musings & recent work

Carol | my grandma as an american girl doll

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So once upon a time I decided to turn my late Grandma Baldwin into an American Girl Doll… And then I did!

And now it’s TIME. Time for you to meet Carol.

Carol Brady. Grandma Baldwin. Pat. My daughter’s most maternal great grandma. The great grandma they’ll never forgot–not now anyway. They get to read her story and play with her every day. And it’s a beautiful thing. They even know her mom’s name, their great-great grandma. It’s Hattie. And now they know how to make her noodles and that she always baked homemade bread. They know that she had three sets of twins and that her youngest set produced Carol, my grandma. And now when they look at that four generation photograph we took in Carol’s memory unit of her care center they know–they know she wasn’t just an old lady who couldn’t remember them–they know that she was young once just like them. They know and now I know. And I can’t think of a better gift than knowing. It’s something money can’t buy.

What can money buy? An American Girl Doll of course! A Create Your Own Doll to be precise. You can buy a doll that looks exactly like your grandma if you’d like. But you can’t buy her story…that’s the hard part. You have to discover and write that yourself.

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This is easily one of the biggest most intricate projects I’ve ever taken on. But it wasn’t hard. It was fun. And interesting. And exciting. Most days I felt like a detective. Until I had to edit all the words in this book. And then I felt like the underpaid editor I was. And so to stick it to the man I left one major flaw in this book. Okay. I didn’t do it on purpose, but I noticed “it” as soon as I flipped through the final printed pages. But it’s fine. It doesn’t change one thing. So whether or not you notice it (or any other mistakes I missed) I’m done and I’m at peace and Carol now happily resides in our doll library on my doll shelf next to her kitchen, her incredible custom wardrobe, and her soon to be BFF’s Josefina and Saige (MY other two AG dolls). Life is good. Today I invite you to read all about it!

Are you ready to read? Great. Here’s your three options:

1. I have four printed copies to lend out so stop by my house and check a book out.
2. Order a printed copy for yourself from blurb. I’m not making a dime off them. That was never the goal. But I do want all of Carol’s friends and relatives to have their own copy if they desire it so you can order that HERE. Watch for sales because they have them often! Full price will run you about $14.79 + shipping.
3. Read it online via a PDF. Click HERE to access that (it’s a huge file so it may take a while to load fyi). Take note of the screen shot below. Make it so the cover stands alone and then the rest of the book is viewed as two page spreads like so when you read.

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What’s in the book? Fact and fiction, mixed together the best I knew how. The book features ten vignettes centered around outfits and important moments in Carol’s childhood and youth. It also includes the story of how this project all came to be, a fun jump back in time catching you up on what the world was like as Carol grew up, and a brief essay about the grandma I knew and remembered. I also threw in a chapter with pictures from our doll reveal party so we can always remember the fun we had there because she couldn’t be an official AG member without a big reveal in her honor.

And on that note, I designed this book to look as legit AG as possible but it is no way an official publication of American Girl. I totally mocked up their logo and put it on top of the book so it matches all our other AG books on the shelf. So AG if this blog post every makes it back to you, I mean no disrespect nor am I claiming this is your creation. It’s all me and just for fun and the joy of family history. We’re obviously big fans of your company and love what you stand for!

With that said I hope you’ll carve out a little time to get to know Carol. But if not, you can enjoy her outfits and our reveal party with a simple scroll of your mouse below.

And before I go and you read or scroll, let me give a shout out to Anjela of Dream20aDolls on Etsy. As you’ll read in the book, Anjela custom created several of these outfits to match the tiny old photographs I had of my grandma when she was young. Anjela’s talent blew me away and made this whole experience exciting and incredible. My mind is already swirling with future possibilities made possible by her mad skills. Now on with the outfits and a peak inside the book…

(photo credit for the shot of me in pink with newborn Viv goes to Heather Pickett Photography)

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Here’s some of the fun from Carol’s reveal party. Guests were treated to a doll fashion show and samples of Carol & Hattie’s yummy home cooking. We also had a doll lounge where guest’s dolls mingled and some fun 1940’s trivia. My mom Carolyn (Carol’s daughter) unboxed Carol for all to see!

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The four generation photograph I referenced above which we had on display at the reveal.

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Now before you get confused let me jump in an explain the below images. I’m lucky in the fact that both of my grandmas had brown hair and green eyes. So though my doll is offically Carol, she can also play dress up as Donna, my dad’s mom, with a simple change of clothes. This painted portrait of Donna Haymore Taylor has always intrigued me. It inspired me to have my own “thirty something” portrait created that one day my grand daughters can enjoy. Anyway, I sent this portrait to Anjela and she brought it to life with hand painted fabric and everything. It is the first piece in our “ancestor collection”. We plan to send more pictures featuring all of my girls grandmas, great grandmas and some great-great grandmas. I won’t write books for any of them, but will write up a one page bio of their lives that I can collect in a binder and then of course my girls (and grand daughters…yes I live in the future at times) will be able to play with the outfits and read about the women who created them. I also love the idea of one day having doll versions of my girls prom and wedding dresses. Wouldn’t that be so fun!?

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The moment when Carolyn met Carol!

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Sienna with her doll Nanea modeling Carol’s Sweetheart’s dress made to match a dress Carol’s mom Hattie wore when she was 10.

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Carol created this yarn piece and it’s the one item I got of hers that I will keep to remember her by. It currently hangs in Viv’s room but will move downstairs with all the girls when we create “girltopia” there next year (ask Hazel…she’ll tell you all about it).

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I loved that our reveal guests brought a wide variety of doll types including this one that has removeable hand positions. I know really nothing about the Marvel universe (I think that’s where it’s from) so I can’t tell you anymore but I’m sure if you’re a fan you’ll understand how cool this doll is.)

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And this, everyone, is our late bunny Dancer. Yes. I mean late as in dead. He died this week and these are the only photographs we have of him. I’d wanted to do a photoshoot of Hazel with her bunny (she worked all summer to earn money to buy him and all his gear) but we didn’t make it happen in time. There may be more bunnies in our future but we have to dog proof our bunny set up and wait until it’s not so hot outside so the bunny doesn’t have to live in my bathtub mid day. Lessons learned in so many ways (insert face palm emoji followed by a crying emoji because I had to write to Hazel at summer camp this week and give her the sad news.)

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If you’re an AG fan you’ll see that “Carol’s Kitchen” looks remarkably similar to Blaire’s. What can I say? It was just too perfect that I was able to create a Beetdigger t-shirt for Carol to wear (she was a Jordan High Beetdigger) that actually had root vegetables on it thanks to Blaire’s theme so when I realized how well the kitchen actually matched Carol I couldn’t say no… Story of the American Girl life am I right?!

Thanks Grandma Baldwin (and Grandpa too!) for giving me the opportunity to be young, play with dolls, and relive your youth at the same time. It’s been an absolute pleasure!

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