Merry Christmas, Everyone!

November 27th, 2017 by Matt

In the spirit of the season, here is a favorite Christmas composition of mine from years gone by. Happy Holidays to you and yours!

I took this photo (sans lights!) on a cross–country motorcycle trip during the summer of 1999. I got really lucky, photography–wise, when I hit a thunderstorm in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. I was able to take a series of about eight shots of the Grand Tetons that I am really proud of. This shot is a natural for a bit of Christmas cheer!

Wishing you and yours a very, Merry Christmas!

Grand Tetons Christmas

Grand Tetons, Pine Tree, (and Christmas Lights!)

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Toy Hall of Fame

November 27th, 2017 by Matt

Erector Set

Erector Set

In the spirit of the season, I decided to update a favorite Christmas post of mine for a third time! I wrote this when my son Mikey, was about 8 months old. I updated it when he was 3 1/2. Now I am updating it when he is 9 years old and looking forward to Christmas in 2015! I hope you enjoy it and that it “takes you back!”

Now this is Christmas! Take a look at these golden–oldie toys, some of which are still as popular today as they were decades ago. I remember many of these as a kid growing up in the 60’s, a few of which were actually fads at the time.

I spent many days and nights building countless magical and colorful (and rickety!) contraptions with Tinkertoys. A true classic, popular to this day. Too bad they’re now made of plastic. The old wooden ones were the way to go. Wood just is so much warmer and has such a nice tactile feel. I sure broke a lot of them though! Lincoln Logs were great too, just a little more limited to building…err…buildings!

While I’m on the subject of “building” types of toys, I loved Erector Sets, which I had no idea were no longer produced. Boy did my fingers get sore from all the wrenching and screwing the pieces together into yet another wild contraption. (Hey, I’ve used the word “contraption” twice in this post. Cool!) This was a terrific toy. Probably too much work for kids nowadays, though. Too bad.

For some reason, I missed out on the Lego phenomenon when I was a kid, but they’re an awesome building toy, definitely the best all around. My son Mikey (now age nine) loves his Legos! We’ve built countless planes, ships, tanks, and buildings together. There are also tons of new types of sets such as Minecraft, Ninjago, Ben 10 figures, Pirates, and Castles that are put together to form buildings, scenes, or single large figures. Very cool! It has been a terrific way to spend time with my boy!

Hula hoops were a fad in elementary school. Everyone had one. Even parents got into the act (and still do)! But the hula hoops “thing” burned out fast. Within a year or two, they were gone, to be resurrected in other decades.

Tonka Truck

Tonka Truck

What young boy of the 60’s didn’t have a Tonka truck? Mine was a dumptruck. Awesome! I have since bought my son a Tonka or two and he loves them. Bash! Crash! “They take a licking and keep on ticking,” to quote an old Timex commercial. I am a little sad that they are now plastic, though. Granted they are safer, (less “bashing the other kid” danger), but to a car guy, what is better than a nice, shiny paintjob on your cool truck?

For young kids, Mister Potato Head is a must. A potato…with goofy re–arrangeable facial features–what’s not to like? Mikey got the “Spider-Man” version when he was about two and loved it. Although he’s a little old for it now, he still pulls it out and plays with it every now and then. Even kids get nostalgic!

Frisbees. Everyone had one then. Everybody has ’em now!

Marbles were really popular in grade school. But we played by trying to hit the other guy’s marble by throwing yours at it, not by shooting ’em out of a circle, like they did in the “olden” days. And “steelies” (ball bearings in real life) were awesome. If you had a regular marble, it required multiple “hits” to get the other guy’s “steely”. But even then, the coolest marbles that I ever saw were from my dad’s old collection. Such intricate designs and swirls! They had really changed, for the worse, even by the 60’s.

Hot Wheels

Hot Wheels

I was a kid of the 60’s and I vividly remember when Hot Wheels came out! The year was 1968…and every boy worth his salt HAD to have ’em! I am a lifelong “car guy” and I STILL love these. My son loves ’em too! He still gets them for little gifts in our Advent calendar Christmas House! I recently gave him the actual Hot Wheels I had as a kid. The Ford J car, McLaren, Ford Mark IV, etc. AND my original collectors case! GREAT memories with these!

Etch–A–Sketch, a classic. I’ve seen some fantastic things drawn with them. I never figured out how they did it, since you have to re–trace your lines all the time. And really, one shake and it’s gone. Why would you want to draw a super picture on an Etch–A–Sketch?

Viewmasters were very popular as a kid. With these, you could take a tour of a faraway place, without even going there. Pretty tame stuff now, but it was all we had then. We had no video games, computers, or internet, just pictures. And I don’t think we missed much! (We did have to walk to school in the snow, barefoot, backwards, uphill both ways though! I kid you not!)

Radio Flyer Wagon

Radio Flyer a.k.a. Little Red Wagon

Every boy (and many girls) had a red wagon, great for hauling your “stuff”. (I never called them “Radio Flyers”, though. Maybe I had a knock–off?) And every kid had a bike, just like now. They were just cheaper (and a lot heavier) then. They did have very cool, and comfortable, “banana” seats, though. Mikey got his first bicycle at 3 1/2, a “Cars-themed” beauty. He was thrilled! He has since outgrown that bike and has recently graduated to an electric blue mountain bike…six speeds! And he often beats me uphill now on his “gear bike.” His term!

Ah, Yo-Yo’s. What a fad they were in grade school. There were tons of different types, shapes, and colors. I had a blue “Duncan Imperial” that I loved. Everyone tried to do tricks. I became quite good at “Around–the–World”, but not much else!

Slinky’s always seemed to be a “one–trick pony” to me. You see one slinky go down stairs, you’ve seen ’em all, IMHO.

Play–Doh…what kid doesn’t like playing with it? I mean, I don’t think you can graduate from elementary school without playing with it, can you? Mikey loves making ’Nakes (snakes) and turtles, among many other things with Play–Doh. Or at least having Mom and Dad make things for/with him!

Silly Putty

Silly Putty

Wow…Silly Putty. Awesome stuff, but really, about a “two–trick pony”. You could bounce it, you could pound it down onto newpaper comics and copy the resulting mirror image onto other things (note paper, walls, etc. The walls bit didn’t go well with Mom, as I remember. Heh!) But really, once you did that, what else could you do with it? (Okay, you could do some of the same things as Play–Doh could, but it was far inferior to Play–Doh for those.) But it was still indispensible stuff as a kid.

One of my fondest memories as a kid, even into high school, was doing jigsaw puzzles with my mom, on rainy days, in front of the TV. Especially if you were watching “The Wizard of Oz”, with a fire in the fireplace. Yeah, that’s the ticket!

Jigsaw Puzzles

Jigsaw Puzzles

Man, I was a coloring fiend when I was a kid. Crayola Crayons…bless ’em. Probably the most imaginative “toy” (although not really a toy) for kids of all ages. Indispensible for learning your colors, drawing stuff for the folks to put on the ’fridge, you name it. I took pride in my coloring and filled up huge numbers of coloring books, especially Batman coloring books. Everybody! Da–da Da–da Da–da Da–da BATMAN! Uh, sorry. I got a little carried away, there.

Hmmmm, Candy Land. At first thought, not my favorite. But you know, as a family, we’ve had a lot of fun playing this together. And it is a very easy game for young kids to play. The colors hook them, I think! But Monopoly, now we’re talking. Great, classic game that my son now cleans my clock with…regularly! But it has to be the original, none of those weird new versions. If I’m going to jail, I want to “Go directly to jail. Do not collect $200!” I want all the original street names, the “community chest” cards, the whole deal, okay?

Wood Blocks

Wood Blocks

And finally, the ultimate young kid’s toys…wood blocks and teddy bears. A kid wouldn’t be a kid without these! My son has a variety of bears and other stuffed animals, which I think he likes the best when he’s throwing them at me during our pillow fights. Ahem… probably not my best parental moments, but big fun! And blocks are a huge hit with him, on the order of Legos. And like Legos, they allow you to create, they make you think. And isn’t that what the best toys do?

What are your favorites?

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Mikey Goes “Yard”!

March 29th, 2016 by Matt

This baseball season is really looking up…Way Up!!

This is a shot of Mikey’s first “Over the Fence” homer in Minor B Little League baseball. He had been hitting home run distance fouls in the last two games…This one’s a keeper! It actually hit the fence in back of the home run fence (30 feet farther) on the fly! Way to go, Mikey!

Mikey Crushes One!

Mikey Crushes One!

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Remembering Patrick Macnee (Feb 6, 1922 – June 25, 2015)

July 8th, 2015 by Matt

Patrick Macnee as John Steed

Patrick Macnee as “John Steed” in the British TV show, “The Avengers”

I was saddened to hear of the passing of Patrick Macnee recently. By coincidence, I had been on an “Avengers” TV show kick, viewing some of the 1965 and 1966 episodes with him (as John Steed) and Diana Rigg (as Emma Peel).

I loved this show as a kid. I think I was 8 years old when I first discovered it, so that would make it the 1966 season. I was in awe, of course, with “Mrs. Peel,” as was any young boy of the time! But, the chemistry between these two actors, the sly humor, along with the fascinating (and sometimes a little weird, creepy, or both!) storylines were what made the show for me.

And “Steed” was just so smooth, elegant, and charming, all while being a “man of action” in his unflappable British way. Macnee’s Steed was the very epitome, to me, of what a British gentleman spy could be: very suave, cool, canny, unperturbed, clear-headed, and dryly witty. And he packed a mean umbrella for all fighting purposes! I have always admired him.

Thank you, Mr. Macnee! Your “John Steed” will live forever in this once-young boy’s heart!

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Going…Going…GONE!!!

February 20th, 2015 by Matt

Mikey's First

Mikey’s First “Over the Fence” Shot!

Little League Baseball 2015 has started;… and Mikey has started the season, literally, with a “Bang!” Here is his first “Over the Fence Shot” in a recent practice. Proud Dad here!

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My Wood Slot Car Track Build

September 20th, 2014 by Matt

GT3 Cars on RSD Suzuka Slot Car Track!

GT3 Cars on RSD Suzuka Slot Car Track!

A fun little project I worked on over the summer…

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Natural Swing

July 29th, 2014 by Matt

Mikey's Swing

Mikey’s Swing

Mikey Kills It!

Mikey Kills It!

With all the fun I had watching (and photographing) Mikey playing baseball this past year, I am even more amazed at his natural swing at the plate! I wish I had this good of a swing when I was in baseball! (I know. This is at least a little of a Dad’s pride coming through, but I wasn’t the only one to see it!) This kid hits the ball with power, joy, and a resounding “THUMP!”

Both of these shots show the ball leaving the bat. In the second shot, you can even see the dust spray off the bat just as he hits it! I am proud of these shots, but even more proud of the boy who hit them!

My son has always been a naturally strong kid. There are numerous “Mikey” stories I could tell, but here are just two:

1) Mikey was just two (2!) days old and the lame new dad (me) was trying to get him to take a pacifier (binky) to sooth him. He was having NONE of it! He actually grabbed the binky out of my hand and tossed it away! A two day old kid did that!

2) We were in the car driving down to San Diego to visit family. I was driving. Mikey was not even one year old yet. He was sucking on a Dum-Dum lollipop, of course in his car seat in the back. All of a sudden, he figured he was done with the lollipop. I saw him throw it, kind of a flick of his arm. It was a blur. I could barely see it moving. I hear a “crikt”… IT CRACKED THE WINDSHIELD! Yikes!

I’ve always had the feeling that he was physically special. He is a natural in martial arts. (He gets his flexibility from his mom, thank God. Not me!) He has always been a tall kid. He is fast. (Again, Mom, not me!) And he got strength from both of us. I really look forward to the future to see what he does next! I’m sure it will surprise me!

Here are links to a couple of Mikey’s Padre games, (game 18 and game 16), if you are interested!

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Little League – Baseball At Its Best!

July 29th, 2014 by Matt

Mikey's First Homerun!

Mikey’s First Home Run!

Probably the best thing that happened in the past year, to me, and probably to the rest of my family, is my son Mikey playing Little League baseball. I played as a kid and was a big baseball fan for many years. (Go A’s!) But his decision to play baseball took us be surprise. We didn’t push this on him. Somehow, he decided on his own that he wanted to play.

So, last December, I went and signed him up for our local little league (Rancho San Diego Little League, Go Dawgs!). As a first–time player at 7 years old, he was “drafted” into a Minor “C” team where the coaches pitch to the kids. There are no “outs” officially, and no score is kept. Also, there are only 3 innings and the whole team gets to bat. Also, no negativity by players, parents, or fans is allowed, only positive comments.

And I was AMAZED at how much fun everyone had! The kids had FUN! They ran hard, they couldn’t wait to get up to bat, and baseballs were flung about everywhere but to the right base! And kids applauded their competitors, too. EVERYONE had a great time: kids, parents, and coaches. What an awesome example to set for young kids playing sports!

I also had an absolute BLAST photographing every game! I got to see my son’s first home run (and 2nd, 3rd, and 4th!). And I could see the kids getting better with almost every “at bat”! It was really inspirational to watch. My hat is off to the coaches! They really gave my son, and every other boy on the team, an awesome introduction to the game. And more importantly, they showed the kids the way to conduct themselves on the field. I’ll always remember this team (Go Padres!) and Mikey’s start in baseball.

And, as a bonus to all this, the experience rekindled my love of the game! I now happily watch MLB.tv on our trusty Roku 3. (Wow, what a way to watch! I can now watch A’s games, in San Diego, anytime I want!) And I really look forward to next year to see what Mikey will do at bat! Go get ’em Mikey!

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More Beach Fun…in Maui!

February 11th, 2013 by Matt
Mikey’s Paradise!

Mikey’s Paradise!

More beach fun…this time in Maui! It was my son’s first trip there (July 2012), and of course he loved it! (Who wouldn’t?) We stayed in the building behind the trees and rock wall in the background. What an awesome place! The island in the background is Lanai, Larry Ellison’s new purchase! (Must be nice…)

You can see a few more favorite photos from the trip at this link.

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Mikey at the Beach

February 8th, 2013 by Matt
Beach Mikey!

Beach Mikey!

Boy, time flies when you’re trying to survive in this economy!! But this is who I do it for…my son!

This is a favorite photo (cropped it to make it a closeup) I took a little over a year ago on a trip to Morro Bay with my family. We arrived at the beach close to sundown. The light was fantastic and the weather was pretty warm for December! (Or maybe it is just the warmth I get from the memory. Maybe both!) But I absolutely love this one.

Take a look at the original here. Which do you prefer?

Hi Mikey!

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