West Enders Update

Dear Friends and Followers,

The West Enders have been very quiet since June, and for this I apologise. I have had an endless series of challenges due to my illness and the various drugs I take – immunosuppressants, anticonvulsants, and many more. My illness, chronic hypersensitivity pneumonitis, a form of pulmonary fibrosis, continues to progress and I realise that I cannot continue to post the West Enders in quite the same way. I no longer have enough energy to put up and take down sets and backgrounds, so I have been working on creating some permanent spaces in which the story can take place. This is an ongoing process. I also decided to downgrade my collection and am giving my granddaughter several boxes of dolls, clothes, furniture and accessories to sell on eBay. Of course, getting rid of dolls doesn’t seem to stop me from buying more! So when the West Enders return, I will post a new page of characters to help you see who is new and who remains. In the meantime, I thought I would update you on some of the West Enders’ activities.

And yes, there will be a final episode to Season Five in which we will find out the fate of Bigly! (Knock on wood – never tempt fate!)

First of all, today is Día de los Muertos, Day of the Dead, All Saints Day, Samhain, one of the turning points of the year in the Celtic calendar. So how did the West Enders celebrate?

Many familiar characters went out to the annual Halloween Party. Here are Lara and Lottie:

Here are Midge and Rachel – yes, Rachel, who used to be a baby! I have decided to “grow” some of the babies up.

Other children who have “grown up” are Emma’s daughters Lola (now on the right) and Vivianne (now on the left). But in the following image, we can see the former Kalani Holmes is now almost an adult.

Claire and Honey haven’t changed.

There’s a new Dr Bonnie Panenka:

Esmée is going to experience some traumatic changes but for now, she seems happy enough.

A new “teen Ruruko” has joined the West Enders.

Celebrating Día de los Muertos, Frida Dahlo and her nephew join Sindy Petersen.

I’ve been working on new permanent spaces, and Frida will soon have a new dedicated space for her restaurant. In the meantime, Tommy and Salynda have welcomed Salynda’s sister Lucy to their home.

I also created a student common room for the Bernstein College of Music and Art. (That’s a student lounge in American English.)

Some of the students have been checking out the new Italian restaurant.

As you may have noticed, collecting OOAK dolls is one of my passions and I have added some really lovely dolls to the West Enders. First up is the new version of Georgiana Daley, a OOAK from ImDolls on Etsy.

She’s already met another of the new dolls, although he’s not OOAK. I think they make a cute couple, but I’m not sure it’s going to last. He’s called Raheem Rashford, after two of our popular England footballers (soccer players to Americans).

Next is this gorgeous rerooted OOAK Wonder Woman from OneSixthShop on Etsy, now known as Carrie Danes because she reminds me of Claire Danes’ character in “Homeland.”

Blessing Olatunji has a new look, from soniavivajapan on Etsy:

These two young ladies, a new version of Marguerite Charpentier and a new character, Millie Brewer, are from Amelieshappyplace on Etsy.

Another newcomer is this BMR1959 repaint from UzhikiSisters on Etsy.

The doll artist whose work I have collected most is Constantinos Kalaitzis, creator of TheFoxyDolls on Etsy. I had to add this rerooted Barbie Extra doll to my collection:

I also fell in love with this repainted Extra doll from DaydreamArtDolls on Etsy. She’s so cute! Who could resist? Here she is redressed.

I do like the Extra fashions; I bought one of the dolls just for her outfit (she was on sale because her box was damaged). I think her outfit looks fabulous on my OOAK doll from SalemCityDolls on Etsy:

Another new passion of mine is Mizi dolls. I now have four of them, three of them purchased very recently. Here is the stunning Les Mille et une Nuits Mizi doll:

Here she is in “street clothes” with her gorgeous sister from the 2021 Convention collection:

Another fun convention doll, “Spice Girl” Lily, who I have renamed Lela Majak:

There’s more to come – slowly, I realise, but please don’t give up on the West Enders yet! My final photo is the new doll to represent Celeste Santos – so gorgeous in this outfit from elenpriv on Etsy!

The West Enders Sneak Preview: A new pizzeria opens in the village

I haven’t posted any episodes recently but I have been working behind the scenes to create new dioramas for the village, make final decisions on the characters, and try to make my doll room a bit more user friendly. Many of you probably aren’t aware that I have a rare lung disease called chronic hypersensitivity pneumonitis. It is progressive and incurable. I use oxygen when I’m up and active and over the last year, it’s become clear that putting up and taking down dioramas is just too much for me so I’ve been trying to create some permanent fixtures for the West Enders and plan future stories around them. Next month I hope to post a wrap up of events after the arrest of Bigly. In the meantime, here’s a sneak preview of one of the new permanent fixtures, a pizzeria, opened by Lexi Lombardi!

As you can see, some of the secondary school students have gathered to celebrate Ginny’s birthday with her. Teddy has quit his job at the café and is the new cook/chef at the pizzeria. Trichelle is working as a waitress. There are a few more things coming to add some finishing touches, but I’m pleased with the result so far. Next up, a grocery store!

The West Enders: Interlude

The West Enders are undergoing a reshuffle. Some of the characters have left and others have joined. I am hoping for a real blog post soon – the fate of Bigly and his minions! While I am working on that, I thought I would post a few photos from behind the scenes of the village.

First, let’s meet some of the new characters!

Albus Brewer is the father of the Brewer brothers.

Annie Daley is the youngest of the Daley sisters.

Azumi Ito is a model; sister of the Japanese spy, Asuka Ito, who we met in Season Three. Asuka has since returned to Japan.

Dalpinder Chowdhury is sure to set the ladies’ hearts beating.

David Benvenuto is a rehomed doll from Shereese Nicole on Facebook, aka J, the owner of Etsy shop, Deztination J:

https://www.etsy.com/shop/DeztinationJ

Daya Darwish is a fabulous OOAK doll from Madame Bu’s shop on Etsy:

https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/MadamBuShop

Ingrid Dahlberg is a Swedish film star joining our acting troupe. She’s a OOAK doll from Salem City Dolls:

https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/SalemCityDolls?ref=ss_profile

Mairi MacDonald and Eddie Oldhead are two OOAK dolls from The Foxy Dolls on Etsy:

https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/TheFoxyDolls?ref=ss_profile

Mairi is the mother of sisters Merida and Luna MacDonald. Merida is played by a new OOAK doll, also from Salem City Dolls.

Raheem Majak is ready for school.

Mizuki Yamaguchi is a new Momoko doll, “Moonless Night.” I photographed her in black and white before unwrapping her from the cling film that encase new Momoko dolls to prevent clothing stains. Unwrapping was, as usual, a nightmare. She’s quite an edgy girl here, but I’ve dressed her for autumn and meeting her new friends.

Mizuki and Chiyo meet in the café.

Momoko, Yuki, and Scarlett in the queue.

Himari and Akiko in the queue.

Then I started thinking about boyfriends for the lasses. Himari, Momoko, and Scarlett have boyfriends, but poor Yuki has been very unlucky in love, Akiko never goes out, and Chiyo was being chatted up by Momoko’s brother Takashi at the music festival last time we saw her.

Yuki and Dae-jung? He’s a OOAK V doll from Studio Tate on Etsy:

https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/StudioTate

Is his twin brother Jaehyung a good match for Mizuki?

He’s a OOAK V repaint from Pink Doll Art on Etsy:

https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/PinkDollArt

And finally, what about poor Akiko, always at Salynda’s beck and call? Is Jimin the lad for her?

Feel free to leave a comment and let me know what you think of these possible matches! Nothing is set in stone at the moment. And do stay tuned to learn the fate of Bigly, Rosa, Alexa, and Melanie… November 3rd is approaching!

Finally, I want to say a huge thank you to Lauralyn Williams of Nandi’s Daughters dolls, who gifted me this gorgeous girl. She won’t join the West Enders as she’s a display doll but she’s enjoying life with the dolls in my bedroom.

https://www.globuya.com/US/Boston/115611199809787/Nandi%27s-Daughter-Dolls

Interlude: How many “fashion dolls” or “playscale” dolls are out there?

Today I received my first doll from the Fresh Dolls line. Her name is Jacqueline and she is a lot curvier than a Barbie doll. The Fresh Dolls are “black” dolls, made to more closely resemble African American women than the typical Barbie doll. Here’s Jacqueline, whose description states that she is “mixed,” which I interpret as resembling a woman of both European and African ancestry.  She will, of course, be joining the West Enders!

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Jacqueline’s arrival made me wonder how many different “playscale” doll types I actually have among the West Enders. Almost all of my dolls are Mattel’s Barbie, friends, and family.

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This version of Barbie is a reproduction of the doll I had as a child, the first Barbie ever produced, in 1959. Barbie will always be a brunette to me. As a child, she represented the adult world of my mother, who had dark brunette hair.

In my other universe, I am a biological anthropologist, and one of the things we concern ourselves with is human diversity. It’s been very important to me to reflect human diversity in my miniature universe; not just skin colour and geographic origin, but body shape as well. Barbie has been accused of promoting a negative body image for girls. As a person who has gone from being an excruciatingly thin young woman to a fat old lady, I definitely want to include that in my mini-universe. One of my favourite dolls is this one from the second film version of Hairspray. I love her because she is built like me.

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One of the first “plus-size” fashion dolls was Dasia, one of the Big Beautiful Dolls created by Audrey Bell Kearney and Georgette Taylor. Nobody ever parts with these dolls and I was extraordinarily lucky to buy one of the 18th anniversary dolls. She’s stunning.

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Another doll created to counter Barbie’s unrealistic physique is Lammily. There are three dolls, and I have been one of those who participated in the crowd funding for all of them. Lammily dolls are based on the proportions of average 18 year old Americans. The main issue with the dolls is that they are difficult to dress. Barbie’s body was actually designed the way to facilitate getting her clothes on and off rather than to reflect an actual human being! Here’s my favourite Lammily doll, and I think the most beautiful of all of them, who regular readers of the blog will know as Emma.

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Venturing beyond the American doll market, there are a number of playscale fashion dolls. Here is Steffi, who readers of the West Enders will also recognise. Steffi is a Barbie clone produced by the German company Simba Toys. She is very similar to Barbie, with a male companion and a number of small children. There are clothes and lots of fun accessories for this doll line and the West Enders include quite a few of them.

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Barbie is known around the world, but in China, Japan, and South Korea, playscale fashion dolls have been produced that reflect the cultural values of those countries far better than Barbie. (I might add here that I sadly do not own any of the quintessentially British Sindy dolls.) The Asian fashion dolls reflect the popularity of manga and anime. Kurhn is a Chinese fashion doll and is indescribably cute. Regular readers of the blog will recognise her as a central character in the West Enders.

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There are several wonderful Japanese fashion dolls. Takara Tomy produces both Jenny and Licca-chan and her family and several of these dolls play roles in the West Enders. Here’s the very cute Jenny.

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My favourite Japanese fashion doll is Momoko. These dolls are stunning, have amazing clothes, but are also very delicate – and very expensive! I have four now and I love all of them. Here’s the latest addition to the West Enders, the lovely Himari.

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Pullip dolls come from South Korea and are part of a group of dolls with very large heads and big eyes. I just can’t find any enthusiasm for them. But Pullip bodies are used in J-Dolls, one of which is a character from the West Enders, our young Jazmin.

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Another recent purchase of mine is a South African doll, Maisha from Malaville Dolls. This is another company dedicated to providing young black children with dolls that look like them rather than the ubiquitous “white” dolls available. Maisha is so cute and has very dark skin. She’s a delight to behold. I should mention that I love it when “black” dolls have natural hair like this. Maisha and Emma are both good examples.

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Here’s another new arrival with marvellous hair. I don’t know who actually makes these dolls. I saw her in a Facebook group and hunted her down. There are a number of these available on Amazon, but they seem to come from different sellers. All I know is that they are produced in China and have articulated bodies and fabulous hair.

 

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Many collectors adore Integrity Toys’ various dolls, which come in 12.5 inch and 16 inch versions. I have to say that they are not my favourites. Their faces are sullen and unpleasant and I do not understand how collectors find them attractive. To each his or her own! I decided that I wanted to own one so that I could say my collection included this particular variety of playscale doll. I’m a story teller more than I am a collector, but yes, there’s a bit of “collector” in there as well! This is Liu Liu Ling and she has one of the least offensive faces among the Integrity family of dolls, in my opinion. I do hope to add some of their male dolls as one or two of them don’t look like they’ve been sucking on lemons all day!

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Another recent addition to my playscale family is the WWE action figures. I don’t find them at all attractive but they make great evil enemies in my stories, like this one. I mean, face it, who wants to meet her in a dark alley?

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Before I leave my female dolls, I need to add the first doll I ever collected as an adult, this Marilyn Monroe doll. I think I bought her in the 1980s or 1990s. Her outfit, the white skirt from The Seven Year Itch, has disintegrated. Both hands have snapped off. She’s not attractive, bearing only a passing resemblance to Marilyn, but I just can’t abandon her.

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So those are my adult female dolls. What about the males? Trying to find male dolls is what inspired me to branch out beyond Mattel. The recent male dolls, Ken and his ilk, have horrible plastic hair and immovable limbs. They are awful, although one or two have reasonably attractive faces. I got very tired of trying to find male dolls for my ladies and in desperation, I turned to a group of dolls produced for girls who love boy bands. There are a large variety of them and I have quite a few. Here’s one as an example, a recent and quite good looking one, Max George from The Wanted. Who are The Wanted? I haven’t a clue. People, I’m 65 years old – boy bands are not my thing. I have no idea who any of my boy band dolls are in real life! They are shorter than Ken and make good partners for Momoko and Lammily dolls. IMG_6713.jpg

My quest for articulated male dolls with rooted hair took me in many directions. My absolute favourite, and a principle character in the West Enders, is our lad Sutton. He’s just so delightful. His romance with Merida has been a joy to write. I found him on eBay, “gently used,” which meant something very different to the seller than to me. I had to glue his waist articulation to keep him from flopping over completely, but I didn’t care. I love him!

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My blog is super heteronormative. I realise that and wish that I were a better writer and could branch out a bit. Unfortunately, all my characters are heterosexual, which doesn’t reflect human diversity at all. It is a failing. That said, let me introduce my High School Musical Doll, who I call Corbin. He’s Suttons’ opposite – short where Sutton is tall, but just as loveable in his own way. He reminds me of my role as the mother of a teenage son many years ago. He’s charming and completely irresponsible – and very cute.

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The lack of diversity in male dolls has been horrendously frustrating. I had no male Asian dolls – none. In desperation, after seeing a YouTube review, I turned to the World Peacekeeper series – cheap articulated 1:6 scale action figures. I’ve managed to find two “Asians” to add to my collection, the most notable of which is Tommy Lu, a major character in the West Enders.

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Next come the “big head” boys. In my desperation for articulated male dolls, I turned to the Ever After High dolls. Here’s Dexter, whose head is abnormally large. But his articulation is fabulous and he plays a mean guitar.

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An even more ridiculously sized head characterises poor Jake, from the Liv doll series. My husband constantly mocks him every time he comes into the doll room. Poor Jake! But like Dexter, his articulation is amazing.

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Then there are the “one off” male dolls, purchased purely to move my story forward. My husband told me my blog, with its focus on romance, was dull as a soap opera. I needed a villain. Who better to be a villain than the unmentionable POTUS? He even talks, but I don’t push that button very often. I mean, is this guy not the very embodiment of evil in dolly form? But this is where I feel my age creep up on me. The white cat – Ernst Stavros Blofeld anyone?

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And this character is even worse for making me feel old, even though I was beside myself when I found him. Illya Kuryakin, the Man from U.N.C.L.E. I googled it and I found him. I knew I needed a Russian spy…

But then my husband asked our grand-daughter-in-law if she knew who Illya Kuryakin was, the simple and straightforward answer was no. I feel so old.

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Now that I’ve covered the adult women and men in my dolly universe, I want to touch on the children very briefly. Both Mattel and Simba Toys have children, as does Takara Tomy. So what else is out there that works as a child for a playscale family?

First and foremost are Lottie dolls. They are meant to be around 9 years old, but relative to a Barbie doll they are a bit smaller than that. Mine are all meant to be around 8 years old. They are very cute and reminiscent of the Asian anime and manga inspired dolls.

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Another doll that playscale collectors might not recognise as perfect children is the Mini-American Girl doll, which recently evolved into the Lori Doll line.

IMG_7640.jpgThose are all the various types of dolls in my collection of playscale dolls. I know I am missing a few types of dolls like Sindy, plus all the 1:6 scale action figures. What do you collect? Please feel free to comment – I’d love to know how my fellow photo story bloggers deal with the lack of articulated male dolls with rooted hair, for example. Who else am I missing? I’d love to hear from all of you!