Details: Gold and Grace

If you’re a fan of the American Girl dolls, you’ve probably heard by now that Marie-Grace is one of the dolls being discontinue- er… “archived” this year (along with Cecile, Ruthie, and Ivy – who is the only Asian American historical doll at the moment). Not only is it a shame for AG to retire these dolls when they’ve only been out for a few years (MG and Cecile were introduced only three years ago!), but there’s also the potential that MG might remain the only doll to ever use this beautiful face mold.

I admit, Marie-Grace can be a bit tricky to photograph. From the wrong angle, her chin appears much sharper than it really is and some pieces of clothing can make her shoulders look too broad or her face too long. Even her original hairstyle seems to accentuate her heart-shaped face in ways that can sometimes be off-putting. Heck, when I first saw her in official pictures, I thought she looked derpy! In fact, I remember my mom and I talking about how she was one doll we would have no trouble resisting… It’s amazing just how many people were uninterested after seeing her stock photos, but then fell in love with her in-person (my mom and I included).

With the right hairstyle (sans massive pin curls) and clothes, she’s such a gorgeous doll!

MGBalletGraceful MG

She looks especially fantastic in neutral and metallic tones. To be honest, I think I like Isabelle’s leotard and tutu better on MG than on Isabelle! With her sleek high ponytail and gold accessories, here MG reminds me a little of the ballerinas from the finale number in White Christmas. (I love those costumes so much!) The gold really seems to bring out her blue eyes, too. Her poodle necklace is actually from Magic Attic Club, from Heather’s ’50’s outfit, but it seems to go well with anything MG wears, so it’s kind of become her necklace.

I’m looking forward to the new items being released this summer and the advent of “BeForever” (the re-branding of American Girl’s historical line), but it’s still kind of sad to see MG being discontinued. She’s quickly become a favorite among collectors, and she’s probably my favorite among my AG dolls – I really do hope this isn’t the last we’ve seen of her or her face mold.JenniferSig

Details: Kanani – Girl of the Year 2011

Kanani Akina, Girl of the Year 2011 | American Girl

Kanani could’ve very easily been my first American Girl doll… if I hadn’t been saving up for something much, much more important at the time – my wedding! But… three years later…

KananiSet

She’s MINE!

I finally bit the bullet and bought Kanani. She’s even prettier in person!

Kanani is my first “Jess mold” doll (first created for Japanese/Scottish-Irish 2006 Girl of the Year Jess McConnell). Although the mold is known for issues with uneven eyes, my Kanani’s eyes are perfect!

KA01

Kanani, fresh from her box

Her “meet” outfit is really sweet! Her sky blue dress goes well with her hair and skin tone, and it also has some hidden sequins scattered throughout. Her beaded necklace and hair flower are a nice touch, too. Her sandals aren’t too amazing… in fact, they’re pretty loose. I can see why she came with clear bands attaching them to her feet.

MGKanani

Marie-Grace Gardner and Kanani Akina

Kanani’s wig is VERY long and silky – maybe a little longer than Marie-Grace’s – but definitely thinner (which probably helps keep her from falling over). I kept her hair down for awhile, but finally decided to put it into braids, which she still looks very cute in. Her skin tone is slightly darker and redder compared to MG’s more yellow tones, and her hair is slightly lighter than MG’s, but has more red to it. Kanani’s hazel eyes also seem like a unique shade. They’re darker and less green than Isabelle’s.

T6405_main_1

Aloha, Kanani – the book introducing Kanani

Her introductory story, Aloha, Kanani, is surprisingly good! After reading Isabelle’s, I honestly didn’t have high expectations for Kanani’s. (And yes, I realize I’m not the target audience, but c’mon, really? “Wah, I’m attending an exclusive performing arts academy, but I worry I’m not good enough!” Exactly how many kids can relate? I know with my watch-PBS-and-try-to-imitate-the-ballerinas method of “learning” ballet as a kid, I definitely wouldn’t have been able to. Anyway!)

Aside from the GORGEOUS pictures by Sarah Davis, there are so many elements of Kanani’s book that I love. The theme of “family” is especially relatable for me. The Hawaiian culture is similar to Maltese in that family is number one – and not everyone has to be blood-related to be family. I love the conversations between Kanani and her “aunts” (they remind me a lot of my own aunts), and that she easily falls into the role of host when visitors arrive (that’s usually my role, too). I also really like that her parents aren’t just magically wealthy – you can tell that it’s taken a lot of hard work to keep and build their family business. In short, I liked the first book so much, I got the second one.

I’m really happy I was able to add Kanani to my collection. She’s a fantastic doll based on a relatable, fun character. I hope American Girl will continue to make more characters like Kanani – she’s definitely one of my favorites. ♥

JenniferSig

Favorite Finds: Painted, Wooden Worldly Treasures

FAVORITE FINDS: OBJECTS

Dala Horses and Treasure Box |  from Sweden and El Salvador

 

The vast majority of my miniatures are typically doll or video game related, but not all of them. Three of my favorite small objects are painted, wooden pieces that originally came from Sweden and El Salvador.

wooden01Dala Horses

 

These are “Dala” Horses. Although I’m not Swedish (I am part Danish, though, so still within that Scandinavian vein), I absolutely love these horses. Each one is handmade, so no two are exactly alike; and the process to make them is painstaking. Once each pine horse is carved to shape, they’re dipped in primer. Any unsightly spots are filled in, and then it’s time to dip them in their base color. My favorite are the red horses (which are also the most common, I think), but you can find them in royal blues, blacks, white, yellow, and sometimes pink and baby blue. Finally, they’re finished off with beautiful, swirling designs, painted by master “ripple painters”.

These two were given to me by my mom-in-law for Christmas a few years ago. They’re originally from the Nils Olsson workshop (Nils Olssons Hemslöjd) in Nusnäs, Sweden. They’re so bright and beautiful – if given the chance, I’d have a little herd of them!

 

When Tangled first came out, and I saw the artwork in Rapunzel’s bedroom, I was reminded of this next mini treasure.

wooden02Cheerful reds, pinks, and purples make up this little bird and his leafy perch.

This small wooden treasure box is from El Salvador. My sister gave it to me years ago for my birthday. I don’t use it to store things very often (I did have a few favorite Barbie items in it for awhile), but I always have it on display somewhere in my bedroom. The box is made of such pretty, light wood, and is really nicely made. The lid is attached to the base with two small pieces of leather and metal tacks. The painting is my favorite part, though. I love the combination of colors and shapes, and the little birds on the side and lid are so sweet.

wooden03Detail of the box lid

JenniferSigI think the thing I love most about all three of these pieces is the attention to detail. The talent of these artists really shows. ♥

Husband Time: Highwind & Fahrenheit

HUSBAND TIME: MINIATURES

When Jennifer started this blog out, she told me I’d eventually have to write a “guest post,” and it seems that time has come. She asked which piece of my rather extensive collection of miniatures I’d like to write about, and I basically pointed at the closest object at the time. I like to keep it simple.

Point is, as long as Jennifer remains “mad” about these American Girl dolls, it’s fully possible that this isn’t the last time I’ll be asked to do this… So you may as well get used to me. Hi, I’m Scott. Jennifer’s husband.

As far as my collection of miniatures goes, it’s about as far away from American Girl as it gets, as I collect mostly figures and collectibles from video games, with a strong focus on a particular series called “Final Fantasy.” Jennifer and I like Final Fantasy so much, we met dressed as two of its characters, and last year, I even went to work for the Japanese company that makes it, Square Enix. How’s that for dedication. In fact, it’s kind of hard to write “Final Fantasy” now, because officially, it’s FINAL FANTASY. We’re big fans of capital letters at Square. But this is a blog about dolls, so I’m gonna stay casual.

So let me get the quick introduction to this video game out of the way for those who for some reason are still reading but haven’t held a controller in their hands since Mario. The name Final Fantasy is a bit ironic, in that there are actually 14 games in what we’ll call the “main line,” and that doesn’t count all the side stories and spin-offs that have resulted from its success. Like, imagine Star Wars if it didn’t have those 20 year breaks between trilogies. Despite there being so many, each game is set in its own unique world, with its own cast of heroes that you the player must gather together to face the kind of villains who more often than not just want to watch the world burn. And within those stories of heroism, tragedy, and explorations of what it is to be human in times of crisis, we find the common threads that bind each game together. Shared themes, elements, monsters, what have you… Even though each story is different, there’s always something that tells you definitively, this is a Final Fantasy game.

Oh man this is getting wordy. THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS when you get me talkin’ about Final Fantasy.

One such string that binds the series together is the “airship.” Part boat, part airplane, the “airship” appeared in the first Final Fantasy back in 1987 and has been in every main line game since. Here, the airship is a representation of freedom. The narrative and the actual mechanical function within the game go hand-in hand; in the game they are the only means to traverse the entire game world with ease, free of being interrupted by pesky monsters. In the narrative, they represent something bigger – often the freedom to choose your own path, the ability to go where you please, and ride the wind where it takes you. Nearly every Final Fantasy has a scene where an airship darts through the clouds, soaring through the lens flare in a beautiful blue sky. The even have their own musical themes. They’re a big deal.

 

FINAL FANTASY X MECHANICAL ARTS “FAHRENHEIT”

Scott03Not a Toyota

This beast is the “Fahrenheit” from Final Fantasy X. I recently attended an art show event with the Art Director of the game, Yusuke Naora, and you want to know where he got the inspiration for that crazy color scheme? The Los Angeles Lakers. That blew my mind. The Fahrenheit’s big moment in the game is this scene where the protagonist and his crew fly over an altar where the heroine is being forced to marry the main bad guy. The airship shoots these giant chain links onto the ground and the heroes literally surf down the chains, jumping between them while dodging gun fire from the ground below. It’s a pretty sweet scene.

 

Scott04

There’s also a battle with a dragon that takes place on the bridge, that little black area on the right.

Airship number two, below, is the Highwind, from Final Fantasy VII. One more really weird connection in Final Fantasy? The airship is almost always owned, piloted, or invented by a dude named Cid. In Final Fantasy X, Cid is a gruff, bald Texan, basically. In Final Fantasy VII, Cid is a gruff, spear-wielding, former astronaut. I can’t make this stuff up, dudes.

FINAL FANTASY VII MECHANICAL ARTS “HIGHWIND” |

Scott02The lady painted on the side is Cid’s “Lady Luck.”

From the best-selling Final Fantasy game of all time, this airship comes from a distinctly futuristic setting, as you’ll no doubt compare the two ships and find that this one has a lot less whimsy in its design. Sleek and metallic, Cid can even call it into battle with his final “Limit Break,” making it rain down missiles upon bad guys. I’ll let you look up for yourself it’s maximum occupancy, max speed knots, engine specs…. It’s all out there.

Scott01Here’s a closer look.

So those are two really sweet airships from a video game series you weren’t expecting to read about on a blog that has talked mostly dolls. You can blame Jennifer, though. I don’t know what I’m doing here, really. But she asked, and thus, she received.

-Scott (Because only Jennifer gets a crazy digital signature)

Favorite Finds: Skinny Jeans by Royal Doll Boutique

FAVORITE FINDS: STORES

Royal Doll Boutique  |   royaldollboutique.etsy.com

 

I’ve been drooling over Lisa of Royal Doll Boutique’s beautifully made American Girl sized doll clothing since early March, when I first found her store. If you look through the pages of her previously sold items, you’ll find not only well-made ensembles, but ones that would look great on a human as well! This is a BIG sticking point for me. There’s a LOT of extra-cheesy-looking doll clothes on etsy (yeah, yeah, I know – because they’re made for children, not for crazy adult collectors – I get it), but it’s very rare to find clothes and whole outfits with pieces that really work well together.

(Like, seriously, if these came in adult human sizes, I would not be ashamed to match my dolls!)

I ordered a pair of Royal Doll Boutique’s skinny jeans, and they’re just as fantastic as they look online!

jeans01Royal Doll Boutique’s skinny jeans, modeled by American Girl Caroline Abbott (1812)

These jeans are made from soft, rich-colored denim and they fit all three of my American Girl dolls perfectly. There are two working pockets in front and back, and all of the edges are professionally finished. The stitching is really nicely done – looks just like the real thing!

jeans02Front and back pockets!

These jeans even look great from the back! I really think I like them better than any I’ve gotten directly from American Girl. I’ll definitely be ordering more in the future!

RATING

A+

This is the quality of sewing that I aspire to. These jeans are so well made and the level of attention to detail is very evident. The price is fantastic for what you get – if American Girl offered these jeans, I’m sure they’d be well over $20. Lisa’s great to communicate with and will even put together custom orders. I can’t wait to see what she has in store for Royal Doll Boutique next!

JenniferSig

Details: Curly Ponytails for Hot Weather

It’s been annoyingly hot over the past few days – and even hotter inside our lovely little poorly insulated abode.

But when life gives you lemons, use the heat to curl your doll’s hair! (That’s how the saying goes, right?)

curlyMGIt’s too hot for long hair!

I found this great tutorial on YouTube awhile back and decided the heat might help the curling process, so why not!

One of Christian Tamez’s fantastic American Girl doll videos.

curlyMG2Loose, lovely curls

 

Her hair actually looks a lot like mine, now! She just needs some side-swept bangs and light brown eyes… which I have been tempted to add to her, but I just can’t bring myself to do it. Something about pouring boiling water in a doll’s head and popping her eyeballs out just… I’m too chicken haha.

Anyway! I think her curls will eventually relax away, but I might try again with tighter curls, more water, and waiting longer before I take the bobby pins out. Not bad for a first try, though!

It’s times like this I’m definitely glad I bit the bullet and undid Marie-Grace’s intense hairstyle (and straightened the kinky, frizzy mess that ensued…).

JenniferSig

Photo Story: Cooking with Theia [PICTURE HEAVY]

PHOTO STORY

Cooking with Theia | Lucent Heart Theia and Leo Nendoroid set with Re-Ment pieces (made back in 2010)

 

Before I get to the photo story… another story!

Once upon a few years ago, I worked in the video game industry. My job was to take games that had been translated into rough English and polish them up for “Western” audiences. Sometimes, it was as simple as changing a sentence so the English flowed a little better, and sometimes it meant creating brand new content – which was the part I liked best. One of my biggest projects was a game called Lucent Heart. I worked hard to give its two relatively generic goddesses, Theia and Cadena, a more in-depth backstory, and even found a way to create meaning for the game’s nebulous title.

It was during that time that I discovered the collectible series of small, interchangeable, personality-filled figures called Nendoroids – because as it just so happened, one had been made of Theia.

Needless to say, it wasn’t long before I snatched her up!

Nendoroids and Re-Ment sets (miniature blind box sets, usually relating to food) go together very well, and make for some great picture fodder. See for yourself!

 

theia01“Welcome to Cooking with Theia!

Today, I’m going to teach you how to make a delicious meal!”

theia02“This tasty dinner is actually quite easy to make!”

theia03“…What do you think you’re doing.”

theia04“G-Get down from there!”

theia05“…You’re lucky I’m so nice.”

theia06“I’ll just use my magic to whip up some dessert!”

theia07“Let’s eat!”

 

This photo story was my first attempt at creating a backdrop. The wood and “marble” counter top were flooring samples from either Home Depot or Lowe’s, and the walls and windows were made with scrapbook paper and magazine clippings. Not bad for a first try. :)

JenniferSig

Favorite Finds: Pinata Invitation Holder

FAVORITE FINDS: OBJECTS

Pinata Invitation Holder |  found at work

IzzyPinata

It’s party time!

You never know what you’re going to find at work!

My department sometimes receives some pretty nice invitations – from square cards in vellum paper to shimmery cardstock and embossed lettering. The most unique invitation I’ve ever seen was one for a Cinco de Mayo-themed event last year. Inside a bag filled with foam western-shaped confetti was a mini pinata. And jammed into the poor pinata’s throat was a rolled up scroll with the event details. After a quick invite-ectomy, I patched up the hole using a piece of Post-It Note, and she was good as new!

pinataThe most unique invitation holder I’ve ever seen!

For months, this pinata had been keeping me company, sitting on my desk at work. But once I was bitten by the American Girl bug, I began to see objects in a new light. When I realized how perfect of a prop this pinata would be, I brought it home, and it’s been decorating Kit’s table and chairs since. Now I just need mini carne asada and fried ice cream… mmm…

JenniferSig

Sewing Project: Isabelle’s Party Dress

PROJECT: A dress for Isabelle, using the Pleasant Company pattern for Samantha’s Party Dress

TIME: 2 days

MATERIALS: coral pink Casa satin, pink lace, pink ribbon, cameo button, notions

IzzySamDressMy first American Girl doll and my first American Girl sewing project

Before I get into this project, allow me to share a little backstory.

I got my first American Girl doll at the age of 30. And I was freaking ecstatic.

When I was the target age for American Girl dolls, they really weren’t affordable for my family. I used to flip through the catalogs and daydream about being able to order anything and everything on the pages – especially the girl-sized outfits.

A few years later, I got my Magic Attic Club Megan doll. I absolutely loved her. I’d save up gift and allowance money to buy her clothes and accessories, and I was even able to buy a few American Girl things that (although they were much bigger) seemed to fit her okay.

Flash forward a few more years.

My mom had only one doll growing up. When her doll’s plastic body started to disintegrate with age, she began a quest to find a replacement. I’m not sure how long this quest had gone on, but I think it lasted at least ten years. Just before she finally found a donor body, she looked at American Girl dolls (which ended up being too small). To make an already long story short, she took one look at Saige, the American Girl of the Year at the time, and decided she was too cute to resist.

My husband and I decided to surprise her with Saige for Christmas. But, as I probably should’ve guessed given my genetics, I was pretty taken with Saige, too. I kept thinking, “Wow, American Girl dolls are even nicer in person!” Still, I was nearly 30 – I could resist an American Girl doll at this point. I had already resisted when Samantha, the American Girl doll I liked best growing up, was retired. I resisted the urge to buy Kanani (which, I’m kinda kicking myself about now). And as cute as Saige was, my mom was already getting her.

I was doing pretty well resisting… until Isabelle was released.

She loved to dance. Her mom had taught her how to sew. She liked to design costumes. She liked cats. Her whole freaking collection was coral pink and purple and white and gold.

And… well…

Spongebob_9f4724_2126340NEED. PLZ. KTHNX.

A few weeks later, I had my very first American Girl doll. And no sh*ts were given that day. (Or any day since then).

IzzyBoxIzzy Arrives

While I was waiting for Izzy to arrive, I discovered that American Girl dolls used to come with historical clothing patterns. I found the scans online, thanks to American Girl Playthings, and decided that if I couldn’t have Samantha, I could at least have her clothes for Izzy to wear.

PATTERN

I didn’t realize there was a difference between American Girl dolls. The earlier “Pleasant Company” (PC) dolls are more plump, so these patterns are slightly larger than the newer “Mattel” dolls. That said, this dress still fit well. I kept trying the dress on as I went along, to make sure everything was turning out correctly. The hardest part of the pattern for me was sewing the sleeves. I had to redo one of them completely (I forget why, but there was no real way to salvage it).

FABRIC

This color was PERFECT! It’s nearly a perfect match to Isabelle’s meet shirt – just a shade or so darker. The coral pink and baby pinks I was able to find went together very well. The Casa satin is nice and thick, without too much shine, but it does fray like crazy. I made sure to use my pinking shears anywhere I could, which seemed to help. I couldn’t find wide enough lace, so I modified the top a little (I also opted not to add some of the sleeve lace it called for). The cameo button was a lucky find, and I think it really finishes off the top well.

IzzyDressProgressProgress shots and the finished dress

Although I hit a few snags along the way, I’m really happy with how this dress turned out. The fact that I had made a complete piece in roughly two days made me feel so accomplished. It’s also what spurred me on to try my hand at more clothes, and to not be so afraid to mess up (or in this case, to not be afraid to toss a sleeve that isn’t salvageable).

Someday, I might try making these dresses for all of my dolls (in different colors, with different details), but for now, they’ll all have to share this one.

JenniferSig

Favorite Finds: Disney Treats by Stacy Morgan Studios

FAVORITE FINDS: STORES

Stacey Morgan Studios  |   staceymorganstudios.etsy.com

 

I stumbled upon Stacey Morgan’s amazing little creations a few months ago, while browsing etsy for American Girl sized Disneyana. One glance at her studio’s offerings and I was instantly hooked! I’ve never seen anything even close to these detailed and amazingly accurate treats!

DisneyIzzyIzzy and I share a love of Disney and their decadent sweets.

I wanted to buy everything Disney she’s ever made because it all looks freaking incredible! but  I purchased her Disney inspired mouse ice cream set. It looks exactly like the real thing! (Maybe even better!)

I also have one of her Disney inspired mouse chocolate dipped rice crispy treats. The attention to detail is incredible – it really looks like it’s made of tiny grains of puffed rice cereal!

GreedyGrinninGhostsBeware of treat-taking ghosts!

Just be careful if you’ve got little kiddos around – these mini foods look pretty darn realistic (my pictures don’t do them justice at all; I need better lighting)! And be sure to check back at her storefront often – Stacey Morgan Studios tends to post several creations at once, and once they’re out, they’re out! But not to worry, if you send Ms. Morgan a note, she’ll let you know when her newest grouping is available. And, if you have something specific in mind, she takes custom orders, too.

RATING

A+

The quality of these small pieces is superb! They look real and add something special to any Disney scene. And they’re not something your run of the mill American Girl etsy store offers! I know I’ll definitely be back for more treats from Stacey Morgan Studios!

JenniferSig