Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Samantha's Berry-tastic Bicycle: A Beforever Treat

The Beforever bicycle for Samantha is a berry-tastic treat offering a summer bouquet of colors: raspberry red, cotton candy pink, and sunflower yellow, with a splash of white and bronze on the wheels and rims.


The bicycle is a major storyline feature in Samantha's original six books. What always confused me is that while the book illustrations and story aways indicated a two-wheeled bicycle, what was offered in the catalogs was a quaint three-wheeled contraption. While three-wheeled bicycles are historically correct for Samantha's time, so were two-wheeled bicycles. I don't blame American Girl for making this change!


Probably most impressive with this bicycle is how well it is constructed. The wheels, rim, spokes, fender and chain guard and more are all constructed like the real thing. Even the pedals rotate, though the chain does not activate--so the bike must be propelled forward by play-power, though this is quite easy to do, especially since the bike is steadied by the subtly placed extra set of tiny wheels.


The bicycle also comes with a basket and tiny bouquet of flowers. The basket is removable as it has been smartly attached with buckled straps.


I love the basket, since it gives the bicycle a whimsical flair. This leads to my thought that this bicycle would look at home with any of the modern MyAG dolls. The design and color fits a retro or vintage style that is very popular today. In fact, while driving in Palo Alto on Monday, I saw a young woman riding a bike that was almost identical in color and design (sans basket) and then later the same day I spied a another young woman with a bike in teal that was a twin to Samantha's bike--right down to the wicker basket.


The color and design coordination between Samantha's bicycle and bicycling outfit is a dream. Each is darling on its own but together they really pop.


I was able to balance Samantha on the bike with ease. I did not even need to use the elastic bands attached to the pedals for her to stay in pose. The scale between the doll and bike is perfect.


I would love to stay and rave some more about this amazing bicycle, but Samantha has donned her hat and is about to take off down the street! But in parting I must say the sturdy and realistic construction combined with a design that works both in Samantha's historical setting or for any dolls set in modern times makes this item less of an accessory and more of a necessity according to all of my "girls." Grade: A+

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Samantha Meets Samantha: Looking Back, Looking Beforever

With the addition of Beforever Samantha, we now have two Samantha dolls in our home. Our first Samantha is a Pleasant Company era doll from early 1994. She was our daughter's first Pleasant Company doll and in fact the first Pleasant Company doll of any kind in our home. Our daughter would go on to be gifted a Felicity (PC era) and then later to purchase Josefina (PC era) with her own saved money, but Samantha would always be the first.

PC Samantha has since been handed on to me after having been packed away in a box for several years. My daughter was torn about just selling her or giving her away, and was relieved to find out that Samantha could have a forever home here. She has been well played with and loved over the years.

Meet Posey and Samantha!


BF Samantha (aka Posey) and PC Samantha look related though PC Samantha is definitely showing her age. She has surprisingly tight limbs for being twenty years old, though her head tilt has become very pronounced and remains even after tightening her neck string. This will need to be addressed at some point, but not sure how to go about it yet. 

PC Samantha's skin tone is a bit darker as well as more sallow, even yellow in undertone. Again, this may be due to aging as well as being handled and played with by a little girl for many years.

I find it interesting how much the new BF Samantha Meet dress really does harken back to PC Samantha's Meet dress with the maroon waistband sash and the pink tones of the dress fabric. However, the long sleeves, studious checked pattern, black tights, high neckline and long sleeves of the Pleasant Company era dress feel very restrictive and somber compared to the Beforever Meet. Short sleeves! Open neckline! Lace! Mesh overlay! Light pink and white! Fuzzy little dots! Froth and frills!


The hair color and length are surprisingly similar. The biggest difference is the level of sheen. PC Samantha has seen a fair amount of play and her hair shows its age. Like other older Samantha dolls, her bangs are very thick--our PC Samantha's bangs are downright thick and shaggy. PC Samantha's wig is also of an older construction style with the wig tape showing around much of her hairline. I also believe her wig is a bit defective, something not noticed at the time as it was my daughter's first Pleasant Company doll. In comparison, BF Samantha's wig construction is beautiful and nearly flawless.

Their feet also look very different sized--partly because PC dolls had larger feet, but also because the particular shape of the plastic molded shoe.


I was mostly surprised to see the general effect of wave and illusion of volume is almost identical between the two dolls. I would like to presume PC Samantha's wave has relaxed over the years, but I cannot say that definitively. (Note that while PC Samantha appears taller here, much of that is due to a higher placement of her ponytail.)


PC Samantha has earned her retreat from the limelight and now spends her sunny days playing in the yard, bikcycling, and swimming at Piney Point. She is thrilled to have met BF Samantha (Posey) and wishes her twenty years of brand new adventures!

Samantha's Bicycling Outfit: A Beforever Review

Samantha's new Bicyling Outfit was on the top of my favorites when visiting the store for the Beforever launch. And while the debates continue on the blogs and forums on how historically accurate such an outfit might be for Samantha, this outfit quietly made its way home.


Her outfit comes with an embroidered blouse, houndstooth-checked bloomers, gaiters, a hat,  and a pink bow for her hair.


I love all the pieces but have mixed feelings about the gaiters. The felted material is sturdy but I am uncertain how well the gaiters will keep their shape. 


Additionally, when I dressed Samantha with the gaiters I kept catching the velcro strip on the back of the gaiters on her white tights (not included). I may need to stock up on Samantha's tights! However, the pearlized buttons on the gaiters are very lovely.


The embroidery on the blouse is absolutely adorable. While the blouse could be said to harken back to the style of some Victorian shirts for women, it does seem to be more "inspired by history" rather than a painstaking recreation of an actual historical item. The embroidery seems a bit quaint and folksy and the teal trim at the neckline is actually an elastic strip, both which take away from any claim of strict historicity. But the overall design of the blouse is so adorable that I am able to overlook it.


Her hat is adorable as well, if a bit gigantic. But somehow Samantha makes it work!


Many outfits from AG do not look as cute from the back as from the front, but with the cute peplum flair of the blouse and the pink bow, Samantha's outfit is 360 degrees of charm.


Samantha's Bicycling outfit is sweet yet infused with a bit of jaunty independence. Faithful readers of Samantha's canon stories may just wish to imagine that Samantha spends a lot of time with her delightful Aunt Cornelia who dresses Samantha with a little more flair than her Grandmary.


While my irrational love for this outfit insists I award it an A+, I must exercise a hint of restraint and consider my entire review and award it an A-.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Welcome Samantha! A Beforever Review

Samantha has come home! Beforever Samantha is in many ways the same girl as our Pleasant Company era Samantha, yet she is truly her own unique doll. In comparison to the Samantha we once knew, she is brighter and lighter in face, figure, and dress.

My first peek of BF Samantha in the box was a surprise as she does not come with a hair net.



She is stunning right out of the box!


I took her into another room to further examine her in a different setting and with better light. Her face is very sweet. The lace details of her dress are lovely and I really like the mesh overlay of her dress. The dark maroon of velvet sash and hair bow contrasts wonderfully against her pink dress.


Her eyes are a dark brown, but in certain lights there is a hint of a dusky violet undertone.


Her hair was no fuss straight out of the box. I agree with other reviewers who have said her hair is a thinner wig than previous Samantha dolls, but the locks are lustrous and have a bouncy wave, both which give her hair a very full bodied appearance.


Her shoes are a lovely faux patent leather Mary Jane style, a marked improvement on Samantha's earlier meet outfit shoes. The straps are fastened with velcro. 


Her meet outfit also comes with the white tights and bloomers. Sorry, Samantha! WWGS? (What Would Grandmary Say?)


This new Samantha is just perfect for who she has been reimagined to be within the Beforever line of historical dolls: bright and light, optimistic, and always looking toward the future.


Beforever Samantha earns very high marks for quality of the doll and clothing, but also for staying true to the new vision created for the doll. This is not the Samantha doll of yesteryear, but I am am happy to be looking forward with this new incarnation of a classic doll and enjoying many years with Beforever Samantha. Grade: A.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Beforever Launch: A BF Samantha Mini Review

Today I ventured to American Girl Place in Palo Alto to enjoy AG's Beforever launch and to dive head first into a Samantha Parkington adventure. I am familiar with Samantha as my daughter was given a Samantha doll when she was young--back when the company was still known as Pleasant Company. Her Samantha was very well loved in her day, but has been since set aside. This new launch by AG was a perfect opportunity to enjoy Samantha as a possible addition to my own family of girls.

To begin this Samantha bonanza of reviews I offer the Beforever Samantha Mini doll.


Considering the AG website lists BF Samantha Mini doll backordered until November, I decided to pick her up right away when I saw her in the store. The BF Samantha Mini comes in a new box style, though this design change is not very radical. The included mini book is a paperback which matches the style of books now being offered with the larger dolls.





Some of the big changes from the previous Samantha Mini dolls include a new face mold, new bangs, new eyes, and perhaps most surprisingly, an all vinyl body. I was hesitant at first about the all vinyl body, but after handling BF Samantha Mini this afternoon, I decided it is less noticeable of a change than I thought it would be, though perhaps it is because I spent most of my time fussing with her hair!

BF Samantha Mini's hair was a disaster out of the box with her curls a mad mess. In the store I had tried to pick a mini doll who had thick bangs as I had noticed many of them had alarmingly thin and wispy bangs. However her bangs proved to be wildly askew as well. I decided to wet down her hair (both the long tresses and the bangs) and shape her hair. Even after all of that, her bangs were quite uneven and so I carefully and conservatively trimmed the most obvious of the stragglers from her bangs.


I was initially not terrifically excited about the back of her hair, but after wetting it down and letting it relax it is starting to calm down into an acceptable shape as pictured here.


I really am warming up to BF Samantha Mini's new eyes. There seems to be more painted detail inside of the iris which in part helps eliminate much of that "spooked" eye problem of previous models of the mini dolls.


Overall, I think her dress with the lace, mesh overlay, and velvet sash is quite lovely. Her black Mary Jane style shoes are simple but classically adorable. Her initial hair crisis aside, I find myself enjoying the new BF Samantha Mini. While I would love the entire mini doll line to be taken up a whole level in terms of quality and detail, within the doll's quality in terms of the longer scope of the AG mini doll line, I give BF Samantha Mini an A-.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Summertime Review: Skateboarding Set (2014-

AG has released new summertime play outfits for the dolls. In the spirit of trying something new, Lilja (#55) has taken up the longboard.


The Skateboarding Set includes a sporty jersey dress with a mock tee, jersey leggings, high-top sneakers, and a skateboard. The set also includes stickers (for the skateboard) and a rectangle "Brave" charm. (Hairbands not included.)


The jersey dress has a drop waist and a darling mock cowl at the neckline.


The jersey leggings feature a star motif on the right leg.


The faux-leather is soft and flexible and the high-tops are lined with soft fabric. It took only minimal effort to slip these shoes onto Lilja's feet.


The top side of the skateboard has a realistic rough texture for grip. The board has flexibility throughout the belly of the board and even is capable of tilting slightly side to side like a "real" skateboard.


The underneath reveals a fairly realistic "wheels and trucks" construction.


The AG designers added an elastic strap to use during play. This is a nice touch for active play, though it is quite possible to pose a doll without using the strap.


Lilja shows off her ability to balance on her new longboard!

If I had any one criticism, it would be that the set does not include a safety helmet. The only option in the store at the moment for a helmet is the "Skates & Gear" set, which consists of inline skates, guards, and a helmet. The helmet from that set does reasonably coordinate colorwise, but it is not an exact match to the Skateboarding Set.

Overall, the design, construction, and playability of the Skateboarding Set are all top notch:  A+. The skateboard is very realistic and the outfit is a daring and new design.



Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Storage Solutions!

As an AG collector, I am certain that I love the process of storing and organizing my collection as much as the dolls themselves. As my collection grows, I have to continually strategize how to store all of the dresses, shoes and accessories. I am fortunate to have some closet space (and two armoires) that I am actively converting into storage space for my collection.

The largest of these spaces is a spare office closet.


I installed and painted the wooden shelves myself. My sister assisted me in measuring and installing all of the smaller sized wooden rods and metal cups.


The left side of the closet hides a giant stack of mini plastic drawers (by Sterilite). The tower is surprisingly stable, as it is supported on two sides by the closet walls.


The mini drawers are a brilliant find by my sister. Each individual drawer fits on average one outfit, such as a set of pajamas with slippers. 


I also use these to store outfits and accessories which do not store well on a hanger, such as swimming suits, towels and accessories.


I was able to store the majority of Isabelle's leotards, tutus, shoes and accessories in three sets of mini drawers plus her dance case.


Finally the right side of the closet has a hidden wooden rod for extra hanger space. I may also put a few hooks on the blank wall space above in order to hang some hats or other items.