Monthly Archive: May 2014

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.

 

Introducing Maru and Friends Jamie

When I first saw pictures of the Maru and Friends dolls on the My Doll Best Friend Facebook page and read the excellent review of Savannah at The Toybox Philosopher, my original impressions were that the dolls looked very beautiful, but were also a little, well, odd. Being a collector of soft-bodied 18 inch dolls for so many years has somewhat warped my view-point, I know. The Maru and Friends dolls have lovely faces, but their taller height (20 inches), lanky limbs and tubby little all-vinyl bodies seemed strange to me at first. Thankfully, a huge part of the fun of collecting dolls is revising our first impressions, which are often far from impartial. I’ve found my initial responses to a new kind of doll to often be based on prejudice against anything different than what I’m used to–embarassing to admit, but there it is. I’m happy to add that as I’ve expanded the range of my appreciation of dolls, I’ve gotten quicker at seeing beauty and charm in the differences and unique qualities that each kind of doll offers.

Anyway, it wasn’t long before I began to be captivated by the beauty and sweetness of the Maru and Friends dolls, despite their lanky proportions and what I thought might be awkward neck joints–and I soon found myself falling in love. My usual way of going about adding a new doll to my collection is to troll the internet for candid photographs of the doll(s) I’m interested in. I found there have been several good reviews of Maru (such a beautiful doll!) and the cute red-headed Savannah, but not so much of Jamie, the hazel-eyed curly honey-blond who was my immediate favorite. So I decided to buy Jamie to review. Oh my goodness. Little did I know where this would lead! I saw a comment somewhere about the Maru and Friends dolls that said something in effect: “For me, the only dolls in the world.” At the time I read this, I thought this was going a bit far. I have had Jamie for about two weeks now, and since opening her box there have been moments when I have seriously considered selling all my dolls and collecting only Maru and her friends from now on. I really love all my dolls, and I love the variety in my collection, but I have to say, I now know what that comment meant.

Maru and Friends doll box

What will she be like?

Opening the box that held my Jamie doll turned out to be the most special doll-opening experience I’ve had so far. I love opening new dolls: it’s exciting, but also a little scary, because there’s no way of knowing exactly what they’ll be like and whether I’ll really like them as much as I think I will. The perfect doll-opening experience has a lot to do with everything coming together: the time, the place, the doll, my expectations. But it also has a lot to do with how the doll is presented. I give Maru and Friends an A+++ for their beautiful, thoughtful packaging, which is as tasteful and lovely as the doll herself. This was a big part of what made this a truly special experience.

Opening Maru and Friends box 1

The exciting and scary moment when I lift the lid…

Peeking inside....

…and peek inside.

I could tell this was a special doll from the moment I opened the cardboard box in which she arrived.

Maru and Friends box open

Ohhhh….

This little card in its pretty transparent envelope made a big impression:

Maru and Friends thank you card 1

Maru and Friends thank you card 2

Talk about making the customer feel appreciated! What a beautiful phrase: “Made with lots of love, for hours of joy.” Wow.

Maru and Friends Jamie doll in box

Oh my goodness.

I have to take a minute to rave about the beauty of the Maru and Friends doll boxes. In my opinion this is the most beautiful box I’ve seen so far (although Bonnie and Pearl runs a close second!). Orange is not my favorite color, but it is happy and sunny, and the flowers and lady bugs are so tastefully and simply arranged around the window area. The box material has a glossy finish too, which feels lovely. Everything about this doll, in short, said “high quality” and “attention to detail” even before I opened her up. Here are a few details from her box:

Maru and Friends box detail 2

It’s playtime!

Maru and Friends box detail 1

I love the ladybug!

Maru and Friends box label

I really took my time opening this doll and just savored each moment.

Maru and Friends Jamie doll in box 2

Yes, those are some of my other dolls watching in the background.

I couldn’t get over how beautiful Jamie is. I kept staring and staring at all the details.

Maru and Friends Jamie doll in box 3

Finally I opened her box and removed the extra package of outfits I ordered with the her. It was wrapped in personalized printed tissue paper, another special touch:

Maru and Friends doll outfits in package

More ladybugs!

When opened, this package revealed the outfits I ordered: the adorable ladybug pajamas (there’s definitely a ladybug theme going on here!), pretty spring dress, and priceless gingham shorts outfit:

Maru and Friends doll outfits 2

Back to Jamie: here are some pictures of her in her box. She was tied in with ribbon, for which I’m so grateful! This seems to be a new trend in doll packaging shared by several of the main doll brands, and I am very much in favor of it! Jamie was held in quite securely and safely, yet the ribbon ties are so much easier to remove, and gentler on the doll as well as my fingers. She had a hairnet over her perfect face and hair:

Maru and Friends Jamie doll in box 4

After a little while I slipped the insert out of the box and continued to gaze at her in wonder and admiration.Maru and Friends Jamie doll in box 8

I couldn’t get over the beauty of her eyes, the delicate painting of her eyebrows and eyelashes, and the minuscule little sprinkling of freckles across her nose:

Maru and Friends Jamie doll in box 5

Look at that face!

Not only are her eyelashes individually painted, but there are light, shorter painted eyelashes in between each longer painted eyelash. Then she has real glued-on lashes as well!

Maru and Friends Jamie doll in box 7

What a doll!

Her arrival outfit too, which consists of a white quilted ski parka over white athletic pants and a jersey-knit blouse, is of the highest quality. Because I bought this doll in spring, this outfit hadn’t really caught my imagination, but it is so much nicer and cuter than I expected, and now I am looking forward to winter again when she can pull the plush-lined hood up around her face! I was struck by the detail of the zipper, the quilting, and the cute pom-poms.

Maru and Friends Jamie doll in box 6

Jamie also comes in pink snow boots, and includes the Blue Moon Over New York hardcover storybook, featuring the continuing story of Maru’s adventures in America (Maru is the central character in this series of dolls). I haven’t read the book yet, but it looks sweet. Also in the box was Jamie’s certificate of authenticity.

After savoring her perfection for a long time, I untied Jamie and brought her to life.

Maru and Friends Jamie doll 1

My husband can bear witness to the fact that I kept exclaiming over the beauty and quality of this doll at every point in this process. At this point I was particularly struck by the perfection of her glossy hair.

Maru and Friends Jamie doll hair in net

Jamie has the most beautiful-looking hair I’ve seen so far. The colors, highlights, softness, amount of curl, and especially the high shine, are truly divine. Here it is free of the hairnet:

Maru and Friends Jamie doll 5

It was so perfect I was almost afraid to touch it. In fact, at first I was actually wincing at the idea of giving a doll this exquisite to a child! I know that Maru and Friends dolls are made for children to play with, and that although they look delicate, they are made from sturdy vinyl. It’s just a little hard to believe this doll is appropriate for an eight-year-old when you see how beautiful she is.

Jamie’s hair is pulled back from her face with a small loop of stitches on each side. I am planning on removing these stitches so I can style her hair as I like, but it is a very pretty style:

Maru and Friends Jamie doll 19

Maru and Friends Jamie doll 20

Maru and Friends Jamie doll 7

Look at her precious little profile!

I just love the warm, golden-honey color of her hair; it’s such a pretty shade of blond. I also love the amount of curl. Some of the Jamie dolls shown on the Maru and Friends website have really curly hair (perhaps this is what the first edition dolls looked like?). I love the amount of curl in my Jamie’s hair–just enough for beauty, without being so curly to make me afraid to play with it.

Maru and Friends Jamie doll 6

At this point I took Jamie’s ski parka off, since it seemed a bit warm for our mild May weather, and I posed her with two of my American Girl dolls, my custom hazel-eyed Caroline doll and my #24. I usually don’t compare dolls for the purposes of a new doll review, because I like to consider new dolls as individuals, and would rather save comparisons for a separate occasion, but in this case I was curious how much taller Jamie would look than a standard 18 inch doll.

Maru and Friends Jamie doll with American Girl dolls

You can see that the height and body proportions are quite different. Not so different, however, as to make me not want to play with her with my standard 18 or 19 inch dolls.

Notice the adorable embroidered flower applique on Jamie’s blouse. These little details are part of what makes her so special:

Maru and Friends Jamie doll 8

I was excited to try on the other outfits I bought for Jamie to wear. Maru and Friends has a diverse little range of outfits available for their dolls, and I thought some of them were exceptionally cute when I was looking at them on the website. But I was thrilled with how they turned out in person. The detail and quality are stunning! I also love that the styles are fun and different, without being too popular or trendy-looking.

In undressing Jamie, I found she takes the prize for the prettiest pair of socks ever to be hidden by pants and boots!

Maru and Friends Jamie doll 10

Wow! These are too pretty to hide!

Also, her blouse closes in the back with real snaps!

Maru and Friends Jamie doll 9

Here is Jamie sans arrival outfit. She came in nice little undies:

Maru and Friends Jamie doll 11

Her body proportions seem more natural and her joint construction seems less odd to me in person than on The Toybox Philosopher’s review. I don’t actually find the hip joint area as distracting as I thought I would, and I really like her little torso. The way her joints are constructed actually gives her quite a range of poseability, which is a good thing! Her arms have a fairly significant bend at the elbows which gives her a very life-like look. Though her legs are long and unbent, they don’t seem too straight or unnatural to me (maybe it reminds me of the Barbies I played with as a child?). And I’m most surprised by how much I actually like the construction of her neck joint. I don’t find it at all awkward, actually, and I really enjoy tilting her head for poses.

Here are her little hands, which are just slightly different from each other (another nice touch that I’m really beginning to appreciate in dolls):

Right hand.

Right hand.

Left hand.

Left hand.

It’s hard to see the difference in the pictures, but it’s there (her fingers, especially the forefinger, are slightly more bent on her left hand than on her right).

And here are her pretty little feet:

Maru and Friends Jamie doll feet

Her feet are simple, but very pretty: small, delicate, with nicely sculpted toes, little arches, and even gentle ankle-bumps. The bottoms of her feet are flat, but her toes are lightly delineated.

My favorite outfit in the pictures was the “Fancy Shorts” outfit. I’ve just got to share the details on this outfit:

Maru and Friends doll outfit detail 1

Look at the pearly buttons!

The outfit consists of a short-sleeved blouse and blue gingham jumper-style shorts. I adore gingham! I am so impressed with the beauty of this ensemble. Look at the pleats and embroidery on the blouse:

Maru and Friends doll outfit detail 7

There is lace on the cuffs of the sleeves:

Maru and Friends doll outfit detail 8

And the buttons on the shorts match the blouse:

Maru and Friends doll outfit detail 2

One of the things I was most excited about is that this outfit closes with, that’s right, more snaps!

Maru and Friends doll outfit detail 6

Maru and Friends doll outfit detail 5

The inside of the waistband and the flaps of the (real!) pockets of the shorts are lined with satin, and the pleats are lined with contrasting gingham:

Maru and Friends doll outfit detail 3

Look at the pleat detail on the pocket: also lined with contrasting gingham!

Maru and Friends doll outfit detail 4

The outfit includes tall knee socks and the most adorable pink moccassin-style shoes:

Maru and Friends doll pink shoes 1

Maru and Friends doll pink shoes 2

I love these shoes!

Maru and Friends doll pink shoes 3

Here is the complete ensemble on Jamie:

Maru and Friends Jamie doll 14

That is an outfit to die for.

Jamie’s ladybug pajamas are also too cute for words, and I might add, they are my favorite pajamas ever for a doll (so far):

Maru and Friends Jamie doll in pjs 1

These too have wonderful details:

Maru and Friends Jamie doll pj detail 3

Maru and Friends Jamie doll pj detail 2

Real pockets!

Maru and Friends Jamie doll pj detail 1

love these pajamas. In fact, I want a pair just like them! Jamie seems to love them too:

Maru and Friends Jamie doll in pjs 2

I only wish slippers came with the pajamas (they are available, but they have to be purchased separately).

The last outfit I bought is the “Spring Bloom” dress and hat set, because it looks so May-ish:

Maru and Friends Jamie doll 16

This is such a pretty dress. The sandals are very cute, and so is the hat, though its a bit difficult to get–and keep–on Jamie’s smooth head. A little chin strap might possibly help this problem. I love the details on this outfit too; my only disappointment was that this outfit closes in back with velcro instead of snaps.

Maru and Friends doll outfit detail 10

Cute little buttons, crisp pleats, and a ruffle.

Maru and Friends doll outfit detail 9

Maru and Friends doll red shoes 2

All in all, I am tremendously pleased with the Maru and Friends outfits and eager to collect more! I like almost everything in their collection, which is unusual for me.

Here are a few more close-ups of Jamie’s precious face.

Maru and Friends Jamie doll 17

I also love her ringlet bangs/fringe.

She has a very pale flesh-tone, which does indeed resemble porcelain, as advertised, and is incredibly beautiful. She has a soft blush on her cheeks. Her eyes are a unique shape: long, lyrical almonds that reminds me of a cat’s eyes. Her irises are an amazingly realistic hazel, which is part of what drew me to her (I have hazel eyes, and I love dolls that have hazel eyes too).

Maru and Friends Jamie doll 2

She has a very cute little snub nose and an impish little mouth. Her neutral expression looks like it is just on the verge of a smile.

Maru and Friends Jamie doll 13

To me she has a thoughtful look, and seems like a quiet, observant sort of person–someone who might be a little shy, but funny once you get to know her.

Maru and Friends Jamie doll 22

I am delighted with Jamie’s beauty, poseability, elegance, accoutrements, and overall charm.  She is a pleasant weight and very nice to hold, and she actually cuddles up nicely in my arms. 🙂 She is as poised and as graceful as a princess, but she is playful too. She strikes a wonderful balance between childlikeness and dollishness. I love dolls to be dolls, and there is something almost quaint and antique about her that is very satisfying and appealing. There is something storybook-ish about Jamie; she puts me in mind of the dolls Sara Crewe might have seen with her Papa while searching for Emily in Frances Hodgson Burnett’s A Little Princess, as well the dolls in Tasha Tudor’s A Doll’s Christmas. At first Jamie seemed almost familiar to me, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on whatever it was she reminded me of. Then I remembered these illustrations in a beautiful storybook called Becky’s Birthday by Tasha Tudor:

Tasha Tudor illustration 2

Tasha Tudor illustration 1

Jamie reminds me so much of Becky!

So I’ve named my Jamie doll Tasha, after the beloved children’s book author and illustrator. Tasha is a treasured family member here at A Doll’s Picnic, and I very much hope to have her friend Maru join our family sometime as well. This is the first doll I’ve owned who truly looks like she was made by an artist. I am in awe of her, and cannot recommend her highly enough. My only reservation is that I would hesitate to give Jamie to a girl younger than eight or nine, on account of her delicate curls. These dolls are sturdier than they appear, but they are so beautiful that it would be a shame to see them abused by a careless child. This is a doll that a loving child would treasure for years, and is certain to become a precious heirloom. In all, I am amazed and delighted by these exquisite dolls, and I hope Maru and Friends will be available to children and collectors for many years to come.

Maru and Friends Jamie doll 21

Adventures with Alexis: Afternoon at the River

Dear Friends,

Hello again! Alexis here. 🙂 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.

Via-E Alexis doll at rivers edge 2

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!

Via-E Alexis doll on rock 1

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

Via-E Alexis doll on rock 4

 


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.

 

Play Dolls: Master List

I’ve been collecting play dolls since 2006, but for seven-and-a-half of the last eight years I stuck exclusively to American Girl. It’s hard to say why, now. I guess we tend to like what we’re familiar with, and I was convinced that American Girl dolls were the prettiest, cutest, and just all around “best” play dolls there were. Whenever I saw pictures of other brands of dolls I just couldn’t see the appeal or charm. But finally last year I began to get a little, well, bored. It wasn’t until just a few months ago, however, when I was given my first ever non-American Girl doll (A Girl For All Time Matilda) that I finally cracked open the door to the universe of play dolls beyond. Now exploring the diversity of alternatives to American Girl has become my newest passion in collecting. I still love my American Girl dolls, but I now feel like I’m loving them in a much larger context. I’m gradually reducing my collection of American Girl dolls, and my new goal is to gather a group of dolls that I love to play with and that reflect both who I am and the variety of dolls that are available. I am especially interested in contrasting American Girl dolls with similar brands, which I hope to share on A Doll’s Picnic as time permits.

I’ve compiled a master list of the major doll brands for my own information, and thought I’d share it here. My criteria for this list are: 1) the doll is intended for play, 2) the doll is at least 16 inches tall, 3) the doll is a quality toy made to last. Just when I think I am aware of all the brands offering dolls that fit this criteria, I discover a new company! I had no idea there were so many!

Here is my list so far. The asterisks denote the brands included in my own collection. If you know of a brand that isn’t on my list, please comment below, and I’ll look them up!

Brands of Play Dolls

A Girl For All Time, by Daughters of History *

American Girl *

Australian Girl

Bonnie & Pearl *

Carpatina

Classic Kidz, by Gotz

Favorite Friends, by Madame Alexander

Happy Kidz, by Gotz *

Hannah, by Gotz *

Harmony Club

Karito Kids (no longer in production), by Kids Give *

Kidz ‘n Cats, by Heart and Soul *

Journey Girls

Las Reinas, by Paola Reina *

Magic Attic Club (no longer in production)

Maplelea *

Maru and Friends *

My Twinn *

Our Generation

Pen Pal Girls

Precious Day, by Gotz

Schildkroet *

Sisterhood in Town

Soy Tu, by Paola Reina

Springfield

Starpath

Vanange, by Vannuzza

Via-E *

A Schildkroet Doll Review

Today I’d like to introduce a very special little doll who joined my collection a few weeks ago:

Schildkroet red-head doll 52

Hello there!

She came all the way from London, from the My Doll Best Friend webshop, but she’s actually German. She’s a 17 inch jointed all-vinyl play doll made by the German doll manufacturer Schildkroet, and she’s relatively new on the market, having first appeared with her two sisters in 2012.

Schildkroet is a very old company that has been making dolls since the 1890s, and they have an interesting history involving the development and production of the material celluloid for many products, including the first really durable play dolls (read more about their history on the My Doll Best Friend blog). These days they make a wide range of play dolls from plastic and vinyl, including reproductions of some of the original celluloid dolls. So far there are just three dolls in their 17 inch jointed line: a red-head, a brunette, and a blond. They share the same light complexion and lovely turquoise-blue sleep eyes.

When I first saw these dolls on the My Doll Best Friend Facebook page (a great way to keep track of what’s happening in the doll world!) I was caught by the expressiveness of their little faces as well as by their poseability. When I found that the 2013 Schildkroet dolls were on sale at My Doll Best Friend, I decided to take this opportunity to add the lovely little red-head to my collection. It took her a while to make it through customs, but she finally arrived safe and sound and is just as special as I thought she’d be! So here’s a review of a very special and unique little doll.

She arrived in a sturdy and very simple cardboard box decorated with the Schildkroet “turtle” logo. (I actually really like the box but don’t have a good picture of it). She was attached to her box via a single tight rubberband around her neck and though her packing was minimal, it was quite adequate to keep her safe on her journey. Here she is released from her box, as she arrived:

Schildkroet red-head doll 1

From the side:

Schildkroet red-head doll 4

Schildkroet red-head doll 7

And from the back:

Schildkroet red-head doll back view

As you can see, her hair is a lovely rich rust-red shade and she has voluminous bangs and wavy curls. The hair is rooted nylon, has a nice glossy feel, is fairly fine, and is quite thick. However, as I experienced with my Paola Reina Lidia doll, the nylon lost much of its curl after a few hours in our dry climate. After releasing it from the ponytail and braid that it arrived in, I carefully misted her hair with water and brushed it out gently in sections (which was quite necessary as there were some pretty severe tangles) and by the time I was finished, she had only gently waving hair. This was a little disappointing, but it is still lovely and I like it almost as well as in her stock pictures. Perhaps I can be brave and learn to re-curl it? This problem of losing curl seems to be unique to the nylon fiber, as I’ve not had the same difficulty with any of my curly haired dolls that have Kanekalon wigs (American Girl dolls, for instance).

One of the things that makes these dolls unique is their very slim little bodies and limbs. Frankly, I think this slimness is charming paired with her round face and bushy hair, and every time I look at this adorable doll I think of a little elf! Her face has something very pixie-ish or elf-like about it, I think:

Schildkroet red-head doll 11

Schildkroet red-head doll 10

Schildkroet red-head doll 12

Schildkroet red-head doll 13

She’s very photogenic, and her face is so expressive! Her expression seems to change a little with every pose. They’ve really caught a lot of character in a very simple face. Her facial coloring is gorgeous: very rosy with brightly blushing cheeks, and softly painted lips. The lip paint actually has a soft shine and almost a “moist” feel to it. Her eyebrows are just delicate crescents hidden under her bangs. Her head is made from a very soft vinyl that “squeezes” easily. The material, as well as the style of her little face, reminds me a lot of the early Pleasant Company American Girl dolls, actually. Her head turns and tilts easily. She has the Schildkroet logo on the back of her neck:

Schildkroet red-head doll 26

Her eyes are a lovely bright blue shade with a very detailed pattern in the irises (which is hard to see in pictures). They are slightly different from each other, both in how they’re set and how the eye-holes are cut. Somehow this slight asymmetry works for me on this doll; it adds to her individuality and charm. However, if you are concerned about “wonky” eyes, you might want to choose one of these dolls in person, or have one chosen for you by a friend.

Schildkroet red-head doll 2

I think it’s the eye on the left that isn’t quite straight.

The outfit she arrived in is just adorable. And I’d like to add here that one of the nice things about these little dolls is that the outfits they come in are also available separately, so you can buy the doll and outfit you like best, even if the doll you chose didn’t arrive in it. This also means that if you buy a 2014 doll, it’s not too late to buy the 2013 outfits separately, and vice versa, which is really nice!

Her hooded jacket is very detailed and unique. The fabric is an interesting textured plush, and the sleeves are lace-mesh decorated with rosettes. Here is a close-up of the materials:

Schildkroet red-head doll sleeve detail

The outfit also includes plaid flannel shorts, thick leggings, a cream-colored sweater, and knee-high boots. All the pieces are beautifully made and very sturdy and high-quality. Here is a close-up of the boots:

Schildkroet red-head doll boots

Here are her tags (and look at that beautiful little hand!):

Schildkroet red-head doll tags 1

Schildkroet red-head doll tags 2

Now let’s take a closer look at how this special little doll is made. She has nine joints (knees, hips, shoulders, elbows, and head), and the way she is constructed makes her highly poseable. She can sit and stand quite easily on her own. Her arms and legs hold their position when posed, and they stay bent, which is exciting if you are really into posing dolls for pictures (or play!).

Schildkroet red-head doll 15

I’ve removed her clothes so we can look at how beautifully she’s made. This doll has one of the prettiest bodies I’ve seen. Her complexion is so light and rosy and healthy-looking. Her limbs are beautifully sculpted and her joints work well without being too obvious. And I think her torso is particularly graceful. The vinyl of her body and limbs is much harder and a bit smoother than that of her face, but the skin tone matches perfectly.

Schildkroet red-head doll 27

She does have a bit of trouble balancing on her bare feet–she tends to lean forward a little to balance her large head. It is much easier to stand her up when she is wearing shoes.

Schildkroet red-head doll 28

I love the graceful curve of her back and neck.

Schildkroet red-head doll 30

I’ve put her into a few poses so that you can see how well she holds them:

Schildkroet red-head doll 32

Schildkroet red-head doll 39

Schildkroet red-head doll 40

I’m particularly impressed with how well she sits. She looks so natural!

Schildkroet red-head doll 35

And look at that exquisite little back (and ear!):

Schildkroet red-head doll 36

Another favorite thing of mine about this adorable doll is her beautiful hands and feet! I’m starting a “beautiful hands and feet club” here on A Doll’s Picnic, and this little girl is definitely a member!

Schildkroet red-head doll feet 2

It’s a bit hard to capture in photos, but she has lovely arches and very detailed toes.

Schildkroet red-head doll feet 1

Her hands are even prettier! Her right hand is different than her left hand, which adds to her life-likeness.

Schildkroet red-head doll hands 5

Left hand top.

Left hand bottom.

Left hand palm.

Another view of her left.

Right hand palm.

Here’s one last picture of her hands. She can hold them together very nicely:

Schildkroet red-head doll hands 6

Here are a few more poses. She can’t balance on her own in this one, but I wanted to show her flexibility:

Schildkroet red-head doll 41

I’m working on this position for my back spin in figure skating!

Schildkroet red-head doll 42I haven’t shown it in the pictures, but she actually has a wide range of flexibility in her hip joints. She can stand with her legs apart up to a fairly wide angle, as well as do the splits.

Here she is with her original outfit back on, so you can see a little more of the quality of the pieces. I took these pictures on a dreary afternoon, making the lighting difficult.

Schildkroet red-head doll 43

Is it going to rain or not?

The shorts and tights have elastic waistbands, and the sweater closes up the back with velcro. You do have to be careful not to let the velcro snag the material of the sweater!

Schildkroet red-head doll 44

I had to hold her feet down with one hand for this one:

Schildkroet red-head doll 48

Sit-ups.

Schildkroet red-head doll 49

Nap time!

Now she would like to show you the adorable little bag that came with her arrival outfit:

Schildkroet red-head doll 50

It closes with a little velcro tab, and it’s big enough to put small accessories inside!

Schildkroet red-head doll 51

So fun! And look at the detail in the stitching.

I bought a second outfit along with my doll so that she’d have a change of clothes, and the quality is just as good. This is the outfit that came on the blond doll in 2013.

Schildkroet red-head doll 19

The pink shoes also came on the blond doll, but have to be purchased separately if you buy only the outfit. They’re way too cute, and so well made!

Schildkroet red-head doll pink shoes

I love the puppy-dog applique on the tunic-sweatshirt, but if she wants to, she can wear the polka-dotted turtle-neck all by itself:

Schildkroet red-head doll 25

By this time she was pretty tuckered out from a long afternoon of modeling!

Schildkroet red-head doll 24

I would like to see Schildroet debut some pajamas for these adorable dolls, in addition to the six outfits now available. Their clothing is so cute and well made!

Schildkroet red-head doll 21

This is an adorable, dear little doll with exciting poseability for either a child’s play or an adult collector. She seems very sturdy and well-made; however, because of her slimness and delicate arms and legs, I would wince a bit at giving her to a child younger than eight. I’m not sure what the target age range is on these dolls, but I think a careful child or older child could take care of her safely.

My favorite things about this doll are her face, complexion, the color of her eyes, the color of her hair, her beautiful hands and feet, her graceful little body, and her poseability. I really don’t have any faults to find with her, aside from the nylon hair fiber losing its curl (and my hair does the same thing in our climate!) and the slight difference between her eyes, which will bother some people more than others. She has an old-fashioned, heirloom feeling, and yet she is perfectly modern, and perky enough to go everywhere and try everything! I think she would make an excellent traveling doll, as she is so slim and poseable that she doesn’t take up much room.

Now she just needs a name! I’m a bit stumped on this. I wanted to give her a real German name to celebrate her heritage, but neither Irmengard, Ingelore, Hannalore, Morgen (which literally means “morning”!), Brigitta, nor Babette have seemed quite right. Perhaps I should give up on the German and try Bernadette, Bernie for short. Any suggestions?

Schildkroet red-head doll with Gotz FAO Claudia doll

Rosa (Gotz/FAO Claudia) makes our new girl feel at home.

Thank you Schildkroet and My Doll Best Friend in the UK for bringing us another wonderful German treasure! She will be loved!

Schildkroet red-head doll 55

Adieu from Northern California!


Pictures taken at the Dunsmuir Botanical Gardens in the Dunsmuir City Park, and at home.

 

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!

Via-E Alexis doll 1

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.

Meet Rosa: A Gotz treasure in disguise

I have a couple of new dolls to introduce to you, before they can take a proper place in our doll-family, and several more on the way! (Oh boy!!! There’s nothing I love doing quite so much as opening up a new doll! And I’ll just hint that the ones on their way are going to be really special!). I’ve been working hard on doing some catch-up reviews, so that I’ll be ready when the newest girls arrive. Today, let’s look at the treasure I found on “BROWN Clearance” sale at Toys R Us a couple of weekends ago!

Gotz FAO Tess Claudia doll in box

A doll-lover’s treasure!

I’ve been researching different brands of play dolls on the internet for the last several months. The door to the world of play dolls has been opened wide to me after years of focusing entirely on American Girl dolls, and I have quite a bit of catch-up collecting to do! 😉 After buying my first Gotz dolls, Happy Kidz Sophie 2012, Emily 2013, and Katie 2013 (all discontinued, and therefore allowing for no delay on my part, besides which two were on sale), I’ve become interested in the beautiful Gotz Hannah line. The Hannah dolls are similar in size and build to the Happy Kidz line, but don’t have articulated elbow and knee joints, and have different face molds. In reading about these dolls on Doll Diaries (an excellent internet doll resource) I found that Gotz made a line of Hannah dolls available in the US a while back through FAO Schwarz. FAO marketed these dolls as their “Classic” doll line, under the names “Tess” (blond), “Claudia” (medium-skinned/latina), “Nina” (african-american), and “Avery” (asian). These dolls, which were nearly identical to the Gotz Hannah’s sold in Europe, were sold through FAO’s own store and through Toys R Us. Last year the dolls were discontinued and Toys R Us was offering them at a discount price of $59.99, which is an amazing deal for a doll of this quality!

Well, I haven’t been in a Toys R Us store in years, but when my husband and I were visiting an urban area recently, we decided to stop in and look around at the toys and dolls that are popular today. My ulterior motive, of course, was to check and see if by any chance, there were any “Tess” dolls left on the shelves. Several weeks ago I actually had a dream about finding these dolls in a store! (I dreamed I found them on sale in an American Girl store, and though this was a bit of a stretch, it still turned out to be prophetic!). So I just had to look and see. When we got to the FAO Schwarz section of the store I was thrilled to see there were several Ninas and Claudias still on the shelves! Not only this, but they were on clearance sale! Of course I had to buy one! I’ve never bought a quality doll in a (forgive me, but it’s my opinion) cheap toy store since becoming a doll collector, so it felt a little weird. But I knew these dolls were special, so I did my best to separate them from the ambiance (if you can call it that) of the box store experience.

It took me quite a while to choose my Claudia doll (I actually didn’t end up caring for the Nina face mold, though I still think she is a wonderful opportunity at this price!). I lined up the three Claudias and carefully compared them. Right away one of them spoke to my heart with her lively expression, but she also had several shine marks on her face and legs, and it looked like she had either been incorrectly packaged or re-packaged in a Tess box. After waffling back and forth, I finally noticed two things that helped me decide: my favorite of the two others had eyes that weren’t straight, and the one with the lively expression and shine-marks actually had superior facial coloring. When I saw she had color at the inner corners of her eyes and the others did not, my decision was made. Clearly she was the superior, and probably older, Claudia. So she came to the register with me, and guess what she cost??? $39 including tax! I was shocked to walk out of a Toys R Us store with a special treasure of a doll for less than $40. I’m still amazed every single time I look at her beautiful face, and every time I pick her up and feel what a special doll she is. The Gotz Hannah dolls sell for about 80 pounds (about $135) in the UK, so you can see what an incredible deal this is.

Even though she’s now discontinued, Claudia is so special that I have to share her with you. If you check the Toys R Us stores in your area, you may still be able to find one–or perhaps one of the other dolls in the line. So here’s a little review of my treasure-in-disguise. I’ve named her Rosa (short for Rosalind), after Santa Rosa, the city where I purchased her, and I’ve decided that she’s Italian. One of the nice things about this doll is that her skin tone is appropriate for several possible nationalities. As you will see, she is an interesting, lively little person with very winning ways!

First of all, some pictures of Rosa in her box:

You can see why my heart went out to her!

The box itself is a bit of a mystery to me: why was she packaged in a box labeled “Tess,” with pictures of the Tess ballerina doll? My husband says the other two Claudias were in boxes marked “Claudia” with pictures of Claudia, but I honestly can’t remember. Were all the dolls in the FAO “Classic” line originally sold as “Tess”? Was this Claudia mis-packaged? Was she returned and put into a wrong box? I may never know.

FAO Gotz Claudia doll in box

Here’s a close-up of her face in the box. You can’t quite see the shine marks or the color at the inner corner of her eyes in this picture.

FAO Gotz Claudia doll box price tag

Marked as a “Tess” doll. Amazing price even before the BROWN Clearance!

FAO Gotz Claudia doll box

Pictures of the Tess doll and outfit on the box.

FAO Gotz Claudia doll box

But that’s a Claudia doll in that picture, which makes it even more confusing.

At first, looking at her in the box, I thought perhaps her eyes were too light for her complexion. But here she is out of the box, and you can see how they come to life!

FAO Gotz Claudia doll

Free!–after how many months or years in that package?

FAO Gotz Claudia doll

Not the best arrival outfit… but it could have been worse.

As you can see, her arrival outfit consists of a short, red plaid pleated skirt, a white tee, a black sweater, white socks, black mary janes, and little red hair bows. She also comes in white undies, which she’s not showing in this picture. Whoever thought that black would be a good color for a doll’s sweater?! Why not white or red? I realize she is dressed in a private school uniform, but even so…. However, I purchased her for herself, not for the outfits.

FAO Gotz Claudia doll

This is a doll that truly comes to life out of her box. It is difficult for me to capture in pictures the life-like radiance, sweetness, intelligence, and real-girlness that just exudes from her in person. Her face is so real, it is startling!

FAO Gotz Claudia doll

I’m a real girl!

She has glowing, rich, warm brown fixed eyes, extremely long yet very delicate glued-on lashes, delicately feathered eyebrows, and a very bronzey mouth (which I prefer over pinker, more made-up looking lips). She has faint blushing on her cheeks (more on the left than on the right). The Hannah face mold is purposely asymmetrical, just like our faces are in reality, so that her right and left profiles are just a little bit different. Perhaps this is part of why she is so lifelike.

Her head can be tilted into many positions, adding to her life-like expressiveness. I love how easily her head can be posed!

Up and to the left...

Up…

Tilted thoughtfully...

Tilted thoughtfully…

And gazing down....

And gazing down….

She has deep, coffee-colored skin. The great thing about her complexion is that she can be a darkly-tanned or olive-skinned girl of European origin, or be Hispanic or even African-American. Her skin-tone is very warm and life-like. Her vinyl is a bit harder than the vinyl on an American Girl doll, with just a tiny bit of “give” under firm pressure. It seems like it would scratch fairly easily.

Now Rosa would like to show you some of the unique aspects of her build and body-design and her posability. She’s ditched the awful black sweater, and is looking much better, we think!

FAO Gotz Claudia doll

One of the special things about the Gotz Hannah line, is that the right arm and leg of the doll are different than the left arm and leg. This may take a little time to get used to after the symmetry of an American Girl (or similar) doll, but I think it is wonderful, and adds yet another life-like quality to these dolls. As you can see, her right arm has a deeper elbow bend and a different wrist position than the left, and her left knee has a permanent bend:

FAO Gotz Claudia doll

I think the left knee bend is adorable, but I’ve found it does make it more difficult to stand her up, even on smooth surfaces.

FAO Gotz Claudia doll

She can wave a little more naturally with her right arm than with her left:

FAO Gotz Claudia doll

She is easy to pose; her joints rotate easily and naturally. She can sit down too:

FAO Gotz Claudia doll

Now she’s going to show you her special little body (though she doesn’t really recommend going for nude walks in the woods!). She’s retained her undies for privacy:

FAO Gotz Claudia doll

You can see she has the healthy-looking body of a growing girl, and is sure to promote good body image in a child. Look at her strong little knees and ankles! I love that she looks like a healthy girl that runs around and gets lots of activity. Also notice the beautiful toes and the arches on her feet. Lovely, aren’t they?

FAO Gotz Claudia doll

Now let’s talk about her hair! At first I was disappointed that she had short hair, because I usually prefer longer hair I can play with–although I’m often too busy to do much hair-styling with my dolls! However, as soon as I took Rosa out of her box and removed her hairnet, I realized her hair is as special as the rest of her. It is an adorable length! It is rich brown, very glossy, and is advertised as being able to be washed. It curves under at the bottom with a lovely little flip, and is nice and thick. Like the Gotz Happy Kidz dolls, it is rooted rather than wigged. It had a little more volume when I took her out of the box, but like my Paola Reina doll, Emily, the nylon fiber seems to have relaxed in this dry climate. Oh well.

FAO Gotz Claudia doll

Now Rosa would like to change her outfit into something a bit nicer to finish this review. The FAO outfits (including the one that came on the doll and the one included in the box) are okay, but of an inferior quality than what I’m used to. The skirt is cute, but too short (in my opinion) and the way the elastic was done on the inside of the waistband was very cheap. The tee shirt is fine, but boring, and the sweater is ugly, with large white buttons up the front. The best thing about the outfit she came in are the white socks and black patent-leather-style shoes, which are actually cute! But the bottoms of the shoes are cut from foam, rather than plastic. The soccer outfit she also came with is of similar quality, and is not something Rosa, or any of my other dolls, are ever going to wear. A child interested in soccer might enjoy it, though.

Here’s Rosa in a little ensemble pieced together from items that my Gotz Happy Kidz dolls came in:

FAO Gotz Claudia doll

That’s better!

She kept her own shoes. 🙂 She can fit into the same outfits as the Happy Kidz dolls, but her thicker ankles and legs make the jeans a little bit more snug.

FAO Gotz Claudia doll

Aren’t I a special girl?

Here I’ve tried to do some close-ups of her special face so you can see the delicate details and coloring.

FAO Gotz Claudia doll

Look at the details of her eyes. You can also see the shine-mark on the bridge of her nose.

FAO Gotz Claudia doll

Right profile…

Left profile.

Left profile.

Notice the detailed ears, too.

FAO Gotz Claudia doll

It’s time to go!

And now Rosa is giving a wave goodbye!

You will be seeing a lot of Rosa in my future photo stories and blog posts! This is an exceedingly special doll, and she has made me more excited than ever about the Gotz Hannah doll line. I’d love to have a Hannah sister for Rosa to play with, but it’s awfully hard to choose… they’re all so cute! Maybe Hannah at the Design Studio? Or Hannah Princess? I can’t decide….

Anyway, lots of love from myself and Rosa! ‘Till soon!

FAO Gotz Claudia doll


Photographs taken in my (very needly and weedy) home garden.

 

It’s a small world after all: A Disney “Animators’ Collection” review

The first time I went to Disneyland I was already grown up and I didn’t yet know I was a doll collector. My favorite ride of all–even over Pirates of the Caribbean and the Haunted Mansion–was It’s A Small World. I loved all the different dolls, how they were all the same and yet all completely different. I loved how the basic doll form was embellished with different hair, skin tone, eye shape, costume, and language to make it Chinese, Hawaiian, Mexican, Dutch, or even Mer-person! I thought there was so much creativity expressed in this simple, yet lavish ride. And I was genuinely moved by all those audio-animatronic dolls dancing and singing the well known song. It really gave me the feeling of being part of one big global family. I felt a little embarrassed at first to admit it was my favorite ride, particularly because of the much-teased song. After all, it isn’t exactly cool to enjoy floating along on a little boat watching a bunch of dolls sing the same song over and over and over again. Yet I was also excited to discover another part of my individuality. Now, of course, it all makes perfect sense! Little did I know then that I would end up collecting play dolls, which are, like the animatronic dolls in the theme-park ride, infinite variations on a simple theme.

Last weekend my husband and I were visiting an urban area, and we took the opportunity to visit a couple of large toy stores. I’ve been reading a little about Disney dolls lately on a couple of different blogs, and I was curious to step into a Disney store again (I haven’t been in one for at least ten years). I’ll state right here that as a collector of high-quality play dolls I am a bit put off by the gaudy bright plastic-y-ness of many of the popular brands of play dolls, including Disney products. After looking at the sweet, simple faces of my girls for so long, it is rather shocking to behold enormous painted-on eyes, outrageous makeup, and, well, to put it gently, enhanced figures. I was a little disappointed by the cheapness of the products in the Disney store. Even the plush animals seemed to be of a lower grade than I remembered. I did think the cloth “rag doll” style princess dolls were a nice idea. But with sewn-on dresses, they didn’t have much play value.

We did find ourselves drawn to one large display, though. Being completely out of the Disney loop, I had never even heard of the “Animators’ Collection” (larger, toddler-style versions of the various Disney characters). What did we find but a display of 16-inch “It’s A Small World” dolls beaming their friendly smiles at us! Not only can you choose from eight of the different cultures represented on the ride, but these dolls even sing the chorus of “It’s a small world” when you press their bellies, alternating between English and their native language! Now that’s pretty cute! We listened to each of the dolls in turn, and eventually decided that the yellow-haired lisping little Dutch girl had to come home with us, where she could cheer us with her sunny smile and adorable voice. So here is a review of this refreshingly charming little doll:

Here’s our little Dutch girl as she arrives in her decorative box.

It's a small world Dutch doll

And here are some side views showing the details of the pretty packaging, reminiscent of the ride:

Disney it's a small world Dutch doll

Disney it's a small world dutch doll

Disney it's a small world dutch doll box label

Disney it's a small world dutch doll box back

The back of the box talks a little bit about the “Animators’ Collection”:

Disney it's a small world dutch doll box detail

Now let’s open the box and get a better view of our little Dutch girl. Here she is, removed from the box but still attached to the insert:

Disney it's a small world dutch doll on box backing

Isn’t she cute? And she sings!

And here she is, after having been painstakingly removed from all the wire ties. (During her unboxing she kept cheerfully singing each time I accidentally touched her button, until I discovered the on/off switch on her side).

I'm free at last!

I’m free at last!

Let’s take a closer look. Here she is with her arms up…

Disney it's a small world dutch doll

…and down:

Disney it's a small world dutch doll

On this soft picnic blanket and grass she needed help standing. The doll herself has a very large head, an adorably plump belly (where her voice button is located), and rather small feet, so even with her large Dutch shoes we had difficulty getting her to balance on her own. I took her plastic shoes off right away and discovered a pair of particularly adorable little feet:

Disney it's a small world dutch doll feet

Look at those toes!

I’m especially enthusiastic about the dolls in my collection with beautiful hands and feet, so I’m pleased that this relatively inexpensive doll can join that special group! I frankly didn’t expect this level of detail from Disney, especially for this price! At first I was even worried that her shoes might not come off at all!

She also has beautiful hands, and as you can see, the right hand is different from the left. Here’s the right hand, where the first two fingers are connected:

Look at my pretty hands!

Look at my pretty hands!

And here’s the left, where the middle two fingers are joined:

My hands are different!

They’re different!

I love this difference–it makes her even more special. She has an especially pretty fair complexion–“rose leaf” I think Anne of Green Gables might call it.

Moving on, let’s look at her dress. I was impressed again by the level of detail in her outfit. I especially love the eyelet sleeves and the lace edging on the hem of the skirt.

Such pretty sleeves, and rich colors, too!

Such pretty sleeves, and rich colors, too!

Here’s the skirt’s hemline:

Disney it's a small world dutch doll close-up of lace hem

Isn’t that pretty?

Here’s the back of the dress. It closes in the back with velcro, so it is completely removable, which means she could be changed if she had an alternate outfit made for her. I haven’t yet tried to take her dress off, but it doesn’t look like it would be challenging for a child. (Her yellow braids are enclosed by ribbons that close with velcro instead of being tied with bows, which would have been nicer):

Disney it's a small world dutch doll back of dress

And here is a picture of her shoes. They are made from solid yellow molded plastic, and slip easily on and off her pretty feet:

Disney it's a small world dutch doll shoes

Wood would have been better, but hey…

By now, you’re probably wondering what our little Dutch girl can do besides sing, so we’ll have her sit down:

Disney it's a small world dutch doll sitting

Because of the angle of her hip joints, she can only sit in the side-splits position, which is rather awkward. Also, because her bottom is small and she is top heavy, she has a hard time staying upright in this position. At least her dress covers her lap.

She can also tilt her head, though the range of movement is very limited:

Disney it's a small world dutch doll turning head

Disney it's a small world dutch doll turning head

So her five joints give her some limited poseability. Now, let’s take her lacy white hat off. Unfortunately it’s attached with plastic ties (yuck!) which have to be carefully snipped, and once the hat has been detached, it doesn’t stay on her slippery-smooth hair very well (there was some tissue paper wadded up in the point to make it poke up more stiffly too). Here she is bare-headed:

Look at me!

Look at me!

Isn’t she sweet? She has glued on black bristle lashes (rather heavy for such a fair person, I’d say?) in addition to her generous eye-painting, Disney’s specialty (she has painted on lashes too!). She has a cute little profile and rosy cheeks:

Disney it's a small world dutch doll side profile

Did someone say eye make-up?

Her face isn’t exactly the same as the dolls from the ride, from what I can tell, but rather has been done-up a bit (to say the least) to make her more appealing. I do really appreciate the simplicity of her smile–no big painted on lips!

Disney it's a small world dutch portrait

I can’t help it: she makes me smile!

On to her hair. I’m sure you’ve noticed by now that it isn’t blond but bright yellow! Buttercups, canaries and bananas all come to mind when I look at her hair. It’s very gaudy and fake-looking, but oddly enough, there’s something charming about it anyhow. I was glad to find it is rooted pretty thickly all over her head, suggesting that her hair can actually be re-styled (I wasn’t expecting this much!). The hair itself is pretty cheap quality, needless to say. The only really odd thing (besides the color) are the two extra clumps of hair woven into her braids. They cross her head at the bottom and are in no way attached to her head. All I can figure is they were trying to “ploof” up her braids quite a bit. But wouldn’t it be disturbing for a little girl to take down her hair only to have whole clumps of it fall out?

Disney it's a small world dutch doll hair

Luckily, I checked underneath her hair “pieces” and found that her regular hair is rooted across the area, so she won’t have a bald patch.

Now let’s take a quick peak beneath her dress (she won’t mind). She doesn’t have real panties, but painted-on blue ones. It would have been more in keeping with the detail of her dress for her to have real bloomers. Oh well. Anyway, there’s her large “belly button”–no need to worry about finding it! And you can see the speaker area on her chest (a little weird, but I’m not used to these things).

Disney it's a small world dutch doll beneath dress

I’m not shy!

Her battery compartment is in her back:

Disney it's a small world dutch doll beneath dress back

I didn’t take a picture of it, but she has a tiny on/off switch on her side. It’s a good idea to turn her “off” while she’s being dressed or played with, as it’s almost impossible to avoid touching her belly!

And there you have her! This is a charming and surprisingly detailed little doll, and at a retail price of $29.95 she has a fair amount of play value. It’s hard to say how much she would appeal to a child; it seems to me she’s more aimed at the collector market. I wish she had real undies and a more natural color of blond hair, and maybe less eye paint. But overall I am impressed with the level of detail on her outfit, and very pleased with her rosy cheeks, simple smile and lovely arms, hands, legs and feet. (In fact, her arms and legs are almost too pretty–I have the feeling she might be a Disney princess when she grows up!). The best aspect of this doll, of course, is her singing. The way she lisps “It’s a small wuld after ahl” slightly flat is guaranteed to make you smile. And the Dutch is even cuter! To me she has the cutest voice of the eight dolls in her collection, but I’d give second place to the Hawaiian girl (you can hear their voices at Disneystore.com). I wish I had a transcript of the adorable Dutch she’s singing! It really should be printed somewhere on her box.

These dolls are currently on sale in stores and online for $20.00, a savings of $9.95. I hope this doesn’t mean they’re disappearing from the Disney line, because there really is something special about them, in an odd kind of way. I’d like to collect at least the Hawaiian girl before they disappear.

And now here are a few last shots of our little singing Dutch girl (who has yet to choose a name) to say goodbye. I hope she’s made you smile!

Disney it's a small world dutch doll sitting

I really am impressed by her pretty sleeves!

I really am impressed by her pretty sleeves!

Such pretty arms and hands!

Such pretty arms and hands!

I hope I've made you smile!

I hope I’ve made you smile!

Photographs were taken at the Dunsmuir Botanical Gardens in the Dunsmuir City Park in Northern California.

Bunnies from Maxine!

Dear readers, look what I got in the mail yesterday!

package from UK

It was from Maxine, the wonderful proprietress of the My Doll Best Friend online doll shop in the United Kingdom. I bought several dolls from her last month, including my first Gotz Happy Kidz dolls. Just a day or so after my final purchase was made, Maxine put a special Easter offer up on her website: a free doll-sized plush bunny with each purchase until the 23rd of April. I was so disappointed that I had just missed the offer! I adore rabbits (I’ve kept rescued rabbits for years), and collect plush ones, and my dolls love bunnies too! My husband sent Maxine an email asking if it was too late to add a bunny to our last order. We got a very kind reply from Maxine that indicated the order was already shipped, but that she was sending a bunny separately in the mail! From the wording of it we weren’t quite sure, and the very idea of her paying for overseas postage just to send a free gift was so very kind that we didn’t like to presume, so we just waited hopefully. Yesterday a squishy pink package arrived! So here’s a huge and heartfelt THANK YOU to Maxine from me and all my dolls, especially my new English girls, and a small tribute to excellent customer service:

Gotz Happy Kidz dolls, FAO Claudia doll, Las Reinas Lidia doll

From left to right, that’s Beatrix (Gotz Happy Kidz Sophie 2012), Lucie (Gotz Happy Kidz Emily 2013) and Abigail (Gotz Happy Kidz Katie 2013), with Rosalind (FAO Claudia) and Emily (Paola Reina Las Reinas Lidia) looking on.

My girls were very excited, and waited impatiently as I made them hold still so I could snap a picture.

Gotz Happy Kidz dolls, FAO Claudia doll, Las Reinas Lidia doll

What’s inside?

Gotz Happy Kidz dolls, FAO Claudia doll, Las Reinas Lidia doll

It’s a white bunny!

They were all so thrilled, but especially Beatrix, who loves animals (she’s named after Beatrix Potter, after all!).

Gotz Happy Kidz dolls, FAO Claudia doll, Las Reinas Lidia doll

Ohhhhhh….. it’s so cute!

But wait: that’s not all! There’s something else inside!

Gotz Happy Kidz dolls, FAO Claudia doll, Las Reinas Lidia doll

There’s a second one!

This bunny was my favorite color: light fawn, or oatmeal colored. Beatrix just loved this one!

Gotz Happy Kidz dolls, FAO Claudia doll, Las Reinas Lidia doll

It’s love at first sight.

And wait… is that a third peeking out?

Gotz Happy Kidz dolls, FAO Claudia doll, Las Reinas Lidia doll

Three bunnies!

Yes! THREE free bunnies all the way from England! Thank you Maxine!

Folks, this is what excellent customer service is all about. It is this kind of sweet, generous gesture that seals customer loyalty. It may be possible to find lower prices elsewhere, but I am happy to pay a little more for my dolls when I know they are coming from a wonderful shop. Shopping is so much more than just trying to find a “deal.” It’s about buying from the heart.

Gotz Happy Kidz Sophie 2012 doll

Thank you Maxine!

A huge thank you to Maxine at My Doll Best Friend from California! We’ll be back!

Emily and the hyacinths: Introducing Las Reinas Lidia

Paola Reina Las Reinas Lidia

Emily (Paola Reina Las Reinas Lidia) as she arrived, after being straightened and re-attached to her box.

I first discovered the 60 cm (23.6 in) “Las Reinas” Paola Reina dolls through a review by The Toybox Philosopher (see link on right sidebar) of the Marta doll in March. It was her description of Marta as an “epic doll,” in addition to some gorgeous photographs of Alma, Mei, and Lidia posted on My Doll Best Friend’s Facebook page that sold me on the line. It was difficult, however, to choose my Las Reinas doll. Lidia’s rose-colored arrival outfit including a delicate open-front sweater (I love doll sweaters!) and wholesome beauty finally settled the question. Lidia has sparkly brown eyes (the same as Marta’s) and rich chestnut hair, and I love her coloring. I may have to buy a sister for her sometime, though, and will definitely consider Mei and Sandra as second choices! I purchased Lidia from My Doll Best Friend in the UK, as the Paola Reina America website wasn’t yet operational. My Doll Best Friend is happy to ship overseas, and although the shipping was expensive for such a large item, it was worth it. Lidia arrived within a week! Unfortunately, a rough transit caused her to somehow pop out of the elastic ties securing her to her packaging, and she arrived crumpled at the bottom of her box. Thank goodness she was undamaged except for a rub-mark on her lovely mouth, probably sustained by vibrating against the front window of her box. Thankfully the texture and shine of her lips hide the flaw, and it really doesn’t show up in photographs. I wasn’t about to send her all the way back across the ocean for something like that!

Since The Toybox Philosopher has done such a thorough review of this brand of doll, I will just add my impressions here, and introduce you to Emily, as I renamed Lidia. This is the first time I’ve ever had a doll of this size in my collection, and it took me a day or two to get used to her height, and especially the size of her head and face. The size of her head is appropriate for her height, but after having American Girl dolls for years it seemed huge, especially with all that voluptuous hair! I also noticed that she had a slightly upward gaze–she simply cannot look down without falling over. Once I got used to this, I began to find it rather appealing, as it makes her seem hopeful and eager to help. Another thing I noticed is that her lovely hair, originally styled in layered waves, immediately lost some of its curl in our dry climate. I’ve had other curly-haired dolls who have not had this problem, but this is my first experience with nylon hair. I’m guessing Emily’s hair relaxation has something to do with the way nylon fiber retains its curl. It still has plenty of body and a soft shape, so I’m satisfied with it.

My favorite things about this magnificent doll are her presence, her beauty, and her fragrance. Her size makes her feel even more like a real companion than my other dolls, and her intelligent, sweet, loving, hopeful expression is both consoling and endearing. Her coloring is exquisite. The vinyl is a lovely rosy shade, less yellow than that of American Girl dolls. Her hair is wonderfully lustrous and thick, though it has taken me a while to get used to the texture of the nylon. Each strand seems to have a microscopically crimped texture, making her hair less shiny that that of my American Girl dolls. I can’t run my hands through her hair like I can that of my other dolls, and it seems to resist the wire brush somewhat as well. I’ve had success brushing it section by section with a large wire brush, but it takes patience, and I can imagine this might prove somewhat difficult for a child. It is securely rooted, and I’ve noticed very little hair loss. The color is just gorgeous: it truly glows in the sun, and seems very lifelike.

As far as I’m concerned, Emily’s vanilla fragrance is one of the best things about her. I was surprised by how powerful it was at first! Having this doll in the room is like having a softly-scented candle burning. It actually smells like a batch of sugar cookies is baking in the oven. I think giving a doll a scent like this is a stroke of brilliance on the part of Paola Reina. This is a doll that satisfies all the senses: not only is she beautiful to look at and pleasant to hold and touch, but she even smells wonderful. It is as if all your senses are telling you that this doll is truly wholesome. If her vanilla perfume makes me want to hug and kiss her, what would it be like for a child? I don’t know yet whether her fragrance will fade over time, but I’ve had her about a month now, and I still notice the scent whenever I have her near me in a room.

Ali holding Las Reinas Lidia doll

Emily satisfies all the senses!

I love Emily’s height, size, coloring, poseability, and the quality of her arrival outfit. My only issues with this doll are that she didn’t arrive in undies (and she’s wearing a skirt!), that her chain necklace does not have a clasp and therefore cannot be removed without being cut or broken, and that her vinyl is a bit harder and lighter-feeling than that of my other dolls. Since I associate hard vinyl with cheaper-quality products, this weighs a little against the detail of her face and outfit and reminds me that she is, indeed, intended to be a child’s toy and not a collectible. So far I’m quite happy with her articulation. I especially adore her beautiful hands and how her wrist joints allow them to turn. Her head joint seems just a tad loose to me, as does her left wrist, but these are small issues. Her knee joints do seem prone to buckling when she’s standing with her full weight on them, and I’ve found it a bit difficult to stand her up in a natural position. However, I’m glad she has knee joints, and ankle joints too! It just takes a bit of practice to get used to posing such a large doll.

I also wish that Paola Reina had a larger selection of outfits for this range of dolls! So far there are only a few outfits that I’m aware of, and they’re rather pricey and so far only available in Europe (I haven’t yet seen them listed on the Paola Reina America website). Since this doll is much larger than all my other dolls, I either have to wait for Paola Reina to make a full wardrobe, or learn to make clothes for her myself. Skirts should be easy, but I’m not an experienced dressmaker. Maybe if these dolls gain in popularity we’ll begin to see handmade outfits for them popping up on Etsy. I hope so! This is a girl who deserves clothes as lovely as she is.

And now, I’d like to introduce you to Emily by way of a little photo story:

As the review on The Toybox Philosopher pointed out, the Las Reinas dolls have a way of asserting themselves. Emily is a very loving and gentle person, who is eager to comfort and to help others–but, as I soon learned, she can also be a little obstinate at times! Emily loves flowers, and soon after she arrived, I took her out into the garden. Right away she was struck by the tall grasses left from last season, that I haven’t yet pulled out of my spring garden.

Paola Reina Las Reinas Lidia doll

She saw there was plenty of work to be done, but she also noticed the artistry of the dry stalks:

Paola Reina Las Reinas Lidia doll

I showed Emily the bird garden near where we feed the wild birds, and she loved seeing the little green leaves of the echinaceas poking up out of the mulch.

Paola Reina Las Reinas Lidia doll

Then she saw the barrel of cranesbill, tulips and grape hyacinths.

Paola Reina Las Reinas Lidia doll

She was very excited and asked to be helped up to smell the hyacinths.

Paola Reina Las Reinas Lidia doll

I told her that the metal chairs, dirty from a winter outdoors, would possibly get her pretty pink tights and shoes dirty, but she insisted.

Paola Reina Las Reinas Lidia doll

Well, what can one do? I helped her kneel on the chair so she could see the flowers better. However, she wasn’t satisfied until she could actually smell one of the hyacinth blossoms.

Paola Reina Las Reinas Lidia doll

Dolls can be so demanding sometimes! Sure enough, her tights and shoes were smudged by the dirty chair.

Dirty knees Paola Reina Las Reinas Lidia doll

Luckily, it was easy enough to remove her tights and dab away the smudges with a solution of laundry detergent and warm water. I used non-acetone nail polish remover to get the smudge off her shoes. The outdoor chairs have been washed now that I know how insistent she can be! Emily adores the garden, and will want to spend a lot of time out in it. I only wish we had more flowers here for her to enjoy.

Paola Reina Las Reinas Lidia doll