How to Style Your American Girl Doll’s Hair

When your daughter, niece, or granddaughter’s favorite doll is injured, it’s time for a visit to one of the American Girl Places.

Kaya’s hair was a wreck. So matted and snarled that we thought she would need to go to the American Girl Doll Hospital (to get a new head!). Instead, I was assured that an appointment with the American Girl Doll Hair Salon on 5th Avenue in New York City ($25) just might do the trick.

Kaya (the doll!) sat on a stool while her hairdresser worked patiently and carefully on her hair. My daughter and I watched as her hair was unsnarled, unmatted, and braided. Although she wanted to get her ears pierced, we decided that she was too young. Instead, for an additional $5, we gave her the pampering plus manicure and facial.

To celebrate Kaya’s recovery, we ate lunch at the American Girl Place restaurant. Kaya was seated in her own attached high chair. She was served in tiny tea cups while my daughter and I ate a gluten-free lunch and gluten-free birthday cake.

We skipped the show, electing instead to see Mary Poppins on Broadway.

Trip taken 2008.

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How Many Miles to Wall Drug Store?

Somewhere along the highway, you might see a sign advertising Wall Drug Store. At first, you think nothing of it, until you see the next sign. And the next. And the next. Wall Drug Store signs appear every few miles along the 650-mile Interstate 90. If you’ve never been to Wall Drug Store, be sure to stop on your next road trip through South Dakota.

Not because they have free ice water or 5 cent coffee. Not because the food is good or the pharmacy is well stocked. Wall Drug Store is a rambling touristy western bit of roadside Americana. There are shops selling cowboy hats and boots, turquoise jewelry, and laminated placemats just like the ones I had when I was a kid. There are cutouts for picture taking, ice cream for licking, and buffalo burgers to fill your tummy.

What started as a small drug store in the town of Wall, South Dakota, has grown into a tourist mecca due to the ingenuity of its owners in the 1930s. When the drug store began advertising it’s free ice water, cars began detouring off the highway and making a stop. Now, over 80 years later, Wall Drug Store is no longer just a drug store. It’s a 12 shop mall with a 530 seat restaurant.

It’s a tourist attraction visited by 20,000 people a day. And if you haven’t seen a sign yet, don’t worry, you will. They’re located all over the world, in places like Seoul, Paris, Amsterdam, Rome, London, and even Antartica. If you go, be sure to pick up your own free sign to bring back home.

Trip taken July 2013.

Photos taken by Kurt Magoon (in 2009) and Jasperdo (in 2010) and licensed by CC under 2.0.

A Souvenir Allowance

Traveling with children can be a challenge. The “I want this, I want that,” may abound. It’s exhausting to say no all the time, but the alternative will most likely result in a spoiled child. Just remember Veruca Salt from “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and her constant phrase, “Daddy, I want it now!”

Before our trip to Disney World, when our kids were 8 and 10 years old, a friend gave me some good advice. Let each child choose their own souvenirs but give them a price limit. So, before our trip, we decided on a dollar value. Each child would get a souvenir allowance of $25, and they could spend it how they wished.

I remember walking through the BoardWalk and seeing signs for hair wraps.

My daughter elbowed me, “I want that.” But when she found out how much it was ($22), she changed her mind. The quest for a souvenir continued for the next few days. Would it be a neon stick for $12, a necklace or book? A stuffed animal or hat?

The questions didn’t stop, “Can I have … ?” was constant, but I never had to say, “No.” Both kids were empowered, and I was no longer the “bad guy.” What will your kids buy if they’re in charge?

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When Traveling, Remember the Moscow Rule

While traveling in Paris many years ago, my American friends introduced me to the Moscow Rule. Not to be confused with the Moscow Rules, this rule has to do with shopping and souvenirs and is fairly simple. If you see something, buy it, because you may never see it again.

My friends told me that this rule originates from people standing in line in Moscow. If you lived in Moscow under Communist rule and saw people standing in line, you joined them, because whatever they were waiting for you most likely needed or would need and you may not have the opportunity to buy it another time.

Although I try to remember this rule when I travel, the times I forget are the times I regret. Like the time I didn’t buy the metal toy truck in Cape Town because I knew we’d see several more during our trip (we didn’t).

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Or when I didn’t buy a drum and then had to resort to the airport gift shop. Or when I passed up a pretty necklace at a price I saw quadrupled in future stores.

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Sometimes it’s easy to remember, like buying Lindt chocolates in Zurich, wool scarves with the family clan in Edinburgh, or maple syrup in Vermont. I find it more difficult to remember when I see something different. Is it something I truly want? Is the price a good one? Will I see it again?

Maple Syrup

To prevent those post traveling blues, remember the Moscow Rule: if you see something unique, something you’re unlikely to find online or anywhere else, snatch it up, because you may never see it again. Most likely, you won’t regret the purchase, and the memories it holds will bring smiles for a lifetime.

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Shopping Around the World

Where did you go this holiday season? I stayed near home the month of December but went shopping around the world and bought several gifts handmade by women and children in places like Sri Lanka, Ghana, Kenya, Uganda, and Thailand. Each item made me pause and smile, and I have no doubt, they made the recipient feel good, too.

I oohed and awed at jewelry made in the Philippines and in India from genuine pearls. Pearls with Purpose was created to instill self-sustainability and hope in women throughout the world.

I smelled the candles and admired the containers at Prosperity Candle, a company whose mission is to “empower women to rebuild their lives through candle making, one gift at a time.” After training women as candle making entrepreneurs in Baghdad, the company began working with Burmese and Bhutanese women refugees living in Massachusetts. If you buy a candle, you can email its creator through the organization’s website.

I bought recycled bead bracelets made in Uganda from BeadforLife. Bead for Life teaches women the art of bead making as well as entrepreneurial and business skills so that they may successfully run their own sustainable business once they graduate.

I bought bracelets for gifts and a necklace for myself from Emerge Global, an organization which supports teenage girls in Sri Lanka, ages 10-18,  who have survived abuse and helps them develop business and life skills needed for self-sufficiency.

IMG_0814I gave animal shaped ornaments made from soapstone to my family to hang on our tree. Venture Imports sells these ornaments and other carvings which are cut with machetes by Kenyans as part of the Tabaka project. Tabaka was established to eradicate suffering throughout the Kisii area of Kenya and provide an opportunity for a better quality of life by providing fair wages and the ability to market products outside of Kenya.

And I don’t know about you, but when I’m shopping, I sometimes buy gifts for myself. So, what did I buy?

I bought a string of lights and flowers made from real leaves of the rubber tree and the bodhi tree by Burmese women. Money from the sale of “flowers from real leaves” supports local women and other projects at Whispering Seed, “a village-based sustainable living and learning center and home for children who have been orphaned, abused and neglected along the Thai-Burmese border.”

I bought a bracelet for myself from the Mmofra Trom Bead Project whose motto is “Give the gift of education, one bracelet at a time.” Children in Ghana string beads made from recycled glass to help fund their high school and college education. The beads are made by local Ghana artisans.

In the past, I’ve given shares of animals as gifts through Heifer International and bought jewelry and art from Ugandan artists through Project Have Hope, an organization that empowers women in the Acholi region of Uganda. What unique and handmade gifts did you discover as you traveled around the planet this past holiday season?