22 Days

18 Nov

Three weeks before our anniversary last Friday, I had already been receiving presents daily from A♥.

My husband has always been a giver, and a very generous one at that. Days before a special occasion, like my birthday or our anniversary- and we celebrate three- big ones, that is: our official girlfriend/boyfriend anniversary, our civil wedding (23 years this year) and our church wedding (22 this year) – he hands me a present or two in preparation for the main event.

This year, the first presents came on October 24. Coming home from work that day, he handed me two large Rustan’s paper bags filled with 13 boxes in pink wrapper and pink, lavender, and gold ribbons. It took me days to finish unwrapping each and every one. Each box contained one of this year’s Kimmidolls line-up.

Nov14 06

The new ones are in boxes still, waiting to join their sisters on the staircase stands. :-)

I thanked him effusively but a I was a little flustered too. A♥ tends to go overboard with gifts for me- and I am not complaining, promise- but if I have a lone reservation about my husband, it is that he is an absolute miser when it comes to his own needs. He doesn’t like gifts and doesn’t enjoy opening his presents. He doesn’t even like shopping for his own things and many times, he would forgo his needs to give way to the kids’ or mine.

Now, I hadn’t caught on the present/s-a-day theme yet so when I asked him if I could purchase a pair of new rubber shoes, he smiled mysteriously at me and said “Sure, honey. Those will be my present for you today.”Nov14 15

“Today?” I scratched my head, thinking for a moment that he was pulling my leg. “What do I need a present for today?”

“For our anniversary, silly!” He looked at me funny.

“But our anniversary’s weeks away. What. Is. The. Present. For?” I insisted, my voice getting shriller than usual.

“Call it an advanced anniversary present,” he stated matter-of-factly. “Do you want those shoes or not?”

Ack, A♥ could be a little infuriating sometimes, the way he always pulls a fast one on me when it comes to gift-giving! I look back at all those years he had me secondguessing his moves and I could never match his zeal and dedication in giftgiving. I figured, this year, shoes would be a safe choice and once he declared those were my presents, he would not need to go through such trouble to give me more.

Of course, I had to test my theory.

“Uhm, honey…” I said (shyly). This was on the night after Day 2. I bought the shoes that morning, on sale, a pair of sleek black and pink Skechers Skech Air Inspire, with insides of pillowy memory foam. Ahhh, I was in podiatric heaven!

“Hmmm… Yes?…” I timed it so he was watching golf on video that night.

“I know I said the rubber shoes I got today would be my anniversary present, but uhm, ehm, ehrm, ehem, well…Crocshastheretrosneakersonsale!” I mumbled the last part in a hurry, wishing he would just nod absent-mindedly.

“On sale, you say… Uhm, okay, we’ll look at them together tomorrow. We have lunch with friends and we can check them out afterwards.” And then he went back to his watching.

Yes! He didn’t say “present” again! I heaved a smile of relief and went to bed.

Nov14 03

Nimes with Violetta and Bonnie ♥

The next day, after lunch with dear friends M and J, they handed me a large brown paper bag. I was expecting just one doll, a Blythe Ribbonneta Wish that J had purchased on A♥’s behalf, but the bag seemed heavy for just one doll. I looked at A♥ suspiciously. He acted nonchalantly and flashed his pearlies at me again but I held my tongue. Once home, he kissed me squarely on the mouth and said, “Happy anniversary, honey! These are all yours, my presents for you today!” And what a surprise it was!

Nov14 14Inside was Bonnie, my Ribbonneta Blythe, but there was also Violetta, the Hello Kitty Tokidoki x Pullip LE doll. There was a boxed Kindle Fire HD. A boxed Yoshi 3DS XL. Nintendo posters. A Hello Kitty 3DS game. I gave up all restraint, threw myself at him, and kissed him back.

The next day, when he bought me the Crocs retro-sneakers and said “my gift for you today, happy anniversary, love,” I didn’t even flinch. I just kissed him again.

So every day for the last three weeks, he gave me a present- or two or more- a day. Some of them were huge, jaw-dropping presents, like the professional series silver Kitchen Aid I had been eyeing for months, and a secret envelope with tickets to someplace special. Some  were thoughtful but simple gifts, like hot Ferrino bibingka (rice cakes) or turon (banana fritters or rolls) or even several packs of Megafiber (because he found out I was running low). He always seemed to know my cravings. :-)

Nov14 01

Time to make those ensaimadas!

On another day, I received a Sylvanian Families hospital set and the supermarket owners.

Nov14 02

Then came another 3DS XL (Mario white edition), a Nintendo load card so I could buy themes for my Animal Crossing unit, two more 3DS games, Pokemon Art Academy and Fantasy Life, and the DS game Ontamarama.

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Nearer the date, he gave me more Blythe sets- dress sets for 10 days running and three dolls in succession, as well as one I adopted from a friend with his permission. I was in dolly heaven!

Nov14 05

And then last Friday night, in what was supposed to be A♥’s turn to finally get something good (he was renewing his phone subscription and had availed of the iPhone 6 plus option), he managed to turn the tables on me again when I found out he was getting me one too!

I had come as his unwitting “plus one” because he didn’t want us to be apart on the first few hours of our anniversary. I agreed to accompany him, even if it meant staying up the night, because he always asks so little of me to be happy. And so, we spent the last three hours of Thursday night and the first three hours of Friday in a queue for the iPhone 6.

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Despite the exhausting experience, it was also one to remember. Wherever we went, from the long standing lines outside to the longer line of seats inside, we were met with gracious and heartfelt anniversary greetings and well wishes. We were even surprised in line with the most beautiful flowers and a luscious chocolate cake from Ms. Yoly Crisanto, head of Globe’s Corporate Communications, and her team. All these acts of unexpected kindness from A♥’s friends, acquaintances, and even strangers (thank you to the stranger behind me in line for worrying about me when I struggled making those flights of stairs) made those hours of waiting worthwhile.

Nov14 09

Ambushed with gifts! Photo credit: Earl Scott Advento

Thank you for these gracious gifts!

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If you were to ask me what was my favorite gift in those 22 days of whirlwind giftgiving, I’d have to answer with “none.” Because far more than the value or joy of owning the newest, latest, most hyped gadgets or dolls or toys, I have already been gifted with something ultimately more precious: his love. It is my husband’s constant, generous, selfless sacrifice that I treasure beyond any gift he can ever give me. The lengths he goes to show me his love and devotion are truly astounding and 22 years into this lifetime, it seems he is still thinking of more ways to do just that.

Truly, twenty-two years with this man can never be enough. I’d give anything for 22 years more, and 22 more, and then, through the infinite mercy of our Lord, I can only ask for 22 again.

Thank you, A♥, for all the ways you show me you love me. I can only hope I am always worthy your love.

Nov14 12

 

Happiness is… The Princess In Me- Launching Day (xxi)

12 Nov

Barbie 29Two years ago, Hello Kitty took SM North EDSA by storm, with a whirlwind of activities, exhibits, and merchandise- all Hello Kitty-themed, of course. This year, another worldwide superstar takes the helm of SM Malls’ Christmas celebrations with the theme “The Princess in Me.” And though she is all of 55 years old, this superstar has conquered gender biases and aging with a lot of grace and grit. Yes, for SM City North EDSA, the royal ball will not be complete without the ultimate princess, Barbie. The Princess in Me Christmas campaign recreates a magical fantasy of princesses and royal balls for children and kids-at-heart. Decked in all fabulous pink, with pampering activities to treat guests and visitors throughout the holidays season, SM North EDSA was transformed into an enchanting wonderland and this magic will last throughout the holidays. Barbie invite The launch of the campaign, held last Friday, November 7, was a glamor and glitz event headed by SM Prime Holdings, Inc. President Hans Sy and  SM President of SM Supermalls, Annie Garcia. As expected, entertainment stars graced the event and rubbed elbows with the common folk. Most significant, however, was the attendance of some of the special beneficiaries of SM Prime Holdings’ charities, namely, the children of Child Haus, as they celebrated the start of this season of giving with their most ardent supporters.

SM Prime Holdings President Hans Sy is always the most gracious host. He is also a tirelee philanthropist, as he and his family gifted Child Haus with a permanent home in Barangay Pinyanah, Quezon City in 2010.

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With an array of booths in the Holiday Barbie Lounge and the Royal Court, guests were treated to a royal pampering of their choice. Food and drinks were aplenty- and in pink! Older guests had their dreams of a model photoshoot fulfilled in the Barbie Photobox while younger princesses had their choice of glitzy stylings from hair, nail art, glitter tattoo and face painting stations.

Barbie layout

In keeping with the fabulous princess theme, guests were welcomed at this diamond ring arched entryway. You know what they say about girls and their diamonds (though I prefer pearls, myself).

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The “royal guards” stood at attention at the second foyer. Beyond that, lovely ladies-in-waiting greeted and courtseyed guests in.

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There can be no doubt, however, that the star of the show was the fabulous Ms. Barbara Millicent Roberts. It’s a girl’s world alright! Yeah!

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A large B loomed over guests; this is the iconic B that represents her name, style, and the billion-dollar industry she has generated.

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The Christmas Princess Tree, also known as the Couture Tree, stood magnificent upon the stage. This, along with the SM Bears of Joy Tree (see picture below), represented the advocacies of SM. I suddenly remembered that the real princess is one who loves herself and others too.  

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Just a note: The SM Bears of Joy Tree makes giving easy. Buy a pair of bears for only PhP200, one to keep, and the other to donate to the SM Cares Foundation.

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Friday’s event was a literal standing-room-only affair. Invited guests filled the lounge as early as two in the afternoon.

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Kids got dolled up through face painting-

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or having their hair done at the royal salon.

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Those who were feeling the Barbie vibe loved the photobox, and this mother and her daughter were no exception.

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An hour-long show hosted by Raymond Gutierrez and Denise Laurel started at a quarter past four in the afternoon. After a brief video  and some introductions, the ceremonial tree lighting was held.

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The Princess Tree was lit for the first time last Friday and its musical lights will greet mall shoppers every half hour from 11 am to 8 pm from then until January 4, 2015.

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SM Supermalls President Annie Garcia supervised the lighting ceremony.

Barbie 26 A twenty-five minute fashion show followed, with these pretty girls sashaying down the catwalk in pop, party, and fairytale Princesses fashions.

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These young ladies pulled off these Princess looks so well.

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Still, it was the little ones who captivated the audience’s hearts.

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 The event was a ball of mall proportions, and even the decorations were specially chosen to fit the theme.

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And did I say there was food? Pink food, of course!

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The royal cake was too pretty to eat.

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Cupcakes and hors d’oeuvres were aplenty, if the royal cake was too pretty to be sliced and eaten.

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Delightfully pink macarons with silver pearl beads made the table elegant (and the mouth watery).

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What’s a royal ball without a glass silver?

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Then again,  what’s a royal ball without a glass slipper and a prince?

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Truly, The Princess in Me brought out the princess in everyone who came. Even I was not immune to its charms. Long after the afternoon had come and gone, I held on the tiara I was given as a souvenir of my visit. It may have been plastic, but it made me feel like a real princess.

Thank you, SM, for making this experience royally unique.

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~0~ 

The Princess in Me- Barbie Collectors Hall will be featured in part two of this post.

For more holiday activities at SM North EDSA, visit their Facebook page here: SM North EDSA

Alphonse at 20

3 Nov

Alphonse newbornTwenty years ago, at six am on All Saints Day, I woke up to the feeling of wetness on my skin. I was hugely pregnant and bloated on my 37th week, but my delivery date, which was supposed to be a scheduled repeat Caesarean section, was still more than two weeks away. On that morning, however, as I dragged myself to the bathroom with fluid leaking between my legs,  I knew that this baby was not going to wait two more weeks.

Less than two hours later, I was in the labor room and my contractions were coming steady, strong, and in increasingly shorter intervals as the hours wore on. I never went into labor with my first son, so it was a novel experience, albeit an excruciating one. I remember looking at the clock very often, counting the minutes and hours till they could wheel me out to the delivery room, and trying to distract myself from screaming through the pain by watching television through squinted eyes. (I had no eyeglasses and the nurses made me take off my contact lenses; I was almost blind.)

At four in the afternoon, my labor was suddenly halted by tocolytics injected in my intravenous line. November 1 would not be my delivery date, my obstetrician had instructed in a phone call. My repeat C-section would take place two days later, on November 3.

And this was how Alphonse came into this world, two weeks early but also two days late. That his earliest days were marked by indecision and confusion seemed eerily appropriate as it foretold a lifetime of straddling worlds- his and ours.

Today, Alphonse turns twenty. This year is especially significant as he chucks off the last physical vestiges of childhood and adolescence and steps into adulthood. True, his cognition is still that of a young child, but the world sees him as a full-grown man now, and were he any other young man at the cusp of his life, we would be planning careers instead of carers.

Twenty years of Alphonse and twenty years of autism. That one cannot exist without the other is no longer a source of our grief or shame. We have moved beyond the sorrow, the guilt, and the blame, to a point where only Love exists. We have made peace with the fact that autism will be our constant companion for the rest of our days. While it has made our son’s life- and ours- difficult, it has also woven and bonded our family into a formidable force that protects and loves Alphonse unconditionally.

Indeed, we have lived through much. But our joys have also far exceeded our sorrows. We have learned to appreciate life more keenly, to value the seconds and treasure them as if they were our last. We have learned to be grateful for every little smile of our often long and tiring days. We have learned to work together, to trust and support each other, even when other families have been torn apart. And we have learned to accept and love each other for all our weaknesses and frailties, knowing that our strength as a family trumps any of our individual failings.

Today, on Alphonse’s 20th birthday, I must admit we still have many of the same questions we had when we first started our journey with him. Who is he? What does he really want? How will he be ten, twenty years, from now? The truth is, we don’t know the answers to these still. Just like any other child, his is an unwritten future and we can only guess at them for now.

The only difference between then and now is this: the certainty that whatever happens, we will go through them together. Alphonse will never walk alone.

Alphonse and mama 02

Happy birthday, dearest one! Mama, Papa and Kuya love you always!

 

Because We Miss You, Daddy

3 Nov

Fred's flowerbedFred’s flowerbed
Is not red
But white and yellow, instead
Mom planted on his head
Her love she spread
Even in death, never unsaid.

Halloween 2014

31 Oct

The moon is bright in the darkness deep
As stirring creatures in the silence creep,
And, once familiar, turn strange and leave
A scaring on this wicked night, All Hallow’s eve.

halloween 2014 a

 Happy Halloween from Kittymama, Nimes, and Freya Chocolate!

halloween 2014 b

 

Just A Little Lovin’

29 Oct

For Y, who opened my world to Blythes and became my best friend,

for J, for being my Blythe buddy and baby sis,

And for A♥, for showering me with more love than I deserve.

I was going to blog about the Sylvanian Families Theme Park in Grinpa next but I ran into some technical problems while uploading some of my videos. That and culling a select few from over two hundred photographs have already taken much of my time, with still a lot more to go.

I decided to jump into another project to ease the ennui while I finish the pictures. I figured I needed the distraction and my blog deserved some updates. What better to write about than my second-favorite thing next to Sylvanians? Aha, Blythes! That I found this “rescue” Blythe at just the right time turned out to be most auspicious for me.

In the months since I started collecting Blythes, I’ve acquired almost all of them in MIB (mint in box) condition. My blond Kenner, adopted from my best friend Y, was the sole exception. As a personal preference, I really do look for complete, boxed dolls more than ones that are nude, loose, or incomplete. Call it an obsessive-compulsive streak, but something about incomplete dolls keeps me awake at night, heehee.

And then came the turnaround.

I ran into this particular doll in Facebook, a Velvet Minuet with dress and nothing else, and it surprised me that I had jumped the gun on everyone else that morning. After a few discreet inquiries with the seller, I sealed the deal and crossed my fingers. Below is her original photo on Facebook:

VM 01

 

I received Velvet wrapped carefully in layers of plastic bubble wrap. True to the seller’s word, her eye mechanism was working. There were no visible scratches on her face (except for one thin sliver of gray near her left eye), no missing hair plugs, and her pull ring was intact. Save for overall grubbiness, perhaps brought about by age and years of neglect (seller was not the owner), Velvet seemed fine on the whole.

VM 02

Of course, her legs came with this moldy stain, and I already knew that jumping in.

VM 03

Her dress was also stained and grubby, poor girl. It was also missing those cute puffy pompoms.

VM 05

Her hair, while thick and complete, was tangled and icky-sticky. I couldn’t run a comb through it, no matter how many hours of Law and Order I watched. (For those of you who do not know me, I do my “hairdressing” while watching reruns of Law and Order, no particular season, country, or franchise. I love them all!)

VM 04After a thorough assessment of her condition, I began my makeover process, starting with a complete body wash. I used a light baby wash and a face towel to rub over the dirt and grime. I also applied a Benzoyl Peroxide mask in parts of her body where the dirt would not wash off.

I gave her a shampoo and hot water spa last, taking care to protect her eyes and the hole at the back of her head. After a couple of days of work, this is what she looks like now:

Presenting… Velvet Minuet (Gee, her hair smells-and looks- terrific!)

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Hello, everyone! I am a brand-new girl!

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I am gorgeous!

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Lucky, my momma has my stock clothes in storage, and she gave me these to wear!

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I think Velvet is a beautiful girl, proof that there is no such thing as an ugly Blythe, only an unloved one. And when you come into one who needs loving as badly as she did, how can one ever say No?

As much as boxed and MIB Blythes are easy to love because they are perfect, there is satisfaction and pride in making a Blythe beautiful again. I like that I did this with my own two hands. I hope to one day try my hand on customizing, but for now, cleaning them back to their shiny selves is happy work for me. Velvet will surely be one of my favorite girls from now on. All she really needed was just a little loving. :-)

The Sylvanian Store Keepers, London

23 Oct

Kittymama in LondonIt’s been almost five months since I was in London, and I realized I have yet to take you to a virtual trip inside my favorite store in all of London- the Sylvanian Families Store in Mountgrove Road. This particular Sylvanian Families store stands apart all others in the world because it is the original home of Flair Sylvanian Families products. Also known as The Sylvanian Store Keepers or SSK, it is an extensive walls-to-ceiling collection of current UK products and merchandise. With the end of Flair’s distribution agreement with Epoch, the Japanese creator and manufacturer of Sylvanian Families, in 2013, SSK now owns all existing stock of Flair Sylvanian Families products. While this transition means a more unified market strategy for Epoch, it also signals an end to the era of those glorious blue boxes. I visited the store twice in the week we were there and truth to tell, I would’ve gone there every single day if we had more time. The first time A♥ took me, it was a day after we had arrived and right after he finished his work meetings. I have only a few pictures because I was simply overwhelmed with joy. The second time, well, I’ll just let the pictures speak for themselves. :-)

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I made it!

Kittymama in Sylvanian 02

When you get to SSK, the first thing you would notice is- Holy Moly!!!- so many blue boxes! It took all my restraint not to jump up and down (the way I did outside, on the curbside, as you can see in the picture above). Here I was, giggling for the camera.

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A♥ wisely suggested a photo op with Belinda and Kitty of SSK (Rocky had the day off), perhaps to take my mind off all the things I wanted to buy, teehee. Freya Chocolate was looking a little shabby that day, but then again, with so many people wanting to touch her, it was a surprise she hadn’t gone bald yet.

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And then, armed with my packages, it was time to go. :-(

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Four pictures? That was all I had? Concerned by this lack of pictures (and you know how Filipinos love their pictures), I armed myself with a new list and a firmer resolve. A♥ and I went back to the store a few days later and I made a conscious effort to document the experience in pictures. Somewhere along the way, I may have gotten a little too excited, but I did manage to snap some really nice photographs.

This is the Picadilly line train we took to get to Mountgrove.

SSK 01

We got off at the Arsenal Station in Highbury, London.

SSK 02

There was a bit of a walk but since the weather was fair and breezy, Kittymama’s wheezing was barely noticeable.

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A few more minutes of brisk walking and we found the street we wanted.

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Even from afar, Kittymama could not contain her excitement. “There it is,” she shrieked at the top of her voice. It was a good thing the streets were empty that time of the day.

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Another picture (because she insisted)… and she looked ready to pounce!

SSK 05

She made her way right in, gently whispering “Yoohoo! Anybody home?”

SSK 06

To our great pleasure, we were welcomed by Rocky (Ben Miller, Operations and Retail Manager). I told Rocky that he has fans in Manila- and I happen to be one of them! (He blushed, heehee.)

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Kittymama felt right at home in SSK’s Sylvanian village. She really didn’t want to leave anymore. (Apologies for the blurry picture, my hands were shaking in excitement.)

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 Here’s a clearer and closer shot of the center table display.

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There were so many details to look at that I drooled, heehee. Good thing I managed to retract that string of saliva or I would’ve died of shame!

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On top of the center display were these wonderful air balloons that were made by hand especially for the Club Collectors’ magazine in summer 2012.

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A quick tour and we saw dioramas and displays filling the shelves with so many fantastic things to see!

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And there were wall to wall to ceiling shelvings of so many products- families, babies, playsets, houses, and more! I suddenly wished I had deeper pockets then. :-) SSK 14

SSK 15

Each display was meticulously detailed and made to look as realistic as possible. I guess that’s why we never tire of Sylvanian Families- there are just so many things you can do with them, so many ways to display and play with these fascinating critters.

The Seaside Restaurant was entertaining guests that day. I took a peek and no one seemed to mind my intrusion.

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And the majestic Regency Hotel was also filled with guests coming for a visit- this was just too cute for words!

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After all the gawking and drooling, the picture taking and more drooling, of course there was shopping to be done (again!). I had planned my luggage to make those boxes fit, of course, and I bought some Sylvanians for a friend too.

Before saying goodbye, I just had to have a last picture with Rocky. Meeting Rocky, Belinda, and Kitty were highlights of the visit too and I shared stories of my countrymen’s fondness for Sylvanian Families with them.

SSK 08

If you ever get to London one of these days, do drop by and say hello to these lovely folks at SSK. These are the people who make our critters come alive for us. If Sylvanians had superstars, Rocky, Belinda, and Kitty would be them!

My gracious thanks to SSK and their lovely personnel for making my visits welcome and memorable. Hope to see you all again soon!

~0~

Sylvanian Families Shop

68 Mountgrove Road Highbury London N5 2LT

020 7226 1329

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