someday, I will have a very cool toy room and enjoy my continued childhood, by golly.

Xanthophyllippa

I would absolutely and unabashedly play with that "stupid" looking toy.

Dee-lectable

Loved this article, can't wait to see those teddy bear/fish holders come on the market. Just a note though: Archaeologists don't dig up dinosaurs, I think you're thinking of Paleontologists. Archaeologists explore the history of people.

Lisa Hanawalt@twitter

@Dee-lectable Oh you're right! Fixed it, thanks!

gluecake

A few years ago I worked at Toy Fair as the person in one of the giant foam suits dressed up as a character. There were lots of us, which was highly surprising when I discovered that Toy Fair is for Adults and not of the fun sexy kinds I usually frequent with.
In any case, my suit was badly constructed and was basically supported by interior straps around my neck but everyone wanted to run into me and bowl me over and for four days I thought I was going to die but I didn't and then I was able to pay my rent. The End.

wee_ramekin

Did anybody have those wooden dollhouse dolls from the Hearthsong catalog?

Um, can we also just talk about how great Hearthsong was (is?)?

whateverlolawants

I really need to attend a toy convention now. The mix of pure whimsy, bad ideas, and corporate absurdity seems too great to miss!

Also, all of these watercolors were fantastic.

FishFan

I have a TEDDY TANK its awesome! My kid has been taking care of it for 3 Months. He is learning how to clean the bowl, which is super easy. Look up the instructional video it's really simple. The other aspects, which I think are fantastic are the nightlight and feeding it through the mouth it really is innovative!

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Toy Fair badges are only available for pros, so my boyfriend's mom generously registered me and my friend Tim as employees of her chia seed company. buy facebook fans

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The show's held yearly at the Javits Center, Manhattan's main convention facility (a.k.a. massive gray box), and it's full of serious adults ego cigaret

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At first I thought the guys in the first picture were all uptight, but then I spottesaadadsad the dude-on-the-left's black finger nail polish. Party on, guys. carpet cleaning ealing

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1963248500@twitter

• The Toy Fair i of serious adults in business suits with corporate accounts. It's not supposed to be fun. We'll see about that! invisible dog fence training

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I mean, I know it was my choice to read, but I actually thought youd have something interesting to say. All I hear is a bunch of whining about something that you could fix Continue

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