Monthly Archive: September 2015

Tasha Tuesday: Looking at what is around us

Hello again! I’m beginning a new feature on my blog, which will hopefully turn out to be a way of keeping me playful and creative by giving me specific assignments. I’m planning a special doll-related feature linked to each day of the week. I won’t say here what they will all be–for one thing, I want it to be a surprise, and for another, I have so many ideas that they may have to alternate (there are only seven days of the week, after all, and I have more than seven different kinds of dolls). Also, let me state right here, to be kind both to you and myself, that I’m not expecting myself to actually do a blog post every day of every week! This is just an idea to help me post more creatively, more often!

Well then, without further ado, here’s introducing Tasha Tuesdays. Tasha, you may know, is my Maru and Friends Jamie doll, whom I reviewed last spring (click here for the review), and who I’ve named after American children’s book illustrator Tasha Tudor. There’s a special reason behind this association: My first Tasha Tudor book is a very dear book indeed. It’s called Becky’s Birthday, and it’s special because I bought it for a dime from a library sale somewhere in the midwest (I think Ohio) during a cross-country trip I took with my family when I was very little. I didn’t know anything about the author-illustrator then, but it is a beautiful book I’ve loved ever since I picked it out from that sale myself, and evokes many poetic feelings and associations. As an adult, I’ve begun collecting Tasha Tudor’s other books, and when I bought Jamie, she immediately reminded me of Tudor’s illustrations, especially of Becky herself. So it was a simple matter to name her Tasha. Tasha loves reading, everything old-fashioned, simple, hand-made and artistic, especially drawing, just like her namesake. She’s quiet, very thoughtful, and rather shy, but extremely photogenic. Here’s a portrait I took of Tasha last year in our little rose garden:

Tasha

Tasha

I can’t tell you how amazing these Maru and Friends dolls are. To me, it’s because they feel like heirlooms. They have a silky, delicate, porcelain quality, and their height, size, childlike proportions, and especially their faces, expressions, and wigs are absolutely exquisite. Best of all, despite their beauty, they’re actually very sturdy and made for play. I have two Maru and Friends dolls so far, Jamie and Savannah (I’ve named them Tasha and Merida) and I’ve got my eye on Maru herself, especially, as well as gorgeous Tanya.

Anyway, I think it’s Tasha’s heirloom feeling that makes me think of Tasha Tudor’s artwork so much. Tasha feels to me like the very incarnation of Anabelle, from A is for Annabelle. (By the way, if you haven’t read A is for Annabelle, you should! What can possibly be more beautiful than a children’s book about a doll?).

A is for Annabelle pg 1

Here are the first two pages scanned directly from the book.

A is for Annabelle pg 2

Today, Tasha, who loves being very quiet and still and noticing everything around her, wants to show you the bright yellow rabbitbrush that is blooming in our yard, all around our neighborhood, and across the hills and valley where we live.

Maru and Friends Jamie doll with rabbitbrush 1

The yellow rabbitbrush blossoms are an emblem of the end of summer and beginning of autumn for us. They bloom every September, turning the silvery, round rabbitbush shrubs into cascades of honey-scented and bee-attracting bouquets.

Honey bee on rabbit brush blossoms

The color, the fragrance, the texture… Tasha is attracted to them just like a honey bee.

Maru and Friends Jamie doll with rabbitbrush 2

While I was photographing her this morning, Tasha encouraged me to look closely at the flowers.

Maru and Friends Jamie doll with rabbitbrush 3

She said we’re often so busy that even though we see lovely things, we don’t slow down enough to really see them. Sure enough, I realized I’ve never actually studied the rabbitbrush blossoms up close. They surprised me with their strange and intricate structure, which is crisp and distinctive, and quite different than the feathery impression they give from afar.

Rabbit brush blossoms

Unlike many people, Tasha is not afraid of bees. She loved watching their industrious and besotted absorption with the blossoms.

Honey bee on rabbit brush blossoms 2

Bees are incredibly important in nature and agriculture, and are often misunderstood. We should rejoice, not shriek, when we see a bee! Tasha told me that as long as you are quiet and respectful, a honey bee will never hurt you. We felt perfectly safe crouched quite near the humming bush, watching the bees gather nectar for the last wildflower honey of the year.

Maru and Friends Jamie doll with rabbitbrush 4

I never intended to be a busy person, so preoccupied with the business of the day that I would rush by what is beautiful! Quite the contrary! But somehow, life has a way of taking over, if we don’t set priorities. Tasha’s gentle lessons are a good reminder for me to take time out for what is most important: creativity, beauty, art, poetry.

Maru and Friends Jamie doll with rabbitbrush 5

The sources of creativity, art, and poetry, are all around us all the time, especially in nature. Tasha knows this–but being a doll, she’s never forgotten.

Maru and Friends Jamie doll with rabbitbrush 6

Tuesdays can get lost in bustle, I know! Tasha and I hope you’ll take a few minutes today to nurture your creative spirit.

Maru and Friends Jamie doll with book

Tasha Tudor would have encouraged you as well. 🙂

Maru and Friends Jamie doll with Tudor book

Happy Tasha Tuesday from A Doll’s Picnic!

The Night Picnic

Dolls around campfire 2

Who are those figures gathered around a campfire?

One mild September evening, moonlight shines on the quiet waters of a hidden lake. Out of the darkness cloaking hundreds of miles of woods and craggy hills, a speck of light gleams unevenly. As we move a little nearer, we see it is a campfire, built on the rocky shore of the moonlit lake. The flames flicker and leap, throwing eerie shadows across the trees and water. It almost looks as though figures are stirring in the half-light around the fire. Let’s slip a little closer and see….

The water laps gently in the moonlight and the flames crackle...

The water laps gently in the moonlight and the flames crackle…

Yes, now that we’re nearer, we realize we recognize these figures. Why, they’re some of our friends from A Doll’s Picnic! But what are they doing here on a balmy mountain night, instead of snuggling up in bed at home? It looks… yes, it looks as if they’re roasting marshmallows! A perfectly natural thing to do around a campfire, after all. Hmmm… we don’t see a tent; they can’t be camping. Ohhh, of course. It’s a picnic. A night picnic. Picnics don’t always have to be in the day time! Maybe if we settle down here behind this big rock we can watch them without being seen and hear what they’re saying….

“I just heard a fish jump,” announces Jade, glancing toward the water. She’s deftly roasting a marshmallow with one hand and cradling a cup of cocoa with the other.

Maplelea Jenna doll by campfire

“I heard it too,” agrees Sophie, turning her hot dog. “Do you think the fish can see our camp fire through the water?”

American Girl of Today doll #6 Schildkroet doll blonde

“If they do, maybe they think it’s a star that’s fallen and landed on the shore,” suggests Betsy, her hazel eyes twinkling with fun in the firelight.

American Girl doll #55 with marshmallow

“But maybe they can hear us talking,” says Emma. “Stars don’t talk.”

American Girl doll #27 #55 with marshmallows

“Maybe the fish think they do, though,” says Betsy. “What do fish know about stars, anyway?”

Schildkroet doll blonde

“If stars did talk, I wonder what they’d talk about,” muses Amy, sipping her cocoa and carefully turning her marshmallow. “Do they talk about each other? Like, ‘Hi friend! How are things going in your solar system?’ ‘Not so good, pal, I’m getting sucked into a black hole.'” Everyone laughs.

“Paulina, you hang out with astronomers. What constellations are up right now?” asks Merida from the hammock, where she’s hugging a teddy bear and gazing at the sky.

Dolls in firelight

“Well, it’s a bit hard to see the fainter ones when our eyes are dazzled by firelight, but that’s the Big Dipper,” says, Paulina, pointing.

American Girl Josefina doll

“And if you follow the trajectory of the handle over to there, that’s Arcturus. And there’s the North Star.”

Maru and Friends Savannah doll

“The skies are so clear and so dark at night here,” says Merida. “Even with the moon up you can see the Milky Way. I’m grateful to live someplace with such clear skies.”

The other dolls agree, and take a break from staring into the flames to gaze up into the sky at the brilliant first quarter moon and the glittering stars appearing more thickly as the darkness deepens. After a pause, the fire snaps and hisses and everyone jumps and checks their marshmallows to make sure they’re not scorching.

“Your marshmallow is almost ready, Paulina,” says Emma. She’s been roasting two marshmallows, one for herself and one for a friend.

American Girl doll #27 with marshmallows

Paulina thanks her, and then Emma turns to Sharon and Poinsettia, who are talking about famous Canadian astronomers and scientists. “Are you sure you guys don’t want one? I can make another.”

Maplelea dolls Taryn Alexi in moonlight

“No thanks,” smiles Sharon. “We’re fine with the ginger cakes and brownies and sandwiches and apples and oranges.” Everyone laughs again.

American Girl doll #4 with marshmallow

“Why do you think food tastes so good at night?” asks Patience, getting ready to slide her marshmallow off the stick. “I think I like picnics even better after dark than in the afternoon.”

American Girl doll #4 Maryellen in firelight

“Maybe it’s all the energy it takes to build a fire and fend off the night-time monsters,” laughs Millie, sipping her soda.

American Girl Today doll #6 in firelight

“Or all the energy it takes to stay warm,” agrees Sophie. “Though it’s not cold tonight–it’s perfect. It’s practically warm enough for a swim.” Her dark eyes sparkle with daring.

Schildkroet doll blonde with marshmallow

“Oooh, not me,” shivers Paulina. “I’d be certain a lake monster was going to come up and swallow me.”

Schildkroet doll blone with mug

“Me too,”adds Amy, giving her marshmallow one last turn. “I’m glad Ali won’t let us get wet.”

Dolls in firelight

“Speaking of monsters,” suggests Jade mischievously, “does anyone know a good story?”

“One dark night, by a little lake, far from civilization, a group of friends sat roasting marshmallows around a campfire…” begins Betsy, in a mysterious whisper.

The dolls giggle and huddle closer to the fire, listening to the lake water slapping against the rocks in the dark.

Doll camp fire

Happy Autumnal Equinox, from A Doll’s Picnic!

Zelfie Thoughts: Summer’s Ending… Let’s Go Outside!

Luna Zelfie says take in a view!

Luna Zelfie says: make a discovery–take in a view!

Don’t you love the word September ? I do… and the month that bears the name, too. September has so many poetic associations: cooler nights, chilly school mornings, the end of summer, new beginnings, new adventures, the first turning leaves, the first rains of autumn, the first powder-sugar snows on the mountain peaks. The sunshine is still warm and strong, but the angle of the sun is rapidly changing now, and the days are suddenly growing shorter.

You may have noticed that A Doll’s Picnic took a bit of a sabbatical this summer. A summer full of change has given me an opportunity to rethink my collecting, among other things. It’s always been important to me to love each doll in my collection equally; I can’t bear to just have them sitting on my shelves gathering dust when they’re meant to be played with and loved. From the very beginning of my enthusiasm for dolls I’ve released those I don’t feel as excited about or bonded with–originally giving them away to family members, and more recently, selling them on eBay. These last few months I’ve reduced my collection quite a bit. I’ve been collecting, too, however… I just can’t help it! I’ve been moving back toward my first love, American Girl dolls, just in time for Maryellen’s debut. I’m bonding more with the dolls in my collection more than I have in several years, and I look forward to sharing them here as I have always planned to do–through reviews, doll brand comparisons, and photo stories. So please be patient with me and stay tuned! More doll magic is on the way!

More than anything else, though, the end of summer is a reminder to me to appreciate the place we live, droughty though it is at present. The clean, pure air (once again free from wildfire smoke!), our quiet, peaceful neighborhood, the change of seasons… these are all things to be deeply grateful for. Somehow it is too easy to get caught up in the obligations of daily life and forget that we have so many natural wonders at our fingertips, so to speak. This Labor Day weekend is a refreshing opportunity to get back outside and reacquaint ourselves with our first love, nature.

Flitter Zelfie counsels: find some waterfall spray and some soft moss and let your imagination take flight!

Flitter Zelfie counsels: find some waterfall spray and soft moss and let your imagination take flight!

Three of my favorite Zelfies accompanied us on a short trip to Lassen Volcanic National Park in August for the annual Dark Sky Festival. Lassen Park is one of the secrets of Northern California, and one of my favorite places on earth. We camped; we hiked; we gazed at waterfalls; we built campfires; we looked at the fabulously dark sky.

Elfa Zelfie advises: find yourself a clear stream rambling through a meadow and

Elfa Zelfie advises: find yourself a clear stream rambling through a meadow and take off your shoes and socks!

Thank you, Never Grow Up, for introducing me to the Zelfs! I love these bright, quirky, whimsical little friends. They remind me of childhood, My Little Ponies, colorful pens and pencils, and the realm of the imagination. They are also the perfect size to slip into a purse or bag, and are refreshingly inexpensive to collect! Best of all, they love to pose for photos!

Elfa Zelfie teases: go climb a tree--get a new perspective!

Elfa Zelfie teases: go climb a tree–get a new perspective!

Wishing you fresh air, pure skies, pine-tree-hugs, Zelfie grins, and campfire dreams. Happy beginning-of-September from A Doll’s Picnic!