Tag Archive: American Girl

Brown is Beautiful: American Girl Doll of the Year 2017 Gabriela McBride

Meet Gabby!

Hello there, Friends! A Doll’s Picnic is back! Today I’d like to share my thoughts about a very beautiful doll of color: American Girl of the Year 2017 Gabriela McBride! There are many wonderful reviews of Gabby already available, including some great Youtube reviews. So instead of a real, in-depth review, I just want to share some pictures and my opinion of this beautiful doll.

Gabby.

First, I want to apologize for the quality of the photos. I took them on a very stormy day when my camera wasn’t cooperating with me, so they’re not as clear and well-lit as I’d like. It’s a little frustrating because Gabriela has such a stunning face and lovely coloring. Hopefully I can get some better outdoor photos in the days ahead and share those with you sometime soon.

Now for the background: It took me a little longer than usual to bring this doll home because lately I’ve been feeling very annoyed with American Girl. The news that modern AG dolls are now being manufactured with permanent, sewn-on undies that are part of the doll body, as well as a gradual overall decrease in the quality of AG dolls at the same time that their prices have steadily been rising, has really disappointed me. Besides this, I am not happy about the way AG handled Gabriela’s collection and debut. Unfortunately these issues have affected my enthusiasm for one of my favorite lines, the American Girl of the Year.

However, I knew I wouldn’t be happy with myself unless I bought the Gabriela doll. As little as I want to support AG right now for their marketing decisions and product changes, I do want to show my support for them at last producing an African American Girl of the Year character. And all my issues with the company aside, I’m glad I bought Gabriela, because she is truly a stunning doll. My photographs simply do not do her justice. It’s not that she’s not photogenic, because she is–she’s just so much more beautiful in real life. Frankly I don’t think most of the stock images of Gabriela in the catalog or online do her justice–but then that’s not anything new.

So beautiful.

The Gabriela doll is a redressed re-release of the American Girl Truly Me #46 doll, who was retired specifically for this purpose last year. I’ve never had #46 before; the curly hair scared me and the Sonali face mold is not my favorite. So I knew Gabriela was going to be new to me, even if she was a major disappointment for many collectors. However, it upsets me that American Girl took the short-cut of pulling one of their modern dolls out of the line-up and redressing her to sell as a Girl of the Year character. Previously every single Girl of the Year has been carefully designed to be unique from her predecessors in some way. The #46 doll is no longer available in the Truly Me line, but Gabriela is identical to the #46s already existing (any slight differences of coloring, hair length, etc., are simply production batch differences). This gave her debut a half-hearted feeling, which comes across as incredibly disrespectful for the first-ever African American Girl of the Year character. When combined with her unorginal collection which merely recycles ideas already used in Marisol’s (2005), Saige’s (2013), and Isabelle’s (2014) stories and collections, it seems clear that AG simply did not care to put a lot of time, money, and effort into the development of this doll.

Furthermore, it seems apparent from the unoriginality of the doll and the skimpiness of her collection, as well as the debut of Tenney Grant only two months later, that Gabriela was not originally intended to be Girl of the Year 2017. It could just be a glaringly obvious marketing strategy that Tenney Grant was given the original story and features and all the big ticket accessories and fancy outfits. Did AG simply not want to put all their eggs in one basket with Gabriela? Or was Tenney originally designed to be the Girl of the Year 2017, and only demoted to “Contemporary Character” status when the customer outcry over the lack of diversity–and specifically the glaring lack of an African American character–became too loud for AG to ignore any longer? Either way, American Girl needs to know that their fan base has noticed. It doesn’t look good.

However, American Girl has finally managed to create an African American Girl of the Year character. Whatever the disappointments and shortcomings involved, I am able to separate the doll from these issues and appreciate her for what she is: a beautiful and enjoyable doll. Gabby’s character is a poet in addition to a dancer and artist, which is a new idea. I love poetry and the arts, so there’s no reason for me to not like her collection. I also have most of Isabelle’s outfits, so I was hoping Gabby might commandeer those in addition to her own (I have ordered one of Gabby’s outfits, which was on back order and has just shipped). There are currently only four outfits in Gabby’s collection, including the one she arrives in, so I do hope they release a few more outfits for her before year’s end. Right now I just have the doll and her Showtime Kit accessory set. I would normally have purchased the regular accessories, but I think Gabby’s accessories are pathetic and over-priced, so I skipped them.

I actually have had two Gabby dolls. The first was ordered online along with another doll. When the order arrived, though, there were two problems. First, Gabby’s lips were painted so crookedly that they were about a quarter of an inch askew. Secondly, I ordered Gabby with pierced ears but the other doll in the order arrived with pierced ears instead. That’s the first time I’ve had two problems like this in one order. Fortunately, we had to make a trip down to the Bay Area anyway, so we were able to go to the San Francisco store and exchange both dolls. That meant I was able to choose my Gabby doll in person! Yay! I looked at every single Gabriela doll in the store (there were probably thirty boxes or so out on display). I found several I liked, but I was a bit disappointed because none of them evoked a special response. The very last doll was tucked in an awkward corner under a display case facing the store windows. I picked her up, looked at her face, and spontaneously cried, “Ooooooh!” I knew she was the one. And here she is:

Gabby, fresh and shiny.

My Gabby has a breath-taking face. I think it’s a combination of her head-tilt and her sweet, peaceful, earnest, kind expression. I wish I could capture it better on film.

Her head was turned slightly to the left originally, which exaggerated her head tilt and sweet expression, but the store employee straightened it in order to pierce her ears.

You can see that my Gabby’s teeth are painted a bit crookedly, but this doesn’t bother me. I wish I had a picture of the first Gabby’s lips–they were painted about a quarter of an inch off her mouth to the right side.

I just love her expression and coloring, which was accentuated by her arrival outfit and the beautiful interior of her box. The Sonali-mold has large, deep eyes which make her seem extra thoughtful and sincere. Her coloring is rich and rosy. She has a serene quality about her.

Hair in the net.

Here’s a picture of her out of the box with her hair net still on. In the sunlight you can appreciate her rich, chocolate brown, and yet golden coloring. You might think that a doll with deep brown skin, dark brown eyes, and dark brown hair is a bit monotonous, but Gabby isn’t at all. Her hair has a golden glow (which my camera doesn’t capture very well) and her skin tone has almost a rosy hue.

Hair loose.

Here she is with her hair loose for the first time. A note about the hair: Gabby’s wig is exactly the same as that of Truly Me/ My AG / Just Like You #26 and #44. It is exactly the same as my brand-new #26 doll that I picked out at the same time: same length, same color, same curl style. Her hair is reasonably thick and short hairs cover the wig cap well.

From the back.

This wig style has evolved over the years and the curls are now much looser than the tight, perfect corkscrews it used to feature. It’s a bit longer and the curls droop lower on the dolls’ shoulders, and to me they look more natural. Honestly, I like this new wig much better than the original. For some reason I am less afraid to mess it up.

Pig-tails.

Many parents and collectors shy away from dolls with curly hair because they think it has lower play value: that it will be difficult to keep the hair looking nice or that it can be messed up more easily than some other hair styles. It is true that it is impossible to play with this kind of wig and keep it in pristine condition. As I have (gently!) changed Gabby’s outfits her hair has inevitably loosened up and frizzy fly-aways have appeared. But it is totally untrue that you can’t play with this type of hair. It can be put in all kinds of styles, including braids, and all it takes is some water or braid spray and finger curling to neaten it up again after play. It can even be brushed (gasp!), though you won’t want to unless you deliberately want to restyle the entire wig. What many parents and collectors don’t realize is that the hair on this wig wants to return to its original curl formation. I know because I once had a #26 doll whose hair was like-new but extremely dry. I brushed the entire wig out into a fluffy mass. It wasn’t a matted mess, like people will claim; it was actually soft and pretty. Then I used braid spray and my fingers to reform the curls. I was surprised to find the strands of hair jumping back into their original position. There are Youtube videos that will show you how to recurl hair of this kind. It isn’t difficult, but it can be time consuming–and to reiterate, the hair when played with will never look exactly as it did when the doll was new. It is a mistake to let this wig keep you from buying or playing with your doll! Play dolls aren’t meant to be perfect.

So lovely.

I love Gabby’s arrival outfit–except the shoes.

Goofy shoes.

Um… do kids actually wear shoes like this?? Are they supposed to be dance shoes? I would have preferred a pair of Converse-style sneakers or even ballet flats.

But her outfit is gorgeous. I love the layers, I love the cool, jewel-like colors (they’re some of my favorites!), I love the “dream” logo, I love the stretchy fabrics.

Pretty shirts.

I love that either shirt can be used alone. The layers also give her outfit a little more value. According to AG the tee on top is a “sweatshirt,” but it is not made out of traditional sweatshirt material. It’s a nice sturdy fabric, though.

Under tank.

Oddly, the tank underneath doesn’t close with velcro–it has to be pulled off over the doll’s head. Which is fine, except that repeated changes can stretch out the shirt and will definitely mess up Gabby’s curls. I would have preferred the usual closure. It’s so pretty, though.

What a pretty girl.

Gabby looks fabulous in both the rich plum of the upper tee and the serene aquamarine of the tank top.

I do wish they had given her a decent hair accessory, though. The stretchy pink double-ribbon hair band she comes with doesn’t match her gorgeous outfit and is cheap. Come on, AG–this is the Girl of the Year! In some of the pictures here I’ve used the braided silver hairband that comes in her Showtime Kit accessory set to hold her hair back, and this is the kind of thing she should have come with. (And a bracelet! Tenney gets a bracelet–why not Gabby? Argh).

She should have come with this.

Anyway, to the earrings.

Musical notes–for a poet??

Here are the special earrings that Gabriela (and Tenney) get, if you want to have their ears pierced. But the musical theme of the earring set, which is the same set for both dolls, makes it clear it was intended originally for Tenney, not Gabby. I so wish they had seen fit to give Gabby her own special earring set–maybe with a little silver pen for a poet? Or paintbrush for an artist??

Songbirds–for a poet??

The final pair of earrings are small, pale aqua roses, which are beautiful, but also one of Tenney’s motifs. I couldn’t get my camera to take a good picture of them.

Gabby’s artistic box.

I haven’t talked about Gabby’s box yet. It is a new box style and initially I was not happy about this change. The traditional lift-top box has become to me almost a part of the AG doll–it has always been an important part of the doll-buying experience, anyway. It feels precious, it stores well, it’s easy to return the doll to, it’s nostalgic, and there aren’t many dolls on the market with that style of box. That being said, when I saw the new boxes in person I was surprised to find that I disliked them a lot less that I expected. The main thing I noticed is that the new boxes still present the dolls in a beautiful way. The only thing I really don’t like about them is the glaring product warning printed right on the front. Why couldn’t that have been printed on the side? Otherwise the boxes are sturdy, attractive, and well-designed. The dolls are held in securely and I like how the boxes are specially decorated for each character. It doesn’t take significantly more time to take a doll out of the new box style, although the wrist straps seem totally superfluous.

Artsy for an artist!

Anyway, I love the colors on the inside of Gabby’s box. They echo Gabby’s arrival outfit, and I especially love the mosaic motif. I think the interior of Gabby’s box is far more attractive than Tenney’s.

Gabby is such a beautiful, pleasing doll that I was hoping she would prove versatile as far as what kind of clothes she looked good in. I was particularly hoping that she would claim the Isabelle mix-and-match pieces I love, but which my other dolls don’t seem to like. I spread out a bunch of artsy separates on the floor.

Artsy doll clothes.

These are all modern–I wasn’t ready to try any historical styles yet.

More clothes.

Gabby quickly put together a string of outfits, which I’m happy to share with you:

Spiffy Gabby.

I found that she looks best in rich colors.

Sporty Gabby.

She seemed comfortable in a range of looks.

Snuggly Gabby.

Here are the Isabelle ensembles she created:

Creative Gabby.

I can’t get anyone else to wear those funky pants!

Peachy Gabby.

She especially glows in peaches, purples, and lavenders.

Dancy Gabby.

She looks best in more saturated colors, though–some of her choices seemed a bit too pale.

Lilac Gabby.

I found she never really strayed too far from the palette she arrived in.

Mix-and-match Gabby.

Gabby dressed up as Isabelle:

Dance-star Gabby!

But she prefers to be herself, rather than imitating someone else.

Sparkly Gabby.

Finally she settled on a casual pairing of an AGSF store tee and her own stretchy jeggings:

Cute Gabby.

A note about Gabby’s body fabric: Some collectors are up in arms over the change in AG’s body fabric. My Gabby does have the new fabric, which is slightly thinner and more shiny than the previous fabric. However, I want to point out that AG’s body fabric has changed several times over the years, and some of those changes weren’t for the better. From the white muslin of the original dolls, AG went to tan, and then to a horrid orangey-beige sometime during the mid-90’s. In the mid-2000’s they went with a fairly stretchy fabric, and then it changed back to a nice, sturdy muslin again. This latest change doesn’t seem particularly significant to me. I’m much more concerned about the squishy vinyl that’s been showing up in some of the dolls (my Gabby is normal). The perma-panties looming on the horizon, though–that’s a whole different thing.

I’ll leave you with a few more pictures just in case you were still on the fence about Gabriela.

There is a special, intangible quality about her beauty.

She’s not just another pretty AG doll. She has soul.

Thanks for reading! Happy Spring from A Doll’s Picnic!

Favorite Pictures, Part 1

Hello Readers!

A Doll’s Picnic is back! It has been a long time since my last post, I know. Last fall I decided to return to school as an online student in order to finish my undergraduate degree, and I was accepted by Antioch University. I’m happy with my decision and the program so far. It seems to be the perfect way for me to return to school; I love my freedom and I’ve always struggled to accept the restrictions inherent in pursuing a traditional college education. As an online student I can set my own schedule and work at home, while still being able to pursue my skating and other important activities. However, the class load turned out to be much more intense than I expected! The full-time load was so time consuming, in fact (more than 40 hours a week!), that during my second term I had to drop a class and accept that a part-time course load works much more harmoniously with my life. In any case, that’s why my blog has been completely neglected for the last several months. I’m hoping to be a bit more active here now that I’ve become accustomed to the pace of being a part-time online student. This week I’m on break between terms, so we’ll see what I can do.

A few days ago I found myself going through my folders of hundreds of doll pictures here on my computer in order to revisit my favorite photographs. They were so fun to look at that I’ve decided to share my very favorites here. Because I have quite a few favorite pictures of my dolls, I’m going to share them in parts. This first group is composed of single portraits. Next, I hope to share some of the first photos I took of my first dolls (on real film!). Finally, I hope to share some of my favorite photographs of my dolls in groups. Of course, half the fun of having a doll blog in the first place is in sharing photographs of my dolls, and some of my favorites have already been posted here, so I’ll skip those. What follows is just a collage of photographs in no particular order.

I’m not sharing these because these are fabulous photos–I’m by no means an experienced photographer. These are just pictures that I simply love and make me happy. Sometimes I remember a photo because I captured something quintessential about how I felt about a particular doll; sometimes the picture really captured something of the individuality of the doll; sometimes I like the composition or the lighting; and sometimes they just make me happy without me knowing why. I hope they bring you joy as well–and most of all, I hope my pictures encourage you to go out and take pictures of your own dolls! What’s the point of having dolls if we don’t play with them? Taking pictures is one of the primary ways adult collectors play. 🙂

In the ten years that I have been collecting dolls, many dolls have passed through my home. Most of them have stayed with me for a while, been loved and enjoyed, and then have gone on to find homes with family members, charity recipients, or other collectors. For whatever reason, I don’t tend to hold onto most of my dolls for more than a few years, so many of the dolls in these pictures are now just loving memories. That’s part of the joy of revisiting these old pictures. They are reminders of special friends I spent time with, and I think I love them all the more for being so willing and able to let them go.

Pepper Robert, aka Maggie Amanda, aka Emma Jo

Emma Jo… aka Maggie Amanda… aka Pepper Roberta, aka “Kit.”

This is Emma Jo with Muir the Bear (I love dolls with bears!). Emma has had several name changes in the years she’s been in my/our collection. She was purchased in 2009 as an  anniversary gift, and I gave her the name Pepper Roberta. After hanging out in my collection for a couple of years she joined my husband’s collection where she was christened Maggie Amanda. Now she has once again joined my collection and I felt it was time for a new name in honor of discovering her all over again. This time I’m christening her Emma Josephine, or Emma Jo for short. Emma has always been a wonderful doll to photograph, and this is one of those very favorite pictures that just makes me happy.

Addy Walker times two. Left: Elinor, right, Abby.

Addy Walker, times two! Left: Elinor, right, Abby.

This picture is special to me for a couple of reasons. First, I think it is a wonderful portrait of two different Addy dolls whom I have loved. Second, it shows how different two individuals of the same type of doll can be. On the right is Abby, my first Addy doll. Abby was just my second American Girl doll as a collector! She joined my collection in 2006 and was originally named  Violet until she joined my sister’s collection later on. Abby was what I would call a mid-Mattel-era Addy doll. Compare her face to Elinor, on the left, and you will see how much the face mold evolved in just a few short years. Elinor was purchased in 2010, when I began missing Abby/Violet. She had a whole different look and expression. The dolls were also different heights, and even had slightly different skin tones. I find these differences fascinating!

Surf's up, Paulina and Kamea!

Surf’s up, Paulina and Kamea!

This picture just makes me giggle! We were hosting a tropical-themed party to welcome Kamea (American Girl of the Year 2011 Kanani). Paulina couldn’t help hamming it up! Though Kamea spent only a couple of years with us before continuing her dolly adventures elsewhere, Paulina is the doll who started my adult collecting. She’s actually my husband’s doll now, and she’s a permanent fixture in our household!

Marjorie Mae

Marjorie Mae

I’ve had several Molly dolls over the years, including this little Mattel sweetie. I just love the lighting in this picture, as well as Marjorie’s outfit and the way I did her hair.

Doll hugs.

Darling Melanie… and doll hugs.

This is a doll I’ve been missing lately: Melanie Roxanne, Just Like You/My American Girl #26. Melanie gave fabulous hugs. I loved her amber eyes and sweet expression, but I found her curls a little off-putting because they made me nervous (I was so afraid to mess them up). What a beautiful doll, though.

Umeko Patience and a daffodill.

Umeko Patience and daffodil.

Every now and then, a doll has come along who was just exactly what I needed at a certain time. I found Patience on eBay, after being inspired by the fabulous blog Lissie and Lilly to find a Just Like You #4 doll. I couldn’t really tell from the pictures what condition the doll was in, but when Patience arrived, it was clear that I had a fixer-upper project on my hands. This project gave me something to do during a very tough time. Patience’s sweetness, sympathy, and cheerfulness helped me through, and she and I are now best friends. By the way, her favorite color is yellow. 🙂

Harriet Eloise!

Harriet Eloise!

This is Harriet, another extra special doll. Harriet (American Girl of the Year 2008 Mia) came into my life just after I learned how to skate as an adult, and even traveled with me to my first competition where we performed together! Although she eventually continued on her way into the world, I have many fond memories of Harriet. This picture just makes me happy.

American Girl Kaya and Julie dolls by the lake

Ursie and Joannie at Lake Siskiyou

I don’t often take dolls with me to the lake as I’m afraid to leave them on the shore while I swim, but I guess on this particular day I was feeling just a bit bolder than usual.

Katrin in the snow

Katrin in the snow

Here, lovely Katrin was exploring one of our rare snowfalls. I just love the sunlight and her warm winter sweater!

Harriet and Hobbes

Harriet and Hobbes

Dolls like cats. Cats like dolls. 🙂

Amy Gratitude Octavine Taylor

Amy Gratitude Octavine Taylor

This is one of my very favorite doll portraits. Amy was so beautiful and confident and strong. She was a retired, MCM sale Just Like You #1 doll I found on eBay in new condition one Thanksgiving Day. She’s no longer in my collection, but this picture gives me fond recollections.

Guess where Melita is standing???

Guess where Melita is standing???

Right outside of American Girl San Francisco, that’s where! Melita (My American Girl #55) traveled down with me for the Beforever debut weekend; here she’s modeling Rebecca’s Beforever Meet outfit.

Taking outdoor pictures with dolls is so much fun!

Taking outdoor pictures with dolls is so much fun!

I loved walking with Melita (and my sister and her Kaya doll!) through the outdoor mall where the American Girl San Francisco store is situated. No one there seems too startled at seeing a grown-up lady with a doll under her arm, because everybody knows the AG store is right around the corner. They have such beautiful summer flowers in Palo Alto.

Melita loved flowers

Melita loved flowers

One last picture of Melita. Melita is an example of a doll that I ended up selling and then missing so much that I recently replaced her! That happens sometimes. 🙂

Melanie and Pooh Bear

Melanie and Pooh Bear

Okay, here is one of my more artsy shots. I just love this picture… and I do miss this doll!

Jane goes raspberry picking

Jane goes raspberry picking

Jane (My American Girl #53) was such a lovely and sweet doll. I didn’t end up keeping her for very long, but I sure had fun taking pictures of her sweet self. This picture makes me want her back again!

Emmie in the window

Emmie in the window

This doll was such a fun eBay find: a truly excellent condition Just Like You #2 doll. She didn’t end up fitting my collection, but she had such a perfect, mid-Mattel-era classic face. She always seemed so up for anything.

Grania--looking gorgeous

Grania: looking gorgeous

This is Rebecca Grania, a fabulously gorgeous doll I don’t think American Girl should have retired: My American Girl #45. I just loved everything about this beauty’s looks.

Patience and more daffodils

Patience and more daffodils

Patience loves the spring, and adventures, and traveling! Here she accompanied me to nearby Ashland, Oregon, to look for all the spring flowers. She looks awesome in Grace’s coat, too!

Ashleigh Carolina

Ashleigh Carolina

This is another doll I missed so much that I had to replace: Ashleigh, aka American Girl of the Year 2014 Isabelle. Everything about the Isabelle doll just looks so classic to me. Ashleigh was a very modern, artsy sort of person, and looked like a model.

Melanie in the morning

Melanie in the morning

One last picture of Melanie looking adorable in the morning light. Man, I miss this doll. Okay, eBay, here I come!

Melita Danielle... and Arthur bunny

Melita Danielle… and Arthur Bunny

And one last picture of lovely Melita with Arthur the Bunny! My American Girl/ Truly Me #55 is such a lovely and unique doll. If you’re on the fence about her… get her!

Katrin and the violets

Katrin and the violets

Katrin and her spaniel are keeping guard over the spring violets. Let’s hope her puppy chases away the deer!

Sylvie-Anne enjoying the fresh powder

Sylvie-Anne enjoying the fresh powder

Sylvie-Anne (American Girl of the Year 2015 Grace) was as excited as I was when we received an inch or two of fresh powder last December! (Clear elastics helped her hold the snowball for the picture).

Pleasant Company dolls are special

Melinda: Pleasant Company dolls are special

Melinda was a Pleasant Company Felicity doll who spent a while in our home. Melinda worked as a model for a doll-clothes store for the first twenty years of her life. I carefully restored her, enjoyed her for a while, and then sent her on her way. She had the loveliest, rosiest complexion I’ve ever seen on a doll, and the quintessential, sweet, old Pleasant Company face.

Dolls and roses go together

Dolls and roses go together

I didn’t keep this My American Girl #27 doll long, but I sure enjoyed taking pictures of her! She was just lovely, and was delighted by my modest little garden.

So photogenic!

So photogenic!

She wanted to look at every flower.

Especially the asters

Especially the asters

She seemed especially bewitched by the purple asters.

Dolls and bugs

Dolls and bugs

Okay, this is going to seem a bit random, but I just love this picture! Harriet skated with me at my first (and so far, my only) competition. We were taking a break outside the rink in the sunshine and we found this cool beetle on her tights. It’s kind of a ladybug, but not.

Beverly and the queen anne's lace

Beverly and the queen anne’s lace

I love this portrait… I have this thing about American Girl Gwen dolls. They are just so sweet and lovely, and I love the swoopy hair.

Molly modeling

Molly modeling

This lovely Molly doll was modeling a dress by The Dollies’ Dressmaker for a blog post last spring. I just love this shot from above.

Lydia--what a beauty

Lydia: what a beauty

All Josefina face mold dolls are gorgeous, and Lydia (American Girl Felicity’s best friend Elizabeth) was no exception. She just came alive out of doors among the spring bulbs.

Regency regal

Regency regal

She also looked fabulous modeling this Etsy Regency ensemble. I don’t tend to bond well with blue-eyed blondes, so Lydia continued on her way, but she was a gorgeous doll and very fun to photograph.

Marie Faith... a quiet beauty

Marie Faith… a quiet beauty

Sometimes I sell a doll and later I think: why did I do that? That’s part of the adventure of collecting, I guess. Marie, My American Girl #34, is one of those dolls. This is a fairly rare doll, as she was only around a few years, and she had a unique color of dark auburn hair. I miss her.

Elinor

Elinor

But then, in a way, I miss all the dolls I’ve had, including lovely Addy (in this case, Elinor).

Sophie--a rare sweetie!

Sophie: a rare sweetie!

Here’s a truly rare sweetie-pie I was delighted to find on eBay: Girl of Today #6. She is one of the original 20 Girls of Today, and was only available for a couple of years before she was replaced by the blonde haired-green eyed girl. Sophie didn’t end up fitting my collection, but I had fun restoring and photographing her.

Beverly in the garden

Beverly in the garden

One last picture of lovely Beverly in the garden. I hope to share more favorite doll photos soon. Until then, enjoy your dolls, play, take pictures, be yourself, and enjoy March!

Much love,

from your friends at A Doll’s Picnic.

Teddy Bear Thursday: Christabel Bear (and Crew)

Teddy-bear with American Girl of Today doll #11 makie zelfs

Hi there, friends!

Hello friends! It’s Teddy Bear Thursday at A Doll’s Picnic!

I figure that by this point in the week, we could all use a hug from a teddy bear. I don’t have a lot of time on Thursdays for writing as it’s a big skating practice day for me, but I also figured I can grab a few moments to take a picture or two of a friendly bear. So here’s a big friendly hug and squidge from Christabel Bear. Christabel is a very special, one of a kind, handmade teddy bear sewn from satin and recycled chocolate-colored sheepskin, and she’s one of my treasures. She’s quiet, calm, peaceful, hopeful, very loving, thoughtful, and consoling–just the kind of person you’d want to spend some time with if you were having a hard day. She loves chocolate cookies and chocolate tea cake and chocolate covered raisins and chocolate brownies and chocolate fudge sundaes… well, you get the idea. 🙂

But who’s this on her lap? Oh my goodness, how did she get there? Well, anyway… yes, this is someone entirely new to A Doll’s Picnic!

Moonlight Makie

I won’t say much about her now, because I’m looking forward to sharing much more about her in the future, but I’ll give you a few clues: her name is Lucy, and pixies love to have their photos taken!

Sitting with Christabel this morning is my newest American Girl doll, a very lovely treasure I recently rescued from eBay: an original 1995 Girl of Today #11 doll. I haven’t named her yet, but I’d like to use the letter “M.” Any ideas? I’m thinking of  “Morgan” or maybe “Marissa”… but I’m definitely open to suggestions. By the way, you may remember my first #11 doll, Elodie Rain, whom I found on eBay last autumn, and who appeared here on the blog a couple of times. She was beautiful and unique, but didn’t end up staying with us long, since I just didn’t bond with her. And now I know why! This lovely, special Pre-Mattel lady was in my doll-collecting future! I adore the original Girls of Today, though I’ve never (yet) had one become a permanent part of my collection. I’m hoping this girl will be a keeper, because she’s truly amazing:

American Girl of Today #11 doll

Her rosy coloring is so fabulous. And her eyelashes! I could go on, but soon I’ve got to run, so let me introduce you our two other little friends.

This is Bella Blossom, a cheery cherry blossom Zelf whose zelfie power is learning!

Bella Blossom Zelf

She’s perfect company for me as I begin my latest adventure: finishing my Bachelor’s degree in literature and creative writing online!

And this is Joy Drop. If she doesn’t make you smile… I’m afraid there’s not much I can do for you.

Joy Drop Zelf

She specializes in joy… and who doesn’t need more joy?! She may well be my favorite Zelf so far!

I hope you’re feeling better after these virtual hugs from teddy bears, pixies, dolls, and zelfies!

Handmade teddy bear

Here’s wishing you a happy Thursday! Love and hugs from Christabel Bear and all your friends at 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!

Dresses for Spring: Part 2

 

Spring is here, and so are the new American Girl spring dresses! My first thought when the latest American Girl Beforever fashions and Limited Edition sets debuted was they’re pretty, but they’re really expensive. However, I knew I would sometime need to have that pink travel coat and hat for my Beforever Samantha doll, Maribel Pollyanna. It was just so her. And though I wasn’t sure about Samantha’s Special Day dress at first, when I saw a close-up review I was hooked (it’s the shoes, folks). And then my new-used eBay Marisol doll, Romola, has been whispering to me for the past three months that she’s really the dressy type (and I have mostly jeans and tee-shirts). And then there were Kit’s overalls–overalls!!! Soooo… when I got wind of American Girl’s spring sale and free-ship deal last month, it was pretty clear to me that now was the time. And the great thing is that with the sale and free shipping the cost of each set was much closer to what I consider “reasonable” for an American Girl doll outfit. I even got Kit’s Chicken Keeping Set, which was on backorder and hasn’t arrived yet. (I just got news this week that it’s on its way too. Yay!).

As soon as I saw that review of Samantha’s Special Day dress I knew I was getting it for my adorable eBay love, Umeko Patience. And I was not deceived. It looks incredible on her.

My pictures don't do it justice, however.

My pictures don’t do either it or her justice, however.

The soft, cool minty aqua green with the pink flower sprig print is just right for her winter/early-spring complexion.

American Girl Just Like You doll #4

Tell me that’s not a pretty doll.

The femininity of the delicate lace, bell sleeves, and pin-tucking is just right for her mixture of sweetness and piquancy.

American Girl Just Like You doll #4

It’s hard to get those pin-tucks to lay just right though, especially if you pull the front up into a slight blouson look.

The pink ribbon sash and hair decoration are crisp and showy enough to satisfy the romantic in me.

American Girl Just Like You doll #4

Gorgeously pretty details.

There’s even a big pink bow that ties in back:

American Girl Just Like You doll #4

And both Patience and I adore the shoes. They’re not just shiny faux-patent mary janes. They’re not even just red or pink faux-patent mary janes. They’re dusty rose faux-patent mary janes with bow details, and they will look amazing with many dresses, and we’re in love.

American Girl Just Like You doll #4

A+ American Girl!

I don’t know if you can tell, but I am in love with this outfit. In fact, this may be my favorite doll dress to date, ever. Some dresses look just okay in stock photos but come to life in person, and this is one of them.

Showing off.

Showing off.

Romola Mariana is just as thrilled with her new spring dress, the Shimmer & Lace Party Dress. One great thing about having a variety of dolls is they don’t all have to be just like me. I don’t usually perk up about cute modern lacy party dresses, but Romola sure did, and now I’m glad!

American Girl Marisol doll

Model-in-training.

This is the kind of dress that will look pretty on almost every doll. First of all, peach is a sort of universally flattering color. Then it’s just so frothy and feminine.

American Girl Marisol doll

This dress features a stretchy mesh yoke around the neck and shoulder area, while the bodice is lined with peach colored knit. The skirt has an asymmetrical waistline, which I’m not usually crazy about but for some reason am finding very tasteful here.

American Girl Marisol doll

The skirt is two layers; the top is embroidered lacy mesh overlay, and the underneath is the stretchy peach knit fabric hemmed with a mesh ruffle.

American Girl Marisol doll

I actually love the pretty little flower decoration on the waistline. And I’ll admit it, I like the large sequins sewn into the lace overlay fabric, as well. When I saw the stock photos I wasn’t sure I’d like the lace wholeheartedly… it seemed like it might be a bit busy. But I do like it; it’s very frilly, but for me, it stays just on this side of tasteful.

American Girl Marisol doll

Need I say more?

The sandals are another case of American Girl shoe perfection. These may well be my favorite pair of sandals ever, too.

American Girl Marisol doll

This outfit also includes a very small rhinestone barrette for Romola’s luxuriant hair. It’s too small to do much practical good, but it’s very pretty, if you like that sort of thing (Romola does).

Just because she can.

Just because she can.

All in all, Romola feels like a princess in this dress and looks like a bowl of whipped cream, which makes both of us happy. 🙂

My girls are usually pretty happy to assert their independence from their American Girl character prototypes, but occasionally they stick a bit closer to the script. Maribel Pollyanna feels a lot like Samantha to me, and so far she’s been happy to stay with Samantha’s Beforever wardrobe. I was very excited about the elegant pink travel coat, and she was excited about Samantha’s Flower Picking Set. Turns out it’s another one of those dresses that improves upon acquaintance (and the fabric tulips in the basket are pretty cute, too).

American Girl Beforever Samantha doll

Some things are just meant to be.

First things first. This. Coat. Is. Adorable.

American Girl Beforever Samantha doll

I love all those seams!

I love the cut, the collar, the construction, the color… I only wish those buttons were fabric, rather than plastic (ugh).

American Girl Beforever Samantha doll

Look at that beautiful construction.

And the hat was a pleasant surprise. My dolls don’t usually stay in their hats long, but this one is going to be often worn.

American Girl Beforever Samantha doll

Did anyone say Easter Parade?

It’s just so… yes! Well done, American Girl. The hat is bendy, too, not brittle, so I don’t have to be afraid of crushing it (and you can also play around a bit with the shape of the brim).

American Girl Beforever Samantha doll

This girl is ready to go!

As pretty as Maribel looks in her coat and hat, I think she might look even sweeter in just the dress.

American Girl Beforever Samantha doll

Betsy Ray, watch out!

The high modest neckline and three-quarter sleeves suit her, the lace is gorgeous, and the print is simple and sweet.

American Girl Beforever Samantha doll

The V waistline is very attractive, and it’s cut from a berry-colored satin, which matches the pretty decorative bow.

American Girl Beforever Samantha doll

Which in turn matches the hairbow. Wish they’d let me tie it on her hair myself, instead of sticking it to a scrunchy, though….

American Girl Beforever Samantha doll

So pretty on her glossy waves.

The only thing I’m not thoroughly thrilled about, is the boots. They’re alright, I guess, but I wish they’d kept the real buttons from Samantha’s pre-retirement two-tone boots. I’m tired of Velcro on boots. I even prefer Rebecca’s and Marie-Grace’s/Cecile’s boots to this design.

American Girl Beforever Samantha doll

Fake buttons. Oh well.

My girls are so pleased with these dresses… and when Maribel, Patience and Romola decide to share, their sisters will be eager to try them on too! Well done, American Girl! Spring is off to a good start. 🙂

American Girl dolls in spring fashions

Happy Spring! Happy Easter! Happy April!

Happy Spring (and Easter!) from A Doll’s Picnic!

 

 

Dresses for Spring: Part 1

With pear trees and daffodils blooming and Easter on its way, my girls have been begging me to share with you some new spring dresses that have made their way to A Doll’s Picnic from American Girl, The Dollies’ Dressmaker, and creative souls on Etsy. Spring seems to invite newness and change. The fact is, I’m often too occupied with collecting dolls to be able to fill out their wardrobes, so my girls are especially pleased with their fresh new fashions. First off this week, I’d like to share Roberta’s new frock from The Dollies’ Dressmaker:

American Girl Molly doll in plaid dress

The moment I saw this dress on her website, I knew it had to be in my collection. I love plaid, and I love square collars, and the moment I saw this dress I thought of the Anne of Green Gables films I watched growing up. Even though The Dollies’ Dressmaker made this as part of her Samantha collection, after holding it up to all my girls, it looked most stunning on Roberta, my new-used Molly doll from eBay. Roberta loves the soft grey-green-blue plaid, and the ruffly cream-colored collar as much as I do.

American Girl Molly doll in plaid dress

The difficult-to-define color of the light cotton fabric sets off her soft grey eyes, and the sprightly plaid fits her perkiness while hinting of her Scottish background. The collar adds contrast and softness as well as romance.

American Girl Molly doll in plaid dress

I can’t get over this exquisite collar! I love the square shape, which reminds me of nautical-style middy collars, and I adore the ruffles, which suit the simplicity and femininity of the dress design.

American Girl Molly doll in plaid dress

The dress closes neatly up the back with Velcro, which is not a problem for my girls.

American Girl Molly doll in plaid dress

The Dollies’ Dressmaker has been a favorite shop for doll fashions for my historical girls for years. Her dresses are all handmade by herself, and are tasteful and appropriate. The prices vary somewhat but I can often find something to fit my budget. Her work is always exquisitely neat and perfectly finished. Every time I’ve tried to make a dress of my own, I’ve gained a new appreciation for the neatness of her work–the squareness and straightness of her seam allowances and stitching, especially along the collars and back closures. This particular dress is my favorite purchase from her so far. It is simple, soft perfection, and comes to life on my Molly doll (though several of my other girls would also love to try it on!). I highly recommend her shop!

Happy Spring!

Discovering spring flowers

Doll and flowers, the perfect combination.

A doll among the daffodils.

While the eastern half of the United States has been having a long, cold, snowy winter of it, here in the mountains of Northern California it seems almost unfair to be having dry, unnaturally mild weather and a very early spring. It is over 75 degrees outside at the moment! The sun is shining, and we’ve had a March that is more like April or even May. Though I’d rather be getting rain and snow like the rest of the country, I don’t believe in complaining about the weather. A drought does make for ample doll photography opportunities, as well as inviting early spring tea parties out of doors. My girls have been taking advantage of the mild spring to explore our yard and discover early spring flowers.

American Girl Just Like You doll #4  with daffodil

A doll and a flower, the perfect combination!

One of my new dolls that I am most excited about is Umeko Patience, an American Girl Just Like You #4 doll that I rescued from eBay and restored. The #4 doll has a unique face sculpt that American Girl never used for another doll-character. Unfortunately she has been retired for a couple years, and is difficult to find second hand… you might say it takes patience! Umeko Patience has become a very dear doll-friend, and because she is a very springy sort of person, it was most natural to take her outside to see the daffodils. She says yellow is her favorite color!

She looks excellent in Kit's springy colors, too!

She looks excellent in Kit’s springy colors, too!

In the high desert, every flower is a treasure. I often find myself marveling over the miracle of a forsythia bush or a plum tree in blossom which people who live in a milder region might pass without remark. Patience loves the little forsythia we planted in our yard, and visited it when the flowers were first opening:

Yes, almost everything in our yard has a deer cage around it.

Yes, almost everything in our yard has a deer cage around it.

Have you ever looked at a small blossom up close? Patience has.

American Girl Just Like You #4 doll with forsythia

She checked back later in the week, too, when the flowers were more full:

Purple and yellow complement each other so beautifully!

Purple and yellow complement each other so beautifully!

Umeko is a Japanese name meaning “plum blossom child.” We don’t have a plum in our yard, but we do have a lovely little nanking cherry bush, which Patience was charmed by.

American Girl Just Like You doll #4  with cherry

Umeko Patience and flowers just go together!

Julia, my Carpatina doll, was also delighted by the delicate perfection of the cherry blossoms.

Carpatina Julia doll with cherry

This was a grey sky day, rare for us.

They formed a natural background for a portrait of this lovely girl:

Carpatina Julia doll portrait

Her delicate dress, also from Carpatina, suits the flowers.

Julia has such a sweet, compassionate, thoughtful face that I love taking pictures of her. She brings a beautiful diversity to my doll family.

Carpatina Julia doll with forsythia

What is she dreaming about?

Another new doll who is incredibly photogenic is Verity, my A Girl For All Time Lydia doll.

A Girl For All Time Lydia doll with daffodil

Verity showing just how poised and elegant a doll can be.

Her delicate features, winter coloring, and earnest expression make her a natural in front of the camera. She, too, was delighted by the daffodils.

A Girl For All Time Lydia doll with daffodil

How fun it would be to be sixteen inches tall, and see flowers as big as your head!

She loved the sweet fragrance.

A Girl For All Time Lydia doll with daffodil

Two beauties.

And speaking of sweet fragrances, our tiny hyacinths were a magnet for Verity. She particularly loved the white hyacinth.

A Girl For All Time Lydia doll with hyacinth

It matches her riding ensemble!

The pure white flowers captivated her, and she captivated me.

Verity

Verity

And just because she’s lovely, here’s a picture of Verity with the forsythia:

A Girl For All Time Lydia doll

Such an intelligent, earnest face.

A couple weekends ago, Umeko Patience and Violette took a drive up north with us to a college town to see the spring flowers there. It turned out to be one of our rare rainy days, so I didn’t get as many photographs as I had planned, but here it is wise to never complain about the rain! Before the clouds had quite dropped down, Patience discovered this cluster of daffodils:

American Girl Just Like You #4 doll with daffodils

And that’s American Girl of the Year Grace’s adorable travel coat, by the way, looking smashing on Patience.

I simply can’t get over how sprightly and charming this adorable doll is!

American Girl Just Like You #4 doll with daffodils

Maybe it’s because I restored her myself, but she is just brimming with personality!

But speaking of charming, Violette asked to climb a tree covered with catkins.

She's a good tree climber!

She’s a good tree climber!

She also found her namesake in the botanical gardens.

Schildkroet blond doll with violets

Violette’s favorite flower… and one of mine, too!

By then it was really beginning to rain, so I had to put the dolls away.

Dolls and spring flowers are two things that make my heart smile with gratitude. How about you?

A January Day…

It was a dull, overcast day in early January, and the girls had been inside all morning. Darcy was feeling restless, so she persuaded the sisters Ashleigh and Esther to go outside with her. At first the clean, piney air seemed cold. Esther and Ashleigh shivered together near a tree, while Darcy scoped things out. A light misty rain had fallen the day before, and there were still drops clinging to the pine needles. The ground was damp, but underneath the shelter of the trees, the rocks were still dry.

American Girl of the Year dolls Mia Isabelle Grace

“Look, you guys,” called Darcy. “These rocks are great for climbing!”

American Girl of the Year Grace doll

The sisters watched as Darcy quickly scrambled to the top.

American Girl of the Year Grace doll

“Be careful…” Ashleigh couldn’t help cautioning, but to herself she thought, why bother? It’s like telling a mountain goat to be careful!

“Look, there’s a bench!” called Darcy. She jumped down from the rock and all three quickly climbed up.

American Girl of the Year dolls Grace Isabelle Mia

“I wish it would snow,” sighed Darcy. “Then we could build a snowman.”

“Do you wanna build a snowman…?” sang Ashleigh, and they both laughed.

American Girl of the Year dolls Isabelle Grace

“I mean if it’s going to be grey and cold,” continued Darcy, “it might as well be snowing.”

“I don’t know,” said Esther. “I love the snow, but I think it’s nice this way too. Listen to how quiet the forest is today. It’s like the clouds are muffling everything.”

American Girl of the Year Mia doll

All three girls listened. The forest was quiet; all they could hear was a squirrel climbing a tree in a nearby yard.

“Look at the twigs on that bush,” said Ashleigh. She jumped down and went to examine them. “Aren’t they pretty? All spindly and delicate. I’d like to–”

“–draw them?” finished Darcy, and she and Esther laughed. Ashleigh was always saying that whenever she admired something.

American Girl of the Year Isabelle doll

“It’s true!” Ashleigh protested. “I can’t help it, I do!”

“You should!” said Darcy quickly. “I wish I wanted to draw stuff, but I don’t. I’d rather ride a bike, or go roller skating.”

American Girl of the Year dolls Mia Isabelle

“I think looking at the world through an artist’s eyes makes it even nicer,” explained Ashleigh. “It helps me see things fresh. It’s like how Esther is always thinking of words for things. It’s fun… and kind of exciting, in a way.”

“What are you making up now, Esther?” asked Darcy. Esther had scrambled up a low boulder and was perched on top, staring off into the forest.

American Girl of the Year Mia doll

“Nothing much,” said Esther. “I just like the way the day looks, today. It’s soft, and clean, and fresh. All the colors are soft. And there are so many textures too. It’s like a great big winter quilt.”

“What about the way trees smell?” Darcy said. “I’ve read that some pine trees smell like pineapple or vanilla.” She put her nose to the tree trunk.

American Girl of the Year doll Grace

“This one just smells like bark.”

“Let me see,” said Ashleigh.

American Girl of the Year dolls Isabelle Grace

“You’re right–damp bark. Maybe it’s the wrong kind. Or maybe it doesn’t smell because it’s too cold. Trees are nice, though, even when they don’t smell like pineapple.”

“Yep,” said Darcy. “They’re so big and solid.” The two girls stood with their backs against the pine trunk.

American Girl of the Year dolls Grace Isabelle

“What should we do?” sighed Darcy. “It’s too cold for a picnic.”

“Let’s go back inside,” said Ashleigh. “We can make hot cocoa and draw…”

“…And listen to music,” added Darcy.

“…And watch movies!” chimed in Esther.

“And play board games,” said Darcy.

“And read,” said Esther.

“And COLOR!” shouted all three girls together. They laughed, and turned back toward the house.

“Look,” said Ashleigh. “The pine needles are the same color as Esther’s hair.”

American Girl of the Year Mia doll

Esther looked down. The needles were springy under her feet. “Look!” she said. She lay down and closed her eyes.

American Girl of the Year doll Mia

“It’s a forest bed! If I was a deer, this is where I’d sleep.” The girls laughed.

Just then the forest brightened; the clouds had lifted while the girls were playing, and the now the sun peeked out for the first time. The three girls looked around: everywhere, tiny drops were sparkling.

American Girl of the Year dolls Mia Grace

“Wow,” breathed Darcy. “It’s like the grass is covered with diamonds.”

Sparkling grass

The End.


 

Darcy is the American Girl of the Year 2015 Grace doll; Ashleigh is the American Girl of the Year 2014 Isabelle doll; and Esther is the American Girl of the Year 2008 Mia doll.

Brown is Beautiful: The Wonderful Faces of Addy

American Girl dolls with Addy face mold

One of my favorite American Girl face sculpts of all time.

Happy 2015! It’s a new season, a new month, and a new year. Weeks have passed since my last post, bringing the solstice, the lovely simplicity of winter and the fleeting sparkle of the holidays. I’m not big on New Year’s resolutions, since a new year begins every moment (it’s now been a year since this moment last year, right?), but I do love the idea of starting fresh, and I do set goals for myself as a way to organize and channel the creative process. One of my goals is to post here on A Doll’s Picnic much more frequently. I have lots of dolls to share with you via overdue reviews, and the dolls themselves are clamoring for me to step out of the way and let them tell their own stories sometimes. I’ll do my best to let 2015 be a year of writing, sharing, and creativity–and dolls of course (but that goes without saying)!

To start things off, welcome to a new feature called Brown is Beautiful. In this series of posts I plan to showcase and celebrate the lovely dolls of color in my collection–as well as the occasional Caucasian doll with brown eyes. The point? To help spread the word that dolls with brown eyes, brown (or black) hair, and/or brown skin are just as desirable, just as lovable, and just as interesting as their lighter counterparts. American Girl dolls are my first love, after all, and the need for diversity and representation in the American Girl line of products is well established. The debut of the fourth Caucasian girl (with light eyes!) in a row in the American Girl of the Year line has brought the simmering discontent among many fans to a boiling point and sparked a new social media campaign. You can read about the motivation and manifesto of the #AGDoCGoTY social media protest movement at Nethilia’s blog, American Girl Outsider, here. While I don’t use social media (encroaches too much on my creative time), I’d like to support the cause by doing a better job here at A Doll’s Picnic in a couple of ways: 1) make sure my own collection is diverse, and 2) make sure I share dolls of color at least as often as I do Caucasian dolls.

A little background about myself and my collection is called for here: My impetuous and changeable method of collecting–varying with my latest interest or whim–means my doll collection is always evolving. From the very beginning of my collecting I’ve only been interested in actually keeping girls (as I call them) in my collection with whom I feel a strong bond, because I love simplicity and can’t bear to have dolls sitting around neglected when they ought to be getting love. Thus it is that many dolls, including most of the named American Girl character dolls, have passed through my collection, been appreciated and enjoyed for a time, and then passed on to new homes (including charitable causes, homes with family members, and more recently eBay). These have included several dolls of color like Addy–whom I’ve actually had in my collection 3 times–Cecile, Josefina–owned her twice–Kaya, Sonali, Kanani, #26, #28, #4 and #30, a Jess look-a-like. I mention this because looking at my doll bios a casual observer might not realize what a big fan I am of the dolls of non-Caucasion backgrounds that AG has offered. Josefina and Addy were my first two 18 inch dolls as an adult because I remembered how much I had admired them when they debuted in the original Pleasant Company catalogs. Since I change the names and stories of all my dolls when I get them, the question of permanently bonding with a doll or not has little to do with that doll’s ethnicity, but much more with how my imagination interprets her character. My doll collecting seems to be a process of getting closer and closer to who I really am and what I really like, which of course is always changing. I am glad to be able to say that some of my current favorite dolls–including #1, #45, #2, and Marisol–are dolls of color, and that my collection now includes a much larger percentage of dolls of color than it did at this time last year. (I also have several dolls of color on my wishlist, including #15 and #58). I can’t wait to share these beautiful girls with you!

And now, for our first Brown is Beautiful focus: the wonderful, adorable, and unique Addy face sculpt!

American Girl Addy doll portrait 1

Glorious Addy.

Addy Walker was introduced by Pleasant Company in 1993, and featured the first–and for 15 years the only–African American face sculpt in the American Girl line of dolls. She was the fifth historical character in the American Girl line. I would have loved having this doll as a child. I remember how excited I was when she came out: pouring over the catalog pictures with my sister, minutely admiring all her tiny perfect accessories and gorgeous outfits, and rendered practically speechless by her luxuriously long hair. At that time, hair was the most important feature for me in a doll, and I remember being awestruck by the catalog pictures which showed Addy’s tresses reaching past her knees (very realistic for her time period).

Addy was my second 18 inch doll as an adult, and I just adored her soft, round face and poofy hair. I always found her hair incredibly forgiving and easy to style–often needing nothing more than finger-combing to keep it looking its best. My first Addy had a penchant for dressing up in Victorian-esque fashions pinched from Samantha’s collection, and I loved how I could make her hair up into lady-like buns and up-dos. Although I gave my first Addy away to a sister when I felt she was falling behind a bit in my collection, I kept my interest in her, and after a few years I missed her enough to purchase Addy a second time. This second girl enjoyed staying in mid-1800’s fashions. After about a year my second Addy found a home with my other sister. She was followed by Melanie, a #26 doll. I loved Melanie’s medium-toned skin and gorgeous light-brown eyes, which reflected so much light that they almost looked real. And though Melanie eventually found a new home via eBay (I wasn’t crazy about her hair), I still kept my affection for the Addy face sculpt. Last fall I found my third Addy doll on eBay. She’s a 1997 Pleasant Company Addy, and very sweet. I’ve restrung her, but haven’t yet had the nerve to take her hair out of its original braid.

On Thanksgiving evening 2013, zooting around on eBay while hubby was preparing our vegan feast, I found a #1 doll in new condition being sold for an outrageously reasonable price. It took me about two minutes to look her up on AGPlaythings, find out she was retired (why, oh why?), fall in love, and buy her. Introducing Amy Gratitude Octavine Taylor, named after Thanksgiving and one of my great-grandmothers, with initials that spell out AGOT (or American Girl of Today, my favorite AG line):

American Girl of Today just like you #1

I love this doll. Oh, how I love this doll.

Amy is very much a modern Addy–in fact, she loves to say of herself that she’s what Addy Walker would be if Addy were transported into the 21st century.

American Girl Addy Walker just like you #1 doll

Addy meets herself 150 years in the future.

Her hair is identical in color and texture to Addy’s, and the style only differs in the following points: 1) Amy has no part, while Addy has a center part, and 2) Amy’s hair has a unique wig with two sections of hair at slightly different lengths. These sections are the front or top area and the back area. This wig style has received complaints from some collectors, but I think it is awesome! I love how easy it is to gather her hair into a half-pony or half-pony-braid. I love how poofy it is on top. In fact, I think Amy is wonderful in every single way and I wouldn’t change her one bit. The only thing ornery about my Amy is that she will not under any circumstances be historical. I once dressed her in Cecile’s adorable yellow summer dress outfit (one of my favorite historical ensembles). Amy looked perfect, but she gazed at me with a frozen smile that clearly said: If you do not remove this ridiculous outfit this instant I will happily kill you. I took it off. Amy is a modern girl, won’t be anything but. After all, her initials, as I’m happy to remind you, do spell out A…G…O….T. Let that be understood.

My Amy and Addy dolls have different skin tones, which I’d like to share with you here. Variations in lighting and my camera’s limits make it hard to see in pictures, but I’ll do my best:

American Girl Addy Walker Just like you #1 doll

My Addy has a lovely, rosy deep-brown skin tone, while Amy’s is a little yellower and perhaps not quite as dark. Some people might say Amy’s tone is a little grayer.

American Girl Addy Walker Just like you #1 doll

My Amy is a wonderful person: funny, strong, thoughtful, sensitive, bold, courageous, independent, authentic. She hates wearing anything too trendy; in fact, she simply won’t wear anything that doesn’t express her care-free, independent attitude. She is a civil-and-women’s-rights activist. She is a writer. And she’s not afraid to speak her mind, while still being very tolerant and open towards everyone, provided they don’t oppress her or anyone else. (By the way, she’s best friends with my Isabelle doll, Ashleigh–their choice, not mine. Amy’s the writer and Ashleigh’s the artist, and although they’re totally different they just seem to get along great!).

Last fall I found my third Addy face-sculpt dearie (well, fourth really, counting Melanie), also on eBay. Introducing the incredible, gorgeous Rebecca Grania:

American Girl just like you #45 doll

Oh. My. Goodness. Best. Doll. Ever.

Grania is one of those extra-special dolls I was always meant to have. I could tell this the moment Amy and I opened her box.

American Girl just like you #45 doll #1

Hiya, sis! It’s love!

She is Just Like You/My American Girl #45. She was apparently only available for two brief years between 2009 and 2011 before she was retired. I was so disappointed when I discovered she had been retired (serves me right for not buying her when I could), and so thrilled when I found her new on eBay. I. Adore. This. Doll. Why? Because she’s perfect, period. Seriously, I love everything about #45. I adore her hair. It is lighter brown than both Addy’s and Amy’s, but still a rich, dark brown. It has a straightened-but-still-textured feeling, which I love. It just feels great to my fingers. It is shiny and glossy. It is thick. It has short hairs generously planted over the wig cap. It is layered. It looks great in every single style. And it has a fringe! Look at all that beautiful BROWN!

Loose and easy-breezy.

Loose and easy-breezy.

Ballet-style bun (thanks to Isabelle's hairstyling accessories).

Ballet-style bun (thanks to Isabelle’s hairstyling accessories).

Twin french braids.

Twin french braids. Her hair isn’t really this dark–this picture was taken in the shade.

Grania is much more girly than independent Amy. She loves artsy, feminine outfits, and unlike Amy, Grania is happy to dress in historical outfits, looking wonderful in practically everything I’ve put on her (including Rebecca’s BeForever Meet outfit, Samantha’s Play Dress, and an Anne of Green Gables outfit I bought on Etsy). She promptly clued me in to the fact that she–not Isabelle–is the dancer.

American Girl just like you #45 doll

I think she looks amazing in Isabelle’s mix-and-match ensembles.

American Girl just like you #45 doll

The bright colors just pop against her rich brown skin.

American Girl just like you #45 doll

So much so that she easily convinced me that this is the Isabelle doll AG should have produced, but didn’t.

American Girl just like you #45 doll

Oh man, I love that hair.

Here’s Grania with her sisters Addy and Amy:

American Girl Addy just like you #45 #1 doll

A beautiful bouquet of brown.

Besides the difference in their wigs, Grania’s skin tone is also a bit different. She is a touch lighter than both Addy and Amy and has a beautiful golden glow. Her lips and cheeks are also just a bit rosier. As far as eye color goes, I think they’re all the same, but sometimes it seems to me that Amy’s eyes are darker. It’s difficult for me to visually isolate the exact color of the brown eyes from the overall complexion, so set me right about this if I’m wrong.

Amy and Grania.

Amy’s eyes appear darker.

American Girl Addy just like you #45 doll

Here Addy’s eyes look darker. Maybe Addy’s and Amy’s are the same and Grania’s are lighter?

And finally the last member of my Addy face-sculpt quartet: Elodie Rain!

American Girl just like you #11 doll

Rain is a Just Like You #11 doll. Like #45 and #1, she is now retired from American Girl’s modern line, and like them this is a terrible shame. It is particularly unfortunate in the case of #11 as she is arguably one of the most ethnically diverse and interesting dolls AG has ever created. With her medium brown skin tone, dark brown eyes and truly black (not black-brown, but really black) hair, Rain can represent a wide variety of ethnicities, including but not limited to: Native American, Native American/black mixed-ancestry, Native Canadian or Alaskan, Native Australian, Filipino, and South Sea Islander. My interest in #11 came about through my sister, who always thought of her as Maori (Native New Zealander). Like her sisters Amy and Grania, I found Rain new on eBay. I haven’t yet developed a strong sense of her character, but she seems quieter and calmer than her Addy face-sculpt sisters. I also like to think she’s a rain charm, because immediately after she arrived it rained in Northern California for the first time in months (and yes, I had already named her Rain).

Elodie Rain

Elodie Rain

Rain is the second of my Addy face-sculpt dolls (after Melanie, the #26 I didn’t keep) to have medium-brown skin instead of dark-brown skin. My favorite feature is her jet black, super-glossy hair. From what I can tell, she has the same exact wig as #4, which was really exciting to me, as these two dolls are the only ones I know of in the whole of American Girl’s history to have truly black hair–that is, hair that doesn’t have any brown highlights in full sun. It has almost a blue cast to it in direct light. It is a very thick wig, but has been criticized by collectors because it lacks the short hairs to cover the wig cap when her hair is parted into pig tails or twin braids. It isn’t a perfect wig, but the color and ultra-sleek texture as well as the flip at the ends make up for this shortcoming as far as I’m concerned. Here you can see the variations in color and texture between the wigs of my four Addy face-sculpt dolls:

Addy face sculpt mold doll wigs

Top: Rain, #11. Bottom: Grania, #45. Left: Amy, #1. Right: Addy.

And again, here:

American Girl just like you #11 #1 #45 Addy doll

Top left, Addy, top right, #45. Bottom left, #1, bottom right #11.

 

Conclusion? The Addy face-sculpt is one of my very very favorite American Girl faces ever. I believe it has been used a total of nine times–once in the historical line for Addy herself, and eight times in the Girl of Today/Just Like You/My American Girl line–exclusively for dolls of color. It is cheery, intelligent, sweet, round and loveable. And it is very VERY much needed in the American Girl of the Year line. With such wonderful possibilities, how can American Girl resist?

American Girl just like you #45 #11 doll

American Girl just like you #1 #45 doll

Here’s to a year of doll of color love! Until next time, celebrate the beauty of brown!

Happy (belated) Thanksgiving!

Here at A Doll’s Picnic, the girls gave thanks for having a warm home full of sisters and changes of outfits, and for having doll-crazy human friends who love to have picnics and play!

I managed to capture a rare shot of all my girls together in one place:

My current doll collection.

Here we are: the girls of A Doll’s Picnic!

And here are all the dolls currently on our shelves, including my husband’s collection of seven in front:

All the dolls at A Doll's Picnic

That’s a total of 39 dolls (gulp)! Little did I imagine when I started collecting back in 2006 that it would get to this point!

The story of my husband’s collection is simple: six of his seven dolls were once mine. When I no longer wanted these girls in my collection, he liked them too well to allow me to either give them away or sell them. His collection began pretty early on when I decided not to keep Paulina Clementina (front center), the Josefina doll that began my doll collecting, and has gradually expanded from there over the years. The only exception is Catherine (in the blue dress, third from left), who was purchased for him as an anniversary present at the American Girl Store in Seattle this summer.

Our dolls had a special treat last week when both my sisters and my two nieces came to visit, bringing with them all of their doll friends! That made a total of 50 dolls in our house for three days! Here’s a picture of our joint collection, including all my own girls, my husband’s collection, and my sisters’ and neices’ dolls!

My family's doll collection

My nieces’ dolls are seated in the front row. From left to right, that’s Ella (My Twinn), Butterfly, Karis (My Twinn), Polly, and Emma (Our Generation). My sisters’ dolls are standing in the row behind them. Aren’t they beautiful? (Averill has the light full in her face, poor dear). My girls were so excited to have all their cousins over to visit and play!

Happy Thanksgiving from A Doll’s Picnic!