Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Review: Luciana's Maker Station

Happy 2018! It's been a minute since I posted, but I'm here today with an exciting post. The start of every new year brings a new Girl of the Year. This year it's Luciana Vega, an 11 year old Chilean American who has a passion for space and wants to be the first girl on Mars! I am thrilled to see another DOC as well as AG expanding their sights to include girls interested in science. Luciana gives me major feels- as a child I loved science, especially involving space and dinosaurs. Needless to say she came home with me on the 1st along with a good chunk of her collection. I've got so many things to review; new moddie stuff, LIZARDS, and Luciana's first book! Today I'll be looking at her Maker Space set which retails for $100.00. Sending out a major thanks to my incredible grandparents who surprised me with this as an early birthday gift. 

Luciana uses her station to design and build an inventive robot for a robotics competition. Incudes tools of the trade such as:

A robotic arm that can pick things up
A workbench for tinkering with two shelves and two bins
A poster, photo, and two clips to hold them
A measuring tape, screwdriver, and set of screws for building
A pair of safety goggles and apron
Three graph papers and three papers for ideas and sketching
A solar system model of the planets
A pretend terrarium for plants
A sticker sheet for decorating
Two MEGA CONSTRUX™ construction sets for a satellite and a rover, plus a MEGA CONSTRUX™ playbook!
Batteries included.

I purchased Luciana's Maker Station on January 1st 2018 at her launch event. The MOA location only had it displayed behind plexi-glass so I was pleasantly surprised by some of its features when I got home and unboxed it. The station itself is very easy to assemble and comes in two pieces. You click the backboard into place on the main frame and it's ready to go! One thing I love about this set is that the set-up of the desk is fairly customizable. You can choose where you want to place the little shelves and clips on the backboard and it can easily be changed. The robotic arm comes attached to the desk and rotates, bends, and grips. It's very realistic and you could easily position pieces in the clamp to make it look like Luciana is building. Under the the surface of the desk is storage space! While you cannot fit all of the MEGA CONSTRUX pieces in there it does hold all of the other accessories nicely. The desk comes with a measuring tape that actually pulls out (Like WW Kendall's), a screwdriver featuring a clip so Luciana can hold it, and a clump of screws that can be placed in the grip of the arm or one of the bins. 

The safety goggles are clear blue plastic with grey elastic and fit easily over Luciana's face. The apron is white and printed with a purple orbit graphic. It velcros at the waist and neck and has two good utility pockets. The graph papers are merely single sheets of plain graph paper, the other three papers are lists and blueprints 'drawn' by Luciana. The sheet of included stickers all feature STEM and Luciana themes. I did not and do not plan on using any of these but they are a cute way to further decorate her desk. 

The underside of the top shelf has two LED lights that can be powered up by pressing a button on the top side of the shelf. The light stays on for around 60-ish seconds and lights up the work space well. To decorate the shelf are a solar system model made of silver, red, yellow, and blue plastic with rings that really spin and a pretend terraium. These items are made of a heavy plastic and function well. I was impressed at how easily the solar system model spins.

Lastly the set includes two MEGA CONSTRUX projects. The pieces come in several bags and included is a booklet that takes you step by step through each build. The satellite and rover are great projects to tie in with Luciana and it's easy to pretend that they were items she built at space camp. Each finished project took around a half hour to construct and the directions were very easy to follow. The rover rolls and has a adjustable clamp.

Overall this set is made of heavy plastic and from my impressions will last under heavy play. The variety of features, included items, and the collaboration with MEGA CONSTRUX (and the fact that in the AG app you can unlock more projects to build with them) makes this a set that I think is not only worth the $100 price tag but presents a multitude of ways it can be played with or displayed. Overall grade A+.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Review: Kit's Mini Golf Outfit

Kit’s pastel golf outfit was made for hitting the green in style! The drop-waist dress features contrast cuffs, a fashionable Peter Pan collar, and skirt with button and ribbon details, as well as Kit's embroidered initials: MMK. Her matching argyle socks, two-tone shoes, and knit hat with a ribbon flower add the perfect finishing touches to the outfit. $34

Bring Kit to work day.
I bought this outfit during the Beforever sale where it was buy one item, get a second at 50% off. I got this outfit for $17.00. 

Starting with the dress itself- right off the bat I can say that it's made with a thinner fabric. While the white bodice isn't see through, the fabric is very prone to getting wrinkled. I would recommend storing this dress where it can be laid out flat. The design of the dress is very cute, and fairly accurate as seen from the 1924 pattern it's based off of. The initials are embroidered on the dress in a powder blue that matches the buttons and grosgrain ribbon details. The sleeve cuff, skirt and collar are all a bright orange fabric with a pattern of alternating dark orange and light orange strips. The sleeve cuffs were a little tight on my Kit. The dress bodice is roomy and fit her just fine.

Here's the real life pattern!

The socks are knit orange, blue, and white argyle. They are thick and are knee high length. They're very cute and one of my favorite parts of this outfit.

The shoes are white faux patent with black soles and a black faux patent ankle strap. The ankle strap opens at the front and is secured by a black cotton tie that can be tied in a bow. These shoes seem like they'll last up well to play. My only concern is that the black tie is not sewn to the shoes and can be pulled out. I see these getting easily lost. 

The hat is an bright orange knit cloche hat. It fits my Kit perfectly, coming down to rest just above her eyebrows. There is a knit bow detail on the right side of the hat that features a powder blue flower with an orange button center. The knit of this hat is thick. 

Overall, I am very pleased with this outfit. It has several pieces and is very cute. The colors, while very bright, look adorable on Kit. It's an outfit I can imagine her playing mini golf in, or just playing in in general. I'm happy that the monogram is embroidered rather than a decal. I would highly recommend this outfit on a sale. At full price I think it's a bit expensively priced for the thin material of the dress.

Monday, August 21, 2017

A Work in Progress

Today is the newest release from American Girl, including our 1940's Hawaiian Historical Nanea Mitchell! I was thrilled to be offered the chance to preorder her through the AG Rewards program and received her nearly two weeks ago with a starter collection. Briefly I can say that I am in love with the doll and have enjoyed her stories so much! I'm excited to add more to her collection.

As you can see, Nanea is already spoiled! Here she is wearing a gorgeous outfit from MySewYouCreations on etsy.

The release also hit it out of the park for Beforever which means my wish list is a mile long and my wallet is a dollar short. I'll be adding several of the new items to my collection in the future (as well as some retired items, one of which I'm thrilled to share with you!)

Today's post is a short one though because it's a quick update. I've had some exciting happenings in my life that will change my blogging schedule and my collection. My wife and I have bought a house! We're closing next Thursday so I'm going to be a bundle of nerves until we have the keys in our hands. One of the most exciting things about this is that I will have my own doll room! I'll be able to get creative and maintain permanent displays for my historicals and Lea's Rainforest Hut. So over the next month it'll probably be a little quiet here until we get moved and settled in!

I've also gone ahead and started to weed through my collection. I've listed #54, #26, #69, #49, and Julie all for sale, along with several outfits. I haven't bonded with Julie and as silly as this may sound, I have discovered that I prefer owning dolls who come with a written story. With this in mind I'm selling my moddies and keeping only my GOTY's (and possibly Tenney- TBD) as my modern dolls. This will bring my collection down to 14/15 dolls, which is still a lot, but more manageable for me. I want to really focus now less on adding dolls and more on building up collections with the idea of having a doll house kind of set-up. I'm very excited for these changes and cannot wait to share the developments.

Hope you all have had a fantastic summer and enjoy the new release!

Thursday, June 29, 2017

A Late Spring Cleaning

Finally the rough spring is over and summer has begun! I'll be honest, summer is pretty low on my list of favorite seasons. I don't do well in the heat and a minor sun allergy makes being outside troublesome. Nonetheless summer brings some of my favorite things; Pride, camping, and American Girl releases! Last week AG debuted the first of two summer releases and this one was strictly about the moddies, contemporary characters (minus Z), and Wellie Wishers. I am happy to say that I loved this release. American Girl has stepped it up a few notches this time, though I still will give them some points off for not including anything for Z.
Zosia & Sawyer have hit it off!
Like many other collectors I am in love with the new meet. I ended up bringing home TM #69. She is the new TM classic mold, brown eyes, and wavy dark brown hair. She's one in a line of many white TM dolls, but her middle part, eyes and hair are a combination I wanted for my moddies. She is going to take the place of Willa, my #49 who I have been unable to bond with. That will complete my moddie group of Meiko (#54), Zosia (#26), and Sawyer (#69). Between the three of them they will share all of my modern AG clothing, besides the outfits that belong to named GOTY.

So much in love with this outfit. Gabi is going to wear it forever, haha. 
The other things that made up my must have list were the new Travel in Style outfit, Gabriela's Take Flight outfit, Wellie Wishers Firefly Nightgown, and Wellie Wishers Outdoors Overalls. I hope to do more detailed reviews on each outfit later, but for now I will say that all of the outfits are beyond cute and I am very happy with the overall quality. I also picked up the new TM meet accessories and they are the best yet! They mix n' match perfectly with the new meet outfit and create a ton of options to style the doll. Definitely worth the price.

Sawyer + accessories.
My current taskat hand has been doing a 'spring cleaning' of my collection. I've gotten to the point where I've decided I want less dolls so that I have room to add more to the collections of the dolls I really bond with. Willa and Cecile have both left for new homes because I was unable to bond with them. Possibly up for rehoming are Julie, Kit, Melody and Tenney. Yep, Tenney. While she reminds me of my grandmother I have no interest in her big ticket items, nor do I care for the latest edition to her collection- the sparkling sequins outfit. The velvet of the blazer just *cringe*. Velvet has always been a fabric that almost hurts me to touch. It's hard to explain. While Tenney may be rehomed I will be focusing on adding to Felicity's collection as she is a doll that my grandma often bought me things for. I've realized there are other ways too I can make her feel known in my collection.

There is a loop for her hammer!
I've spent the last week writing and throwing away and writing more lists trying to determine how I'd like my collection to look. For now I know that I want complete or mostly complete collections for Felicity, Kaya, Caroline, Kirsten, and Josefina. I'd like to continue adding items for Rebecca, Addy, and Maryellen. Lea, Grace, Gabriella, Zosia, Sawyer, and Meiko will continue to represent my modern dolls. Hopefully this will give me more of the breathing room I am looking for and will allow me to feel like I'm really able to focus on all of my dolls instead of just some.

Also Happy Pride! My wife and I got to meet Al Franken!
I'm also hoping this will give me room for Nanea and ALL of her things, haha. That's the next release coming up in August and I cannot wait! Rumor is that Kaya will also be getting new things, which makes my heart so happy! So all is well on my front. I hope you all are having a fabulous summer!

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

My initial thoughts on Z Yang!

It's a new month and a fresh beginning. At least that's how I'm looking at it. 😄

It's also an exciting month at AG- though haven't they all been? Z Yang is here marking the 5th doll released by American Girl this year. I'll be honest, it's a little bit overwhelming. Five dolls in five months is unprecedented for the time I've been collecting. To give you some background Suzie 'Z' Yang is a Korean-American girl who lives in Seattle. She started off as a character who AG used to make the Z Crew stopmotion videos with. Now Z has been released with her own story and collection. Her interests include filming videos, photography, blogging, and writing. She even has her very own Kit Kittredge doll that she makes stop motion videos with! (Yes- if I get Z she'll have to have a mini Kit of her own!)

I went into the Mall of America location and had to actively find where Z was placed on display because the GOTY aisle is now Gabriela and Tenney/Logan. I was worried she'd be stuffed into a sad little display like what poor Addy is currently in, but much to my surprise Z has her own little alcove on the first floor. My initial thoughts were that AG had done a fantastic job with her collection. Yes, some of the items are repeats from previous sets. Honestly? I expected that. After all, Z was made solely for the Z Crew videos and her items and wardrobes in the videos were a mix of previous pieces.  So I was thrilled to see this trend continue into her collection. Z loves filming videos and taking photographs, another trait that made it into her available collection. Her film accessories are so detailed- much better than either of Lea's cameras. It's a must have set, in my opinion, and is on my wishlist!

I was really excited to see the doll in person too. Z is irresistible, which makes me so happy considering she is the first Korean-American character they've produced, but she's currently the only named East Asian character available direct from AG. For those arguing that Z looks too much like #30, #40, or #64- I can tell you that her mole, the longer length of her hair, and her hair being parted on the opposite side makes Z unique. It's much like Tenney and #24- yes, they share a lot of similar characteristics but they're each different enough to stand out as unique characters.

Between her unique sense of style and wonderful characterization, I adore Z. I hope to bring her home as soon as I can. In fact, a particular Z captured my heart at AGP and I just had to take a photo of her. I hope to find my Z with a similar expression of friendship & warmth.

Isn't she the cutest?

At this point you might think I've forgotten something huge- and you would be right. Yes, Z has permanently sewn on underwear. Yes, it changes the bottom shape of the doll in some cases to appear as though it's got a lump. Yes, the band of the underwear does peek above the current swim bottoms. For me? It's not really a huge deal. The only dolls in my collection who who wear swimsuits are Lea & Rebecca, and they hardly do anyways. The shape could be frustrating, but I don't change my dolls underwear nor do some of them even have them at this point. Once it's under the clothing it's not something I'm paying attention to. Given a choice I'd prefer that my dolls not have them, but it isn't bad enough for me to not want Z. I'm sure there are collectors who would disagree with me and that's okay.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Hello / Goodbye

Today I have another introduction to my doll family- and a heavier post. I mentioned briefly in my last blog that I was feeling slightly inclined to purchase Tenney for a custom character because I am learning how to play guitar. Well, Tenney (new name to be determined), ended up joining my collection after all, but not for the reasons I had anticipated.

On April 10th, 2017 my adopted grandmother passed away unexpectedly at the age of 88. She was a German immigrant, born in Germany in 1929. She lived in Berlin during WWII and moved to the US following the end of the war to become a nanny. From her I learned a basic grasp of the German language, how to brave the jump from the diving board into the deep end, and the very important lesson of allowing yourself to indulge in a treat once in a while. (Even if that meant sneaking Krispy Kreme donuts from around the corner so your grandchildren didn't notice). She recounted her life history & memories to me, knowing that I adored and desired to know my family's history. 

My grandmother lived in Texas, and from the moment she stepped into my life she was forever 'grandma in Texas.' In fact, her last card to me was signed "Love always, your grandma in Texas." She loved the South- the music, the sunshine, the food... And Tenney reminded me of that. Tenney has come into my life at a time when I needed it the most. She has sat and kept me company while I recall and write down many memories with my grandma. When my family decided to forgo having a funeral or memorial service for her, Tenney was there to hug while I cried out my frustration. 

I lucked out as two of my three grandma's share/d my love of dolls with me. My grandma in Texas is the one who surprised me with Felicity's School Outfit and her Traveling Outfit. She always brought out her tiny replica cast iron stove for me to play with when I stayed overnight and brought Felicity. She encouraged my love of reading and bought me several American Girl books. My collection will always have a tie to her. 

Grief is fickle- it is unkind. I have found myself going from the edge of despair, to deep anger, and elated happiness all within the same day, hours even. I have the guiding hand of my counselor and the unwavering support of my wife. Time will continue to pass without my grandmother and during that time I will work through my grief and hold my memories dear. I am so very fortunate to have called her grandma and be adopted into her family. May she rest in peace. 

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

It's Spring, Finally.

And I mean it's finally spring. Minnesota is known for it's harsh winters, but even more brutal (at least to me) is the time between February and March. Why? Because it can be 60 degrees and sunny one day and 10 degrees and snowing the next. Those little teasers of spring make it so hard to stay positive! It's finally warming up here now and most of the winter snow is gone. These last couple of months I've still been struggling with low energy and chronic fatigue which has taken a toll on the time I used to spend interacting with my collection. I'm hoping that this beautiful weather will bring a blast of fresh energy with it! For now, here are a couple of updates on my end.

And finally an updated collection photo!
Most of the girls are dressed for spring time, except Felicity who received a surprise gift of the ribbon from her ribbons set that matches her school outfit so she's wearing that. My wife, who continues to be a well of support, bought me the gorgeous trunk the dolls are standing against to store most of them in. This means that I can access a good portion of my dolls and my hairstyling kit from the living room. I cannot begin to describe how nice this is in regards to my CFS. I'm finally spending more time with them! 

I also took Zosia, my #26, to go and get her hearing aids! I've seen them in store and have wanted to have a doll with them for a long time. I was pleasantly surprised to see how nice they sit on the doll and how durable they are. During this time she also received her gardening bench and outfit. Zosia is the gardener in my gang and I have waited and waited and waited to get these sets. Even better? It was on clearance! I was able to buy both items for way less than the gardening bench's original price.

She's an aspiring beekeeper!

My boycott of Tenney & Logan is still ongoing. I find myself weakening in that I'd like to have Tenney & her guitar, but with a completely different story. She may yet find a place with me, rid of her problematic story. We'll see... I've weakened mostly because I'll be taking guitar lessons in the near future, which is something I've always wanted to do. Then on a totally different note I find myself wanted to narrow down my collection to 5 dolls and their collections... Hahaha. I find that this is not only something I struggle with, a lot of collectors go between wanting a bigger collection and a smaller collection. I have to find some way of feeling content in the meantime. 

Lastly, I found someone who was willing to create a version of Caroline's Battle Dress for me! I've loved that dress since I first saw it on the cover of her book and still am amazed that American Girl never made it an official part of her collection. Caroline's time period fascinates me, both the history and the fashion, so I'm always happy to add something for her.

Isn't it wonderful?
That's about it for now! Hope you all are having a wonderful spring!