Friday, April 22, 2016

Every Day Is Earth Day

It matters every day, not just once a year. Live Earth Day every day of the year if you want to make a difference.
Happy Earth Every Day, from The World Family and me.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Review of Maru From Maru and Friends

   Well, here is my review of the elusive Maru!I wanted to get this finished because I'm having a 'procedure' on Tuesday that will keep me fairly sedentary for a few days, so no taking pictures, or climbing stairs to the computer room. (My new laptop that I got for my birthday last month is already having problems!) I didn't want to wait that long to post the review,
   First of all, let me say that our camera is having lens trouble. The better lens won't allow autofocus, so I had to use the other lens and manually focus, which isn't the best thing with my eyesight these days. So, there are a few pictures that could have been better. I think there are some nice pictures too though.
   Maru and Friends was founded by Maritza Gutierrez. Maritza is described on the website as " an adult (doll) collector" who wanted to "create a beautiful doll that would look so real that girls of all ages could associate with and be inspired." And so Maru and Friends were created. Maru and Friends is based in Florida. The dolls are sold in Maru and Friends shops in Boca Raton and  Miami, on Amazon, and in stores throughout Europe and the United Kingdom, as well as on the Maru and Friends website. The dolls are recommended for age 3 and up.
  Maru, like all the dolls except Valentina,is sculpted by Dianna Effner.(Valentina is sculpted by Maya Bill.) I love Effner's dolls.(I own a few Effner dolls, including the vinyl Willow and the Ashton Drake Alice.) She sculpts such beautiful and realistic children's faces. Maru and her friends resemble Effner's Heartstrings dolls, and the super expensive Little Darlings.
   Included with Maru is a book, "Forever Friends", written by Maritza. Maritza left Cuba as a little girl, and went to live with relatives in New York, and Maru's story mirrors her own. The character of Maru is a young Latina girl who comes to America to live with her aunt and uncle, while waiting for her parents to join her. She adjusts to her new home in America, meeting friends like Jamie and Tanya, who are represented by other dolls in the line. The Maru and Friends line includes six dolls: Maru, Jamie, Tanya,Savannah,Valentina,(Maru's little sister), and the newest, Raven. (For some reason Raven is listed as a Limited Edition.) As far as I can tell, Maru, Jamie, and Tanya are the only dolls that come with books.

  Maru arrived in this box. The side is covered with pictures of the Maru and friends dolls.

The packing slip included this message from Maritza:

"Thank you for your patience." Way to make me feel guilty Maritza! (I'm kidding!) And she sent me sympathies about Irving, my bird who passed away in January. Thank you Maritza.

  The outer box was taped shut. Inside, Maru's actual box was inside a plastic bag.

The outer box was decorated with pictures of all the Maru and Friends dolls.That's Raven, Valentina,Jamie,Maru, Tanya, and Savannah.
The plastic bag slipped off.

Maru's box is a bright orange, decorated with flowers and a single lady bug.
The lid slips off easily

The back of Maru's box

Maru is held in her box by simple white ribbon ties.Foam protects her from the ribbons.
Her belt was undone.

Look at that beautiful face!

The envelope holds her certificate of authenticity.
Her purse is sealed in plastic and taped to the other side of the box.

The ribbons simply untie to free Maru from her box.

When Maru is removed from her box the book that comes with her is accessible.

The book tells the story of Maru coming to live with her aunt and uncle, and her early days adjusting to life in America.

The book is written by Maritza herself, and illustrated by Rhiannon Cunag.

The illustrations aren't my favourite style, but they are bright and colourful and will probably appeal to children.
           The artwork reminds me a lot of the artwork on the boxes of My Scene Barbies.
I think this is actually from one of the My Scene cartoons, but the artwork is the same.
 The book has actually won the 2009 Moonbeams Children's Book Award Gold Seal for a 'book with merchandise'.The Moonbeams award is described as follows: "...the Moonbeam Children's Book Awards are designed to bring increased recognition to exemplary children's books and their creators, and to support childhood literacy and life-long reading."
  The book is pretty well written, especially considering writing kid's books isn't Maritza's occupation. There were a few things I thought could have been better explained or expanded on, and a slight repetitiveness. Overall though,I think the book does a good job of telling Maru's story in a simple, appealing way. 

Maru's wearing a hair net so her hair remains neat in the box.

Her hair is so shiny!

I have to say she gathered quite a lot of static electricity in her hair from my foam board background!

Her outfit consists of an orange hat made of a heavy knit fabric...

...with a satiny ribbon band. The hat is lined, which helps it keep it's shape... orange scarf with pom pom ends, a striped cotton blend vest, which closes with snaps in the front...
Decorated with satiny bows to match her hat band.

Almost all the pieces are identified by a Maru tag. orange sweater blouse which also has the orange satiny ribbons on the sleeves.

It snaps in the back...
I have to say, I'm so glad to see the snaps! Velcro is one of the most damaging things to doll hair and clothes.When my oldest child, Emma,became old enough for 'real' dolls I found out how awful Velcro was for the clothing when she got several outfits with sheer sleeves for her Jasmine doll. I started replacing all the Velcro on her doll's clothes with snaps. I soon gave this idea up when I found there wasn't enough time in the world for a beginning sewer like myself to do all the things I had to do, AND keep up with Emma's growing doll collection!

...a brown corduroy skirt with snaps in the back...

...tan woolly tights and tan faux suede boots with faux fur around the tops...
...and a buckle on the side.

The boots close with Velcro,but that does make a little sense. It makes for a smooth and complete closure on the boots that wouldn't be obtained with snaps And at least the boots are far from Maru's hair!

  Best of all, the boots were easy to get on and off! With doll boots there's always the struggle to remove them and then get them back on the feet, Maru's boots just required a little wiggling and a shove on the heel.
...and white undies.

All the clothing is made of nice quality fabrics.Only the hat is lined, but there are no snaggy threads or unfinished edges that would fray. As I said before, most pieces have the Maru and Friends tag.

  I actually had to take Maru's clothes off twice because I didn't get a good picture of her underwear the first day, or do a body comparison with my American girl. The second time I took them off the stitches on one half of the bottom snap on her vest totally disintegrated and the snap half fell off.
The other two are firmly stitched, so it seems to just be one of those things. Nothing is perfect I guess.

She also comes with a purse to match her outfit.It's faux leather and decorated with a felt flower on the flap.
The first day I tried to photograph Maru the purse strap was so stiffly in the position it arrived in,(folded for placement in the bag.), that it wouldn't stay on Maru's small shoulders. The second time it had loosened up a bit and stayed on fine.

The purse closes with Velcro, and can actually hold plenty of doll sized items.

I love the fact that kids  can actually put stuff in her purse. I hate doll purses that are just for looks and can't really hold anything.

I noticed when I opened the box that Maru's skirt belt was unbuckled. It does seem to have a problem staying buckled sometimes. There is no prong on the real metal buckle to hold the belt tight, which makes the skirt safe for little hands, but apt to come loose.Luckily her skirt stays up without it.

Now let's look at Maru herself. The character Maru is supposed to be eight years old.

She has cute pudgy little girl cheeks and a delicate pointed chin.

Her cheeks are subtly blushed, giving her face a realistic glow.

She has 'real eyelashes' on the top and painted lower lashes,and nonclosing inset eyes with a pattern in the iris. They aren't just a solid brown.
My Maru has some residue on her right eye, probably from the eyelashes being applied. It doesn't seem to want to come off, and makes the upper half of her eye cloudy.
There is wonderful detail in her eyes. The corners are pinkish and very realistic.Her eyebrows have some crosshatching and aren't just a single stroke.

She has a sweet little mouth with just a hint of a smile. The colouring is nice and natural.

Everything about her face is very realistic, from the sculpt to the colouring.

Her ears aren't especially detailed. That's a little surprising considering how real her face looks.

And they seem a bit big. Of course, my family teases me that I have practically no ears, so what do I know?
Her hair is wigged, not rooted.

The hair is very silky. After her initial combing it seemed that she didn't lose a hair, but a couple did turn up later. Her hair is a joy to brush and seems like it would not tangle easily. That's a big bonus on a play doll. I wonder if rooted hair wouldn't last longer on a play doll though. Of course, with wigged hair it can be easily replace if it gets thin, or suffers a cut at the hands of a mini stylist! Saves shipping the whole doll in for new hair I suppose.
  Maru doesn't come with a hair brush and they aren't sold on the website. I would recommend the type of brush you would use on human hair that is slightly fine, but not baby fine.

The Maru logo is on the back of her head.
Maru has a faint belly button and a slightly pudgy belly.

Maru is 20" tall, compared to American Girl's 18", and her limbs and body are slimmer.

My American Girl, a Pleasant Company Samantha on the left.
Maru's proportions are more like a real child's than dolls like American Girl. Next to Maru my Samantha looks stubby and unreal.

 I have heard that Pleasant Company AGs have slightly chubbier bodies than Mattel AGs, but even keeping that in mind, they're still going to be a bit chunkier than Maru. AGs are also broader through the shoulders, but Maru has much longer arms.

Her feet are much more narrow than AG feet too.
And longer.
Maru has bigger hands too.

Another difference is that Maru is all vinyl. That means she looks better in V-necks and strap shouldered blouses and dresses since she doesn't have the cloth torso.

  I also compared Maru's size, figure, and skin tone to my A Girl For All Time Clementine.
  Maru is much taller. She has a more tan skin tone than the very fair Clementine.

Maru's hand on top,Clem's beneath it. You can see Maru's nails and finger creases.
 Here are all three girls together for size comparison.

When I was looking for clothes I came across Collecting Barbie's Viewmaster. It was in with the larger clothes because it is actually too big for Barbie. I had it with clothes for Patience because it's just right for her. It almost works for Maru and Samantha, but Clem found it's a perfect fit for her. Collecting Barbie also has a Magic Eight Ball. Just thought I'd mention this stuff...
Maru's vinyl isn't porcelain smooth like A Girl For All Time's Clementine. It has a slight texture to it. I prefer the smooth vinyl myself, but then, I'm also creeped out by the feel of bisque.
  I thought Maru might be more similar in proportion to my Karito Kid Wan Ling.
They are more similar in height. Ling is 22" tall. Maru has a wider torso, but Ling has longer arms and legs, bigger hands and feet, and a MUCH bigger head. The biggest difference is her partial cloth torso though.

Isn't there anybody who can share clothes with Maru? Well, BFC Ink dolls can share their shoes.
Maru tried on a boot and a slip on, and both fit perfectly. The slip on shoe was a little tight, but probably fit Maru better than the BFC Ink doll I took it off of. The boot was perfect.
  This slip on BFC Ink sandal fit even better than the shoe.

Getting back to Maru's features,here's a better picture of Maru's hands.She has fairly simple hands...

...with realistic creases on the fingers and in the palms.

Her feet aren't detailed on the bottoms, but the smooth flatness does allow her to stand on her own nicely.

She can also stand very well in her boots with no support.

 Maru is only jointed at the shoulders, hips, and neck,but she makes the most of the joints she has.
Her legs can go out at some angles, allowing her to do this.(She can't really stand in this position.)

Her arms can not only move up and down, but also out at her sides.

 Here's her sitting position.

Her head can also tilt,allowing for some cute poses, and giving her more expression.

She holds poses very well. I think she'll hold up to plenty of play before her joints loosen, but only time will tell for sure.

  The dolls have won quite a few awards, including the 2009 Doll of the Year award from Doll Reader Magazine, and the 2009 Toy of the Year award from Creative Child Magazine. You can read about their awards HERE.
  Maru is a quality play doll that I think children would love. Her face is lovely. Her hair is silky and easy to care for. Her clothes are nice,well made, and simple enough for children to be able dress and undress Maru easily.Her book allows children to learn about Maru's experiences in an entertaining way and encourages reading.With her beautiful face and stylish clothing she also appeals to adult collectors. I like that she comes with her book, and a detailed outfit with several pieces and accessories. There's plenty included for the money. As much as I love my Clementine, I wish she had come with her book. At $120 Maru compares well with American Girls' average price of $115, while offering more accessories for the $5 difference in the price.For example, American Girl charges $115 for Kit and her book, and $24 for her hat, purse, and plastic bracelet. Maru and Friends also offers a line of clothing, accessories, and even furniture for their dolls.The cost of Maru's clothing is similar to American Girl, with some items being more expensive than comparable American Girl items, and some things being slightly cheaper. I love the Peacoat.

 In addition to founding and running Maru and friends dolls, Maritza Gutierrez has managed her own advertising and public relations firm,Creative Ideas Advertising Inc., for over 35 years, and is in her 4th term as chairwoman for the MDX expressway authority in Miami.That must make for a pretty  busy life, which makes it no wonder she had a hard time finding time to respond to my messages. I do still have to wonder how long it normally takes for messages to be responded to by the company. Maybe actual customers get quicker responses, which, after all, they should. Would I add more Maru and Friends dolls to my collection? Definitely.
  Here are some more pictures of Maru, because she's so beautiful and fun to photograph.

Hey! It's finally spring in Ohio! My lilacs are budding.

 Some of the amaryllis' have bloomed.

The pear tree is budding too.

The bushes are getting leaves. Soon they'll have tiny white flowers.

And look at all the garlic growing behind Maru!

These little purple flowers grow on that ground covering vine.