Monday, March 23, 2015

Photo Shoot, Mount Hermon Updates, and My New Blog

Hello, everyone! I hope your week is going well so far. :) Things are going well on my end, although I'm starting to feel the pressure of the upcoming conference and all of the last minute details I have to wrap up before then. :}

I will be leaving for Mount Hermon on Thursday, and won't return until late next Tuesday. As you can imagine, posting will be pretty scarce this week...perhaps even nonexistent. I'm not sure whether I'll have Internet connection or if I'll have any spare time while I'm there. However, I plan on taking pictures and sharing them with you as soon as I get back. :) I've decided to take my Zelfs Dorothy Doe and Petal with me to help document the experience. ;)

In other news, I started another blog last week. This one is just for my writing. I'm taking things slow for now (there are only two posts up so far). I just thought I'd mention it here in case anyone was interested. You can check it out on WordPress HERE.

Spring is definitely starting to show itself around our house. Last week, our cherry tree broke out in glorious blossoms, so I seized the opportunity for a photo shoot. It's been a long time since I've puttered around my yard with a camera, a doll, and some toys. I enjoyed myself immensely and got some pretty nice shots, too. ;) I hope you enjoy them!

While she's kind of an odd-looking little thing, Dorothy Doe is quite photogenic and one of my very favorite Zelfs. :) 

Charlie decided to join the photo shoot today, too. She's all decked out in her new outfit (provided by my mom). :)

Beautiful blossoms! 

Elfa in her natural habitat. :)

These pretty little flowers grow wild in our backyard.

Petal is one of the Zelfs I picked up on our birthday trip. I'm so glad I did. She's just adorable! :)

That's about all for now. I hope you all have a fantastic week. I'll be back sometime next week with lots of conference news to share! :D

I used some of my Zelf pictures from this photo shoot for a new header, so here's a copy of my previous one. :)

Friday, March 20, 2015

My Little Pony, Cinderella, and Disney Store Releases and Sales

Hey everyone! Hope your week is going well. :) I just wanted to share a few current sales and new releases that might interest some of you.

First off, Princess Luna, Princess Cadance, and Shining Armor are all currently available at Build-A-Bear's website. Luna and Cadance will also be available in stores, but Shining Armor is a web exclusive.

(Original Image HERE)

Luna is priced at $27 for just the pony with no accessories.

(Original Image HERE)

 Cadance is $25 by herself...

(Original Image HERE

... and Shining Armor is $36. 
I believe he is priced higher because he comes with his wedding jacket (there is not an option to buy just the pony himself).

 You can see all of the current MLP items and friends available HERE.

I just ordered a Shining Armor for myself. :D Between the two gift cards I purchased on our birthday trip and my Stuff Fur Stuff rewards, he only cost me $13. I can't wait 'til he gets here! :D "A Canterlot Wedding" remains one of my favorite episodes to this day, and Shining Armor is one of my favorite secondary MLP characters. Eventually, I'd love to get Princess Cadance, too. (And who else is hoping they eventually do a Big McIntosh?) :D

Build-A-Bear is also doing one of their gift card promos again (the same promo I took advantage of on the trip). If you spend at least $25, you can get a $10 Build-A-Bear gift card for just $5. You can choose either a physical gift card or an online one. This is a great way to give yourself a discount on a  future Build-A-Bear purchase. :)

In other news, the Mattel Cinderella dolls are on sale at ToysRUs' website. Royal Ball Cinderella is down to $31.99 from $39.99, and Wedding Day Cinderella, the Fairy Godmother, and Lady Tremaine are down to $19.99 instead of $24.99. It looks like the costumes and accessories from the movie are on sale, too. Unfortunately, by the time you add tax and shipping, you end up paying pretty much the full price. It's still less than you would usually pay online, though. I don't have a local Toys R Us, but it you do, you might check and see if the same sale is going on in stores. The discount would especially be worth it then.

Finally, the Disney Store website has a fun "Buy One, Get One For $1" promo going on right now. There are lots of different items to mix and match. You can see everything HERE.

I guess that's about it for now. I'm slowly sifting through comments and getting my replies out. :) I'll have more updates for you later!

Happy Shopping, everyone!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Maru and Friends Maru Doll Review

Several weeks ago, I was contacted by a representative from Maru and Friends, asking if I would be interested in reviewing a Maru doll here on the blog. Of course, I agreed! :D

I've been interested in this line ever since I first discovered it online a few years ago, and I'm absolutely thrilled to be able to own the lovely Maru. :) 

Note: Maru will be undressed for part of this review, just in case that's an issue for any of my readers. She does not have a developed figure, but I always try to mention this whenever it comes up. :)

Also, I took these pictures with my phone, so some of them are a bit small. Feel free to click on any of the pictures for a closer look. :)

So, without further ado, let's take a look at the newest member of the Never Grow Up doll family. ;)  

There's nothing like getting a package in the mail, especially when you know it has a doll inside! :D

My first view of Maru.

Maru came in her box, which was sealed in plastic. A small red envelope and a postcard were on top of the box.

"Can I come out yet?"

The little envelope (sorry for the blurry picture) had a note inside...

...with a little message and the Maru and Friends contact information.

The postcard had more contact info on one side...

...and pictures of Maru's friends in different outfits on the other. 

A view of the front of Maru's box.

I love the little ladybug on the Maru and Friends logo. :)

Side view

The back of the box.

Other side view.

Here's what Maru looks like once the plastic is gone and the lid of the box is removed.

I can't say enough about this darling face! Her head sculpt is just exquisite!

Maru's face was sculpted by Dianna Effner. I first discovered her work when I came across some of her "Little Darlings" dolls on Pinterest (you can see some of them HERE). Dianna has a great eye for detail and an amazing talent for capturing youth and innocence in the expressions of her dolls, and Maru is no exception. :) 

Maru was held in place by white ribbon, which was tied in delicate knots around her neck, arms, and legs. I went on autopilot and cut the ribbons to free her, but realized just after I did so that I could have simply untied the ribbons and kept them in tact. :{ Oh well, I'll know for next time! 

I appreciated the fact that these pieces of foam were placed around Maru's arms..., and neck to keep the ribbon from leaving rub marks or other damage on the doll herself.

Her hair came in a hairnet to keep it protected and neat.

Maru comes with a book, a purse, and a certificate of authenticity in an envelope.

Another look at that darling face, just because I'm smitten. ;)

Maru's purse is made of a leather-like material.

It opens at the top and latches with Velcro.

The purse strap can go over her arm...

...and also works over the shoulder, although her shoulder slopes at such an angle that it was a bit difficult to get it to stay.

Maru's envelope...

...containing her official certificate of authenticity.

Here's the book she comes with, entitled "Forever Friends".

The back of the book.

The book features an easy-to-read story about Maru, for readers ages six and up. Maru is a young Hispanic girl who has just moved to America to live with her aunt and uncle. Her mom and dad have stayed behind for an unspecified reason, and she misses them terribly. (According to the website, the separation is due to "political discord in her native land". The website also states that Maru's books are based on a true story.) The story discusses some of Maru's struggles in a new school and learning a new language. We are also introduced to Maru's friends Jamie and Tanya, who are also available in doll form (click their names to see them). The book ends at a kind of cliffhanger, so I'm assuming you get more of the story when you purchase the other dolls.

The illustrations are colorful and fun. 

Let's take a look at Maru herself. :) Here's how she looks when completely deboxed. She stands at approximately twenty inches tall.

I just can't get over that face! This is one of the most photogenic dolls I've ever worked with.

She has glass-like, unblinking eyes that are framed by "real" lashes.

I thought Maru's ears were a bit large and far back in proportion with the rest of her head. Part of that is I tend to really pay attention to ears since I have such a hard time drawing them in the right position. ;) Still, they're cute and covered by her hair, so it's not a big deal. 

Maru from the back.

Her hat looks adorable on her...

...but she looks cute without it, too. 

Her ensemble includes a long-sleeved orange shirt, an orange scarf, a striped orange and tan vest, and a brown corduroy skirt.

Maru's scarf comes off very easily. It is not stitched on to any of the other parts of her clothing.

Her vest has snap closure in the front.

I think this is my favorite look for Maru. I love how simple it is. This would be a great outfit for autumn. :)

It looks even cuter with her hat. :)

Here's a look at her shirt from the back.

It closes with three snaps.

Maru's skirt is made of corduroy, and has a belt with a silver buckle that is just for decoration.

Just like her vest and skirt, her skirt has snap closure in the back. I have to say, I love the use of snaps for the clothing. While snaps can be harder for little hands to manage, Velcro tends to snag material terribly, and things like Maru's tights and shirt would easily catch on Velcro.

Maru has tannish-colored tights on under her skirt that are thick enough to work as leggings, and these adorable fur-trimmed boots.

Side view of her cute footwear.

Her boots have Velcro closure on the inner sides.

She still stands just fine without her boots.

Here she is in just her tights.

Underneath the tights, she has a nice pair of lace-trimmed white underwear.

Here she is completely undressed. As you can see, she has a full vinyl body with articulation at the neck, shoulders, and hips. She has a little girl figure with the slightest beginnings of development in the chest.

Here she is from the back.

Her dark hair is long and shiny.

It is wigged hair, not rooted, and the wig is nice and thick.

Maru has "Maru and Friends TM" stamped on the back of her neck...

...and "Dianna Effner" stamped on her back. (The dark spot on her back is not actually on the doll; that's from my faulty camera lens.)

Her hand sculpt is pretty and delicate.

Maru's neck is able to pivot in its socket.

She can move from side... side.

She can also look up...

...and down. 

And she can look from side to side as well.

While her long, straight arms and legs give her somewhat limited articulation, she can still hold some nice poses:

She can hold up her arms...

...and sit...

...or stand with her legs outstretched.

She can also do the splits...

...or just sit comfortably.

She can even stand on one leg (although she's leaning against my backdrop for support).

I was especially excited to compare Maru in size and scale to some of my other large play dolls. :) She's pictured here with my Karito Kids Pita (aka Elena), my mom's My AG #47, my Hearts For Hearts Girls Mosi, my BFC Ink Yuko, and my Magic Attic Rose.

Maru is closest in size to the Karito Kids line. However, as you can see from the picture, Pita/Elena has a much more mature-looking face mold and a larger head.

BFC Ink Yuko looks quite short next to Maru! :) She also has more of a stylized look compared to Maru's very realistic face.

American Girl dolls are much shorter and wider than the Maru and Friends dolls.

The Magic Attic dolls have a similar build, but are still much shorter.

Mosi, of course, is much shorter. But she could work as a little sibling, don't you think?

I don't know that I'd necessarily pair Maru with any of these dolls scale or proportion-wise, but I love the uniqueness of each of them. :) If all of my dolls were alike, it would be so boring! ;)

I realized as I was typing this that I usually try to see whether or not dolls of similar sizes can share clothing, and I completely spaced that this time around. I will try to do a follow-up post on that at some point (probably after Mount Hermon), but I really wanted to be sure to get this review up before I left. Sorry if I disappointed any of you! I'll try not to make you wait too long for clothing swapping info. ;) 

I ended up with a ton of extra pictures of Maru while I was taking photos for her review. This is hands down one of the most beautiful, photogenic dolls I have ever owned, and I could NOT stop taking pictures of her! I thought I'd wrap this post up with a collection of some of my favorites. :) 

Of course, I couldn't stop there! When we had a pretty, overcast day last week, I took her to the backyard for an outdoor photo shoot. The green grass and the blossoming cherry tree made a perfect backdrop. :)

Maru retails for $120 plus shipping, and is a doll created for children ages three and up.

If you'd like further information about Maru and her friends, be sure to check out the Maru and Friends Website. Along with the other dolls in the line, you can find clothing, accessories, and furniture for Maru. For information on ordering a doll for yourself, the company's return policy, or other questions about the website and how it works, be sure to check out the FAQ page. If you'd like information on hair care, or to send a Maru and Friends doll in to the company for hair care services, stop by the Hairstyle Tips page. You can also request a free catalog or contact the company with specific questions or comments. 

Maru and Friends can also be found on Facebook HERE

Maru is an incredible doll, and I'm so happy to have her in my collection. I'd like to thank the Maru and Friends company for allowing me the opportunity to review her. :) When I was taking the photos for my review, I told my mom, "I think I'm in love!" And it still holds true. I am so pleased with Maru's amazing detail, incredible photogenic appeal, and the high quality of her clothing and shoes. But I suppose we should move on to the official rating before I get too far ahead of myself. ;)

Pleasing Qualities: 5 out of 5
   As I said, I am completely thrilled with Maru. Her face is detailed and endearing, her clothing is well-made, and she is absolutely stunning in photos. I honestly can't think of anything that really disappointed me. I would highly recommend her to anyone looking for a high-quality play doll.

Posability: 5 out of 5
   I'm giving Maru a five for posability, because even though she isn't as articulated as, say, a Kids-n-Cats doll, she's not really advertised for her posability. Her joints are nicely strung and she holds a pose well. She can stand without difficulty, and the pivoting of her neck gives lots of fun options for head posing and photos. It would be nice if her legs were closer together in a sitting position, but as the splayed leg pose is pretty common in this sort of doll, I'm not surprised or disappointed by it. 

Playability: 4 out of 5 
   I decided to knock off a point for playability simply because these dolls are supposed to be for ages three and up, and I honestly don't know that I'd be comfortable recommending them for a three year old...unless it was a MUCH more careful three year old than any of my daughters were. ;) The company has a good return policy, but I wasn't able to find any information about any sort of warranty, so I'm not sure if they offer any sort of exchanges or repair for damaged dolls. The way Maru's arms and legs are strung would make it very difficult to restring her without the company's help. (I wouldn't particularly care to try it, and I've been studying with someone who's restrung dolls for museums). The stringing is nice and tight, but playtime does tend to wear on a doll after a while. ;)
   That being said, the dolls do appear to be very well made, and their simple articulation would help them hold up to playtime a little more. I just would worry for the eyelashes and the hair.
   I do love the variety of hair color, eye color, face molds, and ethnicity with this line. It's always fun to see a doll company branch out and make unique dolls that aren't just cookie cutters of each other. This makes it easy for little girls to find a doll that looks just like them, and can also be a great teaching tool for playtime. I've often shared how I love using dolls to illustrate the beauty in every color and culture. This doll line definitely fits that goal. :)

Price: 5 out of 5
   Maru costs $120 plus shipping. While this is not currently the type of price I would be able to pay for a doll, I think that her quality makes her worth the price if you can afford it. An American Girl My AG doll currently costs $115 plus shipping, and comes with far less in the way of clothing and accessories. Maru's quality definitely holds up to American Girl's, if not surpassing it. If I was in the market for a high end doll and had the funds, I would gladly be willing to pay $120 for a doll of this caliber.  

I didn't get thoughts from my daughters this time around, simply because this week is flying by with all of my other preparations, and I wanted to make sure I got this review up in a timely manner. However, I can say that they are all just as smitten with Maru as I am. :)

And how could we not be? ;)
I can't stop photographing this doll!! :D

I hope you all enjoyed the review! What are your thoughts on this line? Will any of you be adding Maru or some of her friends to your dolly wishlists?

I received Maru as a free product from the Maru and Friends company. All views and opinions expressed are my own.