Via E dolls

Secret Garden Friday: Natalie and the Milkweed

Via E Alexis Christine O'Shay dollfriend in garden

Hi Friends! It’s me, Natalie Alexis Christine! I know, I haven’t written in a really long time! Ali said I could have the honor of introducing our new Friday feature at A Doll’s Picnic–oh boy! So welcome to our first Secret Garden Friday!

I love the book The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Have you read it? It’s one of my favorite books to curl up with and get lost in. I think it’s because Burnett is such an amazing story teller, and also because most of the story takes place outside, in nature, which is what I like best! There are plants, and gardens, and animals, and really compelling (that means fascinating) characters, and mystery and magic. If you haven’t read it, we recommend that you go to your local library and check out a copy right away!

We think any garden can be a secret garden, if you are willing to look at it with wonder and imagination. I think the gardens here at A Doll’s Picnic are very wonder-full places. I think it’s because we don’t keep them too neat and perfect… we let wildflowers–like queen anne’s lace–come up and grow, and we like plants to self-propagate–that means that they seed or spread naturally, all by themselves. Also, the deer and squirrels and raccoons and quail and lots of different kinds of birds come in our yard and keep it messy and interesting. Sometimes Ali gets frustrated because it’s a big yard and she feels like she never gets it under control, but I think that’s part of what makes is so special.

Today, I wanted to show you around our secret garden a little bit. Here’s a really neat cactus that Ali brought home from her parent’s house:

Bishop's cap cactus

It’s called a Bishop’s Cap. Can you imagine it as a hat? I like how it is all leathery and wrinkled, like an elephant’s foot! It grows in an amazing way, from the center out. See those lines of dots? Each of those dots used to be a bloom at the center of the cactus! The flowers are yellow and very fragrant, but they don’t last very long. It’s bloomed once for us, but soon it will be time to bring it for the winter. You might think cactus are tough, but they’re actually pretty picky. They don’t like to be too cold or too hot, too wet or too dry! Isn’t that funny? Do you see those pinkish areas? That’s where the cactus got sunburn, just like a real person!

Bishop's cap cacuts 2

I think it’s amazing to look at plants really closely. Look at all those tiny white dots!

Now I want to show you one of my favorite plants in our secret garden.

Via E Alexis doll milkweed

It’s called milkweed, and it grows wild all across the United States. It’s usually considered a weed, but it’s actually a really interesting wildflower and doesn’t act like a weed at all.

Vie E Alexis doll and milkweed

Milkweed grows from seed into a perennial. (Perennial is one of my favorite words! It means something that comes back, year after year). Milkweed is special in lots of different ways, which you can read about on Wikipedia. Did you know it has really beautiful and complex flowers? They smell good too! But the reason why we have it in our garden is simple: butterflies! Milkweed is the only food source for monarch butterfly caterpillars! The adult butterflies lay their eggs under the leaves, and when the caterpillars hatch they begin to munch holes in the leaves right away! One of our favorite secret garden activities in summer is to go out and look for monarch caterpillars on the milkweed plants. Sometimes they’re so tiny they’re hard to find, but eventually they grow up to a couple inches long!

Milkweed has a white, milky sap that is toxic to most creatures, which is why the deer don’t eat it. But the monarch butterfly has evolved to depend on milkweed. As the caterpillars eat the plant they absorb the toxins which make them taste bad to predators! Pretty amazing, isn’t it?

milkweed plant

But it’s fall now, and the caterpillars have all grown up and left. Milkweed is beautiful in the fall: it turns golden, and then the really special milkweed magic begins.

milkweed pod

Do you see that pod? Do you know what’s inside? Can you guess??? Fairies!

milkweed pod splitting

Well, that’s what I like to call them, anyway. Actually it’s seeds, all packed inside, each one attached to a silky canopy of threads, kind of like a tiny hot air balloon.

Milkweed seeds

When the pods start to dry out in the autumn, they split open and all the little fairy-seeds start to fluff out and separate from each other. When the autumn winds arrive, the seeds blow out and float all over the garden and neighborhood!

milkweed pod opening

The pods are beautiful when they split open!

milkweed seeds

Don’t worry–they don’t sprout wherever they land! Milkweed likes water; that’s why you often see it growing in drainage ditches or by irrigated fields. Where we live it’s very dry, and in our garden we’ve found that milkweed seeds only sprout where we water regularly. (It’s also a slow-growing plant, and easy to spot and pull out when it’s young). Still, we like to think we are helping to spread monarch butterfly habitat in our neighborhood. ūüôā

milkweed pod dry

Look how neat the milkweed pods are when they’re empty! What do you think they look like?

Empty milkweed pod

Let’s look at a pod up close. Here’s one that fell on the ground:

Via E Alexis doll milkweed pod

It’s a treasure! Ali has one of these in her writing room–she’s had it for years, and it is still perfect!

Via E Alexis doll milkweed

It almost looks like a little elf shoe…

Via E Alexis doll and milkweed pod

…Or maybe a canoe!

Via E Alexis doll and milkweed pod

The seeds are really beautiful up close, and it’s amazing how many are packed inside one single pod–dozens and dozens!

milkweed pod with seeds

The seeds are so soft and fluffy and delicate.

Via E Alexis doll milkweed seed

They’re fun to blow and to try to catch, kind of like dandelions!

milkweed seed

At the base of the silk (also known as the coma) is one oval, dark brown seed, which easily falls off of the silky fluff.

milkweed seed

I think nature is a pretty amazing gardener, if you ask me! She has very creative ways of spreading her seeds!

Via E Alexis doll with milkweed seed

How about you? Do you have a secret garden you can visit and explore? What treasures can you find there?

Via E Alexis doll and milkweed seed

Happy Secret Garden Friday from A Doll’s Picnic!

A Halloween Story, Part 1: The Pumpkin Patch

It was a cool, partly cloudy October afternoon. With less than a week left before Halloween, the local pumpkin patch was full of girls looking for the last-minute pumpkin. There weren’t many left to choose among so late in the month!

Dolls in pumpkin patch 4

This makes the search easier, of course, but it still can seem overwhelming just at first. How to know which pumpkin is the right one?

Jade was wise. She knew that finding the right pumpkin is not so much a matter of finding the “perfect” one as letting a pumpkin call to her. She wandered around happily, enjoying the crinkly crunch of the dead vines underfoot, the sound of her friend’s voices carried on the breeze, and the cool whiffs of autumn in the air.

Dolls in pumpkin patch 2

Gaby walked slowly¬†through the patch, her eyes catching every spot of orange among the green and brown leaves. She didn’t want to miss anything!

Dolls in pumpkin patch 3

But what was this?

Schildkroet red-head doll pumpkin patch

It looked like the perfect one! Gaby carefully picked up the pumpkin with both hands, not using the stem. She knew (as all good girls know) that a broken stem can leave a pumpkin homeless and unwanted.

Schildkroet red-head doll pumpkin

She examined it all over: no soft spots anywhere. It was nice and round and not too big. Perfect!

Schildkroet red-head doll pumpkin 3

Yep! This was it, she was sure!

Her other friends were still searching. Tabitha had caught sight of a pumpkin that just might be the right one: large and very round, just the way she liked. Perfect for carving!

Bonnie and Pearl doll pumpkin patch

But Jane took¬†her time. She stood in one spot, raking the patch with her eyes. She took picking out a pumpkin pretty seriously. “It’s fate,” she had explained to her friends the night before. “Like falling in love. You can’t rush it. It’s important to feel sure.”

My American Girl doll #53 pumpkin patch

Finally, her eyes settled on a spot of orange in the corner. She called Gaby over.

My American Girl doll #53 Schildkroet doll

“It think this is my pumpkin. See, it was over here all by itself. Poor thing! It’s been waiting for me all this time!”

Meanwhile, Rain, Natalie and Jade had gathered together in the other corner of the patch.

My American Girl doll #11 Maplelea Jenna doll

“Look at this one!” said Rain. “It’s huge!”

“And what a beautiful color!” added Natalie.

“I love those bumpy ridges,” said Jade. “That’s my favorite kind of pumpkin.”

doll sized pumpkin

“It’s too big, though,” said Rain. “I don’t think we can pick it up.”

“Sure we can!” said Jade. “We just need more help!”¬†Jade called Tabitha over.

Bonnie and Pearl doll in coat

“That is quite a pumpkin,” said Tabitha in her quiet Welsh accent.

“Will you help us carry it?” asked Natalie. “It would be perfect for our party!”

Maplelea Jenna doll and friends around pumpkin

Sure enough, the four girls were able to carry the pumpkin together. They brought it over to the scales at the edge of the patch.

“What’s this one?” asked Jade.

Via E Alexis doll Maplelea Jenna doll

“It’s my pumpkin,” said Natalie. “Isn’t it such a pretty color? Look, it has stripes!”

Tabitha and Jane compared their pumpkins. They had both chosen smooth round ones.

My American Girl doll #53 Bonnie Pearl doll

“It’s funny how pumpkins make us feel happy,” said Natalie, when everyone was gathered together. “Why do you think that is?”

American Girl dolls Via E Alexis doll

“Because they’re so nice and round,” said Tabitha promptly.

“Because they’re nice to hold,” said Gaby.

“Because they need us. Because we’re meant to be together.” said Jane.

“I think it’s because they’re orange! Orange is a happy color!” said Rain. She shivered. It was getting on toward dusk, and her favorite orange skirt wasn’t very warm.

My American Girl dolls #53 #11

“Let’s bring our pumpkins home and show Ali!” she said. “Then we can wash them and start setting up for our party!”

To be continued….


Photos were taken in our vegetable patch. Jade is a Maplelea Jenna doll; Gaby is a red-headed Schildkroet doll; Jane is a My American Girl #53 doll; Rain is an American Girl Just Like You #11 doll; Natalie is a Via E Alexis doll; Tabitha is a Bonnie and Pearl doll.

 

Natalie’s Notebook: Washington Trip, Part 3… the AG Store, Seattle!

Hi Friends!

I’m back! I get to tell you all about where we went and what we did on our Washington trip when we got to Seattle! Well, I gave you a hint last week… and here’s where we went first!

American Girl Store Seattle

Yay! You know what’s inside, right???

Oh boy! Not only did my mom and dad go to the American Girl Store first thing after¬†we arrived on the east side of the Puget Sound, but they took me along! I actually got to go inside! Oh boy! I was just about jumping out of the bag Ali carried me in!¬†I’ve heard all about how exciting and fun the American Girl stores are from Ali and from some of my doll-friends who have been there (Zelie, Ashleigh, Amy and Marie). Well, everything they said was completely true! It’s the most fun place I can imagine!¬†We spent¬†a couple of hours looking at every single thing in the store. I loved it all. I can’t even decide which I liked better: the historical displays or the modern ones. The historical ones are really interesting, because you can learn about what girls dressed like and what kinds of things they had in their homes a long time ago. But the modern displays are so bright and fun, and they make me want to play!¬†And guess what? We even got to choose new friends to bring home with us! Ali adopted Ivy, because she is being discontinued (how sad!) and Paulina was on a special lookout for a friend of her own: My AG #23.

American Girl doll Josefina looking at #23

It was hard to choose, because every doll is so special, but Paulina finally settled on just the right #23 for us! Yay! I love new friends, don’t you?

This was my favorite store display: the beach cabana!

Via E Alexis doll at American Girl Store Seattle 2

Oi! (That’s Portugese for “Hello!”)

It made me feel so happy and summery. All the doll-models in the store are really nice, and they’re not shy at all! It was so much fun looking around and choosing friends that we kind of forgot to take pictures to share with you!¬†Well, eventually we had to go, so we could have a New Doll Opening Party in our motel room. But guess what? Ali made a reservation for us to have lunch in the American Girl Bistro the next day!

Back at the motel, we had a great time welcoming our new doll-friends.

New American Girl dolls in box

Paulina introduced Catherine Anne Sophia to our family and told her all about where we had been on our trip so far.

American Girl doll Josefina and #23 2

Catherine’s hair came out of the hair-net a bit wild, so we all decided she would enjoy a visit to the American Girl Doll Salon the next day while we had lunch.

American Girl doll Josefina and My AG #23

We all admired Idina Lee.¬†She’s so pretty and cute and perky! She’s really funny too, and I could tell right away we were going to be good friends.

American Girl Ivy doll in box

Of course I couldn’t wait for our special lunch at the Bistro the next day!¬†Paulina, Idina and I¬†got to sit at the table with Ali and Dave¬†in special doll-chairs, while Catherine had her hair fixed at the Salon. It was so much fun!

Via E Alexis doll at American Girl bistro with friends

The room was full of little girls with their dolls, having parties and talking and laughing. But there were some grown-ups too! I was glad I changed into my prettiest dress for the occasion. The waitress even gave us our own doll-sized tea cups!

Via E Alexis doll at American Girl Bistro 1

Ali and Dave had a nummy lunch, and then we picked up Catherine at the Salon and went out to do some local sightseeing. We drove to the Seattle Center, which is this really big park near downtown Seattle, where there are all sorts of interesting things to do and see. There are gardens, theatres, museums, art exhibits, sculptures, and even a giant water fountain where children were splashing around and playing.

Fountain, Seattle Center, WA

It’s kind of like a county fair! In fact, the World’s Fair was held here in 1962. That’s what the Space Needle was built for:

Seattle Space Needle

It’s a really tall tower (605 feet!) with an observation deck and even a¬†restaurant near the top! I think it looks like a UFO. Don’t you think it would be fun to eat there someday? Ali and Dave couldn’t go up this time because they had Jessie the Pug with them. But they did take the historic Monorail to downtown Seattle and back!

Seattle Center Monorail sign

Even in downtown Seattle there are baskets of flowers hanging from the lamp posts:

Seattle flower baskets 1

These flowers were hanging right outside the monorail station:

Seattle flower baskets 2

Aren’t they amazing?¬†One of my favorite things at the Seattle Center was the poem garden. Pieces of poems were actually engraved right on large granite stones:

Poem on stone

After exploring the Seattle Center for a while, we headed over to the world famous Pike Street market. Unfortunately, by the time we found parking, the market was closing up! But Ali and Dave did get to look around another neat yarn store. Then it was time to head back to our motel after another busy day!

The next day was Thursday, and we had to leave the Seattle area and drive south to see more of the Puget Sound area. Before we did, guess where we went one last time??? That’s right! Back to the AG Store! We just couldn’t leave without stopping there one last time. And we’re so glad we did, because guess what we discovered had been put out that very morning?

American Girl doll My AG #61 2

A new doll! Ali was so excited because My AG #61 actually has red hair! So she just had to bring her along with us!

American Girl doll My AG #61 1

That meant we got to have yet another Doll Opening Party that night when we got to our motel room in Tacoma! But first, we stopped along the way to see the beach.

Bracket's Landing, Edmonds, WA 2

The beach we visited is called Bracket’s Landing, and it’s the site of an underwater park–a protected underwater area where divers can explore interpreted paths and see kelp forests. Isn’t that cool? We even saw two divers walk right into the water and disappear. I wish I could go diving and see all the amazing creatures under the water. But it was beautiful above the waves too.

Bracket's Landing, Edmonds, WA 1

Ali and Dave had a picnic lunch and enjoyed the cool summer air and breeze, watching the ferry boats load cars at the dock.

Bracket's Landing, Edmonds, WA 3

There was a sign that told all about the dangers that are hurting the Puget Sound:

Puget Sound sign

I’m really interested in conservation! Did you know that rainwater¬†runoff is one of the biggest pollutants to the Puget Sound? The rain water runs off the streets and parking lots and carries pollutants with it into the ocean. Did you know that planting a “rain garden” is one way you can help stop the pollution? I like the sound of a rain garden. Here at home we have deer-proof desert gardens!

When we finally got to Tacoma, we were excited to welcome our newest doll-friend. But first we had to carry the bags all the way up to the 7th floor of the motel. This was the view from our window:

View from 7th floor, La Quinta, Tacoma, WA

It kind of made my knees feel funny looking down so far! Zinnia was so happy to come out of her box and join us dolls:

American girl dolls on motel bed 1

Yay! There’s nothing I like better than just hanging out with my friends!

Doll collection on chair

Here we all are! From left to right, in the back row that’s Idina Lee, Sharon Lilyanne, me (Natalie Alexis), Jade Sabrina Dianne, and Zinnia! In the front are Paulina Clementina, Kisa Violetta, and Catherine Anne Sophia. Ali says the car was much more crowded on our way home from Seattle than on our way there!

We saw lots more interesting things when we explored the Kitsap Penninsula on Friday. I’ll have to tell you all about them next time! Until then, love and hugs, your friend

Natalie Alexis

Natalie’s Notebook: Summer Adventures and Washington Trip, Part 2 (updated!)

Alexis in sunglasses

It’s summertime!

Hello Friends! It’s been a long time, hasn’t it? I’m so sorry! I’ve been so busy enjoying summertime, and Ali’s been so busy with her skating practice, that we haven’t¬†had time to work on¬†A Doll’s Picnic in a long time. But we plan to do a lot more writing in the weeks to come, I promise! First of all, I never finished telling you about our trip to Washington! But before I do, I have some news! Guess what?! I have a new name! Here it is: Natalie Alexis Christine. Do you like it? You can call me Nattie for short, as long as you promise not to call me “Tallie” (it sounds too much like Ali). I love my new name, and I love Ali for giving it to me. She says besides just being a pretty name, Natalie is also the name of a¬†writer she admires: Natalie Goldberg. How cool is that? Anyway, here are some summer pictures of me at Lake Siskiyou at the beginning of July. Alexis at the lake 1 Alexis at the lake 2 Alexis at the lake 3 Alexis at the lake 4 I had a great time exploring an¬†old weathered tree stump that was on¬†the shore and looking out at the lake. I didn’t go swimming that day though… it was pretty late in the afternoon and Ali said the water was awfully cold! I did get to go swimming for the first time last weekend though! The lake water was still cold but very refreshing on a hot afternoon, and I enjoyed floating on my back and playing with my new beach ball. I have a new bathing suit, too! I don’t have any pictures yet, but next time we go I’ll be sure to take some, okay? It was really fun to get in the water with Ali and Dave. Ali made sure to dry me off very thoroughly afterwards, and the next morning she washed and conditioned my hair. I felt like I was in a salon! So, back to Washington! I still have so many pictures and adventures to share! Remember we drove north along the Puget Sound after leaving South Bend? Well, we arrived that afternoon in a beautiful little town called Port Townsend, which is on the very northeastern tip of the Olympic Penninsula. I thought it was such a lovely place! We got to stay for two nights in a¬†gorgeous bed and breakfast called¬†The Old Consulate Inn, which is a beautiful Victorian house built in 1890!

Old Consulate Inn Sign, Port Townsend, WA

What a great view!

Here’s what it looked like on the outside: Old Consulate Inn Bed & Breakfast, Port Townsend, WA It is on the top of a hill just across from the old county courthouse. Washington has the most amazing historical courthouses! They’re really grand. Anyway, we could hear the clock bell ringing every quarter hour. County Courthouse, Port Townsend, WA The Old Consulate Inn has¬†three stories and a wrap-around porch! We had a room on the second floor called “The Rose Room.”¬†We could just see the harbor from one of the windows:

View from window

This old Victorian house was next door. That spikey metal railing on top is called a “widow’s peak” (it kind of gives me chills).

There was also a claw-foot bathtub, beautiful old-fashioned furniture, and a cozy study nook: Rose Room in Old Consulate Inn Us dolls felt at home right away!

Via E Alexis doll with friends 2

Home sweet home.

I loved the wood staircase, and all the old Victorian decorations. I especially loved that there were books on the bedside table and a whole library downstairs! The proprietors must love to read, just like me!

We¬†enjoyed exploring Port Townsend that evening and the next day.¬†There are a lot of old houses and buildings there, like this one in the downtown: Victorian building, Port Townsend, WA It’s a really pretty and interesting¬†downtown. There are tons of art galleries, restaurants, several bookstores, an art-supply store, a toy store, and even a yarn store! I saw this pretty sweater on a tree in front of the yarn store: yarn bomb tree Ali says this is called “yarn bombing.” Isn’t that funny?

We saw lots more flowers! I love how people plant them in baskets or window boxes right outside the shops and along the sidewalks. I think Washington has more flowers than anywhere else in the world!

pink fuchsias

These fuchsias are also called “dancing ladies”!

But I think what I loved best of all was the beautiful harbor and the view of the Puget Sound. Port Townsend, WA wharf

Port Townsend, WA

This is what downtown Port Townsend looks like from the dock.

sail boat anchored at Port Townsend, WA

Doesn’t this look like a painting?

There’s way more to explore in Port Townsend and the Olympic penninsula than we could see in only one and a half days, but we saw enough to know it’s a beautiful place we’d like to go back to sometime. It was a little sad to have to leave¬†so soon, but on Tuesday morning we were eager to take the ferry across the Puget Sound to the Seattle side for more adventures. Us dolls were super excited about the ferry ride, because these boats aren’t just for people, they’re for cars too! They’re like big, floating parking lots: you drive your car right onto them, and they take you right across the water to wherever you need to go!

Ferry dock

At the ferry dock the road goes right into the water!

We watched eagerly as our ferry approached the dock. Ferry boat 3 It docked right in front of the road, and we watched the load of cars and trucks drive off.

Ferry boat 1

See the truck? That’s a big boat!

Then, finally, we got to drive on! We were so excited! It felt really weird to park on a boat!

Via E Alexis doll, Maplelea doll Jenna, Vestida De Azul doll Paulina

Jade and Kisa were as excited as I was!

The ferry ride was really smooth and comfortable. Except for the slight tippy feeling, you would hardly know you were in the middle of the water. We actually got to take two ferries: the first one took us across to Whidbey Island, which is located right in the middle of the Puget Sound, and is the largest island in Washington. Whidbey Island sign, WA I liked it a lot. There were¬†lots of tall evergreen forests and open grasslands and meadows. We stopped to see a really cute little town called Coupeville, where Ali and Dave took a little walk along the shore and saw these flowers: White flowers Whidbey Island Then we drove south¬†down the island to the next ferry terminal, which took us across to the mainland. We checked into our motel room in Everett, which is just 25 miles north of Seattle. After all the excitement and traveling, we were glad to have a little relaxing time in our room. And then… guess where we went that evening??? I’ll give you a hint:

American Girl Store, Seattle, WA sign

Oh boy, oh boy!

That’s all for now! I’ll tell you all about it next time! Love, your friend Natalie Alexis

Adventures with Alexis: Washington Trip, Part 1

Hi-ya friends!

I know I promised to tell you all about our trip through Washington as we went, and I really wanted to! But it turned out that we¬†were¬†so busy having adventures that I didn’t have time to stop and write. The good news is Ali took¬†lots of pictures for me to¬†share. She even bought me my own¬†camera! It’s an old-fashioned disposable camera, the kind you just point and shoot, and when you’ve used up all the exposures, you send the whole camera in for the film to be developed. This is very old-fashioned now, but it’s a fun vacation-ish kind of thing to do, don’t you think? ūüôā I’ll share my pictures with you when we get them developed!

You remember our trip began with driving through the Willamette Valley where all the grasses were, and that we spent our first night in Woodburn, Oregon? Well, it was a really nice motel room, but us dolls were eager to leave the motel Saturday morning! We couldn’t wait to get to Washington! Paulina tried to see north from the motel window, but she couldn’t see much beyond the freeway:

American Girl Josefina doll looking out window

Finally we were packed up once more and on our way. We drove north through Portland, where we caught a glimpse of a volcano¬†from the freeway. I think¬†it was Mt. St. Helens, the one that erupted in 1980. Isn’t that kind of scary?

Mt. St. Helens from I-5, Portland

We didn’t stop in Portland but went right on over the magnificent Columbia river! It’s¬†huge! Isn’t it amazing to think of all that water flowing hundreds and hundreds of miles to the ocean? And guess what? The state border between Oregon and¬†Washington is halfway across! We were so excited when we saw this sign:

Entering Washinton sign

All us dolls let out a cheer! A little further up the highway we saw this:

Welcome to Washington sign

Hooray!

I think Washington is the greenest, most flowery state ever. It’s much greener than California, and even than Oregon. There were wildflowers everywhere! The daisies were growing like weeds, everywhere we went. Do you think it’s always like that, or it’s just still spring there?

I-5 Washinton

There were even daisies blooming along the center of the freeway!

Soon we headed¬†west toward the coast. I’ve never seen¬†so many trees in my life! It was such a perfect, blue day that it was hard to imagine all the rain that makes everything so green. It was just about the greenest place I can imagine, and there were daisies and foxglove and queen anne’s lace and other flowers growing in meadows and right along the roadside. The only thing I didn’t like was all the logging¬†we saw. Timber¬†is a really big industry in Washington, and they just mow down acres of the forest. It’s very strange to see the square clear cuts chopped right out of the hillsides. This made me feel sad, because I couldn’t help thinking about all the birds and animals who used to live there. It also makes the forest grown in¬†funny patches, like a bad haircut. It sure makes me wish our world¬†didn’t need to use so much wood. I hope all my friends¬†use recycled paper products at home, like we do!

For a while we drove along the Columbia River, and I had a lovely time daydreaming about all the places the river had been before it reached the coast. Finally we turned up the coast, and this is what we saw: the ocean!

south Washington coastline 2

This part of the Pacific coast wasn’t anything like the beaches near San Clemente, California, where I come from, or like¬†the Bodega Bay area, near where Ali grew up. It was really a huge bay, and with the tide out there were huge flats of mud.¬†We kept on driving, and as we drove we saw signs that told us hundreds of acres of forest here had been destroyed¬†by winds up to 120 miles per hour in 2007! That’s as strong as a hurricane! Can you imagine wind so strong that it knocks down whole forests of trees? I sure can’t. Don’t you think that must have been scary for the people that live here?

Soon we turned east away from the coast, and not long after that, we arrived at the little town where we were going to spend the night.

Willapa River, South Bend, WA

South Bend is a little town on the Willapa River. They call themselves “the oyster capital of the world,” but I’ll bet they got their name from the bend in the river. Everything was very green, and there were lots of lawns and gardens and hardly any fences. We got to stay at the cutest little motel, called The Seaquest.

Sea Quest Motel sign, South Bend, WA

It was really nice! We had a little room with our own porch, and a kitchen, and a study nook and a DVD player!

Sea Quest Motel, South Bend, WA

There were even baskets of geraniums hanging from every porch, and a pot of flowers on the back step:

flower pot

There¬†are so many flowers in Washington! You even see them hanging in baskets from lamp posts! Ali and I both love to look at the flowers. Ali says it’s something to do with living in a desert with lots of deer.

geranium bud

Getting to each motel or inn where you’re going to spend the night is sort of like coming home. It’s a wonderful feeling to be at home-away-from-home, don’t you think?

Via E Alexis doll looking out window

It’s good to rest after a bustley day of driving and looking at everything. Paulina thought so too.

American Girl Josefina doll 1

We all enjoyed relaxing in our little study nook and talking about everything we had seen on the drive.

Via E Alexis doll, Maplelea Jenna and Taryn dolls

The next morning we had to leave South Bend and keep driving north toward the Puget Sound. But first, Ali and Dave took Jessie the Pug for a walk along the Willapa River.

Alders along Willapa River, WA

It was kind of a muggy morning and Jessie isn’t too fond of warm days, so she got pretty hot. But Ali says it was really nice. They saw more¬†wildflowers, including this one:

wildflower by Willapa River, WA

We don’t know what it’s called, but they were growing in several places¬†along the water. Isn’t it pretty?

After their walk, we drove north along the Hood Canal, which is on the west side of the Puget Sound. It was a very pretty drive, and we saw thousands more trees, and little towns along the water. When we got close to our destination, here’s what the highway looked like:

Washington Hwy 20

I’ll tell you all about where we went as soon as I can! For now, I’ve got to go get ready for a 4th of July picnic!¬†Happy fireworks!

‘Till soon,¬†your friend

Alexis


 

Alexis is an Alexis Christine O’Shay Dollfriend. Paulina is an American Girl Josefina doll. Sharon and Jade are Maplelea Taryn and Jenna dolls.

Adventures with Alexis: We’re Taking a Trip!

Hi Friends!

Guess what?! I’m on my first¬†trip! You know I want to be a travel writer some day, right? Well, my mom-friend Ali and dad-friend Dave are taking a vacation to Washington, and I get to go along! I’m so excited to see new things and practice observing, and Ali said I can write here as often as I like! So I’m going to tell you all about my first trip ever and everything I see and do!

Maybe I’d better go back to the beginning: Ali and Dave are celebrating their anniversary this weekend, and they decided to take a trip to Washington to explore and relax and just have fun. Ali told me some¬†of us dolls would get to go, and we were all so excited when we heard! We wanted to start packing right away:

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I love packing: I always know just what I should bring. But some people feel overwhelmed when they’re faced with choices. That’s how my friend Asleigh felt when she heard she might get to go along:

American Girl Isabelle packing for trip

Ali says it might have something to do with being an artist, and that she’s the same way. Isn’t that funny? If so, I’m glad I’m a writer. I did my best to help Asheigh calm down, and we looked through all her pretty clothing together:

Via E Alexis and American Girl Isabelle 1

My friend Tabitha was excited when she heard that Ali and Dave were going to the Pacific Northwest, because she said the weather there is a lot like weather¬†in England and Wales, which is where she’s from. She wanted to pick out a travel outfit just in case she got to go along:

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She has this super adorable green wool coat which is perfect for rainy or misty days:

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Isn’t it adorable? She also has a really cute teddy bear, which she says helps make her feel at home wherever she is.

My new friends Jade and Sharon¬†were also really excited. They’re from Canada, and like me they love¬†traveling!

Maplelea dolls packing for trip

Well, we spent most of the week getting ready and packing, and yesterday we finally were on our way! Yay! I was so excited I was just about bouncing up and down in my seat. I loved looking out the window and watching the scenery change. We drove north through Oregon for a long long way, but it didn’t seem like a long drive because there was so much to look at. Everything was very green, and there were so many trees of all different kinds. We saw flowers blooming: wild peas, Queen Anne’s lace, and thousands of white daisies nodding in the breeze! It was sooooo pretty!

Yesterday afternoon we passed through a town in Oregon that said it was “the grass seed capital of the world.” That’s when we realized the huge pastures we were passing were all different kinds of¬†grasses. Some of the fences near the highway even had signs on them so you could find out what was growing! Here are the types of grasses we saw:¬†Annual ryegrass,¬†Perennial ryegrass, white clover, winter wheat, wheat, and fescue. The grasses were blooming and putting out seeds and they were so beautiful. I love how they stretched far away, all the same color and texture. I also love how the fields line up next to each other, like pieces of fabric on a quilt. My favorite grass was the winter wheat, because it was such a pretty golden-fawn color and all tufty with seeds. I also loved the white clover, because it was covered in little white flowers!

We spent last night in Woodburn, Oregon. We were so excited to be in our first motel!

Via E Alexis with friends

From left to right, my friends Paulina, (me, Alexis!), Sharon and Jade. We’re the lucky dolls that got to go along!

It’s a really nice room! We’re going to be on our way again soon, and today I’ll make sure that Ali takes lots of pictures so I can put them in my next post! We’re going to head north through Portland and cross over into Washington, and then head out to the coast! I get to see the ocean! Oh boy!

‘Till soon, have a great Saturday!

Love, your friend, Alexis


 

Alexis is a Via E Alexis Christine O’Shay Dollfriend. In this post she is wearing a Gotz dress with American Girl leggings. Jade and Sharon are Maplelea Jenna and Taryn dolls; Tabitha is a Bonnie and Pearl doll; Ashleigh is an American Girl Isabelle doll; Paulina is an American Girl Josefina doll.

Introducing Alexis: A Via E Alexis Dollfriend Review

Do you like to surprise yourself with new doll loves? I do! I love the challenge of expanding my appreciation to include new approaches to the classic 18 inch doll, even when that means learning to love new shapes, sizes, facial expressions, and appearances. One of my new dolls that I’ve been having the most fun with was a total surprise to me.¬†I discovered the Via E Alexis doll through–who else?–My Doll Best Friend (a wonderful UK-based online doll shop that¬†really is an excellent source of information and pictures of play dolls). Between the¬†My Doll Best Friend webshop, blog, and Facebook page (which is open to viewing even if you are not a¬†Facebook member) I’ve been introduced to many different play dolls, and found several new doll loves. Alexis was the most surprising of these, because she is the first doll in my collection to have a full, open-mouth smile! This is a big deal for me, after having been used to the more conservative, quiet American Girl smile for so long.¬†I have to admit that when I first saw pictures of Alexis, I¬†found her¬†grin to be off-putting. Yet I soon found myself being attracted to her unique individuality. She looked so, well, personable. I also really liked everything about the way Alexis is presented: she is advertised as unique, realistic, poseable, durable, versatile, and representing positive values and educational play. I love taking dolls with me places, and it was a big selling point for me that Alexis is intended to endure¬†rigorous play, even in or near water! When I envisioned happy summer day-trips playing with Alexis at the lake, how could I possibly resist? I’ve had Alexis for about a month now, and she has surpassed my initial expectations, allayed my prejudices and concerns about having a doll who smiles so broadly, and easily become one of my favorite dolls in my collection. Alexis immediately asserted herself as a kindred spirit and a writer, and you may have already read her own posts. Now I’d like to introduce Alexis to you by way of a review. This is a truly unique doll from a truly special company, and it’s my hope that this review will help introduce her to a wider audience.

My Via E experience started off on an excellent note with an exchange of emails with Ellen Callen, the founder of Via E and Alexis’ creator. I’ve heard¬†Ellen described as one of the nicest people ever, and it’s true! ¬†I was so impressed by Ellen’s customer service, and it is one of the major recommendations for buying from Via E. In addition to graciously clearing up a computer glitch that affected my order, she kindly¬†offered me my choice between a first production or second production Alexis. Ellen explained that the second production dolls have a couple of minor improvements, including a slightly darker scalp and¬†a small drainage hole placed inconspicuously under the hair to allow water to drain safely from the head.¬†As a collector I preferred one of the limited edition first production¬†Alexis dolls, and I was so grateful I was given¬†the choice. The first production dolls¬†arrive in boxes signed and numbered by Ellen, with hand-signed certificates of authenticity that describe the special characteristics of a first production Alexis Christine O’Shay Dollfriend. Each first production Alexis doll also has her number written on the back of her neck.

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Oh boy! (Pug approved).

What is better than a brand new doll arriving in the mail? I am fortunate to share a home state with Alexis: she hails from San Clemente, California, so she didn’t have to travel far. She was shipped via Priority Mail, so she arrived within days!

I love the label on the box (in fact, I carefully peeled it off to preserve it in my journal). These little personal touches go such a long way in making a customer feel happy with a purchase.

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Just for me!

The box was absolutely beautifully packed by hand with sparkly tissue paper (which will be recycled as an art journal supply), pink shredded packing, and a hand-written thank you note included with the packing slip and my Alexis doll’s certificate of authenticity. Here it is with the tissue paper and packing slip removed. You can see the glued-on label on the doll box, which is one of the features of the first production Alexis dolls. The box originally read “Alex,” which is Alexis’ nickname, but due to legal issues this had to be changed to Alexis. The new boxes have Alexis’ full name, Alexis Christine O’Shay, at the top.

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Alexis’ hair had lodged across her eye during transit, so I reached in and gently moved it aside before I took any more pictures.

This is the first time I’ve bought¬†a limited edition doll like this, so this was very exciting:

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I love that, “Not Just Any Girl.” Alexis is not being sold¬†as a “just like me” doll, which makes her stand apart from much of the 18-19 inch doll market. Alexis is herself, no more, no less. Just like each of us, that’s the most special thing she can be. In order to honor Alexis’ uniqueness, I won’t be comparing her to any other dolls in this review.¬†I’d also like to state right away that Alexis is a play doll intended for little girls. None of the minor imperfections or areas where I feel there is room for¬†improvement detract from her appeal¬†for little girls and their moms. When possible, I do try to embrace the little “flaws” that make each of my dolls unique. I choose to see them as individualities that don’t take away from the doll’s loveability.¬†Finally, I’d like to remind my readers that Via E is literally a brand-new start-up company working to get things just right, which is not a simple process! I imagine being the founder of a new¬†doll company is something¬†like being President: it is impossible to please everyone, and you get blamed for everything! Personally, I think Ellen¬†is doing a wonderful job at introducing a unique product to the market, and I wish her every success.

Here’s what it says on the back of Alexis’ box. Love it!

Via-E Alexis doll review 7 And here is my charming new Alexis doll peeking a little shyly out of her window:

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Right away she felt like a real person to me, which is one of the things that attracted me to this doll in the first place.

In looking at Alexis in the box, I noticed that her right eye was a tiny bit stray. I mention this because some collectors are very picky about “wonky” eyes. I’m not as picky, though I probably notice little things like this more¬†than a¬†little girl of the target age range would. When possible (which is almost always) I embrace the little idiosyncrasies that make each of my dulls unique. Initially,¬†I was a teeny bit disappointed that Alexis’ eyes were not perfectly straight, but I decided that I wouldn’t let it detract from her individuality. Via E’s customer service is so excellent that I have no doubt Ellen would have gladly exchanged dolls if there was anything about my Alexis that really bothered me.

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Such a cute nose!

I was struck by her pretty profile, lovely coloring, and of course, by her happy smile!

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Not feeling very patient, I soon removed the insert that contained Alexis from the box, so I could see her better. You can see some of the values Alexis represents printed on the inside of the insert:

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Alexis started to win my heart right away. She looks alert, intelligent, caring, cheerful, and very, very friendly. She’s pretty too–at least I think so. ūüôā Her wide smile is certainly different than I’m used to, but I quickly began to find that it made me feel happy to look at her!

Here she is removed from the insert (she was held in with metal twist-ties).

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You can see how happy she is to be out of her box in her new home!

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Her hair is just gorgeous! It was wrapped in tissue to protect it during travel, and the feathered layers in front were tied back with ribbon. Alexis has rooted hair made of nylon. It is¬†the very nicest quality nylon hair I’ve seen so far:¬†very shiny,¬†soft, and extremely thick. It is also a lovely color: a rich caramel blond or light brown (one of my favorite colors for hair).¬†It really shines in the sun, and has a nice feel in my hands.¬†From what I’ve read, collectors¬†usually seem to view nylon as a¬†lower quality material, preferring acrylic wigs. Alexis, however, is designed to be a durable and water-friendly toy, so I think rooted nylon was a wise way to go. Here’s her hair with the tissue paper removed:

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Her hair is long, but it doesn’t seem to tangle much. She has chunky layers that add interest to her hairstyle, and make her hair sit very prettily even without styling. Alexis’ hair also brushes out very easily.

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You can see here how thick my Alexis doll’s hair is! In fact, my Alexis has as much hair as a real girl might have! The nature of rooted hair is that the “plugs” and scalp will inevitably show in certain styles. This is why the second production Alexis dolls have a slightly darker tinted scalp, to help reduce this appearance. However, I haven’t noticed any problems with my Alexis doll’s scalp or roots showing too much. I haven’t tried pig-tails yet (I will), but I haven’t had any problems so far with her hair smoothing down evenly over her head. Here is her hair from the front:

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Notice¬†Alexis’ delicate brushed eyebrows and beautiful facial sculpting.

And from the side:

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She has a uniquely realistic profile, with a real nose! I love this.

Underneath her gorgeous hair, on the back of her neck, is her official identification number.

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Her hair plugs are small and finely spaced.

Here is Alexis all unwrapped as she arrived:

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You can see how happy she is to be home!

Alexis’ arrival outfit consists of knee-high fringed boots, short jean skirt, pink t-shirt, and undies. I would describe the overall quality of her outfit as basic, but nice. It isn’t a very interesting outfit for me, but the pieces are cute and hold mix and match potential. The t-shirt has a sweet kitten graphic, and closes in the back with velcro. The elastic-waisted skirt has real pockets, which is a big plus! I can’t say the boots are my style, but they are fun and different. Overall I think a girl of the target age range would be perfectly happy with this outfit. My only suggestion¬†is¬†for Alexis’ arrival outfit to include¬†a pair of tights or cropped leggings for modesty, as her skirt tends to slide up on her smooth torso, revealing her undies when she sits down.

My only disappointment with the outfit is that the soles of the boots are foam instead of plastic. Also, the boots on my Alexis have experienced some separation at the back of the sole:

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Some glue and clamping might fix this.

This is the only thing that gives her arrival outfit a bit of a “cheap” feeling for me. For the record, I’ve seen foam soles on other high quality dolls’ shoes too, so Alexis is certainly not alone here. I prefer the more realistic plastic or rubber soles as being nicer and more durable for play.

Alexis also arrived with this cute little tote bag that can be worn as a back-pack:

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It has a draw-string closure under the flap so that Alexis can store her goodies and treasures inside.

Alexis has numerous features that make her realistic and very person-like.¬†Let’s start with her face:

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Alexis has closing eyes that are a dark turquoise blue, with black lashes¬†and molded eyelid creases above her eyes. I think her eyes are a very pretty shape and color and have a pleasant expression. I soon discovered that the reason her right eye is sometimes stray is that it is a little looser in the socket than her left, and tends to jiggle a little bit while Alexis is being posed. I can straighten it by gently tapping it (which is why some of the pictures show her eyes perfectly straight, and some don’t).

Alexis’ eyebrows are very nicely painted on, and I love how they taper to a point at the ends. The best part of her face for me, though, is her beautifully sculpted nose. Most dolls don’t have a real nose bridge, and Alexis does, which gives her such a beautiful profile. I also love the indentation between her nose and her mouth. Here’s her profile:

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Alexis has such a lovely face sculpt with realistic cheeks, mouth, and chin. The shape of her face really supports her happy smile. If you’ve ever tried to draw a smile, then you know how difficult it is to make it look right. I can only imagine how difficult it is to sculpt one three-dimensionally! Ellen has done a beautiful job with Alexis’ smile. You can’t see it very well in these pictures, but her chin even has a “smile line” underneath!

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Such a sweet, happy smile!

Alexis has a tilting head, which is one of my favorite features. This gives her so much expressiveness and enhances her poseability. My Alexis doll likes to tilt her head to the left a little more than to the right. Alexis also has very realistic ears:

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Her ears are actually sculpted out from her head, meaning she can tuck back her hair! My Alexis doll has such thick hair that not much of it will stay back, but I love this feature. It is one of the many things that make her feel like a real person.

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She’d need really big ears to tuck back all that hair!

One of the features advertised on Alexis’ box are that she has realistic hands and feet with a French manicure/pedicure. Let’s take a look:
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Left hand.

I was not disappointed. Look at those tiny nails!
Right hand.

Right hand.

You can see that her¬†hands are also slightly different–her right forefinger is more separated and extends out a bit further. I love this touch, because it adds realism and versatility when posing Alexis. Ellen explains that Alexis’ hands were designed to be large enough to hold a girl’s finger, and were posed to allow her to wave, hold back her hair, and even hold hands with other doll-friends. The only defect I found ¬†on Alexis’ hands is that her right thumb nail is missing a bit of paint, making it look like she’s been chewing her nail. It’s okay, Alexis, I do this too. ūüôā

 

Her feet are even cuter:
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Alexis has a separation between her big toe and the rest of her foot, allowing her to wear thongs! Sooooo cute! She also has ankle bumps, little arches, and gently sculpted soles:
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I love that her feet have little creases underneath her toes. I also love how it says on the Via E website that Alexis can make footprints in the sand! I tried it at the river, but the sand was too coarse and dry.
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I’ll have to have Alexis try making footprints next time we visit the ocean.
Now I’d like to show you Alexis’ construction. She won’t mind me sharing these pictures between friends:
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Now that she’s seen the deer, Alexis understands the rose cages.

Alexis stands 19 inches tall, and is molded from hard, smooth vinyl that is a pleasant tan tone, with blushing added on the tops of her hands and feet. She is quite heavy, and the smoothness of her vinyl makes her a bit slippery, so it’s a good thing she’s durable! (Via E now offers a cream for smoothing away any “owies” that an Alexis doll might incur during her daily adventures, which I think is an excellent precaution. My Alexis has taken one hard fall already, so I might just have to try it out). Alexis’¬†body is delicately molded with realistic contours and the gentle beginnings of grown-up girl attributes. She even has a little belly button! One of my favorite features is her beautiful neck and shoulder area with a slight “collar bone” indentation. She looks so pretty in wide necklines and strappy tops!

 

Alexis has elbow and knee joints in addition to shoulder and hip articulation and a tilting head. These joints allow her limbs to make gentle bends. Ellen explains that in researching what little girls want in their dolls she discovered that the average girl is not interested in GI Joe-like articulation, so she tried to design a happy medium between joints and no joints. I think it works well. Alexis can be put into many poses during play, but her joints do not hold anything more than a very slight bend on their own.
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She seems fairly sturdy on her feet, but her joints do make her a little tippy on uneven surfaces. I’ve had her fall a couple times during photo shoots, but she always gets back up with a smile. ūüôā

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The construction of her hip joints makes her legs spread a bit to the side when she sits down on a flat surface like this. On a chair or bench, she can pull them a little more closely together.

Altogether, I am very happy with the way Alexis is designed. She has a pretty build and an effective construction that is very playable. She is¬†a bit on the heavy side and not as huggy as she might be with a soft body, but then her all-vinyl construction allows her to be played with in water, so I think it is a successful design. The only thing I am not crazy about in her overall appearance is that her arms seem just a little bit too short to me. My husband doesn’t agree with me here, so this is a matter of personal opinion, but if it were me, I’d lengthen them by another¬†half of an inch or so.

Note: Ellen explains that the length of Alexis’ arms was purposefully designed a little bit short so that Alexis can put her hands into her pockets and reach her own face and hair–in other words, to make her as poseable as possible. I’ve completely adjusted to the length of Alexis’ arms and I no longer notice them seeming short when I look at her.

Here are a few more pictures of Alexis’ face and hair.

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Her layers fall over her right eye when her hair is loose.

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Her layers blend in a bit when her hair is brushed out.

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Notice¬†the high shine her hair picks up in the sun. You can also see a slight separation of hair toward the back of her head (due to the way I’ve braided it) allowing her scalp to show through.

Now I’d like to talk a little about clothes, which is a huge part of the life of any doll. Alexis is advertised as being able to fit most fashions for 18 inch dolls, but Ellen acknowledges that she will need a belt for some of the pants and skirts/dresses because her waist is thinner than most cloth-bodied dolls (Via-E provides a special belt on their website). Based on my experience, this seems true. Alexis can wear American Girl brand¬†t-shirts and tops, since they look fine even if they are a bit loose, as well as hats, but only pants and skirts with a tight elastic waist will stay up on her torso without assistance. For example, I’ve had success dressing her in American Girl pajamas and leggings, which are naturally made from material with quite a bit of stretch. Alexis also fits the pants¬†designed for Gotz Hannah and Gotz Happy Kidz (they use elastic waists anyway, but Alexis has a similar waist size to Hannah and the Happy Kidz). Since I was eager to give Alexis a wider range of choices, I purchased three outfits from the Via E website. Again, I received stellar customer service, and the outfits arrived by Priority Mail, beautifully packaged. Alexis was very excited!

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We both love the Via E boxes, with their pretty flowers and pink and orange stripes, as well as the motto printed on top. I also love the little stickers taping each box shut (which are perfect for saving in my journal!) and appreciate how beautifully each item is wrapped and packed:

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Just for me, again!

The outfits I chose from the five that are currently available were the Alexis Goes to Brazil outfit, the Loving Sao Paulo outfit, and the Saturday Nap outfit. I love how Via E encourages creativity by designing outfits that invite mixing and matching. The first two outfits¬†arrived with a story card telling a little bit about Alexis, and suggesting options for designing different outfits. These story cards can be slipped into the ring-bound Clothing Activity Book¬†(sold separately), which was¬†included free with my order of Alexis (thank you Ellen!). The website states that all of Alexis’ outfits will include a story card, but the Saturday Nap outfit did not arrive with one, so I’m not sure if this idea has been dropped. I hope not, because it’s a fun addition to Alexis’ playability.

Alexis first wanted to try on the Goes to Brazil outfit, which was my favorite from the pictures. It includes four-pocket jeans, a pink lacy camisole, a two-tone long-sleeved tee, and strappy sandals:

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The t-shirt graphic says “Oi!” which is Portugese for “Hello!” and¬†closes in the back with velcro. The pants have real pockets and a front velcro closure and an elastic waist. The camisole has a pull-on construction and an empire waistline. This set even¬†includes a special passport for Alexis!

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The passport is printed on cardstock for a child to cut out and fold.

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I love this fun, educational touch!¬†The things I like best about this outfit, besides the passport, are the pretty color and sturdy material of the jeans, the wide neckline of the t-shirt that shows off Alexis’ shoulder-line and allows the camisole straps to peek through, the blue contrasting sleeves of the t-shirt, and the pretty pink camisole itself.

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I’m not crazy about the heavy jersey knit used for¬†the body of the t-shirt (I love the material used for the sleeves, though). Also, a snap closure would make this shirt more versatile. One of the options on the story card shows the shirt worn back to front, with the upper edges turned under to form a v-neck (sort of like a cardigan). In actuality this option is not possible if Alexis is wearing the pink camisole underneath, because the velcro would turn in and snag the material beneath. Snaps would remove¬†this problem.¬†The jeans are a nice color and material, and they look fine and are very sturdy, and I like how the cuffs can be left down or rolled up. However some of the white stitching seems a bit sloppy, and to my eye it seems like the front closure is a bit off-center:

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The sandals were packaged separately in an adorable box which Alexis and I just love (she wants to use it to store her treasures):

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The sandals feature thongs that slip between Alexis’ toes, and close around her ankles with velcro. I like the shiny silver, and the way the thongs accentuate Alexis’ special toes.

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My only issues with the sandals are that they are a bit tight to slip on, which might prove difficult for a child, and that the construction does not seem quite top-notch. The soles are plastic, which I appreciate, but the way the side straps are compressed between the upper footbed and sole seems a bit awkward, and like her boots, there is some separation happening in the sole area. I also noticed some scratches on the shiny silver footbed.

Overall this outfit is really cute and has a nice look, and I think most little girls would love it.¬†The things I’ve mentioned that might be improved are small issues that can be worked out with time and experience; they’re only important because little details¬†add up to an overall impression. Again, I’d like to emphasize that there’s nothing about this outfit that would keep a child of the target age range from enjoying it.

Alexis and I were both really excited about the Saturday Nap outfit because it looks so cute in the pictures, and because as writers we love the name! It is a very sweet outfit, with lots of mix and match potential, and it looks adorable on Alexis:

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The outfit includes a lacy white camisole with contrast pink stitching, grey shorts, pink-striped leggings, white bunny slippers, and a blue stuffed animal that Alexis can cuddle as well as use as a pillow. I’m not sure what kind of animal it is supposed to be (maybe a dog?) but it’s cute and a fun idea, and Alexis loves it.

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Our favorite things about this outfit are the bunny slippers, the layered look, the coziness, and the subdued colors. The camisole is similar in design to the pink one that came with the Goes To Brazil outfit, but this one closes up the back with velcro.

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The fit is not quite as nice as the pink one, but it’s perfectly adequate. The grey knit shorts have an elastic waistline and a small embroidered emblem near the left hemline:

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They’re very sturdy and cute, and look nice and cozy on Alexis. The striped leggings are adorable, especially layered under the shorts. However, our pair had a defective waistband. When I went to put them on Alexis for the first time, the elastic sort of internally “fizzed” and lost all its stretch. Luckily, the knit material is stretchy anyway and they stay up even without elastic, especially with the shorts on top:

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Just a little bit loose.

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This elastic problem seems to me like a freak quality control issue. Since the leggings stay up anyway, it didn’t seem worth the hassle to bother returning them, especially since I can cut open a seam and insert new elastic if I really want to. Again, Via E has such excellent customer service and product support that I have no doubt the item would have been promptly¬†exchanged if I had wished. Everything else about this outfit seems fine, and I’m sure little girls will love it. My only concerns with this outfit, besides the elastic issue, are that the lace straps of the camisole seem a bit delicate¬†to withstand rough play, and that the velcro closure can get caught in the lace edging if care is not taken while dressing Alexis. The bunny slippers, which stay snugly on Alexis’ feet with elastic straps,¬†and the cute stuffed animal are special touches that make this a fun set.

I’ve saved our favorite outfit for last: the¬†Loving Sao Paulo outfit.

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Yep, the honeysuckle is caged too.

This is a gorgeous outfit that any little girl or collector would love! It includes a ruffly, no-sleeve¬†cotton sundress, a reversible vest, and a red bandana-scarf, as well as a pair of “barefoot sandals” with included instructions (which we haven’t tried yet, but look really fun!):

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This outfit, like the Goes To Brazil outfit, also comes with a story card describing four different creative ways of wearing the pieces. I love this dress on Alexis! It accents her beauty so perfectly, setting off her golden-tan skin tone and showing off her pretty shoulders:

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I would wear this dress if it came in my size!

The bodice of the dress features a ruffle, pintucks and lace, and the skirt is a two-tier ruffle.

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The sash is cotton lace, attached in front. The back of the dress features smocking, which helps the dress hug Alexis’ smooth torso and forms an excellent fit.

Via-E Alexis doll review 89The straps actually close with snaps at the back shoulders, which makes the dress very easy to slip on and off.

The vest is simple but nice; it features black buttons up the front (though it closes with velcro) and a blue contrast lining on the inner back, so that you can reverse it and wear it back to front to get a whole different look:

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The only things I would change about this outfit would be to use snaps instead of velcro on the vest closure, and to line the entire inside of the vest with the blue fabric, instead of just the inner back. Since the vest is fully lined anyway, this wouldn’t increase production costs, and it would make the vest even more versatile, since it could be worn four ways: black side out closing in front, black side out closing in back, blue side out closing in front, and blue side out closing in back. All in all, this is a lovely outfit, and Alexis and I both love it!

Overall, my impression of Alexis’ collection of outfits is positive. I am happy with the outfits I have purchased so far, and I am looking forward to adding more to my collection. Alexis and I are¬†particularly¬†interested in the Fun in the Sun Waterplay outfit–we’d love to try it out at the lake! I can’t wait to see what new ensembles Via E¬†dreams up (I’m crossing my fingers for a pair of really cute pajamas)! I love that the Via E Alexis fashions¬†are focused on versatility and creativity, and are cute and interesting without being too trendy. I hope the story card idea continues because I think this is an original and clever touch that encourages both creativity and learning.

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Alexis enjoys the scent of honeysuckle blossoms as much as I do!

Alexis is a wonderful doll: original, beautiful, fun, versatile, and durable. She feels like a real person, and has quickly become one of my very best doll-friends. I adore¬†her all her beautiful, special details, and I’ve come to love her friendly, caring smile. Perhaps one of the things that makes her the most special is that she makes me feel happy when I look at her.¬†Even¬†the little things that I wasn’t crazy about at first have become dear to me because they are part of Alexis’¬†unique individuality.

In short, if I enjoy Alexis this much, I can only imagine what a special friend she would make for a little girl. I know I would have loved her when I was a child! One of the biggest things that sets Alexis apart¬†is that she is supported by a¬†conscientious company providing¬†amazing customer service and focused on positive values and education. As Ellen has said, Via E strives to be more than a company: they are a family. I hope with all my heart that Via E grows and prospers, and I wish them every success.¬†I am so glad to have this special doll in my collection, and to be part of Alexis’ family.

Adventures with Alexis: Happy Memorial Day!

Hi Friends!

Guess what we did in honor of Memorial Day weekend! We had a pajama party! A pajama party is kind of like a slumber party, but instead of sleeping (dolls don’t really need to sleep, you know) you dress up in your favorite pajamas, and stay up late watching movies and reading stories. We read a chapter of The Enchanted Castle by E. Nesbit, and then we watched Pollyanna.¬†Here’s a picture of how we looked this morning:

Doll collection in pajamas

That’s me in the front row between my new best friends Tabitha and Taryn. Tabitha is from Wales, and Taryn just arrived from Canada! I sure love having so many friends to play with!

We had a pajama contest just for fun, and here are the results:

American Girl Samantha and Felicity dolls in pajamas

Megan (left) won the award for “Most Beautiful Pajama Ensemble.” Fanny (right) won the award for “Most Old-fashioned.”

American Girl Gwen and JLY #24 dolls in pajamas

Jenny (left) won the award for “Prettiest Slippers,” and Emma (right) won the award for “Prettiest Color.”

Here’s a close-up of Jenny’s pretty slippers! Aren’t they cute?

Star flower pajama slippers

American Girl Isabelle and Kailey dolls in pajamas

Ashleigh and Ceilidh are really good friends, and I think they kind of look like each other (don’t you?). They tied¬†for the “Softest Slippers” award. Here’s a close-up of their slippers. Aren’t they adorable???

Kanani's slippers

Isabelle's slippers

Bonnie & Pearl and Maru and Friends Jamie dolls in pajamas

Tabitha (left) and Tasha (right) tied for “Absolute Cutest Pajamas.” Which pajamas do you like best? I can’t decide.

American Girl GOT #1 and Bonnie & Pearl dolls in pajamas

Amy (left) and Tabitha (right) tied for “Most Adorable Teddy Bears.” I like Amy’s socks and robe, too!

And here I am with my new best friend, Taryn, who just arrived this weekend from Canada:

Maplelea Taryn and Via-E Alexis dolls in pajamas

Isn’t she sweet? She’s a lot of fun, and she likes a lot of the same things I like! Taryn won the award for “Cutest Graphics.” I love the little owl on her pajama top:

owl pajama detail

It really reminds me of this illustration in Mr. Magnolia by Quentin Blake!

Mr. Magnolia Quentin Blake illustration

A pajama party is a great way to celebrate any special day! Yay for pajamas!

‘Till soon, love, your friend,

Alexis


Alexis is a Via-E Alexis Christine O’Shay Dollfriend. Taryn is a Maplelea Taryn doll. Tabitha is a Bonnie & Pearl doll. Tasha is a Maru and Friends Jamie doll. Amy, Jenny, Ashleigh, Ceilidh, Emma, Megan and Fanny are American Girl dolls.

 

Adventures with Alexis: Afternoon at the River

Dear Friends,

Hello again! Alexis here. ūüôā I just have to tell you about the beautiful afternoon¬†we had at the river last Saturday!¬†We drove to the Upper Sacramento River where it rushes through Dunsmuir, which is an old train town in Northern California (my first trip–oh boy!). Oh, was it beautiful! Here’s what we saw:

Sacramento river at DunsmuirThe first thing I thought when we got out of the car was: there are¬†so many leaves! It was so green! There are many different kinds of deciduous trees growing in the forest along the river, including oaks, cottonwoods and maples, and right now they all have new spring leaves. Then there were grasses and waterplants along the river’s edge. I just looked and looked. The fresh breeze and the river rocks and the sound of the water all made me feel so happy.

Via-E Alexis doll in forest

I love being out in nature!

There was so much to explore I didn’t know where to start. So I took off my shoes and stepped into the river.

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The water was really cold!

I love my feet being bare, especially in water. I feel like it helps me think better.

Via-E Alexis doll feet in water

Have you¬†heard of the Sacramento River? It runs all the way down the Central Valley in California to Sacramento, and eventually it reaches the ocean. I was excited to see it up here because this is where it really starts. The headwaters are only a few miles south of my home! At Dunsmuir it’s already a pretty big river, and runs pretty fast, especially in spring. It’s funny to think that water is all melted snow! Lots of fisherman come here to practice fly-fishing, but I’d rather just wade and explore. I’d love to see a fish in the river, though! I looked and looked, but I couldn’t see any through the reflections.¬†I had to get out of the water after a few minutes; it was too cold!

Via-E Alexis doll feet in sand

I put my purple jelly sandals back on and explored the rocks a little bit. The rocks right by the river are very roundy from being in the river. I love to think of the river washing and grinding them until they are smooth. I wonder how many years it takes?

Via-E Alexis doll at rivers edge 3

The rocks a little further up the shore are perfect for climbing and perching on!

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I found a ledge that made a great lookout spot:

Via-E Alexis doll on rock 3

What a view!

It’s funny, but sometimes when you’re out in nature it is so beautiful that you almost feel all alone,¬†know what I mean? Even though there’s a town and people and even a freeway nearby, I felt far away from everything.

It was a bit mosquito-y, but thankfully that doesn’t bother us dolls! My new friends had a great time too. Tasha loves to sit still and just look and listen (she’s so pretty, don’t you think?). She’s an artist, and she said she’d love to come back to this spot to draw. That sounds fun!

Maru and Friends Jamie doll in forest 2

Gaby had fun climbing the rocks and branches, like me.

Schildkroet red-head doll holding branch

Here is my newest friend. Her name is Tabitha and she’s from Wales! She’s kind of shy, but really interesting when you get to know her. We call her Tabby for short:

Bonnie and Pearl doll on rocks

She said some of the mossy rocks reminded her of England. She loves the forest. I love it too, but I think I like the river best. I’m just always attracted to¬†water! Maybe I’m part fish, or frog, or turtle!

Via-E Alexis doll at rivers edge 1

It feels so nice on my toes!

Oh, we had such a lovely time! There was a nice bench for sitting on and watching the river:

Via-E Alexis doll and Bonnie and Pearl doll

When the sun started to get low, the mosquitos became a bit troublesome, so we finally had to go. I wanted to stay longer, but Gaby said she really wanted a cup of tea!

Schildkroet red-head doll holding cup

I hope we go back to the river soon. I want to explore some more, and maybe even go swimming! Besides, it’s so refreshing, and there’s so much to look at. ‘Course, I always think there’s so much to look at wherever you are. That’s why I’m a writer!

dolls on bench

‘Till soon! Love, your friend

Alexis <3

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Alexis is a Via-E Alexis Christine O’Shay Dollfriend. Tabitha is a Bonnie & Pearl doll. Tasha is a Maru and Friends Jamie doll. Gaby is a Schildkroet doll.

 

Adventures with Alexis: New girl!

Hi friends!

My name is Alexis Christine O’Shay, and I’m the new girl on A Doll’s Picnic!

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I’m so excited, because I just got adopted by a¬†family in Northern California, my home state! I’ve always wanted to visit Northern California because I’ve heard so much about the mountains and forests and national parks, and now I get to live here! I already love the trees and the fresh piney smell in the air, and I can’t wait to see more of my neighborhood. Did you know there’s a big volcano just few miles away? It’s called Mt. Shasta, and it’s dormant, which means that it hasn’t erupted in a long time but might someday. Isn’t that kind of scary? Also, it can snow here in the winter, and it’s really hot in the summer, and there are lots of lakes and places to hike. I can’t wait to explore!

My new family is really fun! I have a mom-friend, Ali, and a dad-friend too, and lots of sister-friends, because Ali is a doll-collector! (Ali says this is just a fancy way of saying that she’s never going to grow up, which I think is a good thing. It sounds like something right out of Peter Pan!). Also, I get to live with a lot of animals, which is great because I love animals! There are lots of cats, and a dog called a Pug. (Her name is Jessie, and she’s kind of funny looking because she has a really pushed-in face. But she’s really cute!). Also, outside there are deer and squirrels and lots of birds, and Ali says at night there are raccoons and skunks and possums and maybe even porcupines! I want to stay up late and see a raccoon and a skunk.

Best of all, Ali is a writer, just like me! She has this blog, and she says I can write posts whenever I want to! Yay! I want to be a travel-writer or maybe a journalist someday, so I’m planning on writing a lot of posts about our adventures to practice. (Did you know you have to practice to get to be a really good writer?). I hope I get to travel and go on trips and things, because I really want to see the world!

Today was my first day here, and I got to come out of my box and meet my new sister-friends. They’re really nice. At first I felt just a teeny bit shy, but they made me feel right at home. I’m going to memorize all their names right away. Ali took lots of pictures of me, including close-up shots of things like my toes and my ears and my nose! Isn’t that funny? She says I’m a really special girl and she’s going to write a review about me, to show other moms and little girls that I’m a wonderful doll! Wow… I’m going to be famous!

I also got to pick out some outfits to try on. I love to mix and match my own outfits. Most of the pants and skirts were too big around the waist, but we found a few that fit because they had tighter elastic. Here’s a picture of me in a Hawaiian outfit. This is fun¬†because Hawaii’s¬†one of the places I really want to¬†go!

Via-E Alexis doll in hawaiian outfit

Here’s another outfit I tried on:

Via-E Alexis doll 2

I finally chose this outfit to wear for now (Ali says we’re going to have to work on getting more outfits for me). I chose this shirt because Ali is a figure skater! That means she can do crazy things on skates like spinning and jumping! I wish I could try–it sounds so fun and exciting. She’s going to practice tomorrow¬†and I’ll¬†be cheering her on!

Via-E Alexis doll 3

Here’s some things you might like to know about me:

My favorite type of shoes are… sandals and bare feet!¬†My favorite accessory is… a stylish hat.¬†Things I love to do are: write, draw, make crafts, design outfits, travel, spend time on the beach, cuddle animals, and explore new places.

Ali says there’s a lake nearby. I can’t wait to go see it! She also says I get to choose my own name, in case I don’t want to stay “Alexis Christine O’Shay” which is the name I came with. It’s a very nice name, but I’d kind of like something all my own, so I’m considering Alexa, or maybe Christel. What do you think?

Here I am with some of my new sister-friends:

Via-E Alexis doll with American Girl dolls Kailey, Isabelle, and #24

That’s Ceilidh on the left (you pronounce her name like Kayley!), then Ashleigh, me, and Emma on the right.

Via-E Alexis doll with Schildkroet red-head doll and Maru and Friends Jamie doll

We’re the new girls here!

I know we’re all going to be such good friends!

Well, it’s getting late so I’d better go! ‘Till later, love, your friend,

Alexis <3

Via-E Alexis doll with American Girl dolls Isabelle and #24


Alexis is a Via-E Alexis Christine O’Shay Dollfriend.