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Thursday, January 31, 2019

Throwback Thursday review: Playmates Tea Blossom

I'm RagingMoon1987, and praise God, today is the last day of January!  I positively loathe January.  Now...today's post ties in with the last one, only this time I'm tackling an honest-to-God Strawberry Shortcake doll rather than a knockoff.  Well okay, I take that back:  she's an honest-to-God FRIEND of Strawberry Shortcake.  Meet Tea Blossom, from the Playmates era.
Tea is out-of-box and sans her DVD and brush, but she's got her shoes and her hair clip so who cares about the rest???  Playmates held the license for Strawberry Shortcake from 2006 to 2009, which would explain why I had no idea these dolls existed until recently (I was out of the doll loop during those years).  These dolls have been produced by six different companies since 1979 (Kenner, the Toy Headquarters, Bandai, Playmates, Hasbro, and the Bridge Direct), and while they're all super-cute I tend to favor the originals because I love vintage stuff.  Playmates dolls are a close second though, due to their supremely happy faces and their brightly colored hair and clothes.  Playmates further added to the fun by tinkering around with new characters and putting a new spin on old ones.  At first my little Tea appears to fall into the new character category, but I dug a little deeper and found her roots go back to the Kenner era with a purple-haired girl named Almond Tea.  Both Almond Tea and Tea Blossom had a pet panda named Marza Panda (though the line my doll came from contained no pets), so it's entirely possible that Tea Blossom is just Almond Tea with a name change.  Wikipedia's list of Strawberry Shortcake characters seems to confirm this, so I may have to drag home an original Almond Tea for the heckuvit.  The Oriental characters seem to have changed the most from line to line, by the way, especially when compared to other ethnicities.  Orange Blossom is the only Afro-American character I can name, and she has been in every line as far as I know (thank goodness she didn't get the treatment that Dot Starlight got).  Not so with Strawberry Shortcake's Asian friends; so far there's been Almond Tea (Kenner), Ginger Snap (Bandai), Tea Blossom (Playmates), and Cherry Jam (Hasbro and Bridge Direct).  Cherry Jam was the only one to last for more than two waves, while the others saw only the wave they were introduced in.  Indeed, my little Tea Blossom appears to have gotten but one release, that being for the rather outrageous-looking Color Swirl wave.  With this line Playmates toyed with flavors and colors, creating dolls that were colored and scented one way, but with hair clips and clothing items that were colored and/or scented another way.  For example, Frosty Puff (another one-off character) was blackberry-scented and sported a plum clip, and the ever-present Lemon Meringue was lemon-scented with a lime clip.  Lemon probably would've been my second choice had I not been dazzled by Tea Blossom's purple hair, since Playmates Lemon is rendered in a happy shade of yellow that matches her smiling little face.  But before hair, let's compare Tea to my other Strawberry Shortcake dolls, knockoffs and all.  Tea is the tallest of the Strawberry Shortcake crew, at seven inches.  I think Gumdrop likes Tea's pigtails.
Miss Emily and Beastsbelle both did a fabulous job of comparing the different Strawberry Shortcake lines, so I knew ahead of time that Tea would be quite different than Lime Chiffon and her knock-off companions.  She's taller and thinner, though her face is still quite innocent and sweet and her colors are bright.  Regarding other dolly brands, Tea is taller than my little Moondreamers doll Whimzee, and she barely ekes out Cherry Merry Muffin and Emerald the Enchanting Witch as well, though that's hard to see since Cherry and Emerald are both wearing their hats.
Lottie is taller than Tea, but not by much.
I was hoping that Tea might be able to share clothes with Chelsea dolls, but having looked at the height difference between Tea and Calypso, I doubt clothes sharing would be possible.
Hairdorables Dee Dee and Kat are shorter than Tea by about a head.  Notice that they all wear variations of the same hairstyle.  I wish Tea could tip her head to interact with her enthusiastic comrades, but (spoiler alert) she can't.

That's a good way to segue into the hair department.  My old Lime Chiffon's hair is quite thin per the norm for the Kenner dolls, and I've been told that the Bandai dolls are bad about losing their hair completely over time.  Tea is not a Bandai doll OR a Kenner doll, but I'm going to use a little caution when examining her hair anyway.  I'd call this color...oh, it looks like good ol' royal purple to me, and the fibers are tied up into two perky pigtails.
The green bit clips on, like so.
Unfortunately, this doll has seen her fair share of playtime and I had to have a Downy dunk and a restyle before I could show her off.  The green bit did not respond very well to the Downy, so I trimmed the worst of it and braided the rest.  It thus looks a little weird when clipped into Tea's hair, but it's easier to control this way.
The ends are still pretty mangled, even after I trimmed the extension.
Trying to fix Tea's hair gave me an opportunity to look at the root job...which is unsurprisingly all but nonexistent.  She has a heavily rooted hairline, an equally thick part, and a full set of bangs in the front, but that's it!
Not terribly unlike the hairstyles sported by the Kenner Strawberry Shortcake dolls, actually.  Have any of y'all seen the original Blueberry Muffin's hair?  It is rooted just like Tea's hair is.  Plus, I can only imagine how thick this doll's hair would've been if it had been fully rooted, so I can understand Playmates' reasoning.  Thick hair looks and feels nice, but it's impractical for a child's toy to have very thick hair as it would become a beast of tangles and knots.  The downside is that Tea can't wear any other style but her two pigtails (braids leave gaps).  Regarding scent, Tea was originally supposed to smell like grape and green apple, but when I got her she smelled vaguely like cigarettes, a smell that I loathe.  Having had her Downy dunk she now smells like fabric softener, which I much prefer to Eau du Cigarette.

Before I move on, it's time for...you guessed it, a tangent!  The colors and the style of Tea's hair remind me of a cute line of dolls that used to be available when I was a tween, a trio of Lisa Frank-branded dolls called Fab Friends.  Tea's style takes elements from my two favorite dolls in that line, borrowing the style from Lisa and the color from Mara.  I never got a Fab Friends doll, by the way, so owning Tea helps make up for that a little.  A little...not a lot.  I may have to bring home a Fab Friend in the future and see if they were worth all the times I stood in the toy isle admiring their hair (Mara was my favorite, by the way).  I wonder if perhaps one of these doll lines took inspiration from the other, maybe?  Well okay, maybe not, but it's fun to speculate.

Now, here's this face that I love so dearly.
These eyes fall into the "interesting" category, as they're two colors I doubt real eyes would ever come in:  lilac and swamp-water green.  Notice that the left eye has a lot of paint smudges.  I didn't know those were there until I took this closeup, but there they are!
I love the shape of these eyes, though.  As Miss Emily pointed out, these dolls don't just smile, they smize.  I'm not in love with this doll's eyebrows though; they're a bit short and take some of the sweetness out of this doll's expression.

The mouth is fairly minimalist, but is more detailed than the mouths of the older dolls.  Instead of being a spot of paint this mouth is legitimately molded in.  I'd call that lip color...oh, it looks like cranberry to me.  It has a bit of a metallic shimmer to it.
Tea also sports some blush on her cheeks but is otherwise not heavily made up.  Not a bad paint job; it gives this doll a very sweet, approachable expression that jives well with both older and younger Strawberry Shortcake lines.  The smudged eye is a disappointment, but it's not visible at a normal distance.

As I noted last week Strawberry Shortcake dolls usually go for cuteness over style when it comes to clothes...yeah.  That rule only applies to the older dolls.  The more modern dolls, like the ones from the Bandai era onward, DO attempt to be stylish while staying true to their saccharine roots.  The Bandai dolls did this the best, I think, as that era saw Strawberry Shortcake sporting BLUE JEANS!!!  Subsequent lines have made less of an attempt to appear in tune with modern styles, as Tea's ensemble will show.
That's pretty retro, y'all!  Not that that's a bad thing; I love retro stuff!  Tea's clothes aren't quite as vintage in appearance as the clothes worn by the Candy Pop dolls, but the aesthetic is there.  The first piece is that accessory common to nearly all Strawberry Shortcake dolls, a hat.  Tea can't wear the hat, so my old Sindy doll models it.
In the combination of sundress and hat Sindy reminds me of one of the band of merry bitches that bedeviled the titular character in Carrie, the one that wore her ball cap 27/7, even with her prom gown.  Norma was her name, if I recall correctly, and like all of Carrie's other tormentors she met a painful and well-deserved death.  Not someone that I'd want my sweet little Sindy doll to emulate.  Anyway, Tea is not wearing the hat because
A) it won't fit over her pigtails, and
B) I put it in storage and now I can't find it.
It's nicely constructed though, with solid seams and no loose threads on the interior.  It once had some elastic that might have helped hold it on Tea's head, but that broke, as aged elastic often does.  I figure I tucked it in with the rest of Sindy's stuff.  Luckily I do have the rest of Tea's outfit within reach, because she's wearing it!  Here's her blouse, complete with half-sleeves.  I had thought they were longer, but of course I'm full of baloney.
Brrr, just looking at that makes me shiver, and it's not even been that cold a winter here!  Okay, take that back, here recently we've had a wave of snow and ice and wintry crap, but overall it's been a warm winter.  Seriously, I bought a heavy coat for Wozzeck expecting to take pictures of him in the snow, and we've had...very little snow until here recently (not that that bothers me much).  Anyway, this blouse is made of two of my favorite colors, consisting of a green jersey knit with a purple block at the neck and a sateen ribbon forming the collar.  The purple patch isn't just printed on, either.  It's a legit separate piece.
The fruit insignia IS printed on, and it's...not an apple OR a grape, the two scents that were once incorporated into this doll.  No, this appears to be a blackberry.
No, no, NO, it IS a bunch of grapes!!!  Fifty points from Hufflepuff for Moon Girl forgetting that grapes come in bunches (seriously, how stupid am I?).  For the record though, the design on Tea's shirt does look a lot like a blackberry.  Here's another image of Frosty Puff for confirmation; the insignia on her shirt IS a blackberry, and it looks quite a bit like Tea's bunch of grapes.  Now that that's out of the way, let's move briefly to the back.  The back of this blouse is held shut with our old friend Velcro, and unlike Sweet Orange Pop from last review this Velcro holds Tea's shirt closed.
To my chagrin, the back of the right sleeve is stained.  Hopefully it'll wash out.
Tea's nether region is covered with a cheerleader-type skirt, made of alternating panels of purple and green sateen.  These are sewn into box pleats.
Sewn to the waist is a "belt," held on with sateen belt loops and emblazoned with a purple and green "buckle."  I think this "buckle" is meant to emphasize the swirly theme of this doll's line.
The belt is just for show, as the back of the skirt is held closed with another bit of Velcro.
Cute little lime green mary-janes round out the look.  These are simple little shoes without a lot of detail.
Regarding the interior of the garments, the inside of the blouse looks alright.  It's free of any loose threads or major sewing gaffes.
The inside of the skirt is well-sewn as well, but some of the hems like to ravel a little and throw off loose threads.  I'd pulled off what few there were in this case, but every now and then I'll have to deal with those.  If any of y'all have this specific doll keep that in mind.
Off with the clothes now, to give this body a looksie.  Playmates' Strawberry Shortcake dolls are the tallest of the lot, and they have lanky little bodies to match.
Tea thus is more of a match to the Moondreamers dolls than she is to her older Strawberry compadres with her slim body.  But we'll address clothes sharing later.
To my mild disappointment, Tea only has rotational movement in these joints.  I was hoping her shoulders would be ball-jointed, but...no.  As a result Tea only has a limited number of poses that she can strike.  She can wave...
...she can sit...
...and she CAN'T do splits due to the cut of her derriere.
She can turn her head from side to side, though.
The only notable molding on Tea's body (besides her hands and feet) is her molded and painted drawers, which I'm always glad to see on a doll that wears a skirt.  These little drawers are painted well for the most part and have a nice molded scalloped waistband.
Tea's hands and feet are average, better than the featureless feet of her clone friends, but not as well-molded as Lime Chiffon's appendages.  She has ten little fingers with no nails molded in.
To my surprise, Tea's flat little feet have more detail than her hands do.  She's got nails molded onto the toes.
Furthermore, she has ankle bones!  Not something one sees every day on a doll this small.
Since Tea has dinky little feet she doesn't have a prayer of wearing Lime's huge shoes, and her long legs won't accommodate Lime's tights either.
Tea CAN wear Lime's dress, but it comes up short on her spindly little frame.
It's also too tight to fasten in back.
Of the other dolls that I own, the only ones that look like they can share clothes with Tea are Whimzee and Lottie.  Here's how Lottie and Tea look in each other's clothes.
Technically this COULD work since all the Velcro fastened, but in truth Lottie's clothes are too baggy for Tea to wear.  Tea's outfit is a teensy bit tight on Lottie, but that's not my main beef with her wearing it.  The skirt and top are both too short and rob Lottie of the wholesome image her makers wanted for her, though the top might look cute when paired with some high-waisted jeans.  I'm going to call Lottie clothes a no-no for these Playmates dolls, though they can share shoes with no problems.  Now it's Whimzee's turn.
Whimzee, to my great surprise, looks adorable in Tea's getup, though in truth the pieces are too big.  Too big or no, I'd let Whimzee wear Tea's outfit again, except that Tea is too tall to effectively wear Whimzee's outfit.  If the skirt were longer I could overlook the ill-fitting tights, but it's not and I can't.  So Tea can't wear Moondreamers clothes either, though Playmates SSC outfits can be made to fit Moondreamers.

That's about all I've got for clothes sharing, so...time to wrap it up!

*Hair is a slight nightmare, though that's the fault of age, not the doll herself.
*Poseability is not great
*Can't share clothes reliably with any of my dolls

*I LOVE this doll's face!  Many dolls don't have smiling eyes, but Tea does.
*Dressed in two of my favorite colors, though I deliberately chose a doll with these colors.
*Still a good toy, even though this line is discontinued
*Looks cute with other Strawberry Shortcake dolls, but still stands out enough to be an individual.

I like Tea Blossom and these Playmates dolls with their happy little expressions, but they differ quite a bit from the original Strawberry Shortcake line, enough so that I could understand why purist collectors would eschew these.  But as we established last week I am NOT a purist collector, and while I admit that I best like the simple innocence of the Kenner Strawberry Shortcake dolls, I also enjoy these later newcomers.  I do recommend caution if buying one of these for a child, though.  They make great toys, but that hair...oh my, that hair can become a living nightmare to deal with, though in Tea's defense the hair of ANY doll can become a living nightmare if abused.  These Playmates dolls are cute dolls though, with sweet faces and nicely made clothes, and they suit themselves nicely to dioramas or games of make-believe...which in the long run is what dolls are for!  Bottom line, these Playmates dolls are okay for anyone that's not allergic to non-Kenner stuff.  And frankly, even if I did exhibit characteristics of a Strawberry purist I'd still like these dolls, because their faces are great.  Adding to the charm of these Playmates dolls is the fact that many of them march to the beat of their own drum, as Miss Emily put it.  She wisely noted that her Playmates Blueberry Muffin doll (and the Bandai version too) are very different from their predecessors and their successors, and I have noticed that with Tea Blossom.  Her hair is a different style from Almond Tea's purple bob and from Cherry Jam's waist-length tresses, and her color scheme is different from Almond's yellow and purple clothes and Cherry's loud combination of pink, purple, and razzmatazz.  Yeah, I know Tea's purple and green getup is more to echo the Color Swirl theme than anything, but it still stands out from her counterparts in other Strawberry Shortcake lines.  In my eyes that makes the Playmates dolls worth the perusal of any Strawberry Shortcake fan.

Much love,

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Sunday randomness: snow day!

Well, actually I would've gotten off anyway since it's Sunday, but here's the view I get when I step outside.
We got two inches of the white stuff this time, not as much as other storms we've had in the past, but enough to make the roads slick.  The copious rain that came immediately before the temperatures dropped didn't help matters.  Part of my front stoop is sheathed in a thin but slick layer of ice.
My driveway isn't much better.  It had about two inches of rain gathered in a big puddle, and that froze over.  I could play hockey on my driveway now if I knew how to skate!
As nasty as it was yesterday I'm surprised we only got two inches.  This is what it looked like at two-o'clock yesterday afternoon.  The roads weren't bad yet but the visibility was terrible.  It got worse than this, too!
My mother was in Kennett and had to drive all the way back to Malden in that mess.  Our boss let us go an hour and a half early so Mama and her coworker wouldn't have to drive in the dark, but Mama says it was still pure hell getting home.  The wind was high and the road she chose to take was very slick, and what normally would be a thirty-minute trip stretched into an hour and ten minutes.  She got back in one piece though, and I'm thankful to the good Lord above for that.

Could've been worse, though.  This is what my sister was facing in Burlington, Vermont yesterday...
...and this is what it looks like today.
Sister's car is the one on the far left.  It's uncovered for the most part, as is the one in the middle.  The barely visible car to the left of center has NOT been dug out and it's all but covered.
Blick, they can keep that, thank you!  

With the roads slick, the snow blindingly bright, and the temperature around twenty-three degrees I have been keeping my fat white rear parked in bed with raw cookie dough to eat and old episodes of The Wrath of God and Seconds From Disaster to watch.  Yep, I'm going on a disaster history binge!  Oh yes, I've also been piddling around with the subjects of my next two doll blogs, seen below.
Their names are Tea Blossom and Dawn, and they're both excited to meet y'all.  Well...Tea is excited.  Dawn, I've already learned, is a pretty chill little gal.  Dawn is one of the new #SNAPSTAR dolls, and I've been tinkering around with the accompanying green screen and phone app that come with these dolls.  The results, as y'all will see, have been interesting.

Now I'm off to watch Kobe, Japan get rocked by a magnitude 7.2 earthquake.  For some strange reason, that's one of my favorite Seconds From Disaster episodes.  Cheers!

Much love and warmth to all,