Monday, September 1, 2014

Random Updates and a New YouTube Video

Happy Late Labor Day, everyone!  I hope you all had a wonderful day with your families and friends.

I thought I would take some time to regroup and talk about something besides doll reviews. ;)  Sometimes I get so involved in cranking out as many reviews as I can that I forget to include a few more personal posts on the blog, too.

I know this is kind of cheesy, but because I'm covering so many topics, I'm going to label each one.  That way, you can see what I'm talking about at a glance and skip the topics you don't care about. ;)

Doll News:
Of course, I can't have a post that doesn't talk at least a little bit about dolls, so here are a couple bits of news from the doll universe to start us out. ;)

My mom had to make an out-of-town trip this past weekend and spotted some exciting things at Target and Toys R Us.

  First, the Hearts For Hearts Girls in their new packaging have been spotted!  The new packaging doesn't have the cardboard flap with the doll photos on the front.  Pictured above are Dell and Consuelo. 
No sign of the new dolls advertised at the Toy Fair yet, but hopefully they'll make an appearance soon.  Don't get too excited, though.  Mosi wasn't released until an entire year after her appearance at the Toy Fair!

There were also a lot of the new Strawberry Shortcake dolls from The Bridge Direct at Toys R Us (no picture, sorry).  My mom was able to spot the SSC Toys R Us exclusive set, called the "Berry Best Adventure Collection".  It includes Orange Blossom (yay!), Cherry Jam, Strawberry Shortcake, Lemon Meringue, and Raspberry Torte (double yay!).  They are in play outfits instead of their original outfits.  The set is around $40, which works out to about $8 per doll.  I have a hard time spending that much at one time on little dolls, but this set is definitely on my wish list. :)  I was able to find a picture on an eBay listing, which I pinned to my SSC Pinterest board HERE, if you'd like to see it. :)

So now that I got that out of the way, on to the more personal stuff. ;)

Blog Awards:
I'd like to apologize to my readers who nominated me (or Tess and Maggie) for blog awards this past summer.  Juliet XD, Kewpie83, and The Pony Tales Sisters, thank you so much for your nominations.  When I first started blogging, I used to be great at participating in the blog awards.  As I've gotten busier and more involved (and as the girls have gotten older), I've found it more difficult to set aside the time to participate, especially in the summer.  I'm sorry I dropped the ball on that, and I'll try to be better next time.  I appreciate all three of you and love reading your blogs. :)

Comments:
I also just looked through my spam comments and found a few of your comments mixed in there, some from way back!  I know there was one Anonymous comment from my BeForever post, a comment on my Frozen song cover from last March by MyLittleMegara, and a comment from Farrah Lily, I think on my post about my family day.  Sorry those got sent to the wrong place!  They're published now. :}

Yikes, and Belle is totally behind on her blog comments!  She just got them published, but it may take her a while to get all of them answered.  (I think she had about twenty seven comments awaiting moderation.)  Since she's not actively blogging anymore, she keeps forgetting to check for new comments.  Sorry about that!  She asked me to apologize to all of you who have left comments there in the past several months.

Emails:
I know several of you who have emailed me in recent months are still waiting for replies.  I'm still plugging away, but keep getting behind!!  I can get as many as ten emails a week, and most of them have questions which require some time and thought, so it can get a little overwhelming.  Rest assured that I will respond to each and every one of you as soon as I can.

Okay, I think that's enough apologizing for this month! ;)  Let's get on to some other stuff, shall we?

Facebook Fun:
In blog/Facebook news, I had two exciting things happen this past week.  First, Strawberry Reef did a Facebook post on the official Strawberry Reef Facebook page with a picture of the fan art I did for her this past summer.  Not only did she showcase my picture and link to my blog, but she even used my art as her new profile picture!! :D  I was over the moon!

Then, just a few days later, the official Shopkins Facebook page shared quotes and pictures from and links to my Shopkins blog review (you can click through the pictures to see them all).  What made it even more special is that they included quotes from each of my daughters' reviews.  The girls were so excited to be quoted. :)

It's so amazing to get some official recognition from these guys!  I can't express my thanks enough. :)

Weight Loss/Healthy Eating Stuff:
Let's see, in other news, the annoying weight loss/eating right battle rages on! Last May, I rejoined Weight Watchers.  My first day was rather terrifying.  I've always had a hard time dealing with failure, and going to my first meeting with the same leader and checkout person, but at ten pounds over my previous starting weight, was very humbling.  Part of me hoped they wouldn't remember me, and part of me was worried that they would remember me and would be disappointed in me for falling off the bandwagon.  But they didn't do either (as I should have known).  They were both so gracious, and my leader even shared a story of how she had to start Weight Watchers again several times to get back on track.  I was so grateful for their compassion and encouragement.

Throughout the summer, I've had both victories and frustrations.  I lost five pounds at one point, but have pretty much gained it all back.  One of my biggest struggles this past week was that Oldest Gal started soccer.  The practices run so late that it makes food preparation very difficult, and things that are quick and easy are not always the easiest to figure out points-wise. :{  As a newbie soccer mom, I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed.  (Any advice from more experienced soccer moms would be greatly appreciated!)

It's so frustrating to struggle with this so much.  Yet, God is gracious, and like all other areas of life, I find myself much more successful when I go to Him and ask Him for the grace to deal with this issue rather than blundering stubbornly on ahead on my own.  I'm a work in progress, and I've got to keep plugging away.  I also have to remember that looking like a knockout is not supposed to be my goal, but getting my eating under control and living in a healthy way is. ;)

Draft Posts:
I've attacked my draft posts and whittled them down to a more manageable level, which is a great relief.  Starting this month, I'll be making a conscious effort to get those published and caught up.

Finances:
I think I've brought this up before, but Hubby's job is changing.  He's slowly moving up the ladder at his primary job, but it's one of those positions where he's still going to be part time for quite a while before he becomes a full time driver.  In addition to that, because of regulations on drivers and how many hours they can work (at ANY job), he's had to cut back on his hours at his second job.  This has been both a blessing and a struggle.  It's a blessing because he's had a lot more time off and has been able to spend it with me and the girls.  It's been so wonderful having him around more, especially after such a long, busy summer with his crazy hours.

Unfortunately, it's also been a challenge for our wallets.  We're making a lot less than we were before, and so we've had to be a lot more careful about what we spend.  The Lord has provided, and we've been able to pay all of our bills so far, but this month could be a little hairy.

This period of financial strain has actually been really good for me.  I recently came to the realization that whenever I'm stressed or emotional, I turn to either eating food or buying new toys to cope.  Neither one brings lasting happiness, and both can lead to more guilt and stress if not done in a planned, controlled manner.  Having to prioritize my purchases has made me think through them a lot harder, and has led to a lot less impulse buying (I'd gotten really bad at that for a while).  Remembering to find contentment and happiness in Christ instead of things has been a good lesson for me this past month. :}

Patreon.com:
One of the things I'm considering is looking into getting a Patreon.com account.  I don't want this blog to have a mercenary focus, but it would be great if I could make a little extra at something I'm already doing.  It would give me a little play money for doll-related items, and also help pay the bills (especially school tuition).  I've done a bit of research on the site, and it seems pretty legit, just rather new.  HERE is a link to their FAQ page, which explains what Patreon is and how it works.

I would most likely do the donation per month plan rather than per post to keep things simpler.  Have any of you had any experience with this site?  Would you be opposed to my trying it?  The nice thing about doing Patreon is that it would just be a small little clicky-link at the sidebar of my blog and that's it.  No big ads or other distractions on the blog itself.  You could completely ignore it if you wanted to.

I also wanted to ask if you guys had any ideas for some of the rewards I could do for the different donation levels.  I have a few ideas of my own, but would love some feedback from you as well.  I can't guarantee that all of your ideas would be feasible, but I'd love to get your input and see what would interest my readers the most.

Speaking at the Writers Meeting:
As I shared in an earlier post, I'm the speaker at my writers meeting this month, and will be speaking on blogging.  I'll be sharing the comments you left me earlier about what you look for in a blog, and will be sure to let you all know how that goes.  The meeting is Monday the 8th.

Conclusion and YouTube Link:
I think that's about all the randomness I have up my sleeve for now. ;)  In closing, I'll leave you with another YouTube video I recorded just for fun.  This was my third attempt on my second song of choice after five attempts at my first song choice.  I finally gave up on the first one...at least for now. ;)  Hope you guys enjoy the video, which you can see HERE.

More doll reviews and such coming your way, so check back later this week! ;)

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Some Thoughts on BeForever

Wow, best laid plans!!  This post was supposed to be up Thursday night, but between a lunch date with Hubby, "Back to School Night", Hubby's grandmother declining in health, long-winded interviews with the girls, and a TON of links, this post took me much longer than I originally anticipated. :}

As I mentioned in my brief original BeForever post, American Girl launched their new, revamped Historical doll line (renamed "BeForever") on Thursday.  If by some crazy chance you haven't seen what all the fuss is about, you can see all of the new BeForever products on American Girl's website HERE.

In some ways, I'm kind of glad that this post took a while.  It's given me a couple of days to really think about the changes and decide my opinions before spouting them here on the blog. ;)

And on that note, I wanted to say that this post is based on my opinion and experience, and I have no problem at all with varying opinions.  Anytime there is a major change like this, there will always be some who love it and some who hate it. ;)

I figured I'd start with just a few pics of some of my favorite releases from the new line:

Addy's Meet Outfit
Original image found HERE 
While this looks more to me like something Addy's "friend" Harriet would wear, it's absolutely gorgeous and a great color on Addy. :)



Addy Mini Doll 
Original image found HERE
This stock photo doesn't do her justice.  She's really a cutie. :)



Addy's Lunch Pail
Original image found HERE
This set is a little more than I would want to spend on doll food, and I wish the "LOVE" cookies were still separate like the original set, but it's still a fun little set.



Addy's School Outfit 
Original image found HERE 
This is just gorgeous! :)



Rebecca's Outfit 
Original image found HERE 
I really like this shade with Rebecca's complexion.  It would look great on my Jenna. ;)



Rebecca Mini Doll
Original image found HERE
Again, a much cuter doll in real photos as opposed to stock photos. ;)



Rebecca's Holiday Outfit
Original image found HERE 
I want to see this dress in person to see how fragile the material is, but I love the look of it.




Samantha Mini Doll 
Original image found HERE
I think this is one of my favorites of the new minis, but like the others, the stock photo is a bit disappointing.



Samantha's Holiday Set 
Original image found HERE
Love, love love this dress!!  Not sure about the fuzzy boots.  And I wish the dress came separately, because I just can't see spending $64 on a doll outfit. :}



Samantha's Ice Cream Parlor 
Original image found HERE
This set is so fun and detailed.  It reminds me of some of the shops on Main Street in Disneyland. ;)  We have no room for it, and it's $300, so I don't see it coming home with us.  It's still fun to look at, though. :)

As you can plainly see, Addy, Rebecca, and Samantha were my favorites from the new releases.  Not that I hated the other stuff or anything.  These were just the items that appealed to me the most. :)

There was only one item I can think of off the top of my head that I really didn't like:  Samantha's "Frilly Frock".  I'm sorry, I know we did the whole pastel pink and lavender thing a lot back in the 80s, but it just doesn't work here for me.  The color combination doesn't look great, especially with Samantha's complexion.  The fact that it's satiny material doesn't help, either.  The boots are a little over the top for me, too. ;)  Of course, my girls all thought it was beautiful. ;)

As far as my overall opinion on the change, I have mixed feelings.  On the one hand, I think it's great that American Girl is working to make the historical line work.  There was some speculation that the historical line might be discontinued entirely, especially with the huge popularity of the My AG line and the continued "archiving" of several of the historical dolls.  Pleasant Rowland originally started the company with dolls that made history fun and relatable to little girls.  I think it would be a shame to lose that original vision.  

Unfortunately, many of the changes seem to cater more to what will sell and appeal to little girls than to historical accuracy.  Some of the fashions, in my mind, seem to be more "inspired by" historical fashions and accessories rather than actually trying to portray them accurately.   Some of the BeForever colors are a bit too bright or focused on pastelly pink for my taste, and some of the styles (at least in my opinion) seem to be a little lavish for the characters who wear them (especially Kit's and Addy's).  It almost gives the history of the stories a glamorized effect. 

That being said, I am by no means an expert on historical accuracy in general, and I'm sure there were probably some "creative" interpretations of historical fashion in the original line, too.  I also understand that for any company to be successful, marketing is huge, and companies have to go with what is going to sell.  

It's very easy for me as a doll collector to get all worked up about things and forget that these are primarily children's playthings.  I am not the target audience, and if there's one thing Mattel seems to be good at, it's knowing their target audience.  The bottom line is, if they don't make dolls that will appeal to little girls, they will not be able to sell them.  If they can't sell them, they won't make them.  The types of clothing and accessories sold in the pre-Mattel era that I grew up with probably would not do as well in today's market, especially now that there are so many more affordable 18" doll options out there.  And I suppose it's rather silly of me to be nit-picky about historical accuracy when most of my Historical dolls wear modern fashions. :}  

There are a few disappointments for me with this new line, but there are also some new things that are really pleasing.  Overall, I think the line should really appeal to little girls and should hopefully ensure the continuation of the Historical stories and characters we love.  My mom and I are hoping to go to the AG Place sometime this next month, so hopefully I'll get a chance to see everything in person and give an even more informed opinion. ;)

Here are a few basic changes that have taken place during the revamp that you might want to know about:

-All of the original Meet Outfits and many of the other outfits have been replaced with brand new ones.  It appears that a few of the older outfits (not including the Meet Outfits) are still available on the website while supplies last (especially Julie's, Kit's, and Josefina's), but for the most part, they are just gone.  Also, for those of you who are not aware, before the BeForever launch, it was announced that AG would no longer be making the best friend dolls (Ruthie and Ivy) or Cecile and Marie-Grace.  At this point, there are still some Marie-Grace dolls left, but all of the others are sold out.  

-For a limited time, some of the new Meet Outfits can be purchased separately.  I think this is a really smart move for AG, especially for all of those collectors who already have Historical dolls and just want the new outfits.  There has been no word yet on how long the new Meets will be available for purchase.  Rebecca's outfit is already on backorder.  It also appears that Kaya and Caroline's Meet Outfits are not available for separate purchase.

-The new mini dolls have all-vinyl bodies instead of cloth bodies like the old versions.  They are all in the new meet outfits and come with a mini copy of the first new BeForever book.  I'm not sure yet how I feel about the all-vinyl thing, but I'm very interested in seeing them in person and doing a comparison. ;)
  At this point, it looks like only the current dolls are available (so no new mini Molly, Kirsten, Felicity, Elizabeth, Nellie, Ivy, Ruthie, Emily, Cecile, or Marie-Grace).  Josefina does not have a mini doll yet, but apparently most of her new things will be coming in the spring with the second wave of BeForever.  
  Also, the older versions of mini Kirsten, mini Felicity, mini Elizabeth, and mini Nellie are still available on the website at the present (you can see them HERE).  If you're interested in any of these dolls, I'd grab them quickly, as they are most likely only there until they run out.    

-Samantha is once again part of the Historical/BeForever lineup (as you probably figured out from the pictures above), but features all new outfits and accessories.  None of her old outfits have been re-released (which is a bit disappointing, but understandable).  Here's hoping that they bring back some of the other archived dolls!

-Each BeForever character line features a coordinating girls' outfit that is "inspired by" the look of the character.  I miss the old "dress like your doll" outfits of Pleasant Company days, but those haven't been around for a long time anyway.  Also, I think these new outfits could be a good seller because they are outfits that many little girls could wear to school without looking like they're in a costume.  Unfortunately, they're all very short (too short to be school legal for my girls) and very expensive.

-The BeForever books now come in a two book series instead of six and do not include illustrations or the "Looking Back" section.  The first three books have been combined into one book and the last three have been combined into another, making them seem longer and more "grown up".  My girls and I are all a bit disappointed by the lack of inside illustrations, especially when they're done so beautifully, such as the illustrations in Caroline's books.  Then again, a book with no illustrations is better than less-than-stellar ones, such as the disappointing, unnatural-looking illustrations from Cecile and Marie-Grace's books. :}  
   I also always found the "Looking Back" section valuable to learn more about the history of the time period, so I'm disappointed that it is no longer included.

-Each BeForever book series includes a third "Journey" book, a "choose your own adventure" story in which a girl from our time period is magically transported back to the time of the AG character.  So far, there are Journey books for Samantha, Kit, Julie, Addy, Rebecca, Caroline, and Kaya.  Josefina will supposedly get her Journey book in the spring.  This is a really great idea, and I hope it takes off.  Who wouldn't want to see a modern character interact with her favorite AG Historical?  (Sorry, it's going to take me a while to feel like calling them "BeForevers".) ;)  My girls, especially Oldest Gal, are super excited about these stories.  



Thoughts from the Gals:

I thought I'd close this post with my three daughters' opinions on BeForever.  After all, they are the audience for which the new launch was intended (although Little Gal is a little below the target age). ;)  I've gone ahead and included a link to each item they talk about, just in case you want to take a look.  I had planned on getting a small overview of their general thoughts and ended up with a much more comprehensive review from each of them. ;)  As always, any editorial notes from me are in parenthesis and italics.  I hope you enjoy hearing what the girls have to say:


Oldest Gal (10 years old):  
   This is a tough one.  There are lots of things that I like about both old and new (pre and post BeForever).  Julie Albright's Holiday Dress is ridiculously short, and it's a shame that that cute tank top (from her Meet Outfit) has a peace sign on it since my family doesn't do peace signs. (My dad, Oldest Gal's grandpa, is a Vietnam Vet and is not into peace signs, and we all feel the same way.)   Her pants are very cute.  Her Tunic Outfit is adorable.  I do think that I like the Meet Outfit a little better with BeForever, regardless of the peace sign.  
   Addy Walker's new Meet Outfit is such a delicious blue!  Her lunch is very cute.  Her new School Outfit, used in the spelling bee, I think I preferred a deeper blue and with the medal.  Overall, my favor for Addy and her accessories hasn't changed much.
   Kaya (no last name) ;) I think I preferred with her hairline lower, but then again I'm not sure.  Nothing else much has changed with Kaya, so this will be a very short paragraph.
   Samantha Parkington's new Meet Dress is adorable.  Her dog Jip is kind of goofy with his long hair everywhere.  Her Frilly Frock is just darling.  The color of the satin reminds me a little of Mommy's high school banquet dress (it almost fits me...and it has a choker, too!!!).  Her Bicycling Outfit is cute, but not oh-so-cute.  AND THEY MADE HER BICYCLE PINK WHEN THERE IS A SHORT STORY TITLED AND ALL ABOUT HER BLUE BICYCLE, NOT PINK!!!  Her Ice Cream Parlor is so elaborate!  It's a shame it's three hundred dollars.  There I was, wanting the Campus Snack Cart.  I think I'll stick with that!  
   Caroline Abbott's Meet Dress hasn't changed at all, so I won't be talking about that.  But I think her new Party Dress is OH SO BEAUTIFUL.  It looks like a Cinderella dress.  Her table, as Grandma told me, basically was copied off from Cecile and Marie-Grace's table.  It is "ish" (Oldest Gal's version of "meh"), so it's not exactly on my want list.  
   Josefina Montoya won't be getting most of her new stuff until next spring (bummer), so this paragraph won't be as long as Samantha Parkington's.  Her new skirt doesn't bother me much, but for some reason, I think the sash, or buckskin tie, whatever you want to call it, looks better brown.  That's pretty much about it. 
   Rebecca Rubin's new Meet Dress is a little bit better (in my mind) than the older one, not including accuracy, according to me, since I don't know anything about that stuff.  Her director's chair is adorable, if not cute.  Rebecca's Teatime Traditions is, again, kind of "ish".  The challah bread is very cute, but that's probably the only part of the set that I would want.  That being said, I probably wouldn't use it, especially since I don't have a Rebecca doll.  Her Holiday Outfit is... (I've been saving this word) ...BREATHTAKING!  It's so me!  
   Kit Kittredge's Meet Dress, I think, has improved.  A lot.  Kit's Reporter Dress is amazingly "cutiferous", meaning cute.  It is definitely one I would like to get.  Kit's Photographer Outfit (long name) is cute but then again not quite as cute as her Reporter Dress.  Her Typewriter Set is very cute, but not as cute as some other things.  
   Along the lines of mini dolls, books, and dresses for girls, this is the paragraph for those topics.  First off, the mini dolls.  I saw them online and thought, "Their heads are so skinny!"  But then I saw a live picture of them on Flickr (not my account), and they're actually really cute.  I think the book covers are great, but I'm disappointed that they don't have pictures inside like the older ones.  The Journey Books are really exciting me, but unfortunately, Josefina's book, along with her other main stuff, will be coming next spring.  Rats.  The dresses for girls are, unfortunately, too short for my family's favor.  Caroline's isn't too bad, but they're just so expensive.  I was thinking about getting the girls' dress for Caroline on our birthday trip, but that would take up most of my money if I get the same amount as I did for the past two years.  
   So, those are my thoughts.  Adios! :)      

         

Middle Gal (8 years old):  
   First, I'll talk about Samantha.  I love her!  Because her mini doll isn't bad and her Ice Cream Parlor is JUST ADORABLE!  I like the ice cream and everything else about it.  And onto the doll, she's cute, and I like her dress, but I'll probably say this about all the dresses for girls, they're too short! 
   Addy is really great, too.  She has a beautiful, blue dress with black ribbons on it, and the mini doll is cute, but her neck looks a little long.  The lunch is really cute, and I like the LOVE cookies, which she made when she was still going to school and learning to read and write.  And like I said I would say about all the dresses for girls, it's TOO SHORT!   
   Now Kaya has a bad hairline.  I like the old doll a lot better, and the dress for girls is too short and does not look like an Indian dress very much.  The tepee is very cute.  I like the bedding, and the campfire looks like it's actually lighting up.  And I love the material used and I think the tepee material is the same as Kaya's dress material.  
   Now Josefina's only new thing, now it might change sometime, is her dress.  It's a little weird but still it's very cute.  And as you can probably guess, the dress for girls is just too short!
   Caroline's Table and Treats are basically copied from Cecile and Marie-Grace's Table and Treats.  The mini doll is really cute, but to me, I just like the old dolls better.  Now, the girl's outfit has no skirt to be too short, but it has spaghetti straps.  But at least it comes with a jacket, so it's kinda good, but, you know, it could get a little annoying in summer.  Her Party Dress is, like, kind of a silk-ish material, and it's pretty, and it comes with gloves and blue shoes, and a blue headband that is made out of the same material as the dress.     Rebecca's Holiday Outfit is just...adorable!  It is very cute and, you know what I like about it?  It has no gloves.  And gloves would make her look too grown up and fancy.  Her Meet Outfit is cute.  It has black tights, purple shoes, a purple top hat, and it has a little purse and a purple dress.  And this time, the doll's dress is a little too short.  And you can probably guess what I'm going to say about the girl's dress, so I won't even say it.  I think Rebecca's face is a little skinny in the mini doll, though.
   Kit's Meet Outfit is really, really cute.  And her Reporter Dress is cute too, and her Photographer Outfit is cute, just really cute too!  Her Typewriter Set is also, just, cute.  My friends have a typewriter, and let me tell ya, that thing is accurate, my friend!  The mini doll actually isn't too bad...it's pretty cute.  And since I skipped this the last time, the girls' dress is too short.
   I don't like the Meet Outfit (for Julie) because I haven't mentioned anything with this, because she's the only doll that has this.  She has a peace sign, a HUGE peace sign made out of flowers, on her shirt.  And the girls' dress has a huge peace sign too, made out of flowers.  And on the bottom, there's purple and there's a skirt that's too short, a jean skirt, and there's leggings.  Her Tunic Outfit is cute.  The clogs are kind of funky looking, though, but I'm not even gonna talk about that because it doesn't really matter.  And the flowers on her shirt aren't just boring printing, they're embroidery, which I really think is nice.  And it has hot pink jeans.  The Egg Chair is pretty cute, and there's like this thing that you can plug into your i-phone, and you can play her music while she's sitting, just sitting in her egg chair.  The coat and hat are adorable.  They have like this fur, and they're purple...well, I mean, the hat doesn't have fur.  And overall, that outfit's pretty cute.
   So overall, I kinda think this new line is good, and then I think it's gonna go downhill.  And it also disappoints me that they're not doing the old historical stuff anymore, isn't that sad?  So, I'm half happy and then I'm also sad.   



Little Gal (6 years old):   
   I LOOOOOOOVVVEEE Kit's new dress and her new everything!  And I just LOOOOOOVVVVEEE the Ice Cream Parlor.  And I don't really like Kaya as much because they put back her hair farther back so she doesn't look the same...she doesn't look like herself.  And I like Samantha's satin dress, but the thing is it's satin, and satin and Velcro don't go together.  And I like the tepee and I like Josefina's oven.  And I like Kit's typewriter and her Reporter Dress.  And I like the mini dolls but I'm not so happy about the peace sign on Julie's shirt.  We don't really do peace signs.  And I like Caroline's Party Dress but that's satin too.  And I like Caroline's table food.  And I like Samantha's new accessories.  And I like her new dog.  I love the bicycle outfit and the bicycle.  The bicycle's just sooooo realistic!  And her nightgown's cute too, but still it looks just like any old nightgown, but it still is really cute.  And I like the girls' outfit, but it's a little too short, and I'm too young for it.  But [Oldest Gal] will probably fit them.  And I like her new bedtime accessories.  And I like her bed and her coat set and her holiday outfit set.  And it comes with a tea set INCLUDING the TREATS!!!!  And I like Josefina's new Meet Dress.  I like Addy's new mini doll.  And I like Addy's new school dress and Lunch.  And I like her meet outfit and accessories.  I like Rebecca's Holiday Outfit and her Meet Outfit and her Director's Chair.  And I like Julie's Egg Chair.  I like her winter outfit, Tunic Outfit, and her Holiday Dress.  
   And before BeForever, I liked the car wash and I liked Caroline's old house.  And I liked Kit's old Meet Outfit too, but not as much as the new one.  And all of the Meet Outfits, but not as much as the new ones!  I wish they had Molly still.  She's my second favorite.  And I like Josefina's Feast Outfit.  I LOVE ALL OF THE AMERICAN GIRL DOLLS!!!  



Can't get enough photos of BeForever?  Here are some links with great pics from people who have visited the stores:







For those of you who would like to compare the Historical items pre-BeForever to the current releases, there's an excellent Historical Doll reference guide on American Girl Playthings' home page HERE.  This will link you to Kaya's page.  To see any of the other Historical dolls, click on their icons at the top of the page.

So, hooray for you if you made it all the way through this post!! ;)  I'd love to hear your thoughts on the new launch.  Please remember to be kind, even if you're not a fan of the changes. :)  It's a lot more fun if we can all have a civil conversation together. ;)  

Friday, August 29, 2014

Rainbows From Hubby

Hey guys!  My BeForever post is close to done, but ended up being a lot more involved than I originally planned.  (My girls had a lot more to say on the subject than I expected.) ;)  Lord willing, I should have that up sometime tomorrow.

In the meantime, I just had to share the surprise that Hubby brought home for me tonight. :)

A TY Rainbow Dash and rainbow-colored flowers to match! :D

He did a great job choosing one with an adorable face (some of the TY My Little Ponies have some pretty goofy-looking faces). ;)

I love my flowers, too. :)

I'm so thankful for my sweet Hubby.  He's the best! :)


I'll be back tomorrow with the BeForever post. :)  

Thursday, August 28, 2014

American Girl's "BeForever" Launch

For those of you who don't know already, American Girl launched their re-vamp of their historical line, called "BeForever", last night on their website.  I haven't said anything about this new look for the line before this because I wanted to see actual photos before I formed any opinions.

I don't have much time now...I've got to get the girls to school and then I meet with my writing friends at the library for a few hours.  I plan on sharing my thoughts...and my daughters' thoughts...on BeForever later this afternoon.

Until then, here's a link to all the new stuff to tide you over. ;)  Talk to all of you soon!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

My Little Pony Pop Fluttershy Review

Many of you have probably seen one of the newest releases from Hasbro in the My Little Pony section, the My Little Pony Pops.  I'd been curious about this line since I heard about it from various Toy Fair 2014 reports.  I had something small to exchange at Target, so I decided to get one of the Fluttershy sets to review for the blog. :)

There are several different options in the Pop line, from individual ponies, to ponies with accessories (like the set we'll look at today), to sets of two ponies, to ponies with houses.  They range in price from around $6 to $20 each.  The set we'll look at today cost me $9.99 at Target.

Here is Fluttershy in the "Fluttershy Cottage Decorator Kit".  One of the larger house sets is Fluttershy's cottage, so I'm assuming this is meant to be purchased as an additional playset to help furnish the cottage.  The only thing is, I'm pretty sure the cottage comes with a Fluttershy as well, so I'm not really sure what you'd do with two Fluttershys. ;)

The back of the package.

One of the features of these ponies which should be fun for some girls is the fact that the ponies can be swapped around and mixed and matched to make new ponies, as demonstrated in the above picture.

A picture of everything included in the set.

Some basic instructions on the back.

A verbal list of all of the contents.

And a few extra package details:

The package opens very easily in the back.

Everything is nicely held in the clear plastic inside.

Here are all of the contents that come in this set.

There is a skinny brochure with more info about some of the other Pop sets.  I have to say, I totally understand the title of this line since you "pop" the ponies off of the plastic rods and "pop" them together.  However, I'm kind of surprised Hasbro got the rights to this name, considering the highly popular Funko Pop line.  

One side of the brochure.

The other side of the brochure.

A closer look at my set and the coordinating Pinkie Pie set.

Twilight Sparkle and Rarity both come in packs with princesses and accessories.

Here's a better look at Pinkie Pie's Sweet Shoppe.

Some of the individual ponies in the series:

Fluttershy comes with a sheet of stickers you can use to decorate her and her picture frames.

Fluttershy herself.

Here are her tail, mane, and wings.

She also comes with four plastic butterflies to pop out and play with...

...a birdcage and two birds...

...a little desk/cupboard...

...and four pop-out picture frames.

The birdcage has a door that opens...

...and the birds can sit on the perch inside or the perch on the steps.

Another look from the side. :)

Time to pop out some of the accessories!

I purposely let Middle Gal and Little Gal pop these out on their own (Oldest Gal was still at camp when we did the pics for this review), because I wanted to see how easy it would be for a child in the target age-range to get them out (the Pops are marked at ages four and up).  Both girls did okay, but it was not very easy.  I had to help Little Gal with some of her butterflies. :}  At one point, we thought we might break them trying to get them out!

Note:  After doing this post, my mom noticed that the package clearly states that "adult must remove parts from frame".  So Hasbro's intent was clearly not for children to easily be able to remove the ponies and accessories from their plastic rods.  Just thought I'd mention it. ;)

Time to free Fluttershy!  I did help a little more with Fluttershy herself because I was worried she would break. ;)

Here she is from the side.  Looks normal enough, right?  Until...

...you turn her to one side.  Creepy, right? ;)

The two pony halves are pretty easy to pop together.

I was a bit disappointed to see that the two halves didn't meet seamlessly, though.  This was as close as I could get it.

A few different views of bald Fluttershy:  ;)
I love how the highlights in her eyes are hearts. :)

Time to add her mane, tail and wings now:
I have to admit, the final product was a bit disappointing.  I get that they had to come up with a mane and tail design that would work with the removable, swappable aspect of these toys, but it's sad that this was the best they could come up with.  It really doesn't look much like Fluttershy.

The stickers look really cute in the picture frames. :)

I'm not one for having a bunch of stickers on my toys, but I decided to use her cutie mark sticker on the side that had no cutie mark.  It looks cute, but was impossible to stick flat, and even more impossible to keep on the pony.  We finally ended up throwing the sticker away because it kept falling off and getting messed up and gathering hair and lint (I'm sure I'm not the only mom with floors that have such things on them). ;)

Little Gal decided that the furniture was a desk and that Fluttershy could be looking out the window while she wrote a letter. :)

Middle Gal decided that Fluttershy would rather use it to hold one of her pictures.

Time for our overall thoughts and ratings!

Pleasing Qualities: 3 out of 5
   I think the My Little Pony Pops are a great idea, especially for little girls who enjoy changing and customizing their dolls and toys.  Fluttershy has a sweet face (especially those cute hearts in her eyes) and fun little accessories.  However, I think the design could use some improvement.  The pony and accessories were a bit difficult to remove from the plastic rods, even for me as an adult.  Some of them felt like they were going to break instead of coming out in one piece.  Fluttershy's face doesn't meet completely at the seam.  The mane and tail are cute, but as I mentioned before, Fluttershy doesn't look much like herself with the design they used.  This particular fact might not be a big deal to others, but it was for me.  I was also very disappointed in the quality of the stickers they included.  I understand that Hasbro probably wanted to keep them from being too hard to remove since the Pops are being advertised for their ability to be customized over and over again.  That being said, the stickers should be able to stay on for more than a few minutes.  I think a lot of little girls will find them frustrating.  We also had a problem with her wings falling out when we moved them too much.  For these reasons, Fluttershy got a rather low score in the "Pleasing Qualities" category.
   My daughters had some issues with this Fluttershy too, but they still recommended her overall, as you'll read in their later reviews.  So even though Pop Fluttershy wasn't my favorite, others may really enjoy her.  I've always been into toys and dolls that capture their movie/TV characters accurately, and my girls have picked up on this themselves (as you'll see from their reviews).  So for us, the idea of a pony you can switch around and make into a new one isn't as big of a draw as it may be for other girls and collectors.  It all depends on what you're looking for. :)
   I still don't regret getting Fluttershy, because she looks cute with the rest of my Fluttershy collection. ;)  However, I don't personally plan on adding any more Pop Ponies to our collections.

Posability: N/A
   These ponies aren't marketed for posability, so I didn't rate them in this category.

Playability: 3.5 out of 5
   Again, a lower score in this category for many of the same reasons as in the first category (stickers, difficulty of removal, and falling out wings).  If you just want a cute pony with cute accessories and don't plan on using the stickers, I'd say this could be a 4 out of 5.  To avoid the wing issue, go for Pinkie Pie, Applejack, Rarity or Zecora. ;)

Price: 5 out of 5
   The prices are pretty reasonable for all of the pieces and accessories you get.


Thoughts from the Gals:
   This time around, we'll only hear from Middle Gal and Little Gal.  Oldest Gal was at camp at the time of the photos and review, so she didn't get the full effect of popping Fluttershy out and all that. ;)  As always, my editorial comments are in parenthesis and italics.  All of the opinions expressed are the girls alone without any input from me.

Middle Gal (age 8):  I don't really like them because their faces from the front look like squares.  And Fluttershy looks totally unaccurate (sic).  Plus, they're really hard to get out of the plastic rods.  Her wings are in just such a way that I can't really see her cutie mark.  But otherwise I think they're really cute, like their faces from the side.  But it's kinda weird that her mane, tail, and wings have designs on them, and her ears and the tops of her legs have hearts on them.  But her wings pop off very easily (negative).  So I think that it would be like something that could be fun, but you wouldn't want to take them apart very much because you could lose the pieces.  If there was a set with just a pony and everything she needed like her hair and her wings and her horn, I would probably like it.  The birds are really cute, especially the purple one.  But the butterflies don't do anything.  I would recommend this for people who don't care about accuracy, but for those of us who do, these aren't exactly the best toy.

Little Gal (age 6):  I like how they can mix and match.  I don't really like the stickers because they make them (the ponies) look weird.  I like her desk and I like how she can get fresh air while she's writing.  And that's where she writes her letters to Princess Celestia.  And I like the pictures and the birds.  And I like the birdcage, but I don't know what the butterflies are for.  Neither does Mommy!  I wish they would make their hair accurate, but it's still cute.  And I LOOOOOOOOVE the face.  I like how their legs are "departed" (apart) and they aren't stickin' together like paper and glue.  I would recommend it.