Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Of Story Submissions and Craft Fairs

Hey guys! Just wanted to check in with you real quick. I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving and found some great Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals. ;)

I'll be spending my day getting my book submission done for a small publishing company I'm interested in. The deadline for submissions is tomorrow, and I've been busy (and procrastinating) all month, so today I have to buckle down and get busy. ;)

The girls and I are also preparing for the school's Christmas craft fair fundraiser, which is this Saturday.

Here's a look at the craziness of craft fair prep:

I thought glitter might be a fun addition to our crafts. Little Gal thought so, too. Unfortunately, I didn't think about how much glitter spreads, especially when the packs accidentally open in the middle of application. We had glitter on our clothes, our faces, the table, the floor, the puppy, and even Hubby. Maybe we'll skip the glitter next time. ;)

Some of our finished Sculpey ornaments:  

In spite of the craziness of supervising three creative girls and trying to get all of this stuff done in time, I'm so glad we did it. The school is facing a pretty big financial crisis right now, to the point that there might not even be a school next year. :( We are praying that the Lord will see fit to keep it open for many years to come, but in the meantime, it's great to find practical ways to get involved in helping the school, especially for the girls.

I hope to have another "real" post up by the end of the week, so stay tuned. I also hope to get caught up on blog comment responses. On that note, I just wanted to say that I truly appreciate reading each and every one of your comments, even if I don't respond to them right away. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. They always brighten my day. :)

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

We Loved Moana! :D

Last night, my mom, my aunt, and I all took the girls to see Disney's latest. And, as usual, Disney didn't disappoint. Moana was a great film with beautiful music, stunning animation, lovable characters, and a strong female lead whose motives of kindness and doing the right thing made her a heroine my daughters could look up to. 

I don't want to give any spoilers away, so I won't go into anymore detail, but I highly recommend this movie. There was pretty much no objectionable content, aside from some very mild toilet humor (that was actually kind of hilarious) and one unfinished "son of a..." phrase that stops right there. As this film strives to be a faithful representation of the Polynesian culture, elements of their beliefs are included in the film, but even as someone not holding to these beliefs, I was able to enjoy the film and the overall message it gave. I also feel that learning about other cultures is important, so that we can understand the worldview of others and where they're coming from. 

If you'd like a more in-depth review, you can check out Plugged In's take on the film HERE

I had hoped to have my review/comparison of the Disney Store and Hasbro Moana dolls up by today, in celebration of the movie's release, but we had company and a music practice that took up most of my blogging time (well worth the interruption on both counts). ;)

So, to tide you over, I thought I'd share a few photos from the movie theater, especially since Disney Store Moana joined us. ;)

The girls with the movie poster.

We each took turns posing Moana in front of the poster. This is my pose.

Little Gal did this one.

Middle Gal chose this pose. 

And here's Oldest Gal's pose.

Here is Moana waiting in line for our theater to begin seating. (Little Gal came up with this pose. I was especially thankful I'd brought Moana at this point of our night. Little Gal was having a tough time waiting, so playing with a doll made for a good distraction.) ;)

Moana, waiting for the movie to start. (And no, I didn't take this photo during the trailers, in case you were concerned. ;) It was during the "First Look" segment at Cinemark.) 

We had a great time, and the girls have been singing "How Far I'll Go" and "You're Welcome" nonstop ever since. The only song we didn't like? "Shiny." I think I could handle never hearing that one again, although it's not as bad with the animation. Definitely not one I'd listen to very often. :}

And here are a couple of photos from the upcoming review, with a few abbreviated thoughts from me:

This. Doll. Is. Gorgeous. Probably one of the most stunning Disney Store dolls I've ever purchased. A great gift idea for Moana fans or collectors. She retails for $19.95.

The hair shouldn't be brushed and will probably be a matted mess after a lot of playtime, but it's gorgeous right out of the box, and a spot-on representation of the movie. I love Moana's beautiful face and fuller figure. The only issue I have is that her legs are the rubbery click-knee legs like the older Barbies, and because her legs are so much thicker, it's rather hard to pose them. Also, because her legs are sticky, it's really hard to get her skirt back on correctly once she's undressed, because all of the little "grass" pieces get stuck to her rubbery plastic legs and don't want to point down like they're supposed to.

Other than that, no complaints. She is incredible. 💕 

Before I got my Disney Store Moana, I picked up one of the Hasbro ones in a local store. I was surprised to find the huge height difference between the two dolls. 

Hasbro Moana retails for around $12.97. She is much more posable than Disney Store Moana and has jointed knees instead of click knees. Her hair is not as nice (it matted pretty much right away), and her clothing is just printed on the cloth instead of separate pieces of material. I also personally prefer the amazing detail of the Disney Store Moana's face to the simpler design of Hasbro Moana. 

Of the two, I would pick the Disney Store version, but Hasbro Moana might be a better choice for younger Moana fans, as she's more posable and she's simpler to dress and undress. And even though her hair isn't as high in quality, I don't think the Disney Store Moana's hair will hold up to playtime much longer than Hasbro's version.

Many more details and photos to come in the official post, but I thought it might be helpful to share the basics for now. ;) 

I hope you all have a wonderful week and a blessed Thanksgiving with family and friends. :)

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Sales and Promotions for Black Friday

Hey everyone! I'm so glad you enjoyed the pics of Iris from yesterday. 😊

I realized that I used to be a lot better at keeping you up to date on current promotions for dolls and toys. Since Black Friday is nearly here, deals are popping up right and left, and I thought it would be nice to give you guys a heads up for a few of them. 😊

First off, the Disney Store has all sorts of great sales going right now, and today and tomorrow, you can get free shipping with the purchase of any Moana product (to celebrate the release of the movie tomorrow). Just enter the promo code "FREESHIP." This would be a great time to pick up some of the fun new Moana products you've been drooling over. Or, you can do what I did and pick up one of the reusable Moana totes for $3.95 and buy one of those Beauty and the Beast sketchbook ornaments you've been pining after (which, coincidentally, are on sale for $8 each right now). 😉 You can see all of the Moana products currently available HERE.

Build-A-Bear has a couple of nice sales starting Thursday, including "Buy One, Get One Free" on several of their animals, and $8 each on their Peppermint Paws Bear and Snow Hugs Bear. There's not a current link since the sale hasn't started yet, but you can see the promo message HERE.

American Girl currently has free shipping on orders of $100 or more through today! You can enter the code 11FS16 at the checkout. They have several fun items on clearance in their sale section, too.

Happy Shopping, everyone! More posts to come soon. 😊

Monday, November 21, 2016

Posts in the Works and a Fun Thrift Store Find! :D

Hey everyone! Hope you're all doing well and enjoying the beginning of your Thanksgiving week. :) I wanted to stop by to let you know that I'll be working on some of my promised posts this week (and answering comments...sorry I'm so behind again!). In the meantime, I wanted to share a super exciting find from my local Goodwill.

I was browsing the toy aisle last week and picked up an 18 inch doll, thinking it was one of the typical Our Generation dolls or other similar lines I often find there. Imagine my surprise when I discovered it was an American Girl doll! 😄 (Completely Unrelated P.S.: Blogger now has emojis! Hooray!)

Here she is! After doing some research online, I discovered that she is actually a fairly new release. She's Truly Me #60.

Her hair was tied in a rubber band, but thankfully just needed to be brushed and was not damaged.

Her face had a few rub marks that came off easily with a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser.

Her biggest flaw was this chewed up thumb on her right hand. I'm guessing this right here is why such a new doll was already at the thrift store.

Her price? $3.19. 😲 

Her hair brushed out beautifully. 

I found her an outfit from my doll clothing stash. I love the pastel pink of the hat with the blue of her eyes. 😊 

I got a couple of pictures of her outside. 

I will probably try to use some extremely fine sandpaper to smooth some of the rough edges on this thumb. But I figure it will be part of her backstory. 

She also has a slight imperfection on her nose, almost like she got dropped and dragged for a bit or something. But she's still super cute...especially for under $4!

I've decided her name is going to be Iris. I haven't decided on a middle or last name yet. (Suggestions are welcome.) I know so far that she's going to be another Whovian like Alice, except Iris' favorite Doctor is the Eleventh Doctor (Alice likes Ten the best). I've also decided she's going to be a fan of The Flash, a TV show I really enjoy. (And yes, Iris West's character is how I thought of my Iris' name.) I'm in the process of getting a Flash Funko Pocket Pop for her collection. Oh, and she's going to be into art, too.

I know some of you have mentioned how much you miss hearing about my 18 inch dolls (or any 18 inch dolls in general) on this blog. I apologize that they've kind of been out of the spotlight for so long. Part of that is due to the fact that my interests have expanded and changed some since I started blogging, and part of it is just because I've tried to focus on smaller things recently that are more friendly to my current budget. 😉 I'll try to be better about featuring my 18 inch girls more often. 

Iris and Alice look darling together. I'm sensing the start of a beautiful, nerdy friendship.

 I also thought "The Adventures of Alice and Iris" had a nice ring to it. Hmm, something to think about. 😉

Stay tuned for a big toy news/toy finds post, that Fan Mail Friday post I keep meaning to get up, and a review of some Disney Moana dolls, all coming in the next couple of weeks. 😁

And goodbye from Iris...for now. 😉

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Artwork Palooza

Hey guys! Hope things are going well for all of you. 

So here I am, sliding in at the last possible minute to make my goal of posting once a week. I guess if you're on the East Coast or beyond, I didn't quite make it, but it's almost 11:00 pm here, so I'm counting it! ;)

Even though you haven't heard much from me, I've been quite industrious in my absence. ;) Aside from working on some of my writing deadlines, I've been busy with some art, as you can see from the picture below:

My daughters' school is hosting a Christmas craft fair at the beginning of December as a fundraiser, so I decided to go in on a booth with my extended family. So far my dad, my mom, my aunt, my daughters and I all have plans to contribute to the booth. We'll have everything from homemade birdhouses to cards to ornaments and...you guessed it...artwork! ;)

I'm planning on helping my girls make some oven-bake clay ornaments, but in the meantime, I ran across these fun 4x4 "Artist Tiles" at Michael's and thought it would be fun to sell some mini artwork samples. Especially since my Copic marker collection is growing and makes me want to color all day long! :D

I started with a simple sketch, just for fun, so I could test how the markers would respond to the cardstock tiles.

Here is "Holly" in pencil.

I outlined her in pen...

...and then started slowly coloring and building up my shading.

One of the things I love about Copics is how you can layer different colors to give faces real depth.

And here is Holly, all finished!

I had such a blast creating her, and the markers worked perfectly without bleeding out of the lines. So, that led to a whirlwind of art. Little 4x4 squares are a perfect size because they're so small. 

One of my favorite things about working on art projects is seeing the progression as they go from pencil sketch to full color, so I thought it would be fun to share my "work in progress" photos with you. 

I have to apologize in advance for the blurriness of some of the photos. I was taking pictures quickly as I worked and didn't always stop to check if they turned out okay. :} Also, feel free to click on the pictures to get a closer look.

This was my first "real" project for the craft fair, and remains one of my favorite pieces of the bunch. I love how the different layers of yellow ended up working for her hair, and I love the depth of her skin tones. :) I used a silver Sharpie for the final, sparkling touches of the snowflakes. :)

Autumn was a lot of fun, but it took me a while to figure out the best way to do her hair. I'd really like to get a black Copic with a finer point, and I'd like to play around with textured hair techniques. I ended up using lots of layers of color for her hair, including several browns and even dark gray. Overall, I'm pleased with the final result. :)

This piece is an example of how my work often changes drastically from pencil sketch to initial inking. In this case, I think it was for the better. :) As I started to ink her in, I realized that her eyes were spaced a little too far apart. I also decided to slim down her facial structure. I love how regal Stella ended up looking. And I've got a thing for hair dramatically blowing in the wind, as you'll probably notice throughout this post. ;)

This was a simpler sketch, but I'm so happy with how the colors turned out and brought Rosa to life. I especially love her rich, warm skin tone.

About this time in the process, I decided I wouldn't use my initial sketch of Holly since she was such a different style from the others. However, I really liked her color scheme and her rich, green hooded cloak, so I decided I'd do a less stylized version of her. This became "Ivy" (yes, after the Christmas song). ;) You'll notice in the process photos that Ivy went through a LOT of layering and shading. I think my favorite part was adding her subtle freckles at the end. :)

A comparison between Ivy (left) and Holly (right). I think overall I like Holly's coloring best, but I'm still happy with how Ivy turned out, too. 

Faces have always been my favorite thing to draw, but I thought I should stretch myself and do a few scenic drawings, too. I called this one "Ani" because the princess in it kind of reminded me of the main character from Shannon Hale's book, The Goose Girl. (Which, by the way, is a FABULOUS retelling of the original fairytale, if you're looking for a good book.) ;) It's been a while since I've done something like this in my art, and I'm thrilled with the end result. :)

Oh, man. I fell in love with this one. That hair!! Sometimes, a piece just stuns you with how amazing it turns out. This is one of those for me. I decided to do a few extra tiles so I wouldn't have to include it in the craft fair. ;) One of the reasons she struck me so much is that she really reminds me of one of my book characters. :) And her hair is awesome. Just sayin'. If I could just have hair like that... 

I did go back a little later and trace around the ends of her hair with my black ink pen since keeping the marker color in the fine curls at the end was a bit challenging. ;)

I thought it would be fun to bring a touch of Bollywood to the mix. This was so much fun to draw and color. :) Anjali's left arm is a little wonky on proportion, but I still love the overall effect of the piece. :)

One of my daughters suggested I try a mermaid drawing. Since mermaids were a regular art escape for me as a girl, I thought it would be fun to do one again. I'm a bit out of practice, but I suppose it's not too shabby for my first attempt in ten or so years. ;) I think my favorite part was blending her fin and seashell colors together, and figuring out how to blend all of the ocean colors, too. 

This is the redhead I decided would replace Elle. I got to do more of the cool, dramatic hair blowing again. ;) 

A funny side note about this one. You'll notice that in the initial sketches, she had a lot less hair. That was before I messed up on her nose and chin when I was tracing the pencil with my ink pen. Best way to cover up a faulty nose and chin? Add more blowy hair!! ;)

"Cilla and Glitterheart" 
My most recent foray in my art escapade was this piece, which promptly became one of my very favorites. I've always had a soft spot for unicorns, and I'd forgotten how much I love to draw them! :D I'm just so in love with how the shading turned out on the unicorn. Light gray, light blue, and a colorless blender. I'm in awe. And I fell in love with my Copics all over again after doing this picture. ;) 

[Side note here: I know I totally sound like an infomercial, but man, these are some amazing markers! I feel like I've been able to take my art to a level I never knew was possible in the marker world. They are super expensive (around $8 per marker), but if you wait for coupons at Michael's or Hobby Lobby, it helps. And for the serious artist, they're well worth the investment. :)]

I thought I should give a shout out to Stephen Cosgrove and Robin James, creators of the Serendipity Books. I read them over and over as a girl, and was always fascinated by Robin James' artistic depictions of unicorns and horses. My unicorns tend to draw inspiration from "Morgan," the unicorn in the series. Thank you, Ms. James, for so inspiring my love of art at a young age. :)


So, doing all of this artwork got me thinking. I'm considering opening a little Etsy shop with some of my little artwork tiles. I figure I'll wait until January, after the craziness of the Christmas season. I know that's super bad marketing-wise, but I'm not quite ready to jump in with both feet during one of the busiest times of the year. ;) My thought was I could list whatever artwork tiles don't sell at the craft fair. Because honestly, they're not all that Christmasy. But they were fun to make, and maybe someone will want them. ;) 

It's not my intention to make a huge profit. I just thought it would be a fun way to encourage myself to keep up with my art. And hey, there are worse things than playing with my Copics and Netflixing. ;) 

I do still have a couple of posts in the works. As I've said before, things will be a bit quiet around here over the next couple of months as I continue to work on my writing deadlines and try to survive the craziness of the Christmas season as a UPS wife. ;) 

Hope you all have a wonderful week!