Thursday, January 28, 2016

Mattel Introduces The Newest Barbie. But Will It Do Any Good? And What Is 'Beauty' Anyway?

 Let's be honest: Barbie sales just aren't what they used to be.Mattel has been trying to figure out what the public wants. For years people have been complaining that Barbie gives girls unrealistic beauty expectations. In an effort to combat that idea,Mattel introduced the latest in Barbies today. Now, in addition to the standard Barbie, there will also be Petite Barbie, Tall Barbie, and Curvy Barbie.

At last! Not everybody in the Barbie world has to be the same height! I am represented by the short girl, by the way.
As if that weren't enough, all dolls will also be available with different hair and skin colour combinations, and some will have a flat foot option. You can see them on the Mattel site HERE. You can read the full Glamour article HERE.  Here's what the Barbie site actually says about them:
"By introducing more variety into the line, Barbie® is offering girls choices that are better reflective of the world they see today.
The new 2016 Barbie® Fashionistas® collection includes 4 body types, 7 skin tones, 18 eye colors, 18 hairstyles, and countless on-trend fashions and accessories." 
I was hoping that meant you could choose hair,and  eye colour, and skin tone for the body type you wanted. It doesn't seem to be the case though. There are several dolls of each body type, but they are already made with set skin tones, and hair and eye colours.
 For the time being the dolls are only available on the Mattel website. I can see that, because how much shelf space is all this individuality going to take? Of course, if there weren't fifty million of each character in different outfits, maybe there'd be room. (What happened to the days when you got one doll and then bought clothes for it?!) Mattel is even selling fashions for each size doll. Sounds like a big money commitment.
  But I'm not sure it's going to help sales all that much. In 2014 the Lammily doll was introduced, a doll with supposedly more realistic body proportions than Barbie.
She's still not widely available though.
  And It's not a new idea. Years ago there was the Happy To Be Me doll.

She had bendy arms and legs, and a horrible face. I'm afraid I usually refer to her as 'Happy to be Ugly'. I don't care how realistic her body is, no kid wants to play with an ugly doll that's not quirky or fun, just badly sculpted. 
    It's been suggested that kids who get gifted with the Barbie most like them might be hurt or offended. Don't give the plump kid the 'Curvy' Barbie! But dolls that embrace a child's individuality have been applauded. There was the True Hope cancer Moxie Girlz line. But does a child with cancer want to be reminded of that when they're just trying to play? Do the kids in wheelchairs get offended by being given dolls in wheelchairs? There's no telling what reaction the dolls are going to get, because everybody reacts differently.
  But do kids want realism in their dolls? Is that what's going to save Barbie? After all, the problems started when Bratz started beating Barbie in sales: dolls with giant heads, giant lips, and giant feet...that detached!

And almost no noses. How do they smell? It ain't easy!
And look at the most popular dolls Barbie is getting beaten by these days: Monster High...

...Ever After High...
 ... and Disney Princesses.
None of these are 'realistic'. (And the most realistic ones, the Disney Princess dolls are often even skinnier than Barbie.) Are kids going to start thinking they aren't good enough because they don't have giant heads? Well, these days, that's possible. But my point is, I don't think this is what is going to save Barbie. Maybe nothing will. Maybe kids just want weirder stuff these days. (What creeps me out are all the monster or dead dolls kids play with. Maybe I'm old fashioned, but playing with things like that takes some of the caring and humanity out of play, which is, after all, nature's way of training us to care for others.)
  For the record, it has never really bothered me that Barbie isn't realistically proportioned. For one thing, she's a doll. She's a fantasy object. I never saw myself in my dolls, or thought I had to grow up to look like them. (With some of my dolls that would have been a pretty scary thought!) I think people think about that type of thing more now. I just used to play, and my dolls were their own people. I didn't have to be like them. For another thing, everyone is attracted to attractive things and people. That's why they're called attractive. It's natural for a little kid to want to play with a 'pretty' doll. After all, who wants to play with an ugly doll? (Ok, other than me. As a kid I always loved the goofy looking dolls, like Brat dolls, (Not Bratz dolls. Brat, from the 60's.)

Like this guy.This isn't mine, but mine looks just like this. I've had this guy since I was a kid. He originally blew up a balloon, attached in his mouth, when you squeezed his belly.
 ...or the pathetic looking dolls, like Little Miss No Name...
Ken can't even look at her. He says she looks like 'Ignorance and Want' from Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol".

...and Susie Sad Eyes and Susie Slicker.

My childhood generic Sad Eyes doll by Chadwick Miller, and my replacement Susie Slicker. (To replace the one my cousin stole...oh let's not go into THAT again!)
The problem seems to be with what humans consider attractive. Do women really have to be unrealistic to be beautiful, or even pleasant? But that's not just a modern problem. Women have always been subjected to certain ideas of 'beauty'. The ideas weren't always the same though.Throughout history the pursuit of 'beauty'  has demanded some weird things of women, and they were all different. From the corset, to make a tiny waist, the bustle, to make the butt look big, (Who thought of THAT one?! I'd have been a natural beauty in those days!),to cultures that stretch the neck, bind the feet,and paint their teeth black, (Popular in Japan during the 1800's and early 1900's.),the idea of beauty has always been different. The problem is that 'beauty' always means you can't just look like yourself. When women aren't expected to change the way they look to conform to any one idea of beauty, that's when the problem will be solved.
  Not only does the idea of beauty change over time,but everybody has a different idea of beauty too. My Dad thought a woman with a big butt was a thing of beauty. My husband Ken likes big hairy eyebrows, and legs. (I don't think it even matters what the legs look like, as long as he can see them.Although, I didn't mean 'big hairy' legs.Just eyebrows.) I recently read an article that said studies show that men and women don't even have the same ideas of what makes a woman beautiful. Apparently, most men prefer women with little or no make up.(You can read the Time magazine article HERE.) There was even one study done that says men prefer the woman with the biggest spinal curve! (You can read about that HERE.) Man, I must be GORGEOUS! (And in constant pain!)That accounts for all those models who look like they're trying to turn themselves inside out.
It gets worse than  this,but I didn't want to get too racy here. By the way, this comes from a site called "Total Beauty"! There you go!

  So I'm looking forward to seeing all these new Barbies, but I don't know that this is going to be the game changer Mattel is looking for.

Friday, January 22, 2016

"Just" a Bird

  Almost 5 years ago I had been thinking about getting another bird. I have always loved birds, and been fascinated with them---how wonderful it must be to fly! Then my friend Lori decided she wanted another bird, and she contacted a lady on Craigslist who raised parakeets. Lori asked me to ride along with her to pick up a bird, as it was a half hour ride and she wanted company. The lady had three birds for sale. They were only three weeks old, and they were all hand raised, because their mother had rejected them. One was pure white. She said she might keep that one, and I hope she did, because it obviously loved her.The other two, which she hadn't originally thought were even going to hatch, were blue. As we stood in the lady's living room, Lori snuggling one bird to her chest, and I the other bird to mine, I began to fall in love. I was considering taking the bird myself. I even kept thinking of a name, over and over. I would call him Irving Birdwing. But Lori decided she would take both birds. As we drove home we discussed the birds and Lori said I could take one of the birds if I wanted to. I called Ken to see what he would think of me bringing home another pet. (It seemed like every time I went to visit with Lori I brought home a pet: a parakeet once before, a rabbit, a dog.) Ken didn't like the idea. His answer was a resounding "NO". He said we had enough pets and didn't need another expense. "All those 'free' pets have been expensive.", he said. I wanted the bird so much, I overrode his decision. When we got home we opened the box where the birds were huddled neck to neck, and I took Irving out.
  Irving turned out to be a girl, but we kept the name. it suited her somehow.

  Two days after we took her home she got her foot caught in a thread on my clothes, and in her panic to free herself she injured her foot. She couldn't walk on it very well, but still insisted on walking around and climbing her cage, using a wing, one foot, and her beak. A few days later, when we had been out for the day, we came home to find she had hurt her tail, probably from falling while trying to climb her cage. Now she couldn't balance  either. I felt so guilty. I had taken her when she could have gone home with Lori, and now I had certainly doomed her to death. We took her to the vet, who recommended  we put her down. "You have to consider quality of life over quantity.", he said. He said it was very doubtful she could repair her nerve damage. His proof that she was beyond help, was that she walked toward him no matter which way he kept turning the towel he stood her on. (She wanted to walk to him!), and that she snuggled in my hands. "I don't know of any bird, handraised or not, that will let you hold it." Well then you don't know much. Irving was still a baby, and loved to fall asleep snuggled in my lap in my bed. Even when she grew up, she would still consent to be held occasionally, and would lean against my face when asked to "Give me a snuggle".
  And grow up she did. The vet said the only chance Irving had depended on how much time we were willing to spend on her. She had to have a fish tank so she couldn't climb,and we had to spend as much time holding her as we would. So we got a tank, and when I got up in the morning I went to her tank and put my hand in the bottom. As fast as she could she would drag herself over and climb into my hand. We all took turns holding her all day long. Ken works evenings, so all day he and I would take turns holding Irving. There was no other way she could groom herself because she couldn't balance, and it kept her weight off her foot and tail. When the kids got home from school, they took their turns holding her. In two or three weeks Irving was back to normal.
  Irving had more personality than any bird I have ever seen. She also showed so much love.

Irving was hard to photograph because she was fascinated with the camera.(Like most female parakeets, she wasn't much of a talker,but she learned to copy the sound of the camera shutter,along with the microwave beep, and the dining room door squeak.)

Trying to photograph her outside her cage usually resulted in this.

 But we did manage to catch this one, before she could get close enough to jump onto the camera! But she was running at it already!

She loved to spend time sitting on my head.

She was not usually a shoulder sitter. She preferred heads, in this case, Emma's.

She would use my hair like a tether rope and slide down by it to nibble at my face.
Although she did sit on shoulders so she could indulge in another interest...

...For some reason she also liked to look in mouths.

 She'd put half her body in there if she got the chance. Very trusting of her, but I nearly bit her head off once when she stuck her head in there while I was talking.
  She had to be a part of everything, and was very curious.
Irving helping to make a phone call in Ken's messy computer room.
  We tweeted back and forth constantly.
  One day, when Irving was about 9 months old, I had spent the morning working around the house with her on my head. It was so normal for us I didn't even think about it after a while. I found a lady bug and went to throw it out the back door--forgetting Irving was on my head. Of course, she flew out the door, and continued down the street and around the corner. It was November, and there was a freezing cold rain falling. I ran after Irving, but she was nowhere to be seen. I stood in the street and screamed to the family for help. Ivy was in school, but Emma was home from college and Fuzz was doing computer school and only went in for German class in the afternoon. Ken was home too, since it was 10:45 AM. They all ran out. Fuzz went all the way to the corner, barefoot and in pajamas trying to see her. Ken told me she was gone and there was nothing I could do, so I should come in. But I couldn't leave her out in the cold, She probably wouldn't survive. And she was so friendly, she would land on our dog's head. She would certainly be eaten by something. I was so upset I tried to tweet to her and couldn't get it out. Ken told me to calm down and tweet to her. I grabbed my coat and started down the street tweeting. When I got to the corner I heard her tweet back, but from waaaaaaay down the street. But I kept tweeting and in a second I heard her very close. She had come back.
  I found her on the roof of a house on the next corner and across the street. I couldn't see her, but we tweeted back and forth for a while. Fuzz had put on shoes and a coat at my insistence, and was out looking too. Emma had gotten dressed and came to the house where we were. It's a good thing no one was home because we stood outside their house tweeting and calling, "Irving!" Emma brought Irving's cage over in case we could coerce her back into it. But Irving stopped tweeting back. I wasn't sure if she had flown away or decided to do what she did at home after a bath: take a nap until she dried off, and no tweets until she woke back up.
  Fuzz thought he saw her fly around the back of the house, but he wasn't sure. We decided he would head down an alley on the other side of the side street, and I would take the alley behind the house where she had been. I started down the alley tweeting, and there she was,on a bush behind the house. She flew from bush to tree, to tree, to tree, until eventually she was 2 more house down.
  The whole family spent the day trying to get Irving to come down. But it rained all day. It was freezing cold. A group of sparrows were in a bush under the edge of a shed, but Irving was in a bare tree in the cold rain. I tweeted to her on and off all day so she wouldn't forget I was there. Eventually we realized Fuzz was late for German, and Emma ran him to school, still in his pajamas and boots. She came back with a net, but that didn't work either. I had to explain to the lady whose tree Irving ended up in, why we were all behind her house, with two vehicles, (Emma's and ours.),and a 16 foot ladder up her tree. Irving had parked in their tree and decided to take her nap until she dried off.
  The vehicles were to survive the cold, because it was COLD. I soaked two coats and a large tablecloth standing in the rain. Ivy had been picked up from school in the afternoon and joined the vigil. It got late. Ken had to be at work by 5, so he had to go home to get ready for work. Emma had to go to the bathroom. Fuzz had already gone home when he got mad because I wouldn't let him break his neck climbing a wet tree to try to catch Irving. Eventually,it was just me and Ivy, but Emma left the truck so we could stay warm. It was beginning to get dark.
  The rain stopped, and Irving began to tweet back, and shake the rain off her feathers. Pretty soon she would be dry and fly away forever. I decided to try again to climb the ladder up the tree and try to get her to come to me. I got to the top of the ladder and tweeted. She tweeted back. Then she flew. I thought."This is it. She's gone." But she only flew in an arc, and landed on my shoulder. I got her on my hand and she gave me a kiss, and flew onto my head. It was literally a blur after that, as I was crying so hard I could hardly see. I talked to her all the way down the ladder, although I'm not sure how I got down.I had been straddling a huge puddle in front of the door of the truck, getting in and out for the last few hours, but I have no memory of the puddle at this point. I only remember gliding over to the truck and getting in with Irving on my head, and shutting the door. Once inside she hopped onto my chest and I clutched her in my hands. Ivy got in with her cage and we were home free. I immediately put Irving in the cage and Ivy said, "Aw, you're not going to put her in the cage are you?!" "Are you kidding?!"
  She had given up her freedom to come to me.
  Everybody got colds after that: except Irving.
  A couple of years ago or more Irving began to lay eggs. They weren't fertile of course, but birds lay them anyway. I constantly worried that Irving, being so small, would become eggbound, unable to deliver her egg. It's fatal. Every time she went into egg laying mode, I worried. We aren't sure if that was the problem, because she was still eating, and active,but Irving kissed me goodnight for the last time last Friday night.
  When there's a death, never tell someone, "It's just a bird." Or a dog, or a cat, or whatever. Animals are part of the family. They give us love, and we fall in love with them. I never had a pet show me as much love as Irving did. I never had a pet who loved me more than anyone else. Irving was my baby. We had a bond I've never had with any other pet, as much as I loved them all. Irving was special.
   I will bring home no more pets. I don't want another bird. I'm finished.

Goodnight my Irving girl. I love you forever.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The Ivy Cottage Playhouse

  I've had a doll post in the works, but things aren't cooperating. I can't find all the clothing to go with the doll, that I KNOW I have. I'm still looking for the last few things, so bear with me. On the bright side, doing research for the post I discovered that some other pieces I have that I hadn't yet identified, belong to said doll! So there will be some pieces included that I didn't even realize I'd have for the post.
  In the meantime, it has been ages since a kind reader named Christel gave me some information--- and even photos!---- of a toy I have been curious about for ages. I was having trouble moving the pictures from her email to my picture folder,and just didn't have time to figure out the problem with Christmas and all. Then I nearly forgot about it, because my brain in like that these days! But tonight I remembered again when I was actually at the computer, so now, with the photo problem straightened out, here we are.
  Some time ago I posted about the Ivy Cottage dolls,(You can read those posts HERE and HERE.) and books by E.J. Taylor.
The main characters of the Ivy Cottage books, rag dolls Violet Pickles and Ruby Buttons.
The first book in the series, which eventually included 5 books.

When my daughter Emma was small we read the Ivy Cottage books often, and we both had a set of the Ruby and Violet dolls. Emma also had a few of the Ivy Cottage PVC figures that Ken and I bought in Canada.

The back of the doll boxes shows the PVC figures at the bottom.
 She had Ruby Buttons and Miss Biscuit, and their goose Hanna Honk. But we were never able to find Violet. Here I have to stop and tell you that after all these years Emma's collection is complete! Christel and I were emailing about Ivy Cottage and I mentioned our Violet-less existence.Christel very kindly offered to send Emma a spare Violet she had! Even at 24 Emma was excited to receive her.
  The one thing I had never been able to find, or even find any information about, or even a picture of,was what was called on the back of the doll boxes and PVC packages 'the Ivy Cottage Pop Up Playhouse'. (Believe me, there is NOTHING on the entire internet about this house.) I never knew if it was a child's playhouse, or a house for the dolls.Either sounded pretty cool to me. The artwork in the books was beautiful.
If you read the other posts you'll have seen this before, but it's probably my favourite picture from any of the books.
I have searched for all these years for something about this house. And recently Christel dropped out of the sky with pictures of it!
  Christel bought her house second hand, and it didn't come with any furniture, so we still don't know if it originally came with any accessories.
   Here's what Christel has to say about the Ivy Cottage house:

Officially, it was known as the “Horsman Ivy Cottage Playhouse” from the “Horsman Design Studio”, and it was unfortunately made entirely of folding cardboard.  From the outside, it was covered with a leafy print, with a few “windows” spilling “light”, so it did not live up to my hopes.  

Because the construction was so flimsy, the floors would simply buckle up.  If you added furniture, it simply slipped into the corners, making it impossible to play with it. The cardboard insured that it would not survive. 

   So it's pretty disappointing to find this out after all these years of wondering! I still thought it was worth posting about the house though, simply because there is NO information about this house out there, let alone photos. So thanks to Christel for solving the mystery. Maybe now this house will no longer drive people crazy!

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

What Have I Been Doing All This Time? Making a Tiny Wedding Cake, That's What.

  I haven't posted much lately. (Stay with me. Later this week I'll have a doll post up.)  I was busy over the holidays,in part making a miniature of our nephew Chris and his wife Carly's wedding cake. It was part of the Christmas package we sent to the family in England. We don't usually send gifts to the WHOLE family, but it seemed fitting this year. I thought of it as a thank you for all the fuss they went to, the cooking for us, hosting us,chauffeuring us, making time and traveling to visit with us, while we were over last summer. Ken met some relatives that hadn't even been born when he left home, and others that had married in since. The girls and I had only met part of the ones that existed when Ken moved to America. We missed Chris and Carly's wedding by a month or so, (They married in September after we left in August.). We have watched Chris grow up, since he visited regularly with his parents, but we had never met Carly. Ken's sister Marjorie, who treated us to the trip sent us a DVD of the wedding, so we saw their unique cake.

Carly and Chris cut the real thing.
 Their wedding had a seaside theme, so the cake is covered with beach huts, (For changing in.), pails and shovels,starfish,and sea shells.
 Later when I was trying to think of a gift for them I got the idea to make them a miniature version. They can use it as a decoration or a Christmas ornament, and always be reminded of  their wedding cake.

  It's made of polymer clay. I used aluminum foil as the base and covered it. Then I made templates for the houses. Ivy assured me that the roof parts weren't scalloped edges, like I thought, but twisted pieces of fondant.I figured her eyes were better than mine, even with my glasses on. I made all the houses around the cake that way, and then scrutinized the close up photo Carly had posted of the cake top again. Ivy was wrong! It was a scalloped edge! At least I got the top one right.

I had so much other stuff to do that I didn't get around to searching through my ribbon until the last minute. Luckily I had some ribbon scraps that were exactly the right colour and width. (That was a close one, because it had to be very narrow.) The weirdest part was, my scraps amounted to exactly enough to trim the bottom, and use as the hanging loop.

  It's about 3" tall, maybe a little bigger. I wish I had taken a picture comparing it to a 1/12 scale and a 1/6 scale doll, so we could see what scale it really is. Maybe somewhere between the two, or even either?

   It was hard to get some of the details from the pictures we had available. I went back and forth between the wedding video and a shot of the top that Carly posted on Facebook, but I'm sure I still didn't get it all right.
   I made it a special padded box, but I hope it made it there in one piece!

  Unfortunately, I didn't look at the pictures I took until after the package was shipped, because when I did I noticed that bride Carly seems to have lost an eye!

  Hopefully they are handy with a pen!