Sunday, June 29, 2014

Happy Anniversary to Me ;)

Twelve years ago today I donned a white dress and married my high school sweetheart in the church where we grew up together.  I can't believe how quickly the time has flown.

My plans were to do a wonderful, poetic post for Hubby like I've done in the past, but between the yard sale yesterday and church today, things just didn't work out the way I planned.

All the same, I just had to pop in and give a shout out to my best friend, my sweetheart, my Prince Charming.  Love you, sweetie! :)  Happy Anniversary.  Can't wait for the next 12+ years. ;)

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Beast'sBelle Needs Your Input! :) (Plus New AG Releases)

Hey guys!  I'm in the process of working on a fun little review, but I'm not going to have it ready for tomorrow as I'd originally hoped.  My brother and sister-in-law are having a yard sale on Saturday, so most of the week has been spent going through stuff and then pricing it to put out at the sale.  As a result, my blogging time has been a bit more limited this week. :}

In the meantime, I need some help from all of you! :)  This coming September, I'll be speaking at my local writers group about blogging.  I plan on sharing some of my experiences, giving advice on how to get started, and also sharing how to maintain a successful blog (to the best of my ability).

I thought it might be fun to have you, my readers and fellow bloggers, share any advice or tips you can think of as well.  You can leave your thoughts in the comments on this post.  Depending on the response, I'll either share all of the comments or just pick several of them to share at my meeting.

So, your thoughts are needed!  If you're a blogger, you can share what's worked for you in the blogging world...or maybe what hasn't! ;)  What got you interested in blogging in the first place?  How did you build your platform?  For those of you (unlike myself) who have managed to gain some financial reimbursement from your blogs, how did you go about it?  What are some of the things you enjoy about blogging?

Those of you who do not have blogs of your own are still welcome to contribute.  Perhaps you could share what you appreciate most about your favorite blogs, or what you like to see in a blog post.  What makes you want to keep coming back for more?  Think about some of your favorite blogs.  What is it that makes them special?  (Who knows?  Maybe I'll get some ideas for the future from your answers!) ;)

If you come up with any nuggets of wisdom on your own that don't necessarily fit the categories I've discussed, go ahead and leave them in the comments!  I'd love to hear what all of you have to say.  When September rolls around, it will be fun to have some extra insight to share with my fellow writers.  And, of course, I'll be sure to let you know how everything goes once the meeting has passed. :)

Have a great weekend (just in case I don't get another post up before then)! :)

P.S.  I didn't have time to really discuss this in detail, but for those of you who don't know, today American Girl released several new items in the My AG, Bitty Baby, and AG pet categories, as well as a new doll, the lovely My AG #61.  Unfortunately, it's really hard to find their new stuff all in one place, so the best advice I can give is to browse each category.  If I find a direct link to all of the new items, I'll try to come back and leave it here for you.  My faves from the new stuff are #61, the adorable new Coconut, and the Coconut Cutie Outfit.  None of these items will be coming home with me anytime soon as they're a bit out of my price range at the moment, but they're fun to look at. ;)  Do you guys have any favorites?      

Monday, June 23, 2014

Disney Store 2014 Classic Rapunzel Doll Review

One of the exciting things to come home to was my order from :)  I couldn't wait to see my new Belle and Rapunzel dolls.

I was a little concerned by the box.  It was slightly pushed in on one side (which was difficult to capture in the picture).  Since I've had issues with scrunched boxes in the past, I hoped that the dolls were unharmed.  

Belle and Rapunzel
Sadly, the plastic on Belle's box was scrunched and pressed up against her nose.  I was able to fix the plastic (as you can see from the picture above)... 

...but the nose was irreversibly pressed flat at the tip.

It was hard to capture on camera.  You can see it slightly here...

...but you can really see it in this picture.  See how the end of her nose looks like a straight line?  I hate to be overly picky, but I knew this would bother me each time I looked at her.  I also wanted to have a Belle with a good face for my blog review.  Thankfully, Disney Store's excellent customer service saved the day again.  I called and explained the situation, and they offered to send me a replacement at no extra charge.  They requested that I donate my first Belle to a charity of my choice.  So, once "new Belle" gets here, this one will go to Goodwill, hopefully to someone who isn't as picky as I am. :}

But let's move on to the review of Rapunzel! 

This year's Rapunzel is just breathtaking.  She looked so beautiful in the box. :)

Side view

Back view.  I love the picture of the doll on the back.  Interestingly enough, the boxes this year have no artwork of the original princesses on them.

Other side view.

Top of the box.  The boxes are much thinner this year.

A few other details:

Bottom of the box with the shipping label.

Rapunzel was held in place with the typical thread and twist ties...and those annoying plastic ties in her head. :{

The twist tie around her waist came out easily once I opened the back of her dress. 

Almost completely free!

Her hands were held in place by clear plastic pieces attached to the cardboard, connected to her hands by clear rubber bands.  These were very easy to remove. 

Rapunzel's skirt had the typical paper stuffing to make it poof out, but I was surprised to find that she also had paper wrapped around each leg.

The paper wrapping went all the way up to her underwear.

And here's a look at her out of the box!

I'm very pleased with the look of this doll.  Her facial expression and more movie accurate dress are perfect.

And speaking of her dress, here's a closer look. 

The Bodice

The Skirt

My Rapunzel's bodice is slightly crooked.  As you can see in this picture, the left of her dress (in the right side of the picture) is higher than the right.

A view from the back.  The dress has the typical Velcro closure of the Classic doll line.

Rapunzel has the same articulated arms as her earlier versions, with movement at the shoulders, elbows, and wrists.

She has legs like a Barbie's that click at the knee.  Also, like most Rapunzel dolls, she comes without shoes.

Here's a look at her hair length in the back.  I'll talk a little more about her hair in a bit, but for now, I'd like to move on to my line up of Rapunzel dolls through the years. :)

Here are all of the Classic Rapunzel dolls released so far (not counting the Wedding Rapunzel dolls or Rapunzel dolls from special sets).  From left to right:  2010 Rapunzel, 2011 Rapunzel, 2012 Rapunzel, 2013 Rapunzel, and 2014 Rapunzel.  (Feel free to click on the picture if you'd like to see them closer.)  I thought it would be fun to take a closer look at the dresses and faces of each and compare them.  We'll look at the dresses first.

2010 Rapunzel has the most detailed dress out of all of them.  Small touches, such as the lace trim around the sleeves, skirt, and neckline, the elegant ribbon just under the puffed portion of the sleeves, and the lavender pattern print on the bodice add to the depth of the dress.  Out of all of the dresses, this one is the most accurate to the movie.  

And now we go the the least accurate dress: 2011 Rapunzel's dress.  This was the year that the Disney Store didn't go for movie accuracy, but instead focused on tulle and glitter. ;)  Even Mulan had a glittery tulle skirt this time around!  While this dress still has the lace trim around the neckline, all other trim has disappeared.  This was also the first short-sleeved version of Rapunzel's main dress.

2012 Rapunzel's dress went back to the long, sheer sleeves.  It featured a tulle-less glittery skirt and a dark purple bodice.  

2013 Rapunzel's dress, while back to the short-sleeved design, at least brought back the layered look to the skirt, the lighter-colored bodice, and some pretty detailing on the outer skirt.

Now here's another look at 2014 Rapunzel's dress.  It is so refreshing to see another version of the dress that is quite close to the movie version.  The original dress is still the most detailed, but this one comes very close to it, and is definitely the best Rapunzel dress we've seen in recent years from the Disney Store.

Now on to the faces!

2010 Rapunzel has no eyelashes.  She has green eyes in a sideways glance, odd light green highlights in her eyes, freckles, and light pink lips.  She also has iridescent strands in her hair.

2011 Rapunzel added some eyelashes.  Her eyes are a slightly lighter shade of green (but the green eye highlights are still there).  A touch of pink eye shadow is on her eyelids, and she appears to have a bit more blush.

2012 Rapunzel is what I called the "Barbie Version" of Rapunzel.  She has darker pink lips, eyes in a darker, "prettier" shade, and lighter, fuller eyebrows.  This particular Rapunzel's freckles look a little less prominent, but that's because I lightened them with nail polish remover. :}

2013 Rapunzel has one of my very favorite Rapunzel faces yet.  She kept the darker eye color but toned down the lips a notch.  Her face has a softer, more natural look to it.

I really love my 2014 Rapunzel's face, too.  I think the slightly raised eyebrows give her a sweet, innocent expression that matches movie Rapunzel's facial expression.  I wish her freckles were just slightly lighter (and may modify them in the future), but the freckles do tend to vary from doll to doll, so it's possible that there are some 2014 Rapunzels out there with lighter ones. 

I have to say, this is the first time I've been disappointed by the hair on a Disney Store Rapunzel doll.  One of the things I've always loved about my Classic Rapunzel dolls is the amount of long, beautiful hair they have.  2014 Rapunzel's hair was much thinner by comparison.  I tried to think of how I could best show the differences on camera.  It was difficult to make it really clear, but I'll do my best.  In the above picture, you see my 2013 Rapunzel on the left and 2014 Rapunzel on the right.  This is not a perfect comparison, because 2013's already thicker hair looks even thicker than usual because of the braided style it was in. 

  As you can see from the above picture of 2014 Rapunzel, I barely had to move any hair at all in the back to reveal her scalp.

Even when the hair is hanging normally, it is easy to find thin spots, as demonstrated here...

...and here.

 Here is the back of 2013's head.  It's hard to tell from the picture, but I had to move quite a bit of hair before the rooting beneath became visible.

And when her hair is hanging naturally, you see nothing but beautiful hair.

In fairness to 2014 Rapunzel, here's another shot of her hair that doesn't show through, so some of it is probably the angle. 

It's so hard to tell from a still picture, but the amount of hair is so drastically different on these two.  2013 Rapunzel's hair is thicker and heavier.  It almost feels like real hair.

2014's, by contrast, is much thinner and lighter.  As soon as I picked up this doll for the first time out of her box, I could tell she had less hair because she was so much lighter.

Again, the pictures don't do it justice, but here's a look at 2013's from the back...

...and 2014's.

I thought another way to show the difference would be in the thickness of the braids.  Here we have my 2012 Rapunzel on the left and 2014 on the right.  Notice how much thicker 2012 Rapunzel's braid looks?

Here's a closer look: 
2012 Rapunzel

2013 Rapunzel (Okay, that didn't really work because I took a closer picture of this braid. :}  Hopefully you get the idea, though.)

I've seen other online pictures of 2014 Rapunzel where her hair thickness was not mentioned, so it's possible that I just happened to get a Rapunzel with thinner hair.  I truly hope that is the case, because it would be a shame if the Disney Store started skimping on hair, improved dresses or not. :(

Here's a look at all five Rapunzels from the back.  Since I have their hair in braids, it's not the greatest comparison on hair length, but I really didn't feel like redoing everyone's hair. :}

I thought it interesting that 2014 Rapunzel's hair is a slightly warmer honey color than the previous versions.

You can really see the difference here.

Here are a few candid shots of 2014: 

So, it's time for my thoughts.  As I mentioned in earlier posts, I'm started a new rating system for my blog reviews.  Each product will have the possibility of 5 points in several different categories.  On special occasions (when I have time and it works out), I'll also have my daughters share their thoughts. :)

Since this is the first time I'm using this system, I've included thoughts on what each category stands for.  As we all become more familiar with the new system, I won't include these.

Pleasing Qualities: (What do I like about the doll?)  4 out of 5
   2014 Rapunzel has a beautiful face and a lovely, movie-accurate dress.  I feel she's a great representation of the movie character.  I'm knocking off a point for the thinner hair and slightly lopsided bodice.

Posability:  (How well does the doll move and hold a pose?)  5 out of 5
   For the design she has, Rapunzel works great.  She holds a pose nicely, and her articulated wrists and elbows make for fun doll photos.  I would love to see the Disney Store come up with a superb design for more articulation in the legs.  However, until they do, I actually prefer the "clicky legs" to the less than satisfactory articulated Princess doll legs we've had in the past. :}  

Playability:  (How well can the doll be played with?)  4 out of 5  
   My three girls all have dolls from the Disney Store and I've been overall very satisfied with they way they've held up.  I knocked off a point because any doll with hair almost to her feet can get a little overwhelming for younger doll enthusiasts. ;)  I'm actually wondering if that is one of the reasons this year's Rapunzel has less hair.  Perhaps the designers at Disney thought that less hair would be easier for the kiddos to manage.  I also made the deduction because I have noticed that the satiny material used for these dolls just does not last long, even with my more gentle daughters.

Price:  (Is the doll affordable?  If it is expensive, is the quality worth the price?)  5 out of 5
   As Disney dolls go, these are a good price, especially if you take advantage of the "2 for $10" offer that usually goes with the Classic doll line. (Sadly, I ordered my two dolls two days too early to get them for $10 each...rats!)  Even at the $16-something you pay for a full-priced doll, I think they are worth it.  Especially since I'm not investing in the super expensive limited edition dolls. ;)

I didn't have a chance to get my girls' thoughts this time around, but I'll be sure to have them chime in for some of my future posts.

Even with the thinner hair, I'm glad I got my newest Rapunzel doll to add to the collection.  If any of you get one, I'd be very interested to see if yours also has thinner hair.  I'm curious if mine is just an odd one in the batch.

I hope you enjoyed the review!  If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them for me!  I'd love to hear your thoughts. :)

Which version is your favorite so far? ;)