Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Back from the Birthday Trip

Hey everyone! Just thought I'd drop in and let you know that we actually made it to Roseville this time. ;) We had a wonderful birthday trip for the girls and got back home safely this afternoon.

I'd hoped to get that Beauty and the Beast review up before I left, but between packing and everything else, it didn't work out. The short version of my review is that overall, I LOVED it. :D More detailed thoughts to come. ;)

I don't have the energy to do a full post tonight, but here's a short little preview of our trip:


More to come! ;)

Thursday, March 16, 2017

In Which my Monthly Posting Trend Continues...

Okay, seriously, where did February go? There's no way my calendar is right. Oy.

I really hate starting blog posts with an apology, but I feel one is due this time. It's been over a month since you've heard from me, which is ridiculous. Apparently, this is my new thing for 2017: one post per month. Sorry, guys! :}

So, what have I been up to during that time?

First off, I have to share the rest of our Spirit Week pictures with you. (Side note: I think Spirit Week was the start of my blog neglect. I'm pretty sure I used up most of my brain cells then, and things haven't slowed down since.) ;)

If you guys remember, all of the dress up days this year had board game themes. So the first day, highlighted in my previous post, was Candyland. Day Two was "Scrabble Day." The students each had to pick a famous character or object that started with the same letter as the first letter of their name and dress up as that. So, I suppose now you'll know the first letter of each of the girl's names. ;) Little Gal went as Captain America, Middle Gal went as Porthos (from the 90s version of "The Three Musketeers"), and Oldest Gal went as Boo from Monsters Inc. Little Gal's shield and Middle Gal's sword were both handmade by my dad, using cardboard, duct tape, and paint. :)

Puppy kisses for Captain America. ;)

Day Three was "Apples to Apples Day". Oldest Gal and Little Gal went for more literal interpretations of this by going as Apples to Apples game cards, while Middle Gal chose a theme from one of the cards and went as a fairy.

The last day was "Battleship Day," or, more traditionally, "Red, White, and Blue Day." I think this one's pretty self-explanatory. ;)

The girls still managed to keep up with their homework during Spirit Week. Here's Little Gal doing her reading in one of the under-bed storage cubbies, waiting to go into Oldest Gal's room. ;)

***
In the middle of this crazy week was the AWANA Grand Prix at our church, an event where each of the kiddos get to make their own boxwood derby cars and race them. Oldest Gal isn't in AWANA anymore (she's too old), but the other two both had fun working on their cars with Papa.

Middle Gal decided on a dolphin design and made a mermaid to ride on top.

The mermaid is trailing her hands in the water at the end of the dolphin's tail. The water was made from hot glue droplets (all Middle Gal's idea).

Little Gal decided she wanted to make Moana's boat. Here it is from the side...

...and from the front.

***
As if this wasn't enough fun, we've celebrated two birthdays over the past month, too. 

Middle Gal's was in February. She decided on an ice cream and toppings bar instead of cake, so my mom and Mimi found all sorts of fun toppings for ice cream.

She requested something for a fairy garden as her [non]cake topper, so Mom found her some figurines and a wishing well, and my dad made her a little fairy-sized bridge.

Little Gal's actual birthday is almost here, but we celebrated her family party last week. She requested a Moana cake with Moana high-fiving an ocean wave.

I think Mom and Mimi pulled it off pretty well. :)

The "sand" was graham cracker crumbs over a cream cheese frosting, with chocolate shells for decorations. The water was made of blue and white fondant.

My dad made Little Gal her own miniature version of Moana's boat for her little Moana doll. Pua looks ready for adventure!

***
Backtracking a bit now. Right after Spirit Week, over President's Day weekend, we attempted to take the girls' annual birthday trip to Roseville.

Mini Josefina and Ooma the Zelf, all excited for the trip.

We specifically took I-5 instead of Highway 99, our normal route, because of the possible flooding of the Oroville Dam. Ironically, 99 was fine that day, but I-5 was partially closed because of heavy flooding. But unfortunately, we didn't find out about it until we were stopped in traffic and didn't know why. :{ There was no warning at all. One moment we were driving along, excited to visit Toys R Us and the Disney Store and the mall, and the next, we were in standstill traffic. For the next three hours, we only traveled six miles. It took some involved research and phone calls to even figure out what was going on. Thankfully, we had lots of snacks, water, and Disney's live action version of Cinderella downloaded on Mimi's tablet, so it wasn't nearly as bad as it could have been.

Brake lights. Not what you want to see on the freeway. :(

Josefina is bored. ;)

Even on the sides of the road and in the fields on either side, the flooding was pretty crazy: 

"Aaarrrgghhh!!! Let me out of this car!!"

Because the flooding was so bad, and because another bad storm was supposed to hit while we were there (not to mention the fact that two people REALLY needed to go to the bathroom, and we'd passed the rest stops hours ago), we made the difficult decision to turn around and go back. Traffic was stopped a good twenty miles back from the spot we'd left. It was a bad day to be on the freeway. :(

We found a spot for a late lunch (we never reached our original lunch destination because of the traffic issues). We had just decided to do a mini overnight trip to Chico (a town a little over an hour away from our home), which was on our way back, when Mimi tripped over a parking block in the parking lot and fell. She broke her brand new glasses, cut her face, and injured her bad elbow. She insisted we still do a quick Toys R Us stop in Chico, but after that we all decided it would be best to just go home.


It was a tough weekend. The girls had really good attitudes about the whole thing, but of course they were devastated. They were all in tears (and I was, too).

As bad as the trip was, there were a lot of things to be thankful for. The weather was beautiful, so when we were stopped, we could leave the windows down and enjoy the fresh air...except for the first part, when there were a ton of tiny gnats flying around because of all of the water. ;) Another nice thing was that the girls were not the ones who needed the potty stop, so for a while, the need wasn't as urgent as it could have been. We had a long time to chat and visit in the car together. We had plenty of food and water, which was a huge blessing, because we didn't eat lunch until after one. We were also able to turn around before we had to drive through flood waters. And thankfully, Mimi's injuries were not as bad as they could have been.

So, not the way we would have chosen the trip to go, but still a memorable experience. I told the girls that someday they could tell their grandkids how the I-5 flood of 2017 ruined their birthday trip. ;) I-5 flooding is extremely rare. I haven't heard of it happening in my lifetime.

The good news is, the trip is rescheduled for this coming weekend! Mimi is all healed up and the storms haven't been as bad, so we shouldn't run into the same flooding problems. We're not going to take I-5 again this time, though. We'll stick with 99. There are more options there if traffic ends up stopped for some reason. ;)

***
Somewhere in the middle of all of this craziness, Toy Fair 2017 happened in New York. While I didn't do any blogging about it, I did set up a Pinterest board with a few videos from those who were able to attend. There are some great vlogs from My Froggy Stuff and others. You can see my board HERE.

***
And, of course, Beauty and the Beast news, clips, and merchandise have been abundant. I've pinned most of the clips and interviews I could find on my Pinterest board HERE.

Fun Beauty and the Beast merch at Barnes and Noble.


And some at Walmart.

I got myself a Beauty and the Beast purse and an adorable Beast keychain. (Shout out to the awesome Hot Topic employee who helped me feel the blind bags before I purchased them to figure out which one felt the most like the Beast. I love our Hot Topic employees! They're so nice.) :)

This purse is just the right size and so colorful.

And the Beast is adorable! :D

The entire soundtrack is now available to purchase, and is also available on Spotify. I have so many things I want to share about it, but I really want to hold off comments until I've seen the movie and am able to observe the visuals while listening to the music. As a teaser, I'll say that my reactions at this point are...mixed. But I'm also not horribly disappointed. ;)

The Beauty and the Beast headlines have not been without controversy, as most of you probably know. Director Bill Condon's comments in his interview about the decision to make LeFou gay instantly became huge news. I'm not going to say much on this topic at this time, as I've made the decision to see the film myself first before I share my opinions. I know that my readers all hold different views on this issue, but I felt I couldn't go without saying anything due to my Christian readers.

I was directed to THIS article which details what exactly Mr. Condon was referring to in his interview, which is helpful for parents trying to decide whether or not to take their kiddos to see it. For a more detailed review from a Christian perspective, you can check out Plugged In's thoughts HERE (warning, a few plot spoilers in this one).

After reading these articles, I have decided that I will still see the movie, and most likely let my girls see it, too. After I watch it, I'll do a full review and share more of my thoughts. For now, I'll say this. While I personally hold to different values than the Disney company, I understand that this is a sensitive topic on both sides of the issue. I think there have been overreactions on both sides and there has been insensitivity on both sides. My hope is to share my honest opinions in a way that is respectful, loving, and gracious. But, the rest of this conversation will have to wait for a later post. ;)

Most of you have probably also seen the announcement about the Beauty and the Beast Limited Edition dolls that will be released online and in select stores tomorrow, on the same day the film is released. They made Belle in her yellow ballgown (a 17 inch doll) and a Belle and Prince set (which I believe are regular fashion doll size). You can see a detailed review of the reveal photos on this YouTube video HERE.

As some of you may remember, around Christmastime I was able to purchase $100 in Disney Store gift cards with some of our Best Buy gift cards. I'm going to take them with me on the trip this weekend, just in case, although the dolls will probably be sold out by the time we arrive on Sunday. I think the LE Belle is a definite improvement from the smaller doll, but I've decided I still want to see her in person before I decide whether or not I want to purchase her. If she's not still there, I'll take that as my decision maker. Gift cards or not, I can't justify spending that much sight unseen, especially after the disaster that was the Classic Live Action Belle. ;) Since I will most likely only own one limited edition doll in my life, I want to make sure it's one I'm absolutely in love with.

As for the Belle and Prince set, I think Belle is nice, but I'm horribly disappointed in the Prince. He does NOT look like Dan Stevens to me. I think Hasbro did a better job on their Prince doll's face. It's exciting that the Disney Store version's head is the proper proportion for his body, but it makes Belle's already oversized head look even more huge. And while his clothing is amazingly detailed, he's really just kind of ugly. How does the Disney Store keep taking these gorgeous people and making them hideous in doll form? :(

Ahem. I realize the irony of nitpicking over the looks of dolls from a story about looking past appearances, but I hope you know I'm not trying to be shallow, just big on accuracy and detail. :} Especially when the dolls in question cost $700. Yikes!!

Back to that Classic Belle doll and her Beast counterpart. Here are just a few photos I took of them and the Hasbro Belles I picked up.

Disney Store Belle and Beast.

The artwork on the backs of their boxes matches.

I'm still disappointed in this face.

The Beast is pretty incredible, though. 

Here is "Enchanting Ball Gown" Belle from Hasbro, and the "Castle Friends Collection" set. I purchased both of these at Toys R Us the weekend of our botched birthday trip.

Castle Friend Collection front...

...and back.

The set includes Cogsworth, Lumiere, Plumette (Feather Duster), Mrs. Potts, and Chip. I was surprised to discover that all of them are made of a slightly flexible plastic instead of hard plastic.

Cogsworth is definitely my favorite from this set. Judging by the clips I've seen, I think he's going to be my favorite in the movie, too. Plus, there's something so surreal about having a little animated clock with Gandalf's voice. ;D

Cogsworth from the back.

Mrs. Potts front...

...and back.

Chip front...

...and back.

Lumiere front...

...and back. I think I was most disappointed in this guy. Even though his detail is pretty cool, the pose they chose for him makes it almost impossible to get him to stand up, especially since he's so flexible.

Plumette's base is more solid, but since it's uneven on the bottom, she can't stand at all. I wish they'd designed it so she could.

Plumette from the other side.

A closer look at the peacock detail on her handle. 

The two Belles side by side.

Hasbro Belle

Disney Store Belle

Hasbro Belle's dress.

Disney Store Belle's dress.

Hasbro Belle deboxed.

She holds a carboard rose.

A side-by-side of the two dolls together.

And a closer look at their faces. While technically the Disney Store doll looks more like Emma Watson, I think the Hasbro doll has an overall more pleasing face.

I also snagged the Target Exclusive Belle from Hasbro. I loved the fact that she came in her castle grounds outfit.

Her box from the back.

This Belle comes with her castle grounds dress, her shoes, her cape, and her village dress.

Her face is identical to the other Hasbro Belle's.



A look at her shoes. Unfortunately, because they chose to make her feet AND shoes on her tippy toes, she doesn't stand on her own. Even when she's leaning against something, it's difficult to get her to stand up.

Here's a look at her feet.

Her cape from the back.

It doesn't untie in the front, but has a Velcro spot in the back that allows you to take her cape off over her head.

Here is her dress underneath.


I was disappointed to discover that the dress and the little pink over-jacket are sewn together and can't be separated. 

Here she is in her village dress.

As to be expected from a play line doll nowadays, both of her dresses are cute but made of satiny fabrics that will fray and tear easily with rough play. Just an FYI for moms out there. ;)

I didn't plan on deboxing the Disney Store Beast and Belle dolls. The Beast is still in his box, but I was so disappointed in Belle, I ended up deboxing her so I could remove her freckles. But then I accidentally took off a part of one eyebrow, too. One thing led to another, and suddenly I was removing her head, relaxing her hair with boiling water, and taking off all of her face paint. :}

Belle's empty box. 

She had so much paper stuffing in her skirt! 

Here she is with the stuffing still intact.

I'd hoped that I'd be able to enjoy her face mold more when I deboxed her, but it still isn't quite right. She actually photographs better than she looks in real life, too.


Bodice detail. I do like her dress.

Skirt detail.

I love her little pinky ring. :)

Her dress from the back.

I love all of the layers and little details.

Her hair is super curly and a bit crunchy with gel. The top is in an elaborate braided bun.


She has this odd golden earring thing over one ear that looks more like accidental factory paint. ;)

Her skirt has lots of layers.

The details of her shoes.

Sigh. And the wonky Disney Store jointed legs strike again. :( 

I tried pulling her hair a little loose from its style at the top. I think this softened her face nicely.

I decided to hold it in place with a rubber band for a while:

Spinning in her dress.

Ugh, that face shine. :(

At this point, I knew I wanted to take off her freckles and face shine, and I didn't want to risk getting acetone on her dress, so I had to figure out how to get her undressed. I had to snip the little threads holding her sash in place to remove the bodice.

Here it is.

Her tulle underskirt.

Her skirt.

Another look at all of the amazing layering.

NUDE DOLL ALERT for those of you who don't want to see it.

She looks like she's been riding a horse for a while.

So, I pretty much right then and there decided to take off her head. I will eventually use a Made to Move body for her, but I want to get her customized first. You'll also notice my rubber band experiment didn't work at all.

A comparison of the real Emma's face next to the doll's face.

I decided to take out her hair and try to relax the curls a bit. 

It was super frizzy in some of the sections because of the braids. 

And here she is with her face paint removed.

I did a boil perm to loosen her curls.

This is what she still looks like to this day, as other obligations have taken away my doll customization time: 
I'm keeping her hair separated in its different sections so I can hopefully duplicate the braided bun hairstyle.

After the birthday trip, when things settle down a bit, I'm going to work on her in earnest and hopefully give her a nicer face. I'm a little nervous I'm going to ruin her, though!

One of my Hasbro Belles got a body swap, too. She has a Made to Move body like my Disney Store Belle will:


The skin tone's not a perfect match, and her head hole is a little larger than the neck, so sometimes I have to adjust it a bit to allow her to look up. Also, the Made to Move body is slightly larger than her original body...which I discovered when I tried to Velcro her dress. :{ So just be aware of this if you decide to customize your own. The original Hasbro bodies aren't terrible, but they don't have any leg articulation, and the arm articulation feels a bit fragile. I wanted her to feel stronger and have more posing capabilities.

Her pink dress fits slightly better on her new body.

I've had fun posing her for different pictures. I think it will be fun to tweak some of these on Ribbet. :)


***
And while we're on this subject, remember my previous review of the Project MC2 dolls? I really loved McKeyla's face, but was super disappointed in her body. Well, thanks to THIS YouTube tutorial from My Froggy Stuff, I figured out that the Project MC2 dolls can be combined with Made to Move Barbie bodies. Eep! :D

P.S. More naked doll photos coming up, for those of you who might be concerned.

At Walmart, I found a Bryden doll on clearance, and realized her skin tone was a perfect match for my African American Made to Move Barbie:


Getting her head off was fairly easy. I've been doing so many body swaps lately that I've gotten a lot better at it. ;) 

Bryden's was fairly easy to remove, too.

Even though this gal's head looks cute on the Project MC2 body...

...the neck joint doesn't fit correctly, so her head falls off easily.

Because of the difference in head cavities, I actually had to trim some of the neck joint off of my Made to Move Barbie body so it would fit in Bryden's head.

It was a little tougher getting Bryden's head on this body. I had to use the blow dryer on a low setting (AWAY from her eyelashes) to soften the plastic enough to make it work. Some people prefer to put the heads in a sealed back and soak them in warm water for a while. Whatever method works best for you.

And here she is with her awesome new articulation!

She has the most gorgeous face.

Trying out a new look. ;)

***
In other news, I thought I should update you on my book. I spent a week or so completely retyping it and reworking some of the problem scenes, and then submitted it to a dear friend and mentor from Mount Hermon for editing. I have several other writing friends and family members critiquing it. Once I've heard back from all of them, I'll make the needed corrections and revisions, and then submit to the agent I met at Mount Hermon last year. I've gotten great feedback so far, and feel much more confident about the story now that I've made so many needed changes.

And in the middle of all of that, I'm working hard on some sample illustrations for another writing friend, trying to get those wrapped up.

Oh, and I'm also working on an exciting project that I'll be able to share with you soon. ;)

So, yeah, just a little busy. But thinking of you guys even when I'm a horrible blogger. ;)

Sorry, guys. ;}

I'll be posting again by next week at the latest, but I hope to have a review of Beauty and the Beast up sooner than that, if possible.

Talk to you soon! :)