Sunday, April 16, 2017

Sunday Surprise: Happy Easter!

For more than a decade, Easter has started (bright and early!) in my house with an egg hunt and an epic treasure hunt.  I used to spend all Saturday making clues for the hunt...clues that my dynamic treasure hunting duo would solve in under an hour (baskets of candy are powerful motivators, I guess).  This year, with one kid off at college and the other with a new-found love for sleeping in on Sunday mornings...well, Easter is off to a quieter start.

I overcompensated for this change by trying to pack way too many things into today's Sunday Surprise.  I have an odd mix of surprise-themed things to share with you: some Li'l Woodzeez blind bag bobblehead figures, a matryoshka nesting doll (with a mystery number of smaller dolls inside!) and some vintage Holly Jolly baby-filled eggs by Zapf Creation.

Matryoshka doll by Yankelus.
I originally planned to review two Easter-themed Barbie dolls today:

I mentioned these back in December when I was reviewing several Barbie dolls with surprise gifts.  Sadly, there was no Santa Mouse to help me this time around, and I found the surprises very disappointing.

For example, this "Easter Charm" doll...

...comes with a cardboard and ribbon bracelet, and an intriguing Easter egg:

The doll is fairly pretty (and has unusual violet eyes):

And the bracelet is a cute idea (although the cardboard eggs probably wouldn't last long if a child was wearing them):

But the Easter egg?  It was empty:

I guess the idea was that the cardboard bracelet could be hidden inside the egg, but that's not a surprise.

This next doll has a more promising title, "Easter Surprise:"

She comes with a plastic egg that's actually advertised as having surprises inside.  Good start!

She's also reasonably attractive, but has an outfit that I don't like very much:

I think the best feature of this doll is that her cardboard backdrop has punch-out paper dolls all over it:

This is a clever way to repurpose some of the packaging...and the little Easter-themed paper animals are sweet:

The dress has tabs that slot into the arms of the chick:

But the surprise inside the egg is not very good.  It's a small pile of cardboard shapes:

The best thing here is that there are miniature versions of the two paper dolls that come on the backdrop.  Here's the mini chick up-close:

But neither of those surprises seemed good enough to take up a whole Sunday Surprise post, so I looked around for something else.

The first thing I found was an acorn-shaped blind bag toy from the Li'l Woodzeez brand:

Li'l Woodzeez acorn, $2.99.
I found these at Target.  There were only a few of them left in the box.

It says that there are 2 pieces inside and that there will be a mystery Woodzeez bobblehead.  Sounds good to me!

It also says that this is Series 2, which really surprised me because I've never seen these in the store before:

How did I miss Series 1?
The acorn-shaped containers are unique and would make perfect little Easter basket treats.  Each has a brown base and a colorful cap:

Series 2

Let's see what's inside of this one!

I opened the acorn with the interior facing away from prolong the suspense:

I see a bit of white!
Maybe it's a white bunny?  That would be perfect for Easter!

When I first saw the face, I though it was a little bear...

The Easter Bear?
But when it came all of the way out of the acorn...

Series 2

I could see it was a lamb:

Also good for Easter!
It's a serious-looking white lamb with a yellow ice cream cone on his romper:

I guess when they said there were "2pcs" inside the acorn, they meant a Woodzeez figure and a piece of paper, because this was the only other thing that was included:

The paper shows all of the different figures in Series 2.  The characters at the top are more common (like my Socks the sheep):

I wish I had gotten Tali the turtle because I have a Woodzeez turtle family for her to join...and I love the name Tali.

Cocoa the cat also looks especially cute to me:

And I like Dixie's bright red strawberry outfit:

The figures at the bottom of the paper are harder to find.  A purple name tag means that they're just rare:

While a yellow name tag means ultra-rare:

Ok, pandas are rare, yes. But squirrels?  Not so much.
So don't get your heart set on finding Parker the panda.

Here's my common (but cute) Socks...who looks slightly irritated with me:

Who are you calling common??

His head is attached with a metal spring, and so it bobbles around whenever he moves.  The head attachment also allows Socks to turn his head and look in different directions.

The outfits on these Woodzeez are just shiny, un-flocked parts of the body:

The limbs do not move at all.

My Socks has one misplaced eye.  Notice how his right eye tips off to the side:

This doesn't bother me too much--I think it gives him a unique personality.

I can never open just one of these surprise toys, of course, so here's the second one that I bought:

This one has a pastel purple cap.  Purple doesn't go very well with brown, if you ask me, but it's a good Easter color.  

Notice that the stem of the cap has a hole in it, so these acorns could be hung up as decorations:

The little figure in this acorn was facing upright, so he peeked out as soon as I removed the cap!

I knew right away that this was Mozzarella the mouse--he's the only grey character:

So, not much suspense for this one...

But he's great!

He's got rosy, round cheeks and whiskers.  Here's a better look at the whiskers:

Mozzarella's head tips forward a little bit, so it's easier to see the bobblehead construction:

He's wearing a blue baseball hat that is not removable:

Mozarella's outfit has more painted detail than Sock's onesie:

Here are the two cuties together:

These bobbleheads scale well with the regular Li'l Woodzeez families.  Here's Mozzarella with my turtles, the Tidyshines:

Woodzeez bobblehead with a regular Li'l Woodzeez family.
He's a little smaller than the turtle daughter and would make a good middle sibling for these families (I couldn't find a baby Woodzeez to include in this picture).

The bobbleheads also coordinate well with Calico Critters families.  Socks is about the same height as my hedgehog kids:

Woodzeez bobblehead with a Calico Critters family.
I think it would be really fun to get a bobblehead that matched one of the existing Li'l Woodzeez families.  The bobbleheads are not as high-quality as the regular figures, of course, but they could easily fit in to an established family or game.  These are great little blind bag toys, especially for Calico Critters or Li'l Woodzeez fans.  

There are so many blind bag toys on the market right now, I feel like it's getting out of hand.  I wanted to snap a picture at Toys R Us last week because I felt like there were entire aisles devoted to little blind bag items.  As much fun as the surprise factor of these things can be (and believe me, I know how fun they can be!!), I'm always thrilled to see a blind bag toy that has actual, lasting play these guys:

We'll play with you!
I'm going to shift gears completely with this next surprise doll.  I've always been fascinated with matryoshka dolls--a fitting fascination given my fondness for any kind of doll-related surprise.  Not only do I enjoy the suspense of opening a nesting doll to see how many smaller dolls might be inside, but I like it when each doll is slightly different from the one before--either because of a different paint design, or simply because the design has changed in scale.  And to me, the very best part of a matryoshka doll set is seeing how tiny the final doll will be!

Matryoshka dolls also make me think of Easter for some reason--perhaps because Russian artists were carving nesting egg sets long before the advent of the nesting doll tradition.  Highly-detailed, multiple-piece, Russian-made matryoshka dolls can cost hundreds of dollars...but the one I'm going to show you today was made in China (I think) and it cost under $100.

How many dolls will be inside?  What will they look like?  How small will they get?  Time to find out!  

Here's the lovely (and large) exterior doll:

Doll number 1.

The decorations on this doll are mostly burned right into the wood.  A few areas are painted, but there's no sealant or shiny finish to protect the surface.  This was a bit of a disappointment, but adding color or sealant to this set might be a fun project for the future.

I was really surprised by how big the outermost doll is--she's taller than a regular Disney Store Princess!

Disney Store Classic Belle with a matryoshka doll.
This nesting set depicts the upper body of a young woman.  Here's a look at some of the detail on the woman.  She has areas of metallic gold paint added to her jewelry:

That's a scary claw-like hand, though.
And her outfit is accented with blue, pink and red.  I especially like the small patterns burned into the fabric of her dress:

The side of the outer shell has a picture of a Russian castle (complete with onion domes) and a leafy tree in the foreground:

The back has a picture of a young girl looking over her shoulder:

The domed top is the most brightly-colored area of this outer shell.  It includes the woman's elaborate hat and a bright red decorative flower:

I removed the top to reveal the second doll in the series:

This layer features a large woman's face on one side and a smaller (full-bodied) girl on the back:

Doll number 2.

This woman has a hat similar to the one on the outermost shell, but her dress is completely different.  The dress has a multi-layered, ruffled collar with pink accents:

I love the bird theme on this doll.  She has two large birds framed by her dress:

And the guitar-playing girl on the back has her own little avian friend:

This girl seems out of place, though.  Her outfit is modern--a departure from the elegant, royal-looking ladies on other parts of the set.

The bird theme continues with the third doll:

This layer has a smaller version of the same ruffle-collared woman on the front, and then a woman with two birds on the back:

Doll number 3.

This woman looks a lot like doll 2... 

...but her dress is framing a different picture:

The picture on the back is one of my favorites from this set: 

The fourth doll has a familiar face, but her dress has changed again:

This woman has a red, petal-like collar on her dress.  There's a bird-lover on the back of this doll, too:

Doll number 4.

This woman's body frames a picture of a barefooted little boy going fishing--the first (and only) boy to be featured in this set:

The first and only fish, too.
The girl on the back looks thrilled with her feathered friend, but I'm not sure the bird is as happy with the situation...

Grumpy pigeon.
One of the biggest moments of suspense with these dolls is looking to see if there's a middle seam in the next doll you pull out--that seam means there are more dolls to come!  I always get a little sad when I see the final (seamless) doll.

But we're not there yet!  Here's doll number 5:

She has the same red collar as the last doll, and her body is framing a little picture, but the design on the back seems to have suddenly gotten a lot simpler:

Doll number 5.

Here's a close-up of the castle from the front of the doll:

But there's a seam in this one, too, so we'll keep going!

Doll 6 is another red-collared woman:

She's also framing a picture of a castle...with a simple flower design on the back:

Doll number 6.

These dolls are getting very similar, so I'll compare them side-by-side from now on.  This is number 5 with number 6:

Doll 5 (left) and doll 6 (right).
For reference, doll 6 is about the size that I expect matryoshka dolls to be--an armful for Belle, but a nice size for fitting into one of my hands:

Belle with doll number 6.
Doll 7 looks like another clone...

Her castle is different, but everything else is just a slightly smaller copy of doll 6.

Doll number 7.

Here are 6 and 7 next to one another:

Doll 6 (left) and doll 7 (right).
You guys want to make any bets about how much further this will go?  Are we getting close to the end yet?  I still see that promising middle seam...

And, sure enough, here's number 8!

Doll number 8.

She's lost the petal collar and just has a red necklace.  Also, the castle is getting very simple--it's just one tower now:

Doll 8 (left) with doll 7 (right).
The fancy hat and the red flower design on the top of the doll still persist, although some of the fancy scrolling details have been lost:

For anyone who's curious, doll 8 is about the size of an adult Li'l Woodzeez animal:

Getting pretty small!
The faces are starting to get a little warped, too, because there's less and less of a flat surface to work with. 

Here's number 9...

Doll number 9.

Doll 9 is no longer wearing the little red earrings:

Doll 8 (left) and doll 9 (right).
This is crazy!  The dolls are getting super-small.  This next one looks like she'll be the last (which seems about right for number 10):

But look!  She's going to open, too!  Amazing.

Doll number 10.

This doll is quite a bit shorter than the one before--but has all of the same details:

Doll 9 (left) and doll 10 (right).
Now we're down to about the size of the Woodzeez bobblehead characters:

Doll 10 with some Woodzeez friends.
Doll 10 opened to reveal a doll in a plastic wrapping.  This one must be the last (although I don't know why she'd be wrapped up):

Wait--what??  This one is going to open, too!

Doll number 11.

The flower design on the back has changed now--it looks like a little primrose or maybe an impatiens (?).  I'm not the best with identifying flower types (I don't have the patience).

The paint accuracy is not perfect on any of these dolls, but it's getting pretty sloppy at this level:

Doll 11 (left) and doll 10 (right).
One thing I've noticed with other matryoshka dolls is that the small doll in the very middle is often marked by a dramatic change in style--like the scale suddenly got too small to paint and so the artist gave up.  

I feel like that's what we're seeing here:

Suddenly, the doll has no pupil detail in her eyes and her nose has been reduced to a simple dot.  There's also very little color in the hat.

But look:

Doll number 12.

There's a seam!  She's also going to open!  Whoa.

She doesn't even have a necklace anymore:

Doll 12 (left) and doll 11 (right).
Here's a close look at her face.  I can't imagine decorating something this small!

She's even tinier than a Twozies baby!

Doll 12 with a Twozies figure.
But not as tiny as doll 13:

Doll number 13.

It's funny because I actually think doll 13 has a more appealing face than 12--the small size is working well for her!

Doll 13 (left) and doll 12 (right).
And she's the size of a Twozies pet:

Now we're talking really, really small.
It's almost getting ridiculous, isn't it?

This must be the last one:

But no--of course it isn't.  Silly me!  There's no longer even a flower on the back of this doll.  I'm not even sure what that is--a leaf, maybe?  A mountain?

Doll number 14.

The onion dome on the front looks like it's slipping away, too.  It's basically been reduced to a squat little hut...or a cupcake:

Doll 14 (left) and doll 13 (right).
We must be at the bitter end...

Yep.  This is it.  That last little doll has no middle seam, and she's barely recognizable as the woman we've been following through all of these layers:

Doll number 15...the final doll.

Now the eyelashes have been reduced to a single, oversized line at the edge of the eye....and the design on the back is just a bunch of lines.

Doll 15 (left) and doll 14 (right).
Ok, does anyone else think that this doll looks like a sloth?

So...I guess it takes 15 steps to transform a woman into a sloth.  Good to know.

The dolls have also gone from this:

Doll 1.
To this:

Doll 15.
Here they are together--if you can even see the little one!

Biggest and smallest dolls together.
I think it's neat that the basic red flower design stayed constant on most of the dolls:

And they're all wearing hats--although the hat design definitely got simpler!

Doll 1.
Doll 5.
Doll 8.
Doll 10.
Doll 11.
I think with sloth-girl, the hat and the flower finally merged into one:

Doll 15.
Well, that's probably not the most beautiful (and certainly not the most authentic) example of a matryoshka doll, but I really like it.  I had a blast opening up all of those layers, and I hope you had fun following along.  It's hard to imagine a nesting doll with more than 15 dolls...but they exist!  That's what I'll be coveting next.  In the meantime, I'm definitely thinking about adding some paint and shine to this doll--it'll be like a three dimensional coloring book project.

I think perhaps I've saved the best dolls for last.  Unfortunately, I don't know very much about these little babies.  They're 5-inch plush mini dolls made by the German Zapf Creation company.  They're called Jolly Dolly and they come enclosed in little papier mâché eggs that conceal the specific coloring and face mold of each baby:

Zapf Jolly Dolly egg.
Zapf applied for the Jolly Dolly trademark in 2001, and I know there was a larger Jolly Dolly baby sold through QVC in the early 2000s.  So, I'm guessing that these egg-enclosed babies were produced at around that time.  There's very little written about any of the Jolly Dollies online, though, and the eggs I have are not marked with a date.

I found an eBay seller who had a bunch of these eggs (sealed and unopened), so I bought her whole stash.  She was only charging about $4 per egg.  I have no idea what the original retail price was, but $4 is a steal, and it's fairly easy to find them on eBay for about $8 each (including shipping).

The eggs come wrapped in plastic, and this plastic looks like it's been around for a while:

I cut off the plastic wrap and carefully pried open one side of the egg...

I see pink!  Oh--ok, so before we go any further, I have to make some decisions about what the colors will mean in terms of each baby's gender.  I mean, these babies are definitely going to need genders and if you'd expect anything else.

I think that what I'll do is use the Baby Name Genie for the names.  This website is great because it'll give first and middle names.  In addition, you can select a boy or a girl name, or you can have the program pick the gender randomly.  Fun!  So, if the baby's outfit is pink it'll be a girl, blue will be boy...but all of the other colors we'll leave up to the Genie!

Ok--back to the pink baby (girl) who's coming out of this egg!

She has a stuffed hand peeking out with a dark-ish tan skin ton:

Are you ready to see her face?

Ta-da!  Isn't she sweet?

She's a serious little brown-eyed girl with a bunny-themed romper:

The design on the romper reminds me of Peter Rabbit and theVelveteen Rabbit all wrapped into one:

She has an olive complexion that's very typical of Zapf dolls:

Zapf Jolly Dolly baby.
The bunny hood can slide off the top of her head, but the ribbon bow that holds it around her neck is sewn together with thread, so it'd be hard to remove:


This baby's features are very simple, and yet she manages to convey quite a bit of personality.  I love Zapf dolls.

She has a huge tag sewn into the back seam of her body:

I cut this tag off so that I could get a nice picture of her back:

This is a really soft, cuddly, well-made little doll.  She's so much higher-quality than similar mini babies.  In particular, I'm thinking back to the little $7 Italian babies I found at a local toy store a few years ago.  Those were called Stork Babies and were nowhere near this cute or well-made.

She needs a name, though!  Let's see what the Baby Name Genies says.  I chose "Zapf" for a last name:

Introducing Samantha Claudia!

Good name for a good baby.
Here's Belle again so that you see how big Samantha is:

Disney Store Princess Belle with a Jolly Dolly baby.
That was fun.  Shall we do it again?  

Here's another egg:

I only had to open this egg a teensy little bit before I saw the gender...

It's a BOY!  Hurrah!  I'm always happy to see a little boy.

And he has piercing blue eyes to match his dark blue romper:

This guy does not have the same face mold as Samantha.  He's got a bit more of a smile:

He's wearing the same style of outfit, though--right down to the bunny decal:

I wanted to name this little fellow Martin for some reason (doesn't he look like a Martin?) but let's see what the Name Genie says:

Well, I think of Morgan as more of a girl's name these days, but it has a similar ring to Martin, so I'm happy!  Morgan Andrew it is.  

One of the things I love about the Name Genie is that if you click "wish again" for any reason, the site razzes you:

"It will grow on you."
I'll stick with Morgan Andrew: 


Morgan's eyes are smaller than Samantha's, and his mouth is slightly open: 

Here are Morgan and Samantha together:

Two Zapf Jolly Dolly egg babies.
Oh gosh, this is addictive.  These eggs are awesome.

Here's another:

I see pink again!

Hmm...she's looking awfully familiar:

I got a twin for Samantha!

Perhaps all of the babies with pink rompers have this face?  There's not enough data to know for sure at this point.  *Update: after I opened all of the babies, I confirmed online that a bright pink romper does not always coincide with this face.

I can tell these two babies apart, though, and not just because Samantha's tag has been removed.  The new baby has a slightly narrower face and she sits up a little taller:

Zapf Jolly Dolly twins!
I used the Baby Name Wizard website to choose a good name for Samantha's twin.  This site is helpful because it will show you common sibling names for any given name.

Here's the section of the Samantha name page that shows some popular sibling names--the larger the font of the sibling name, the more popular it is as a choice:

Emily and Jessica look almost tied, and so (for obvious reasons) I'm going to pick Jessica.  I'll use the most common sibling name for Claudia as Jessica's middle name: Jessica Olivia!  Done.


Oh!  This is interesting...

It's a pink romper (another girl), but it's a very pale pink.  Also...

That's a very different face mold!

This baby is really happy...and really cute:

I used "Happy" as her last name and got...

Nice.  Little Laura Katarina is my favorite of the babies so far.  I love smiling baby dolls!


Once again, her face is very simple, but also very expressive.  She even has "smiling" eyes:

Here she is with her hood pulled down:

Ok, this is sad, but I've come to the last egg...and the final Easter surprise for this year:

Drumroll, please...

What color will it be?  Boy or girl??

Place your bets!

And here we go:

Yellow!  Not another twin--or at least not an identical outfit.  Yay!

Ooh...and this looks like a new face, too:

This one has a wonderful smirking expression:

I think this is my new favorite!
I was excited to see that yellow romper, too, because this means that the gender will be randomly generated!

I chose the "Surprise Me" option and got...

A boy!
Taylor Drake:

Once again, I marvel at how realistic this face looks despite its simple features:

At first I thought maybe Taylor and Morgan had the same face mold, but they definitely do not:

These little babies are awesome.  They'd be even better if their outfits had some design variety, but the bunny theme is certainly perfect for Easter, and the range of facial expressions is great.  After I opened these babies, I went online and tried to find some pictures that would give me an idea of the range in colors, face molds and ethnicities that are available.  I discovered that there are at least three faces out there that I did not get, two outfit colors (orange and green), and at least one more skin tone than what I got.  I'd love to see a picture of all the possible babies together!

Well, that brings us to the end of this Sunday Surprise...and just in time, too.  It's getting late and I need to get out into the plentiful Maine sunshine while I still can!  It's an absolutely glorious Easter day in this neck of the woods--I hope it's been a great day wherever you are, too.

Sharing this eclectic assortment of surprise toys has been a therapeutic treat for me.  Even though my family skipped our beloved treasure hunt tradition this year, I still managed to find a delightful collection of little treasures.

Jessica, Morgan, Taylor, Laura and Samantha.


  1. Darn it, Emily--I'm usually not a fan of blind bag toys, but every time you review one, I want to go out and buy a couple for myself! My local Target has those Li'l Woodzeez acorns, and they've been tempting me for weeks...

    Great post! And Happy Easter to you and your family! <3

  2. Happy Easter Emily! My best to you and your loved ones.
    Up until this review I'd never seen a Matryoshka that was more than 9 dolls altogether.
    I also liked the other surprises but the Zapf best.
    Thanks for the reviews :-)

  3. Happy Easter! I'm guessing that the building on your Matryoshka dolls is a church and not a castle, partially because of the crosses on the onion domes and partially because I've seen lots of pictures of Russian churches with onion domes and no pictures of Russian castle or palaces with them. Even the Russian Orthodox churches in my area have onion domes. Maybe someone who lives there can weigh in, though.

    1. I've spent time in Russia, the domes are on some castles, not all though. They are mostly on churches.

  4. I have 4 or 5 of the Jolly Dolly's from when I was little! I had a couple pinks and greens and a blue one! I didn't know there were other colors!!! How fun!!!

    1. I just found mine, both my pinks have the same face as yours and my blue has the same face as yours too. The greens have a different face all together.

  5. Ohhhh!!!! The Russian nesting doll was so fun! I have a little nesting doll that has 5 or 6 dolls (I don't remember right now) and goes down to that small but starts at "Belle armful" size :P I love the tiny one, it's so small and sweet! I think we aught to make those dolls more popular, then there will be plenty of little surprises and much more lovely art! The little babies are sweet too! Happy Easter!

  6. I want to see all the nesting dolls lined up! Then we can really see the size progression. Also: Happy Easter!!!

  7. So glad you got some toy time in! Our Easter was also different this year because we're growing up as a family too.

  8. Love the nesting dolls and couldn't believe how many there were! Those last babies in the eggs were just adorable too. I was excited with the anticipation as you opened each one. Thanks for sharing. Glad you had such a nice Easter!

  9. Happy (belated) Easter! Thank you for these Easter surprises, I had so much fun reading!

  10. brought a smile to my old lady face thanks atk

  11. Neat! Happy belated Easter! These are great. I love the little egg babies. I bought one of the Lil Woodzies acorns and got the skunk. She's adorable. The ones you found are really cute too! The Matryoshka doll is very interesting.

  12. Awesome review as always. Was wondering if you had checked out the new doll line. Their 18 inch vinyl cloth bodied dolls, and there will be seven of them released. Very high quality as well. Definitely check them out.

  13. Great post! I got two matryoshkas last year, you inspired me to finally post about them. You can see pictures in my post: They are sets of 5 and cost no more than 20$, I think, but both are handmade in Russia with traditional designs.

  14. Matrioshka knocked me off my legs !!!
    The earrings of the five-pounder were amused!