Tag Archive: play doll

A Very Special Gift: Meet Holly!

Hi there! Between one thing and another it has been a full last several months, and I’m having a hard time believing that it’s really May! The girls are all excited because May means summer is coming, which of course means outdoor picnics galore! It’s been a long time since I’ve written a doll review, and it isn’t because I don’t have several special girls that I’d like to share–I do!  It’s just that sometimes in reviewing first things have to come first, and there is one review I’ve been needing to write since the 25th of last December. Today, at last, I’d like to introduce you to someone very very special… one of my very favorite girls… an extra-special dear doll-friend who joined our family last Christmastime. Without further ado, please meet Holly!

Handmade Waldorf style doll red-head

Holly on Christmas Day!

Holly is the most special Christmas gift I think I’ve ever been given–even including that first Pleasant Company American Girl doll, Molly, who in a way started it all, given to me by my grandmother when I was a girl. It all goes back to my love of yarn hair (which I suppose might be traced to the Cabbage Patch doll I had when I was little). Yarn hair, rag dolls, embroidered eyes and mouths, handmade doll clothes… these things are the stuff of happy doll dreams, dreams of a simpler time when toys were few and precious and all the more dear because of their handmade uniqueness. You might think it odd that after collecting high-quality, expensive play dolls for a number of years, I would still yearn for a handmade rag doll. Yet for years that’s just what I’ve longed for. I’ve even wondered about learning how to make a doll myself, but doubted my beginner-level sewing skills. I once saw a handmade rag-doll-style mermaid with the most incredibly gorgeous aqua (or was it lavender? or both??) mohair yarn hair at a craft show, and I’ve regretted ever since that I didn’t buy her when I had the chance! (I’ve never seen another like her, even on Etsy, though I still hope to one day). And once I saw a beautiful handmade doll sewn out of handwoven fabrics by South American women (I don’t remember the country) at the Global Exchange store in Berkeley–another doll I’ve since regretted not buying! So I have this soft spot for what I call “cloth dolls,” and for many years now I’ve longed for one of my own.

Well, the long and the short of it is that hubbies are wonderful. My husband, knowing of this yearning, thought of me one day when a coworker brought a gorgeous handmade Waldorf-style doll into the office early last fall to share with her colleagues. This doll (with purple yarn hair!!!!!) was made using simple, natural materials, including alpaca fiber from her own alpacas. Well, naturally, my husband, being the tuned-in-to-special-things kind of person he is, was enthusiastic about this doll… and somehow, without even specifically having to commission her wonderfully creative doll-maker, Cindy, it was understood that she would make a doll for me as a surprise for Christmas! (All without telling me! How does he do it??? We don’t even keep secrets well!). All autumn long, Cindy would tell him how the doll was advancing, asking what color hair I’d like best (!!!) and sharing the latest progress–without me knowing a whisper of the matter (which is the real wonder of it).

You want to know something else? For a long time I’ve wanted to name a doll Holly, especially one who came at Christmastime. Yet not one of my dolls has ever claimed the name Holly (and you can’t force these things).

Well, you know what happened. Christmas afternoon I was presented with a large, but surprisingly light-feeling, doll-shaped box. I opened it to discover my first-ever, one-and-only, gorgeously handmade, red-yarn-haired cloth doll, named, that’s right… Holly! Without even asking my husband if there was a special name in mind, Cindy had already named this dear creation Holly. Needless to say, this dear, heartfelt gift brought many tears and much gratitude and wonder and made a special day even more wonderful.

Holly and Christofur.

Holly and Christofur.

She has such a peaceful, meditative, kind expression; so thoughtful, as if she’s pondering interesting, poetic thoughts. It just won me over instantly. I soon discovered that, like me, Holly loves to color!

Handmade Waldorf doll red-head coloring

Especially using red pencils!

She’s actually very creative and inquisitive and thoughtful–the perfect companion for a writer and artist. In fact, I decided Holly is more than a doll; she’s a muse.

Handmade Waldorf doll red-head

Holly is perfection down to the last detail, and completely snuggly too!

So today I’m going to share in detail Holly’s wonderfulness with you! This isn’t a proper review, exactly, since this is a one-of-a-kind handmade doll who certainly isn’t available anywhere else (and isn’t going anywhere!). But perhaps you will be inspired to seek out a handmade cloth doll of your own, or even to learn how to make one yourself! Please go and peek at Cindy’s wonderful website Lulu Magoo and Friends to find out more about these special doll-friends!

To start with, let’s take a look at Holly’s complete ensemble, as she arrived:

Handmade Waldorf doll red-head1

All dressed up and ready to go… to a Christmas party!

Holly stands approximately 16 inches tall. She arrived all dressed up for a holiday celebration! I would like to emphasize the fact that every single part of her arrival outfit (except her tights, which you can’t really see) is handmade by Cindy–right down to her fancy dancing shoes. The first thing I noticed, after oohing and ahhing (and sobbing) over her adorable face and her brilliantly red yarn hair, was her little handmade purse and shawl.

A doll should never be without her purse...

A doll should never be without her purse…

Her purse features sparkly, fancy black yarn and an adorable heart-shaped button…

Handmade doll purse

Buttoned up…

… which secures the flap! Yes, Holly really can tuck a hankie or a piece of holiday candy into that purse!

Handmade doll purse

Open me!

Her fancy shawl matches her purse:

Handmade doll shawl

Such a pretty, lacework shawl.

I think the purse and shawl are knitted (not crocheted, but I’m not an expert). In my beginning-knitter mentality, it seems incredible that Cindy can just sit down and knit up from scratch the finishing touches for Holly’s arrival outfit! Cindy clearly understands it’s the details that make an outfit.

Holly’s shoes are very appropriate for a fancy occasion, and put me in mind of the dancing slippers of the twelve dancing princesses (you know, the ones that got worn out each night?):

Handmade doll shoes

I love the little ties!

Holly’s holiday dress features a pretty red rosette…

Handmade doll dress… and a black waistband. It is made out of ruby-red velour, and has a pretty overskirt of see-through material (my camera has trouble with all this red).

Handmade doll dress

Holly isn’t shy among friends, and I’d like to share the adorable cloth-body construction I found underneath her dress, since it is an important part of what makes her so dear. (Family legend has it that as a child, the first thing I did when I was given a new doll was undress it. I remember that I just wanted to know how the dolls were made and how their clothing worked. So you see, I haven’t changed much :).

Underneath her dress, Holly was wearing a pair of handmade bloomers and black tights (the only part of her outfit that wasn’t made by hand). Here she is, modeling her bloomers (and hoping for a tan?):

Handmade Waldorf doll red-head

The sun feels good!

I squealed when I discovered she has a little red heart printed on her left side (reminiscent of Raggedy Ann)!

Handmade Waldorf doll red-head

I love you.

love Holly’s squidgy little body, especially her satisfyingly shaped arms–and hands!–and legs. Holly is sewn from a sturdy, creamy cotton knit fabric, and stuffed with wool. The hand-sewn contours and stuffing give her a life-like dimension.

Handmade Waldorf doll red-head

I love her little elbows!

I think I am extra fond of her arms and hands. They have so much life!

I think I am extra fond of her arms and hands. They have so much life!

Hold me!

I love the seams running down her legs!

Handmade Waldorf doll red-head

Kickin’ back.

Her feet are a simple “L” at the end of her legs:

Handmade Waldorf doll red-head

Heirloom style.

I just love her simple rag-doll style construction! She can sit on her own, as well as stand if she’s supported from behind (that hair is heavy!).

Handmade Waldorf doll red-head

Hugs, hugs, hugs!

Speaking of behinds, I couldn’t help delighting in Holly’s! (You’re all friends, right?)

I think I'll try standing on my head...

I think I’ll try standing on my head…

And speaking of heads, it’s time to take a closer look at Holly’s wonderful head of hair. Holly came with her gorgeous yarn hair braided in a beautiful, lady-like style perfect for a fancy occasion, complete with a sprig of holly tied in back!

Handmade Waldorf doll red-head

A real lady!

adore this hair-style, and waited a long time (and not till I had taken lots of pictures) to change it.

Handmade Waldorf doll red-head

Holly’s hair is incredibly long and luxurious! Cindy wanted to be sure that I had plenty of hair to play with! She has so much, in fact, that in some poses it can pull her down! Yarn is heavy stuff!

Handmade Waldorf doll red-head

Holly’s hair is a mixture of two different 100% wool yarns that Cindy purchased at a local craft store, ingeniously sewn/tied onto a hand-knitted wig cap. A line of sturdy stitching gives her a central part. Often Cindy will use her own handspun alpaca yarn for her doll’s wigs, but in this case she needed a variety of bright reds! I absolutely love all the rich tones of red, ruby and berry that make up her mane. Holly is easily the reddest-haired doll in my collection!

Handmade Waldorf doll red-head

Such a pretty little lady…

Another very special feature of Holly’s wig are the little curls that frame her face–two on each side. (How did Cindy curl the yarn??? Inquiring minds want to know!).

Handmade Waldorf doll red-head

Awwww….

But best of all, or I should say the culmination of all, is Holly’s exquisite little face.

Handmade Waldorf doll red-head

Simple… expressive… imaginative… delicate… poignant… pensive… heart warming…

Handmade Waldorf doll red-head

… Charming… photogenic… adorable… loveable… heirloom…. Words really don’t do her justice.

Handmade Waldorf doll red-head

Holly even has delicate, hand-painted freckles. I just love everything about her face.

Handmade Waldorf doll red-head

Handmade perfection.

She reminds me strongly of a children’s book illustration, especially the drawings of Joan Walsh Anglund. This connection to children’s books makes her all the more precious to me.

It’s really not surprising that Holly gets along swimmingly with my other dolls, especially my teddy bears.

Holly and Christabel: a handmade doll and a handmade teddy bear!

Holly and Christabel: a handmade doll and a handmade teddy bear!

Her soft, simple appearance harmonizes with their heirloom appeal.

Christabel, Holly and Hattie.

Christabel, Holly and Hattie.

Like all my dolls, she loves picnics (indoors or out) and tea parties (somehow she always seems to get ahold of the plate of cookies).

Thomas, my Charlie Bear lion, Holly, and Tilney, my Ragtales bear.

“So, are you going to eat all those yourself?” Thomas, my Charlie Bear lion, Holly, and Tilney, my Ragtales bear.

It is so much fun to take pictures of Holly–she’s naturally artistic and so pleasing to the eye and camera. She and Thomas, another Christmastime treasure, seem to get along especially well (maybe it’s because Holly is so calm and Thomas is so mischievous).

Charlie Bear lion Handmade Waldorf doll red-head Ragtales Darcy bear

“So, what should we do now?”

I feel like I haven’t even begun to really play with Holly yet. At first I was very careful of her, because she’s the first cloth doll I’ve ever had, and I’m used to durable vinyl. But I’m beginning to realize that part of the charm of a cloth doll is that she gradually takes on a bit of the person who loves her, her home and family. Play dolls are not meant to remain in “perfect” condition. Accordingly, I’ve rearranged her hair into what the English call “bunches” (pig tails), and tried her in some of my doll outfits. I was so excited to discover that she can fit both American Girl doll and Bitty Baby/Bitty Twin sized outfits, though the only one I have a picture of so far is Serena’s Poinsettia dress:

Handmade Waldorf doll red-head

Holly wearing a Bitty Baby dress.

Her waistline is actually very similar to a standard 18 inch doll (and slimmer than Serena, my Bitty Twin doll). The main differences are that she is two inches shorter (so hemlines tend to droop a bit low on her), her head is much larger, her chest is a bit thinner, and her arms, especially her hands, are thicker, requiring larger or stretchy cuffs on sleeves. Most importantly though, I have discovered that Holly doesn’t like commercially made doll clothes–they just don’t look right on her. She will only be happy wearing handmade doll clothes. Holly says her favorite colors are deep marine blue, forest green, and red (of course). I think she would also look charming in yellow and pink, and she’s wearing a light blue dress right now, which looks adorable. Holly’s biggest wish? To have a summer sailor-style middy dress!

Handmade Waldorf doll red-head Ragtales Darcy bear

Holly and Tilney.

For now I have a few dresses from the Dollies’ Dressmaker that fit her, and I will probably be able to find others on Etsy. But what I’d really love to do is begin to make dresses and knit sweaters for her myself. As a handmade creation, the product of one wonderful woman’s talent and loving, creative spirit, Holly just inspires creativity. What better gift could there be?

Happy beginning-of-May from all our hearts here at A Doll’s Picnic!

A Sister for Gaby

These last few months my doll collection has gone through quite an overhaul, as I’ve let go of quite a few dolls I haven’t bonded with and found new girls to take their places. As a matter of fact, as those who know me will tell you, my collection is always a dynamic one, constantly changing with my latest interests. It’s been this way pretty much since the very beginning of my collecting, and I’m learning not to fight it. I often use the sale of dolls I’m no longer interested in as a means by which to purchase those I am. However, my goal is always the same: to have a group of dolls that is diverse enough to satisfy the collector in me, but personal enough to inspire my imagination. In short, I can’t help loving many different dolls, but I truly want to have only those dolls that not only make me admire them, but inspire me to play. I feel like this new year is off to a good start! I’m looking forward to sharing my latest doll-loves with you in the weeks ahead.

The first new member of our dolly-household that I’d like to introduce to you came kind of on impulse, when I found out that she, along with her two sisters, was being discontinued by the company. The jointed, 17-inch Schildkroet dolls have only been around since 2013, which means they’ve only just made their debut. Sadly, they are being dropped from the Schildkroet line (so if you want one, now is the time to nab her before they disappear!). I purchased my first Schildkroet doll, the perky red-head who I’ve named Gaby, from the wonderful UK doll shop My Doll Best Friend last spring; you can read the review I wrote about her here. I usually don’t respond to blond/blue-eyed dolls… but of her two sisters, it was the precious blond and not the lively brunette that called to me from across the seas. My Doll Best Friend was having an awesome deal where if you buy a Schildkroet doll with an outfit you receive a second outfit free, so… you know what happened, right? Gaby and I waited on pins and needles for her little sister to arrive. And one evening, when I got home from the rink, a box wrapped in pink was waiting for me! Joy! (Forgive us for the funky lighting in the pictures–it was after dark when we opened her, because we simply couldn’t wait ’till morning!). Without further ado, Gaby would like to share with you the excitement of greeting her new sister!

A box! And we recognize the pink wrapping, don’t we, Gaby?

What could possibly be in there, Gaby?

What could possibly be in there, Gaby?

Better read the label though, to be sure…

From London? Are you sure?

From London? Are you sure?

What’s that you say? Your sister? She’s here?!

Schildkroet doll with box

Hurry, get the knife! Let’s open her up!

Inside, we found the wonderful sturdy cardboard Schildkroet box with the little blue turtle logo design. (I always feel like a doll’s box does a lot to enhance the doll, and I just love these simple boxes! They seem to promise a sturdy, old-fashioned, heirloom treasure just waiting to be revealed!).

It looks just like my box did!

It looks just like my box did!

Open it, Gaby!

Schildkroet doll with box

We’re holding our breath…

(Maxine at My Doll Best Friend always does such a nice packing job. The outfits were carefully wrapped and everything was snuggly packed as efficiently as possible for overseas shipping).

Blond hair??? Really?

Blond hair??? Really?

We lifted off the tissue paper…

Schildkroet doll with box

And there she was!

Et voila!

Et voila!

Gaby was so excited!

I have a sister!!!

I have a sister!!!

She appeared to be sweetly sleeping, which is the best way to travel in a box overseas…

Dreaming...

Dreaming…

At first Gaby seemed reluctant to wake her up…

Wake her up, Gaby!

Wake her up, Gaby!

But finally we could wait any longer! It was a little awkward just at first, as Violette seemed a bit shy…

Schildkroet doll meets sister

It’s probably just the long journey, Gaby.

Gaby admired Violette’s puppy-dog toy.

That's a nice puppy, Violette.

That’s a nice puppy, Violette.

This helped thaw the momentary ice…

Look at those faces!

Well, hello there Violette! Welcome to A Doll’s Picnic!

She asked to hold the puppy…

He's so cute! May I hold him?

He’s so cute! May I hold him?

And so we soon found that Violette is very good at sharing!

Why, of course!

Why, of course!

Mutual interests secure affection…

Schildkroet doll meets sister

He’s so sweet!

And before we knew it, they were friends!

Friends already!

Friends already!

Now that Violette was feeling less shy and more at home, I could take a good look at her.

I must say, there is a strong family resemblance.

I must say, there is a strong family resemblance.

The result of my reverie? Need I say?

We're in love!

We’re in love!

These dolls are the dearest, sweetest, cutest, most adorable, most charming slim-bodied dolls ever. Period. Can’t you tell???

It's so good to meet you at last!

It’s so good to meet you at last!

Now I want all three.

Welcome home, sis!

Welcome home, sis!

I mean, if twins are this adorable, what would it be like with triplets?

Tell me all about yourself...

Tell me all about yourself…

Happy Spring, from A Doll’s Picnic!

Friends forever!

Friends forever!

 

Introducing Alexis: A Via E Alexis Dollfriend Review

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

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

Via-E Alexis doll review 1

Oh boy! (Pug approved).

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

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

Via-E Alexis doll review 2

Just for me!

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

Via-E Alexis doll review 3

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

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

Via-E Alexis doll review 4

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

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

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

Via-E Alexis doll review 6

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

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

Via-E Alexis doll review 8

Such a cute nose!

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

Via-E Alexis doll review 10

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

Via-E Alexis doll review 13

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

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

Via-E Alexis doll review 14

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

Via-E Alexis doll review 15

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

Via-E Alexis doll review 20

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

Via-E Alexis doll review 21

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

Via-E Alexis doll review 18

Notice Alexis’ delicate brushed eyebrows and beautiful facial sculpting.

And from the side:

Via-E Alexis doll review 23

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

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

Via-E Alexis doll review 35

Her hair plugs are small and finely spaced.

Here is Alexis all unwrapped as she arrived:

Via-E Alexis doll review 17

Via-E Alexis doll review 16

You can see how happy she is to be home!

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

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

Via-E Alexis doll review 94

Via-E Alexis doll review 96

Via-E Alexis doll review 95

Some glue and clamping might fix this.

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

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

Via-E Alexis doll review 42

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

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

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

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

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

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Such a sweet, happy smile!

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

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

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

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

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

Right hand.

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Just for me, again!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Just a little bit loose.

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

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

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Yep, the honeysuckle is caged too.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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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.

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Ohhhh….

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

Maru and Friends thank you card 1

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

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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:

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It’s playtime!

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I love the ladybug!

Maru and Friends box label

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

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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.

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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:

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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:

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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.

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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:

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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!

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Wow! These are too pretty to hide!

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

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

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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:

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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:

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There is lace on the cuffs of the sleeves:

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And the buttons on the shorts match the blouse:

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

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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:

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

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

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I love these shoes!

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Here is the complete ensemble on Jamie:

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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):

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These too have wonderful details:

Maru and Friends Jamie doll pj detail 3

Maru and Friends Jamie doll pj detail 2

Real pockets!

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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.

 

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.

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

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Schildkroet red-head doll 39

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

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

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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.

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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.